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
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

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

Day In a Page

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US