Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Liberal Democrat Hopeful Declares Supermarkets a 'Blight on Society'

Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Sleaford and North Hykeham Constituency, Mr. David Harding-Price, has attacked supermarkets, such as Tesco, as a 'blight on society' in a letter published in yesterday's Lincolnshire Echo.

Agreeing with a letter published before the New Year opposing the developmnt of a forth Tesco's in Lincoln, Mr. Harding-Price says:
"The supermarkets are now so large as to be a blight on society.

"They are driven by an incessant greed and fail to provide local communities with the feeling of community.

"Local retailers, each providing their own selection of goods enable people to move between shops, stop and meet friends and allow for communities to have a local spirit."
Mr. Harding-Price's committment to community spirit is laudable but he makes no mention of the Lincolnshire Co-Operative Society (which pretty much own everything in sight - who are probably the biggest part of the 'high street' in Lincolnshire). He also makes the classic 'Lib-Dim' mistake when he implys that communities only want a 'feeling of community' as opposed to actually being one.

Nettleham is fortunate to have so many local shops in the village and a small co-op store helping provide residents with day-to-day needs. Local, larger supermarkets are close at hand, with Waitrose accessible seven-days-a-week by public transport.

Mr. Harding-Price also says:
"The time has come for stores like Tesco to be slowed down. One per town is more than sufficient."
Meanwhile the Government and the Conservative Party have today set out their competing visions for enhancing the United Kingdom's food security and improving the environmental sustainability of the agricultural sector at the annual Oxford Farming Conference.

Speaking at the conference, Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn MP unveiled an updated version of the government's Food 2030 strategy and called on farmers to change the way they operate in order to increase productivity and limit their environmental impact.
"We know that the consequences of the way we produce and consume our food are unsustainable to our planet and to ourselves," he said. "There are challenges for everyone involved in the food system, from production right through to managing food waste."
Mr. Benn argued that there was the potential to deliver more sustainable food by simply promoting the benefits of local and environmentally friendly produce to consumers.
"People power can help bring about a revolution in the way food is produced and sold; food businesses, including supermarkets and food manufacturers, would follow consumer demand for food that is local, healthy and has been produced with a smaller environmental footprint – just as consumers have pushed the rapid expansion of Fairtrade products and free range eggs over the last decade."
Mr. Benn also spoke about the rapid increase in demand for free range eggs from only 16 per cent of UK eggs a decade ago to just under 40 per cent now highlighted the extent to which consumer demand could drive changes in farming practices.

National Farmers Union President, Mr. Peter Kendall, welcomed the new strategy, arguing that it demonstrated that DEFRA
"has grasped the complex issues that are in play when developing a joined-up food policy"
although he added that the agricultural sector now needed to see more policies that
"underpin and enhance a productive agriculture sector".
However, Jeanette Longfield, co-ordinator of green farming campaign group Sustain, accused the new strategy of being far too weak, claiming
"the government’s 'Food Vision' is hardly worthy of the name."

"The document proposes a series of minor tweaks to our fundamentally unsustainable food system and ignores obvious ideas to help British farmers, like improving the food that government itself buys.

"If government is serious about making our food system sustainable, it must put its money where its mouth is and only spend tax payers’ money on good quality and sustainable food. What we have got is more of the same policies that have caused the food system’s current problems."
Meanwhile, Conservative Shadow Environment Secretary, Nick Herbert MP told the same conference that the government's policy of allowing consumer demand to drive food policy was fundamentally flawed and had allowed supermarkets to abuse their power to damage farmers' interests.

He will argue that the voluntary code of practice that currently governs the relationship between supermarkets and food suppliers is not
"worth the paper it is written on"
without tougher enforcement.
"It is not enough to talk loosely about a fair market or the need for better labelling, we need action, with a supermarket ombudsman and legislation to enforce honest labelling if the retailers won't act.
"The Competition Commission ruled in 2007 that the supermarket industry was operating in the public interest, but recommended that an independent ombudsmen was needed to ensure supermarkets do not use their purchasing power to exploit suppliers.

Mr. Herbert will argue that the failure to appoint such a figure would result in
"reduced investment by suppliers, lower product quality and less product choice, with potentially higher prices in the long run."
Mr. Kendall welcomed the proposal, adding that the NFU would be keen to work with any government that moves to appoint an independent ombudsman.
"The abuse of market power by retailers damages farmers' ability to innovate and invest which, in turn, leads to a reduction in choice and availability for consumers," he said. We have always said that an ombudsman would need to provide proactive and robust enforcement of the code of practice as well as protection of anonymity for suppliers to eliminate the climate of fear that currently exists."

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