Saturday, 27 April 2013

What will Fallon do, what can he do?

'Any Questions' is a great programme on Radio 4. The episode on 26 April (repeated on 27 April) (specifically the section at 11 minutes) was all the more interesting since the panelists were discussing procurement in the context of the Dhaka factory collapse which I discussed earlier today.

Michael Fallon MP, currently, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, gave an interesting undertaking "that [UK Government] will look at what responsibility can be put on retailers". When pressed, the only clarification he gave as to what that meant was "we'll look at the various codes that they're signing up to and see whether they are sufficiently transparent and whether enough retailers in this country are actually signed up to them and whether there are significant gaps".

Another panelist, Sir Ming Campbell, suggested accurate labelling may be part of the solution, yet we know 'accurate labelling' didn't protect against 'horse meat in the UK food supply chain'.

We also know that the government have not been able to effectively mandate their own spending departments to use centrally set up contracts.

Yet bizarrely Stephen Kelly, in his evidence to PASC, was implying the public sector should look to retail as exemplars!

So what will Fallon do, or more specifically, what can Fallon do?

He can hardly tell those who have just had their benefits cut to buy more expensively.

However, given that it is alleged it was only the need to meet buyer deadlines that caused the workers to be in the factory on Wednesday in spite of the obvious risks, perhaps he could ask UK retailers to demonstrate that they were not culpable through placing undue pressure on supply chains. Could he initiate legislation which would bring about a new criminal offence of supply chain culpable negligence which may well help strengthen political relations? Or could he have the issue addressed through the G20?  I suppose it all depends on whether there's a will!

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