The British Retail Consortium is eager to show it is a livelier watchdog these days. So, along with the mighty Food and Drink Federation, it's getting it's teeth into a campaign to prove that a bundle of "backdoor taxes" are set to create massive headaches for its members and make the family shopping trip a costlier experience. Top of the bill (in both senses of the phrase) is the funding of New Labour's much talked about independent Food Standards Agency. And if Tony Blair ever had doubts this proposal would stir trade feelings, they have surely been dispelled by a postbag to MAFF containing nearly 1,000 submissions about the White Paper. Add the potential May arrival of John Prescott's ridiculous tax on supermarket car parks, plus rises in Uniform Business Rates, and you have an idea of the sizeable retail burden which the BRC warns must inevitably be passed on in higher prices. But it's the notion the food and drink industry should foot part of the bill for the FSA which continues to stir anger across the industry. The Consortium harbours grave reservations about the possible compromising of the agency's independence if it is funded in part or whole by the food industry. And it rightly submits that this was precisely the experience with the Meat Hygiene Service, the only government enforcement agency in the food sector whose costs were charged to industry from its inception. The BRC and FDF, plus, significantly, consumer groups, have long pleaded that for the FSA's integrity to be established from the outset, its independence must be unimpeachable and that includes financial independence. The problem lies in convincing Messrs Blair, Cunningham and Co. To echo the point made in this column since New Labour swept in, by lobbying in isolation, many trade bodies nowadays cannot conjure up the clout to make enough noise in Westminster. And there have even been examples more recently of some associations failing to win an audience with the appropriate minister. So it's a hopeful sign that the "big two" the BRC and the powerful FDF are jumping into bed together. Hopefully, their efforts will be swelled by other industry groups before too many of New Labour's backdoor tax plans are inflicted upon us. Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}