This could be seen as an attempt to bury bad news, but more it’s an indication of how little leadership government seems willing to give on such issues. In its formal response the government managed to say pretty much nothing. They looked at the three main recommendations: a ban on exclusivity agreements on land and property that prevent competitors buying sites; a new planning restriction on supermarkets where they are already too dominant; and a supermarkets’ ombudsman. On the first they said they wanted to hear further views. On the second two, they said only that they will wait and see what developments are before they react.
We could say that on planning rules it is difficult for government to comment, given that the issue is subject to a legal challenge by Tesco. But on the issue of the ombudsman there is a pressing need for government to get involved.
The Commission does not have the legal authority to impose an ombudsman so it set out very clearly that it would try to reach a voluntary agreement with retailers. It also said that if it were unsuccessful in that it would recommend that BERR impose an ombudsman through legislation.
When they get back from their holidays, MPs should make it clear they will press ahead with the ombudsman and insist that the retailers should make a deal. Anything else is an appalling lack of leadership.