The Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) and HM Treasury have published a joint paper setting out the government's vision for a new strategy for the EU single market. This includes an assessment of the role of EC competition policy and the policy priorities that the government considers should be adopted by the European Commission.

Competition policy

The government considers that effective competition policy must be at the heart of the new single market strategy. It considers that the Commission has been making significant progress in adopting a more pro-active approach to exercising its competition powers (in particular through the modernisation of competition policy in 2004, which has allowed the Commission to focus on important mergers and anti-competitive cartels). The government also considers that the sector inquiries into energy and financial services have been an important step towards a better understanding of those markets.

The government considers that the Commission should continue with robustly pushing forward a pro-active competition policy. The central role of competition policy in the single market can be reinforced by:

  • Greater use of market investigations. The Commission should commit to embedding sector inquiries into the EU competition regime and undertake further inquiries into priority sectors.
  • A greater role for private actions. The Commission, with member states, should continue to examine how private damages actions could play a complementary role to public sector enforcement.
  • An economic approach to tackling State Aid. Further reform of the State Aid rules and enforcement of State Aid should be pursued, with a focus on those cases that seriously harm competition.
  • Greater efficiency and co-ordination in decision-making. In particular, expertise gained from sector inquiries should be shared across the Commission. There is also a need for greater co-ordination across the Commission, Council and Parliament.
  • In addition, member states should seek to ensure that competition authorities are independent and that any political interference in competition decisions is removed.