Competition means choice

Most of the big networks need not be monopolies. Some of you are writing in to say energy or telecoms or water rests on some natural monopoly so it is best held in the public sector. This is a double mistake.

It is quite possible to have competing supplies of water using a pipe network as a common  carrier. It is quite possible for there to be competing ways to route data and phone calls to people without having a single  monopoly network of cables. The oil and gas industries do not need monopoly suppliers because the competing businesses sometimes share pipes. The electricity industry can have competing generators and competing retail companies whilst having some regulated shared network of cables.

Nor is it true to say the state regulates a monopoly well if it owns it. It is easier for the state to be a tough and good regulator of any  monopoly elements that remain if it does not own it. As soon as ownership and regulation are confused the danger is the need to preserve jobs or generate cash or cover up for mistakes takes precedence over the correct regulatory response to poor service or damage done.

When I advised the Thatcher government on industrial strategy I always placed introducing competition above change of ownership. In the case of telecoms in the first round of arguments prior to the initial share sale the PM argued for competition but the Treasury was reluctant. The compromise only allowed for competition for business use through a single challenger. I was able to revisit this decision with Peter Lilley when we were Business Ministers and introduced wider ranging competition at a later date.

Wherever competition was introduced as into electricity and telephones service quality improved and prices fell after the event. Nationalised monopolies usually serve both customer and taxpayer badly. Labour’s ruinously expensive proposals are unlikely to bring benefits after the initial shock of the costs.

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176 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    Indeed.

    Competition is largely killed by funding things through high taxes and then proving services free or heavily subsidised at the point of use. Not easy to compete with free and make a profit.. So we get fairly dire rationed and inefficient state monopolies in healthcare and education. Plus foolish market interventions and unfair competition in social housing, energy, transport, universities, the BBC and elsewhere.

    The Independent today say people are more concerned about climate than the economy. I rather doubt it. They certainly were no keen on Zack Goldsmith in London even given the dire alternative Mayor. Anyway the government can do nothing about the “climate” other than sensible mitigation such as flood schemes.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 5:57 am | Permalink

      Providing not “proving” and not very keen on the “green” Zac Goldsmith ….

      Despite all the BBC and Greta Climate Alarmist propaganda not that many are actually taken in by it. But people do like to sound concerned and kind. It does not mean they want energy to cost so much that their job or industry is exported and they cannot afford to heat their homes, go on holiday or drive to work.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

        The most absurd discussion on Net Zero Carbon 2030 0r 2050 on radio 4 just now. These fools do not have a clue what they are talking about. One was an elderly Cambridge Chemist who surely should know better.

        Can the BBC not afford to get some sensible and impartial engineers and physicists on to explain reality to these virtue signalling dopes with their green unicorns & net zero by 2030 drivel.

        C02 is not really a problem (indeed it can be a positive) and the solutions proposed anyway (wind, wave, solar, tidal, electric cars, heat pumps ……. will make virtually no difference to CO2 levels anyway. The only way would be a vast increase in nuclear – but as CO2 levels are not a problem anyway!

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      A quick look out the front window of the car/bicycle ratio confirms that people aren’t worried about the climate, neither are they worried about their pocket or waistline.

      • Hope
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        As Delingpole wrote yesterday, ten years ago the climategate scam was uncovered at East Anglia university when alleged scientists were promoting fake unproven Climate rot and to make sure true facts could not be obtained via FOI requests!

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      Oh yes, choice is a wonderful thing.

      I’d like the choice to buy my energy from a publicly-accountable, not-for-profit supplier, but that was removed from me by the Conservatives.

      The Co-op doesn’t do too badly, and there are various collective schemes now, however.

      • Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        Yes the Coop Bank has been an industry leader, but in the wrong way run by a committee of elected but not qualified. Just about saved by, you guessed it,the private sector.

        Definitely a role model for what will happen under Corbyn.

      • Edward2
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        A choice of one.

      • agricola
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        Yes and once you have made that choice to buy energy from a PANFP supplier that is the end of your choice. However well the Co-op does you can still go to Lidl, Aldi, Tesco et al if the Co-op havn’t got it or you wish to pay less.

        You will find, based on historical fact, that monopoly nationalised industries are indifferent to the desires of the people. They run themselves for the dinosaur trade unions that control them. They do not belong to the people.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

          I never claimed otherwise.

