Skip to main content

Anti-competitive Behaviour: Small Businesses

Volume 700: debated on Tuesday 14 September 2021

12. If he will make an assessment of the effectiveness of access to justice for small companies affected by anti-competitive behaviour that are ineligible (a) for the Competition Appeal Tribunal fast track procedure and (b) to have their cases taken up by the Competition and Markets Authority. (903418)

The Government are currently consulting on a range of reforms to competition and policy in order to more effectively and swiftly address anti-competitive behaviour. The consultation includes many of the recommendations that my hon. Friend made in his excellent report. As part of it, we welcome suggestions from small businesses about how the system can be improved.

The Secretary of State understands that anti-competitive behaviour is just as likely among small firms as among big ones. The effects are terrible: fast-growing small firms that are future world beaters get throttled by slightly bigger incumbents, levelling up is slower and less likely because competition and productivity are much lower outside London, and residents are left with less choice and more vulnerability to rip-offs. Does he agree that the justice system plays a central role in tackling the problem and ensuring that small firms have some kind of redress? Will he therefore look closely at the proposal in my Government-commissioned report for a new tier of local county competition courts?

I will be as brief as I can, Mr Speaker. We have read my hon. Friend’s paper with great interest. With respect, I do not think that the way forward is to create a further tier of specialist courts. However, there is much that can be done with colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to make sure that the overall structure of the competition mechanism is reformed and improved. His point about access to justice is absolutely right: it should apply to small and medium-sized enterprises as much as to individuals.