BIS has announced that Lord Currie will be the first Chair of the new CMA from this summer for a four year term (the press release is at: http://news.bis.gov.uk/Press-Releases/Chair-appointed-to-the-new-Competition-and-Markets-Authority-67d2f.aspx). This is good news, not merely because of his high profile, but also because he was the first chair of Ofcom from its inception. For those with longish memories, Ofcom was formed from the Office of Telecommunications, the Independent Television Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Radio Authority and the Radiocommunications Agency. So putting two agencies (the OFT and the Competition Commission) together into one must feel like a simple task! Certainly as an organisational merger, Ofcom has been successful and it will be interesting to see if some of the other people who helped create Ofcom, such as Stephen Locke, will surface in the CMA. One big difference is that the CMA is not a sector regulator and that formal enforcement action will be a much larger part of its activities than Ofcom. Getting this right is, of course, the big challenge.
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Sunday, 1 July 2012
Some interesting oral evidence from Sir John Vickers, Simon Pritchard, Professor Catherine Waddams, Malcolm Nicholson and Robert Bell on the competition aspects of the Bill available at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmpublic/enterprise/120621/am/120621s01.htm There was a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the witnesses, when asked whether the proposed reforms would improve competition law enforcement – a summary of their views would suggest their opinion is, "wait and see". Malcolm Nicholson wins the prize for best description of the new system: "a single unitary authority built on the OFT format with a kind of a goitre on the face, which is the Competition Commission". Among other interesting points, Sir John Vickers gave a strong defence of the markets regime, while Simon Pritchard made the point that market investigations were "for much more sparing use than mainstream opinion suggests". Also, there was some disagreement over the new powers in relation to public interest market investigations, with Simon Pritchard being nervous about this, Robert Bell, very much against the introduction of the powers, Catherine Waddams thinking that it raises concerns and Malcolm Nicholson not being worried about this, as long as the authority (the new Competition and Markets Authority) was independent. The relationship between competition and consumer policy was also given a bit of an airing by both Sir John Vickers and Simon Pritchard.
It is noticeable that the Public Bill Committee has very little time to devote to these sessions. The witnesses mentioned above are all examined within the space of two hours, which includes discussion of other aspects of the Bill. There is also written evidence which has been submitted, but not yet published. As is perhaps to be expected, most of the discussion in the Committee has centred on the employment law aspects of the Bill.