WHATEVER might be the merits of his other arguments against privatisation of railways, Ralph Gee (Letters, 27 November) should not have called in aid the reason ``why all the original gas, light and coke companies were municipalised in the 1890s'', for they were not. None of the original gas companies (London, Preston and Liverpool) were ever municipalised. Some gas undertakings were set up as municipal enterprises. Some gas companies were taken over by local authorities (but very few as late as the 1890s). And some municipal undertakings were taken over by the private sector. On nationalisation in 1949 perhaps 40 per cent of gas undertakings were municipally owned. This was mainly a Midlands and Northern feature; there were very few municipal undertakings in the South - and in London there were none.
Mr Gee also seems to believe that where gas undertakings were municipalised this was out of a desire to better regulate their activities. It was not. While in some cases local authorities later chose to operate for the benefit of customers (ie on a cheap-gas basis), invariably the reason for setting up a gas undertaking, or purchasing the existing company, was to maximise profits for the relief of the rates.