chapter  10
25 Pages

The evolution of competition law and policy in the UK


Defined broadly, competition law has occupied a place in the corpus of English law for many centuries. While it elsewhere provided a foundation for the emergence of antitrust policy, however, the doctrine of the restraint of trade remained in Britain only a residual limitation on the freedom of commercial operators. Modern statutory competition policy first emerged in the aftermath of the Second World War, but even then the progenitors of such early emanations – no doubt mindful of the proven benefits of monopoly and cartelisation during times of crisis – were no free-market ideologues. In consequence, from today’s vantage the laws that they introduced were tentative, partial, and under-enforced. Indeed, it was only in 2000 with the coming into force of the Competition Act, 1998, and 2002 with the passage of the Enterprise Act, that the UK saw the completion of a rounded scheme of law. This scheme evinces the promotion of competition and economic efficiency, now the orthodox position in international terms, as its key underpinning rationale.1