The evolution of competition law and policy in the United Kingdom.
LSE law, society and economy working papers,
Department of Law, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.
A modern, statutory competition regime emerged in Britain only after the Second World War, developing somewhat haphazardly thereafter. From today’s vantage, this policy was tentative, partial, and under-enforced. Only by the passing of the Competition Act 1998 and the Enterprise Act 2002 did the United Kingdom achieve a regulatory scheme that evinces a coherent design and an orthodox underpinning rationale. The relative tardiness of this development is a perplexing fact. For decades, the UK had been a primary exponent of the neoliberal philosophy that places faith in markets as the most efficient means of allocating societal resources. Yet the introduction of the necessary corollary - an effective policy designed to police newly competitive markets - did not emerge until recent years. This paper, first, notes the pertinent common law in this regard and outlines chronologically the main statutory competition measures introduced in the UK in the fifty years following the Second World War. Secondly, it considers the curious period of inaction in the face of an evident need to revisit competition policy at the end of the C20th. Thirdly, it offers a brief overview of the design of the systems introduced under the Competition Act 1998 and the Enterprise Act 2002, and interrogates the motivations behind such reforms. Finally, it reviews the underpinning purposes and the design of the more minor developments that have occurred since 2003. Ultimately, the intention is to allow some insight into factors which explain how and why UK competition law developed – or conversely, failed to do so – over recent legal history.
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