Comment: No firecrackers on mergers policy. That's a relief

`In its last three years in opposition, Labour consulted every last corner of the business community about what it should do when it got to power. The answer, now that it has finally arrived is, er, yet more consultation'

After flash Gordon, flat Margaret. No one supposed the President of the Board of Trade would produce the same firecrackers as the Chancellor, but even so her first big policy speech setting out what New Labour means for business was not expected to be quite such a damp squib. In its last three years in opposition, Labour consulted every last corner of the business community about what it should do when it got to power. The answer, now that it has finally arrived is, er, yet more consultation, though this time on a grand scale and dressed up with the buzzwords of modern day business-speak. Stand by for the Benchmark for Britain, the Export Forum, the Competitiveness Summit and something called Flexibility Plus.

If this all sounds faintly redolent of the days when Michael "National Champions" Heseltine was running the show in Victoria Street, don't be too surprised. Although Mrs Beckett casually referred to Hezza's two competitiveness white papers as "political stunts", she is gaily preparing her own white paper on the subject, aided by a Competitiveness Audit, an Advisory Group on Competitiveness and a series of Competitiveness Working Parties. Get the point or do we have to Labour it? Competitiveness is going to be right there at the top of the agenda.

Beyond this all-embracing but hopelessly vague pledge, what else is there. Well, for the time being Mrs Beckett seems to be better at deciding what she isn't going to do than what she is going to do. Thus, there will be no changes in merger policy or the present burden of proof, nor will there be any changes to the bodies that execute competition policy beyond some tinkering at the edges with the OFT and MMC. For that much we can be thankful. It was Mrs Beckett who only six months ago wanted to force hostile bidders to demonstrate that their takeovers were in the public interest as opposed merely to not being against it.

Happily, wiser counsels have prevailed in the form of Gordon Borrie, who has been chairing Labour's committee of wise men examining competition policy.

Mrs Beckett's commitment to flexible labour markets, and her promise that support for the Social Chapter will not extend to importing German and French social security costs, are all be to welcomed. But her single most important announcement was that mergers policy will continue to be guided by competition considerations. Relief all round.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk