The Enterprise Bill and Government Policy:
On 26th March 2002, the Government introduced the Enterprise Bill (the "Bill") in the House of Commons. The stated aim of the Government is to make the UK the best place in the world to do business and it believes that the Bill will go some way towards achieving this objective.
The White Paper "Productivity in the UK: Enterprise and the Productivity Challenge", published in June 2001, set out the Government's intention to focus on enterprise and productivity as the cornerstone of its economic reforms in this Parliament. The specific measures in this Bill were foreshadowed by three White Papers: "Productivity and Enterprise: A World Class Competition Regime" (Cm 5233), "Productivity and Enterprise: Insolvency - A Second Chance" (Cm 5234) published in July 2001, and "Modern Markets: Confident Consumers" (Cm 4410), published in July 1999.
The Bill itself implements a pledge in the Government's 2001 general election manifesto to give more independence to the competition authorities, to reform the bankruptcy laws and to tackle trading practices which are to the detriment of consumers.
In addition, the Bill aims to boost productivity by encouraging enterprise and competition. In addressing competition matters, the Government has tried to make the link between consumer interests and competition policy in the same way as it is understood in the USA. The Bill therefore considerably strengthens the powers of regulators both as regards their decision-making and sanctioning functions.
The contents of the Bill:
The Bill is very extensive, being divided into eleven parts with 269 clauses and some 26 schedules.
Part 1 establishes the Office of Fair Trading as a corporate entity (the "OFT"), sets out its general functions and provides for arrangements for making super-complaints to the OFT.
Part 2 establishes and makes provisions for proceedings before the Competition Appeal Tribunal (the "CAT").
Part 3 provides for a new merger regime, covering the definition of a qualifying merger, the duty of the OFT to make references to the Competition Commission (the "CC"); how references are determined; the procedures that relate to certain public interest cases and other special cases; powers of enforcement; undertakings and orders; and various supplementary matters, such as information and publicity requirements and powers to require information.
Part 4 makes provision for new market investigations arrangements. It...