What's your line on referrals today?

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The Independent Online
From Mr Brian Wilson, MP

Sir: Three highly ironic cheers for your leading article "Use your power to refer, Mr Lang" (19 September). As U-turns go, this one would put any politician to shame, but is no less welcome for that.

For months now, the Independent - through your unsigned Business Comment column - has put itself on the extreme libertarian right of press and politics by insisting with religious zeal that none of the utility bids should be referred to the MMC.

Those of us who have argued differently and consistently have been castigated for our "knee-jerk" responses. The repeated line has been that there is no case for interfering in the share dealings of private sector companies, whose businesses happen to be water or electricity.

Now the Independent has discovered that, in the cases of the proposed PowerGen takeover of Midlands Electricity and North West Water's attempt to acquire Norweb, "the consumer could come out badly". Well, hallelujah! Is it still your considered opinion that this did not apply to any of the previous bids?

Politicians are occasionally held to account for their past words by newspapers. It is not a bad idea for newspapers to be reminded of what they were saying a week or a fortnight ago. So which bids do you now think should have been referred to the MMC on the grounds that "the consumer could come out badly"?

Yours sincerely,

Brian Wilson

MP for Cunninghame North

(Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

The writer is Opposition spokesman on Trade and Industry.

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