David Prosser: BAA humbles Incompetence Commission

Outlook: BAA is hardly likely to invest more than it can get away with in assets that it knows it will soon be selling off

Do we need a Competition Commission inquiry into the Competition Commission itself? After all, the monopoly that the authority enjoys on matters of competition seems to have led to its infection with an alarming level of incompetence.

The Commission spent two years and goodness knows how much money investigating BAA's stranglehold on the UK's airports before a hugely controversial ruling that it should be forced to sell three of them off. But whatever the rights and wrongs of that ruling, what possessed the CC to leave itself open even to the possibility of accusations of bias?

No one – not even BAA – is suggesting that Peter Moizer behaved improperly during his time working on the CC's investigation into BAA. But though Professor Moizer eventually stepped down from the inquiry – he had another role advising a possible bidder for BAA's Gatwick Airport, which left him conflicted – his resignation came too late to save the CC from a challenge of potential bias.

Note that the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) yesterday rejected BAA's other claim, that forcing it to dispose of three airports in two years was unfair. In other words, the only argument against the ruling with which BAA has had any luck is the one concerning Professor Moizer's conflict of interest. The CC should never have allowed such a problem to arise in the first place.

Given BAA's failure to win its fairness challenge, it seems unlikely that the CAT ruling will change the outcome of this case in the long term. But the airports operator will no doubt enjoy the embarrassment of its foes at the CC, whose credibility has been damaged by this affair. And the practical consequence of the ruling is that BAA will now almost certainly have longer than it was expecting to sell off two more airports. (It has already agreed the sale of Gatwick.)

For BAA, it is good news that its rather opportunistic challenge to the CC has paid off. Buyers will still know that the company is a forced seller, but by the time it gets round to negotiating on the price of, say, Glasgow, Edinburgh or Stansted, Britain may have put the recession behind it. BAA may well be able to command fuller bids for its assets at a time when the economy is once again growing strongly.

In the meantime, all the arguments that persuaded the CC to order these disposals in the first place remain valid. More so, in fact, since BAA is hardly likely to invest more than it can get away with in assets that it knows it will soon be selling off.

For the customers of certain airports – including airlines, passengers and retailers – that means a longer wait for improvements. All because the CC couldn't get it right on the most basic matter of impartiality.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
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: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Guru Careers: Executive Assistant / PA

£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable