Ministers should set up share sale inquiry

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Make no mistake about the fury that lies behind the measured tones of the Stock Exchange letter to the Treasury about the Gencos sale. The Government's failure to tell the market about Professor Stephen Littlechild's intentions was at best a monumental misjudgement and at worst a deliberate attempt to mislead. Certainly it has done untold harm to London's reputation as a well regulated international securities trading centre.

How could the ministers responsible for the Financial Services Act have failed to see the implications of keeping such information from the market? The Stock Exchange is now insisting that the Treasury finds a way of looking at the whole thing in more detail and publishes the results.

Plainly an inquiry by the officials and ministers involved is not good enough.This is a case that merits rigorous and independent scrutiny. But for Crown immunity, it appears, the SFA would have conducted one. Since the relevant regulatory authorities feel unable to act, it is imperative that ministers themselves set up an adequate independent inquiry.