View from City Road: Rough patches remain for British Gas

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The Independent Online
Yesterday's profits warning from British Gas at its annual general meeting in Birmingham sounded uncannily like special pleading. The Government has already retreated a long way from the draconian reforms to the gas industry recommended by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission last year. All the signs are that ministers might go even further. More bad news about poor little British Gas can only help the cause.

The message, however, already appears to be getting through to Clare Spottiswoode, who became director- general of gas supply last year.

Ms Spottiswoode has taken a notably less aggressive approach to the job than her predecessor, Sir James McKinnon. She seems positively sympathetic to British Gas. Some of her observations could as easily have come from the lips of a British Gas director.

All that may be about to change, however. British Gas is determined to load onto the consumer in the shape of higher charges the costs of any restructuring it has to undertake in response to the soon-to-be-published consultative document on competition in the gas market. Ms Spottiswoode will have to be equally insistent that it does not. The fireworks haven't ended yet.

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