Letter: Suspicious leak from British Gas

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YOUR front-page article in the Business section ('Secret British Gas plan threatens 70,000 jobs', 13 June) looks like a British Gas- inspired leak designed to soften up public opinion ahead of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report.

There is a distinct smell to the leak. British Gas claims that if the industry is broken up then 35,000 of their employees will lose their jobs with a similar number going in the supply industries. According to this argument, regional gas companies will cut jobs at the same rate as the electricity distributors.

Even a dunce should be able to see the lunacy of this argument. The number of redundancies will be determined by industry fundamentals and jobs are likely to

go faster at British Gas than at regional companies, which will take longer to catch up with the more ruthless practices of British Gas.

Your reporter doesn't mention the links between British Gas and the Government. Lord Walker, the minister who privatised the gas industry as a monopoly, is a non-executive director of British Gas. The man who will decide the issue is Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, whom Lord Walker supported when he challenged Margaret Thatcher for the leadership of the Tory party.

Are we watching the opening shots of a public campaign to soften public opinion for when Heseltine rejects the findings of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission? And is this part of the quiet propaganda war which is being waged against the utility watchdogs?

Paddy French

Editor, Rebecca magazine