Westminster Business Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
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UK competition policy - The Penrose Review, priorities for the CMA, and next steps for regulatory reform, efficiency, and effectiveness

Morning, Thursday, 8th July 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine the next steps for UK competition policy and the way forward for moves to strengthen regulation, with the aim of ensuring that faster and more predictable decisions are made.

It follows publication of the Penrose Review, Power to the People, the independent review commissioned by Government to look at how the UK’s competition regime can be updated following Brexit and in the context of COVID-19.

We are delighted to include keynote sessions with the Review’s author and the UK Anti-corruption Champion, John Penrose MP, and Dr Michael Grenfell, Executive Director of Enforcement, CMA, as well as with Madeleine Matos, Economist, Economic Insight; and Professor Andreas Stephan, Professor of Competition Law & Head of School, School of Law, University of East Anglia.

Sessions will look at the Review’s key findings as well as issues and next steps for implementing its recommendations, which include:

  • strengthening the position of the CMA
  • toughening penalties for breaches
  • redesigning the case process from CMA probe to Competition Appeal Tribunal so that it is shorter - as well as an end to end review of the process led by an independent legal expert
  • further proposals aimed at:
    • cutting red tape
    • increasing competition in regulated sectors
    • creating fast track Competition Courts for local and regional cases
    • supporting consumers

The agenda will bring out latest thinking on:

  • the Penrose Review and its recommendations
  • increasing consumer trust and confidence
  • ways in which the powers of the CMA should be strengthened and proposals for reforming the enforcement process
  • the impact of the UK leaving the EU on the regulatory landscape

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from BEIS; the CMA; the DCMS; the DfT; the GLD; HM Treasury; the NAO and Ofcom.

The agenda

  • Competition policy in the UK - the current state of play
  • Key findings from the Penrose Review and priorities for implementation
  • An economics perspective on competition reform
  • Reforming competition in light of the Penrose Review recommendations - increasing consumer trust and confidence, the future role and powers of the CMA and priorities for the enforcement process
  • Strengthening regulation around consumer and competition law, and the key priorities for the CMA
  • The impact of leaving the EU, and priorities for competition policy in post-Brexit Britain
  • Taking forward the recommendations from the Penrose Review and key priorities for policy

Key areas for discussion:

The Penrose Review - key findings, whether the Penrose recommendations are sufficient, and priorities for implementation, including:

  • strengthened powers for the CMA with the aim of enabling quicker and better enforcement, and boosting its role as both a competition and consumer champion, specifically recommending:
    • that it publishes an annual ‘State of Competition and Consumer Detriment’ report measuring progress and problems across all sectors of the UK economy, with the aim that this explains the CMA’s decisions more clearly
    • updating the CMA’s civil enforcement powers, bringing them on a par with those it has for current competition law cases
    • introducing tougher penalties for non-compliance, with suggestions for turnover-based fines of 1-5%
  • redesigning the case process:
    • the establishment of an independent taskforce to review and redesign the case process which involves all stakeholders, with the aim of shortening the time between CMA probe to CAT appeal
    • what steps the taskforce needs to recommend in order to meet Penrose’s goals of resolving all but the most complicated cases in weeks rather than months, and having as simple a process as possible

Reforming competition policy and supporting post-pandemic recovery:

  • building consumer trust:
    • assessing what is needed from policymakers and regulatory officials to grow consumer trust
    • evaluating proposals made earlier this year for reforming the CMA from the CMA itself, and the extent to which they achieve their aim of putting consumer protection at the heart of their work
  • competition and innovation - priorities for striking the optimum balance to ensure efficient and effective regulation policy, while also driving competition and innovation
  • COVID-19 - assessing the policy support that is available for ensuring a robust recovery

The impact of leaving the EU - priorities for competition policy in post-Brexit Britain:

