Keep politics in check

Author: | Published: 1 Mar 2009

We have been here before. Britain enters a recession and the government of the day decides to sideline the body charged with looking into anticompetitive behaviour.

That was back in the 1920s, when the post-World War I boom ran out of steam and recession loomed. The government quietly put the UK's first shot at competition regulation – the Committee on Trusts – to sleep, as the policy emphasis shifted to greater government intervention.

Plus ça change. Here we are in 2009, with suggestions that the government has abandoned its commitment to competition law enforcement in the face of the recession. Is that right? Do politicians believe that antitrust is only good for the good times? How should businesses in the financial services sector react if politics really is returning to competition law?

Government reforms It was in the good times that the present government instituted what were probably the most...