South East MEP Warns Supermarkets To Prepare For EU Investigation As European Parliament Endorses Need For Action
31 January 2008 - South East Euro-MP Caroline Lucas is celebrating success in Brussels today after her proposal to launch an EU investigation into supermarket dominance was accepted by over half of all MEPs in the European Parliament.
Dr Lucas, a member of the Parliament’s influential Environment Committee, launched a Written Declaration - the Brussels Parliament’s equivalent of an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons - in October 2007, demanding that the EU Commission examine whether supermarkets abuse their power, and asking for tough new rules to protect producers, small businesses, rural economies and the environment.
The Green MEP said: "I am delighted that fellow MEPs have shown support for this highly significant proposal, and I wholeheartedly thank my constituents in the South East of England who called on their MEPs to sign the declaration.
"There is increasing evidence from across the EU that suggests big supermarkets abuse their buying power to force down prices paid to farmers and suppliers to an unsustainable level - both within the EU and in the developing world - as well as imposing unfair conditions on them.”
“Just this week, we have heard from the many farmers who, unable to cope with the terminally low prices paid by supermarkets for their crops, are giving up on growing cauliflowers altogether. The amount of power wielded by the big supermarkets is simply unacceptable and threatens the future of our agriculture industry.
“There is a clear demand for British food that is locally produced, yet as long as supermarkets are allowed to engage in price wars, they will continue to lower the prices they are prepared to pay for produce, and the profit margins for farmers in the UK will become increasingly untenable."
The four largest supermarkets in the UK - Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco - together now account for nearly three-quarters of all grocery sales. Three UK supermarkets control almost a quarter of the UK’s clothing market between them and this is growing rapidly, forcing smaller retailers out of business.
“Perhaps most importantly”, the Green MEP continued, “the environmental impact of the Big Four is huge. Their massive scale and reliance on unsustainable practices means they depend upon fossil fuels for transport, fertilisers and copious amounts of packaging.
“A fifth of all car journeys in the UK are either to or from a supermarket, a situation that will only worsen as their numbers increase. Unfortunately however, here in the UK the Competition Commission has repeatedly shown its impotency where supermarket regulation is concerned, and refuses to accept the reality that this concentratin of superstores are a drain on our environment and on our societies.
“Now that the Written Declaration has been voted through, the Commission must give it full and serious consideration. We hope the EU will commit to a thorough investigation of the sector and propose stronger planning policies to deal with any such abuses it finds - protecting our already beleaguered and usually under-rewarded farmers, the environment and rural communities."
Notes to Editors
Written Declarations need to attract the support of half the European Parliament’s members within three months to become official parliamentary policy – a milestone that was reached today with a total of 400 signatures.
The Written Declaration was sponsored by four other MEPs: Hungarian Socialist Gyula Hegyi, Polish Nationalist Junusz Wojciechowski, French Socialist Harlem Desir and French Green Helene Flautre.