  • regulation - priorities for ensuring UK regulation works effectively, but also leaves room for growth as the UK establishes its position following exit from the EU
  • the Brexit Dividend Target - discussing the Review’s proposals for reinstating the gateway condition for implementing new regulatory rules:
    • each sector regulator being subject to a ‘Brexit dividend better regulation target’
    • recommendations for increasing the target from ‘one-in-one-out’ to ‘one-in-two-out’ in order to keep pace with change
  • the priorities for regulators - the impact of proposals from Penrose, including:
    • that each economic regulator should publish a plan to make their sector a high standard competitive market
    • changes to the legal duties of regulators
    • recommendations for all contracts in regulated industries to be independently auctioned, with the aim of sector regulators having smaller regulation teams due to increased ‘normal’ competition within their markets
  • bureaucratic burden - looking at the possibilities Brexit brings for reducing bureaucracy in regulation

Strengthening regulation around consumer and competition law - and the way forward for enforcement:

  • the role of the CMA - how to ensure that consumer priorities are at the heart of the CMA’s work, as suggested in proposals for CMA reform earlier this year, and the Penrose Review
  • enforcement - drawing on best practice in enforcing regulation, and options for tougher enforcement penalties, such as those recommended in the Review

A scan of relevant developments:

  • Power to the People: the Penrose Review - the Government-commissioned independent report on competition policy, with recommendations for improving consumer protection and promoting competition, including on:
    • strengthened powers for the CMA - with recommendations around:
      • the Authority’s role as consumer champion
      • updating civil consumer enforcement powers
      • toughening penalties for non-compliance with CMA investigations, including suggestions for turnover-based fines of 1-5%
    • the impact of Brexit - priorities for:
      • delivering necessary change for overcoming the challenges posed by Brexit
      • seizing the opportunities it presents, implementing the Brexit Dividend Target and reducing bureaucratic burden
  • CMA reform proposals - published in February this year, with outlined reforms aiming to:
    • put consumer protection at the centre of the CMA’s work
    • simplify the laws the CMA operates under so as to speed up the decision-making process, with proposals for:
      • the possibility of a mandatory merger regime
      • a more effective and flexible market regime
      • enhanced enforcement powers
  • the Digital Markets Unit:
    • established within the CMA on a non-statutory basis to:
      • bring about the new regulatory regime for digital markets
      • prepare for the implementation of the statutory regime when the Unit begins operations in April this year
    • Penrose proposals - building on progress made in implementing the recommendations of the 2019 Furman Review, and recommendations for ring-fencing the upfront powers of the DMU to avoid regulatory creep, including:
      • the DMU functioning as an addition to the CMA’s existing consumer and competition powers to enable it to use these wherever possible
      • renaming the unit to the ‘Network & Data Monopolies Unit’ (NDMU) in order to reinforce the DMU’s remit
      • for the DMU to only be extended with Parliament’s consent
  • A new pro-competition regime for digital markets - advice from the Digital Markets Taskforce published in December, with recommendations for the design and implementation of a new regulatory regime for digital firms with market power

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the BEIS; the Competition and Markets Authority; the DCMS; the Department for Transport; the Government Legal Department; HM Treasury; the National Audit Office and Ofcom.

Overall, we expect speakers and other participants to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from digital and social media platforms, consumer technology companies, other representatives from across the technology and digital sectors, business, lawyers and consultants with an interest in these topics, organisations and individuals representing the views of consumers and citizens, regulators, academics, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

John Penrose MP

UK Anti-corruption Champion and Author, Penrose Review

Keynote Speakers

Professor Andreas Stephan

Professor of Competition Law & Head of School, School of Law, University of East Anglia

John Penrose MP

UK Anti-corruption Champion and Author, Penrose Review

Michael Grenfell

Executive Director of Enforcement, CMA


Alan Davis

Partner, Head of Competition, EU & Trade, Pinsent Masons

Mihiri Seneviratne

Head of Consumer Policy, Citizens Advice

Michelle Meagher

Co-Founder, Balanced Economy Project and Senior Policy Fellow, University College London Centre for Law, Economics and Society

Dr Anca D. Chirita

Assistant Professor of Competition Law and Director of Ethics, Durham Law School

Madeleine Matos

Economist, Economic Insight

Senior speaker confirmed from Ombudsman Services