Dear Mr Lawson,
We are writing in response to ‘A competition regime for growth – A consultation on options for reform’ consultation questions: “Q.2 The Government seeks your views on the potential creation of a single Competition and Markets Authority (CMA); Q.19 The Government seeks your views on appropriate objectives for the CMA and whether these should be embedded in statute; and Q.20 The Government see your views on whether the CMA should have a clear principal competition focus.
We welcome the proposals for a new CMA. We believe it is vitally important that public interest factors are explicitly integrated into the objectives of the CMA, as was the intention of the previous competition regime. A new business unit with the specialist skills to balance public interest factors, supported by guidance, tools and ways of working with other government departments, should be a core objective and function of the new CMA – potentially embedded in statute. The advantages and disadvantages of this unit’s recommendations being approved by a minister or an official should be further examined.
The CMA should focus on competition, but also have the capability as described to balance public interest factors, particularly in the case of sector wide voluntary or co-regulated agreements where positive social and environmental impact could be gained. The new approach should build on: the Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT’s) 2009/10 research in this area; balancing of public interest factors achieved by other UK and international regulators; and the OFT’s existing experience in approving ‘consumer codes’.
We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to deal with this problem last December and urge all stakeholders to continue to work together towards a rapid resolution of the issues. The Prime Minister’s commitment was in response to a Business in the Community consultation of 500+ businesses which identified this area as warranting further investigation in order to scale up business engagement in communities. The approach set out above would also provide the certainty that greater investment in the UK demands. Investors will know that they can secure the comfort needed before they make long-term investments in areas where self-regulation/ collaboration on environmental and social issues is required.
In response to the Prime Minister’s call last December, Business in the Community and The Cooperatition Incubator look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Office of Fair Trading in the months ahead to better understand and resolve this barrier to business action on social and environmental issues.
Charlotte Turner, Director of Research, Business in the Community – www.bitc.org.uk
Andrew Dakers and Tom Linton, The Cooperatition Incubator – www.cooperatition.org