Intervention in the Modern UK Brewing Industry

John Spicer

In 1989 the Thatcher Government, famously pro-business and fervently opposed to vested interests and barriers to the operation of market forces, passed legislation that would radically change the nature of brewing and pub retailing, and which, indeed, constituted the most far-reaching intervention in private industry seen in post-nationalisation Britain. Beginning with the great brewery mergers of the 1950s and 1960s, and the series of official attempts to regulate and reform the industry this book covers the circumstances leading to the 1986-89 Monopolies and Mergers Commission inquiry, including the agitation for change – by no means discouraged by the Office of Fair Trading – on the part of one major brewer and the Campaign for Real Ale. It describes the parliamentary revolt and potential clash with European law that forced the Government to dilute the Commission's recommendations; the major brewers' rejection of the new business model that had been imposed on them; and the resulting disintegration of the industry and acquisition of most of it by foreign companies. Finally, the authors assess the damaging repercussions for consumers and pub licensees, and attempt to draw lessons from this landmark event.

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