‘Reconsidering the role of the public interest in UK merger control’

The CCP’s Autumn Seminar Series continues on Friday 11th October with David Reader (CCP and UEA Law School) presenting his research on ‘Reconsidering the role of the public interest in UK merger control‘. An abstract for his seminar can be found below.


The United Kingdom’s merger control regime can be considered one of the most robust in existence. Under the Enterprise Act 2002, mergers shall be assessed by at least one of two independent competition authorities who each apply the same competition-based criteria to every transaction. There remains, however, a power for political intervention by the Secretary of State in mergers raising certain specified public interest concerns. In these cases, the Secretary of State may permit an anticompetitive merger or block a pro-competitive one where they consider that it is in the public interest to do so. Moreover, the Secretary of State retains a residual power to add to the list of specified public interest criteria, subject to Parliamentary approval.

In light of several controversial transactions – including Lloyds/HBOS, Cadbury/Kraft and NewsCorp/BSkyB – this presentation seeks to reconsider the way in which the public interest provisions under the Enterprise Act may be used to complement the UK’s merger policy. In particular, it will consider the legitimacy of Lord Heseltine’s calls for the Government to ‘show a readiness’ to use the public interest provisions to protect vital national interests and to deter unwanted foreign investment. The presentation will also seek to examine the potential for the public interest exceptions to be added to in the future and whether a decision-making role for the new Competition and Markets Authority could be on the agenda.

Related reading: Bruce Lyons, ‘Beware of Siren Advice for Political Control of Foreign Mergers‘ (2012) Competition Policy Blog.

About CCP
The Centre for Competition Policy (CCP) conducts interdisciplinary research into competition policy and regulation.

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