October / November 2000

UK: New regulation for the gas and electricity sectors: the Utilities Act 2000

01 October 2000

The Act, which completed its progress through Parliament hours before the summer recess, was a very different one to the Bill first introduced to the House of Commons in January 2000. Initially the government had intended the Bill to cover regulation in the water and telecommunications sectors as well as electricity and gas - hence the name ‘Utilities Bill’, which now seems such a misnomer. At the beginning of March, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) announced that the telecommunications and water provisions would be removed from the Bill. To a large extent this was due to lobbying by the telecoms industry, which favoured sector-specific legislation. Allegedly, territorial disputes between various government departments also played a role. Since then, the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions has issued a consultation paper on competition in the water industry to supplement the Competition Act, and the DTI has been canvassing views on reform of communications legislation. It is unlikely that either of these initiatives will be translated into legislation before the next general election. By then the Utilities Act may have proved its worth.