Odgers heads review of Gas price curbs

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The Independent Online
Graeme Odgers, chairman of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, is to lead the MMC's panel which will investigate controversial price controls proposed by the gas industry regulator for British Gas's pipeline business.

The decision to choose Mr Odgers, a former BT group managing director, to head the gas review team is likely to be privately welcomed by British Gas, which is fighting plans to slash domestic bills from next year by an average of pounds 28. Mr Odgers left BT in 1990 after clashing with the chairman, Sir Iain Vallance, over plans to cut thousands of staff.

The MMC said yesterday that the other members of the gas review team so far chosen from the organisation's 35-strong board were Professor Stanley Metcalfe, professor of economics at Manchester University, Dr Gill Owen, previously head of Neighbourhood Energy Action, who is as a freelance public policy consultant and specialist adviser to the Commons Environment Committee, and Graham Stacy, a retired partner with Price Waterhouse and treasurer of the United Reform Church in the UK and the Sanctuary Housing Association.

The decision by Clare Spottiswoode, the regulator, to refer British Gas's pipeline charges to the MMC came after the company rejected her five- year price regime, arguing that it would cut TransCo's revenues by pounds 650m a year. The gas review, the second investigation into the industry in four years, is likely to last for six months.

The news came as it emerged that Ms Spottiswoode is considering further radical measures to curb the monopoly power of British Gas's lucrative pipeline business, TransCo, heralding another period of upheaval for the company.

The regulator is understood to be exploring how more activities undertaken by TransCo could be hived off to outside businesses. The proposals are likely to face stiff opposition from British Gas, already fighting moves to expose other services to competition.