Letter: Water utilities paid their way

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The Independent Online
Sir: How nice to receive a letter from Mr Major on the dangers of the "windfall tax".

However, there is one sentence in his letter I find baffling. He says: "Companies which used to devour huge subsidies from the taxpayer now pay large amounts of tax to the Exchequer." Which companies is he referring to?

I know a little bit about the water industry, and no subsidy was paid to the old water authorities. They borrowed, of course, to fund capital expenditure (just as the privatised companies do) and mainly from the National Loans Fund, but a commercial rate of interest was charged by the NLF and eventually recovered from the customers. The same is true, I believe, of the other utilities.

The only nationalised industries which "devoured" any significant subsidies were rail (nothing's changed there) and coal (which has been virtually shut down and certainly isn't "paying large amounts of tax").


East Grinstead, Sussex