Utility Regulation and Competition Policy

Utility Regulation and Competition Policy

Edited by Colin Robinson

In this book, the latest volume in the annual series published in association with the London Business School and the Institute of Economic Affairs, some of the main issues in UK and EU utility regulation and competition policy are discussed. Topics examined include the new electricity and gas trading markets, regulating the railways, introducing competition into water, telecoms and Ofcom, opening EU gas and electricity markets, the 1998 Competition Act, EU merger policy and a general review of privatisation and regulation in Britain. Essays by expert commentators are followed in each case by comments from the relevant regulator.

Chapter 3: Moving to a Competitive Market in Water – Colin Robinson, Chairman’s Comments – Sir Ian Byatt

Colin Robinson

Subjects: economics and finance, competition policy, public finance, public sector economics


In the spring of 1996, when Michael Beesley and I were arranging the Sixth Series of Lectures in Regulation, Michael persuaded me to give a lecture about water, an industry in which he had a considerable interest from his involvement in its privatization and subsequent regulation. I had said to him that regulation of the industry seemed to be diverging from the procompetitive paths being followed in the other utilities. Moreover, I suggested, most regulatory economists seemed to assume that the industry would be forever regulated following old-fashioned ‘public economics’ principles, as though its natural form was a group of regional monopolies which had to be tightly regulated (the idea implicit in the privatization scheme). Typically, Michael’s response was that, if that was my feeling, I must give the lecture. There seemed no adequate answer, so, like many other people who have lectured in this Series, I ventured into unfamiliar territory on Michael’s prompting.

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