Mowlam in Ulster electricity row

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Marjorie Mowlam, Northern Ireland secretary, was yesterday drawn into the row between Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) and its regulator over price cuts for customers, writes Chris Godsmark.

Patrick Haren, NIE chief executive, wrote to Ms Mowlam to put the company's case after Douglas McIldoon, the regulator, unexpectedly rejected the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's advice over price controls. Mr Haren said it was unclear whether Ms Mowlan had the power to override the regulator. "We want to try to make sure she understands the issue," he added.

The MMC had said NIE's revenues should drop by 27 per cent from April, compared with 31 per cent proposed by the watchdog. It was the first time a regulator had rejected the MMC's findings.

Mr Haren reiterated that NIE would take the regulator to the High Court if he tried to impose tougher price cuts. "Our legal advice says he doesn't have the discretion he pretends to have."