Problems and Progress
Edited by Colin Robinson
34 Utility regulation in competitive markets CHAIRMAN’S COMMENTS Colin Robinson Stephen’s chapter, like the last one he produced in this series, is both wide ranging and stimulating. Moreover, it draws on his international experience. My comments are on a few selected issues. The ﬁrst one is a matter that he mentioned almost in passing, but is probably quite important, which is the replacement of individual regulators in this country by authorities. I agree with him that this substitution may not be the step forward that people generally seem to think it is. There is surely scope for entrepreneurship in regulation as elsewhere, and I ﬁnd it quite diﬃcult to believe that the kind of authorities we have now, subject to the constraints under which they operate, would have liberalised the gas and electricity markets in this country as early and as wholeheartedly as the regulators did in the 1990s. My second point is something I shall make some longer remarks about and that is the increasing role of government, to which Stephen drew attention. The original intent in the British regulatory system to have light touch regulation does seem rather a distant memory now. The costs of the regulatory bodies have soared, as Stephen said, and rather more importantly, the government is back on the scene. Even in the energy sector, where there has been the most determined and successful attempt to liberalise markets, the government is interfering extensively, and inevitably it is encroaching on the territory of the...
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