Littlechild opts for a quiet spell

Yes, honestly, the last piece, for a while at least, on utility regulators. Many in the City would like to do a lot more to Professor Stephen Littlechild than gag him. But since nobody can apparently fire him (utility regulators are deemed so independent as to be above such mortal antics) the electricity regulator has at least agreed to keep his mouth shut for a period of four months after the British Energy pathfinder prospectus is released.

There are good reasons for this: Professor Littlechild does seem to have a habit of putting his foot in it. The electricity regulator chose the day after the Government flogged the last of its National Power and PowerGen shares to announce that he was tearing up his review of pricing controls for the electricity industry and starting again. The effect on the two companies' share prices was calamitous and investors rightly claimed that they had been hoodwinked. So this time the regulator has agreed he won't be saying anything.

The inclusion of this little nugget in the prospectus might seem more comic than anything else but there is a serious point in it. To get these bottom-of-the-barrel privatisation issues away, the Government has to ensure that they are completely bomb-proof from an investment point of view. If gagging the regulator is part of the price it is thought necessary to pay for a few extra coppers, so be it.

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