One of the key dimensions of the policy network is the cohesion of actor interests, as discussed in Chapter 1. The aim of this chapter is therefore to assess the degree of cohesion of actor interests in the competition policy network at the time of the 1970s reforms. This assessment may help answer the question of why the final policy output failed to reflect the position of business leaders.
The first section discusses the interests of businesses through close examination of their preference for inter-firm collusion and industrial concentration. The second section considers the interests and strategies of politicians and industrial policy officials in the context of party politics and industrial policy. The third section assesses the interests of competition policy officials by investigating their basic theoretical stance and performance level. The concluding part summarises those findings, and discusses the extent to which the final policy output can be explained by the cohesion of actor interests in the competition policy network.
Reflecting the traditional lenience of common-law doctrines concerning restrictive practices (see Chapter 2), British businesses had no qualms about inter-firm collusion, at least before the Second World War. In order to avoid painful market competition, many businesses were engaged in cartels and/or other restrictive practices, often through trade associations. In the interwar period, the government abandoned free trade policy and imposed protective duties as well as quantitative import control, and this facilitated such inter-firm collusion under the name of 'rationalisation'. In those days, rationalisation was 'looked upon as a means for strengthening the ability of an industry to operate price-fixing and quota schemes', and 'its success was to be judged by the extent to which it brought financial advantages to the firms rather than to its effect on costs'. 1 The suppression of market competition culminated during the Second World War. In the war years, the government was engaged in price control and rationing via