Spottiswoode signals her intention to step down

Clare Spottiswoode, the gas industry regulator, is unlikely to stay on in the post when her contract expires next year, unless the Government moves swiftly to merge the electricity and gas watchdogs. Chris Godsmark, Business Correspondent, reports on the growing dilemma for Labour as ministers review the shape of utility regulation.

Ms Spottiswoode, who is paid a salary of pounds 90,000, is understood to be reluctant to continue as gas regulator when her five-year contract at Ofgas, the industry watchdog, comes up for renewal on 31 October 1998. In most previous cases regulators have been asked to stay at the helm for a second term. However, Ms Spottiswoode has warned she is unlikely to commit herself for another five years, though she has not made a final decision.

She would be the second utility regulator to leave the job since Labour came to power. Last month Don Cruickshank, the telephones regulator, said he had decided not to ask for another five-year term at the helm of Oftel, insisting he was looking for new challenges.

It is understood Ms Spottiswoode shares the same worries about her position at Ofgas, after full domestic gas competition is introduced across the UK next summer. She believes most of the big challenges involved in reforming the gas market would have been addressed, leaving her a reduced role in the future.

The much touted merger of Ofgas and Offer, the electricity watchdog, would have encouraged Ms Spottiswoode to seek another term. But she has apparently received no steer from the Department of Trade on when the rationalisation would take place, if at all.

John Battle, industry minister, has previously indicated he would favour a merger on the grounds that many companies, such as British Gas, are to sell both gas and power. However, Mr Battle has suggested it would be better to wait until the domestic electricity market has opened up, a process which is due to take place next year but is widely expected to be delayed.

It was unclear yesterday whether Ms Spottiswoode had told the Government of her likely decision, though ministers are aware of her keenness to merge Offer and Ofgas. The DTI is reviewing utility regulation and is due to publish a Green Paper on the whole system in December.

Ms Spottiswoode's reign at Ofgas has been controversial. She persuaded the Conservative government to push new gas legislation through parliament as the precursor to domestic competition. Trials of residential competition have been a success, despite concerns about billing difficulties and doorstep selling tactics.

Another success was the victory over price controls for the former British Gas's pipeline business, Transco. But in recent months she has been under pressure, with fears that low-income customers were getting little benefit from competition, and concerns about selective price cuts introduced by British Gas.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This extremely successful and well-established...

Guru Careers: FX Trader / Risk Manager

Competitive with monthly bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced FX...

Guru Careers: Investment Writer / Stock Picker

Competitive (Freelance) : Guru Careers: An Investment Writer / Stock Picker is...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue