December Column: Jacob Rees-Mogg MP

December 07 2012
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The House of Commons has been debating the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill.

December Column: Jacob Rees-Mogg MP

The House of Commons has been debating the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill.  This bill will oversee the Groceries Code and will give the Adjudicator the power to arbitrate between large retailers and their suppliers, investigate and advise upon the Code and potentially fine supermarkets which breach the Code.  It is a bill which fits in with the fashion of seeing supermarkets as an unduly powerful and slightly malevolent force.  However, this seems an unfair picture. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP

Last month I went to the Keynsham Tesco where Bev Bull, the customer service manager, was handing out equipment to local schools.  Nationally, Tesco has spent £9.2 million on this scheme.  It has now run for 21 years and is supported by customers, who collect vouchers to help their communities.  Some time before that I went to the Midsomer Norton Sainsbury’s where Paul Broad was supporting FairShare, which distributes food collected in the store to the needy. 

These charitable activities are a reminder that the supermarkets make an effort beyond their profit and loss account to be corporate citizens.  Naturally this is done in part to enhance their reputations but nonetheless it does good.

Adam Smith said: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, brewer or baker that we expect our dinner but from their regard to their own interest.”  This is inevitably true of the major food retailers.  However, their regard for their self-interest has done more to raise living standards in this country than any recent politician with the arguable exception of Margaret Thatcher.  Their sophisticated distribution systems and international buying power has lessened the cost while improving the quality of supplies.  This leaves people with more money to spend on non-essential items. 

If the Adjudicator undermines this a tokenistic bill will be cashiered.