View from City Road: Trying to light up the gas scene

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Somewhat belatedly, the Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee has begun a rush investigation into the implications of gas deregulation. The MPs hope to produce their report in time for the Queen's Speech.

Independents are champing at the bit to enter the domestic gas market but fear the Government's appetite for liberalisation has cooled. Without legislation it would be difficult, though not impossible, to introduce free and fair competition.

The problem for ministers is that competition looks unlikely to bring any immediate benefit to a large number of consumers. Indeed, it might actually carry a short-term cost.

It would be lunacy in the extreme to introduce a free-for-all without the debate and consequent safeguards that only legislation can deliver. The Trade and Industry Select Committee is desperately trying to shed some light on the darkness. That is more than ministers have done.