Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy hit out at plans for a supermarket ombudsman, saying a watchdog would work in the interests of suppliers rather than consumers.

Leahy told the Financial Times he is firmly against an ombudsman. He said: “I’m not in favour of an ombudsman. Everyone knows supermarkets are one of the most competitive industries around. That competition puts power in the hands of the consumer.”

The government said last month it would appoint an ombudsman after complaints that supermarkets were squeezing suppliers.

Leahy said: “In a free society, why would you want an ombudsman if there are no problems now as far as consumers are concerned? An ombudsman would be there to protect suppliers but should be there to protect consumers.”

He said Tesco has “very good” relations with its suppliers. He said those relationships were “unlikely to be helped by bureaucratic intervention”.

The National Farmers’ Union has, however, welcomed the introduction of an ombudsman.

Leahy said he was not against regulation. He is positive about environmental regulations, such as the government’s plans to force retailers to reduce their carbon dioxide output.

He said: “I’m not against regulation but it needs to be really thoughtful.”