    • Robert McDonald
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      There is no doubt that should people be asked to choose to walk or bike rather than drive or bus or indeed fly to work or holiday then concerns over climate will take very much last place in their priorities.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      It might also help…viz Somerset Levels floods ( as far as I know) if green unthinking didn’t reverse longtime knowledge and STOP doing the things that prevent flooding.
      “ Make Room For Water” = FLOODS.
      If you do not carry out dredging and turn off the pumps ( because of voles and frogs that green policies kill anyway) you Get FLOODS.
      Probably applies to many of the floods recently.
      Plus the intelligent idea of building on flood plains.
      They think they are Canute!

      • Hope
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        It was deliberate action by the Enironment Agency to implement EU directives. Dredging was stopped, the flood plane flooded. C.Booker wrote many article on it. Now Somerset is paying twice, one in their community charge and another for the EA to prevent floods. I understand Somerset is also building a Tory urban ghetto.

        You might also recall the majority of the £1.3 billion budget of the Environment Agency went on staff and pension costs and how little was spent on infrastructure projects to help the public. It should be disbanded it serves little purpose for the public. It cannot even warn people of floods properly as we see up north! Another quango that was ripe for the bonfire that did not happen under Cameron.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

          Not that long ago farmers used to maintain their own windmills to pump water into the raised drains.

          Then it came to pass that the ubiquitous “they” would look after drainage, with electric pumps and so on.

          If you want the public to subsidise you, then take what you get.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 19, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

            But farmers cannot dredge rivers.
            That requires machinery they do not process.
            The EU’s Water Directive has created the policy of letting nature take its course.
            It has made materials removed from ditches and rivers special waste that cannot just be placed on the land as it used to be.
            Making disposal expensive.
            Which stops most farmers from being able to afford to do it.
            And reduces the budget further for the EA to do it.
            It is a key reason why flooding is taking place near our big rivers.

      • Lester Beedell
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

        +1

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      The MSM feels it has to be seen as warm and cuddly, before any sense of truth, discussion or open discussion.

      Would you believe the Polls? or put it another way would you tell a pollster the Truth? or what you thought they wanted to hear!

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Prince Andrew (will not feature on this site as matters relate to a US investigation ed)

    I also see that the sole green MP for Brighton admits to flying to New York to see her son. When asked about this she went on about having cheaper trains to Europe and unfair taxation of their fuel. I do not think train fuel has any significant tax on it not VAT on tickets and we do have to pay a large tax on every flight in the UK. So is she expecting a train track to New York now? Surely you either believe the stuff you come out with, and live by these beliefs, or you do not and are just another do as I say not as I do hypocrite.

    The people who are taken in by the fake green religion nearly always seem to have very little understanding of science, energy, engineering, transport, climate, maths or logic. Caroline Lucas read English Lit. at Exeter it seems. Trains, when staffing, stations, tracks, the often four way connecting journeys at each end are taken into account are often rather worse then cars in environmental terms.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      Not that old fallacy. Yet another who claims that every signpost should be seen walking in the direction that it points.

      • Edward2
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        They should set an example and do exactly as they want others to do.
        Lead from the front.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted November 18, 2019 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

          Indeed either that or just shut up. But blatant hypocrisy makes them look idiotic. As it does when these art graduates talk about Megs Watts of energy or misunderstand positive feedback as they so often do. Or fail to grasp that intermittent & not on demand energy is worth far, far less than is reliable on demand energy.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted November 18, 2019 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

            Or like the transport Secretary think electric cars a zero emission!

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

          You should listen to what people actually say.

          What the Greens want is internationally co-ordinated policy to change general behaviour.

          They do not criticise any individual for living their lives as necessary subject to what means of transport etc. are available right now.

          If they did then they would indeed be hypocrites, but generally they don’t.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 19, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

            That’s all fine Martin
            They can stand for election on those policies.
            What was it, one MP at the last election?

            They do worse than simply criticise.
            They do worse than seeking to pursuade us.
            They want to ban us from doing things they don’t like.
            They should set the example and live the lifestyle they demand the rest of us must live.

    • Norman
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      The Monarchy is under attack – and the hypocrites love it! Enough said.

      • steve
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

        Norman

        “The Monarchy is under attack”

        So what. The Monarchy didn’t do anything when our country was under attack by rogue parliament committing treason left right & centre.

        Why should we care.

        • Norman
          Posted November 19, 2019 at 10:36 am | Permalink

          Steve – for the record – its the principle of the Monarchy that’s under attack – just as Parliament and Democracy are. Sadly, as even Cromwell found, the same ‘disease’ (sin and failure) sticks to us all. And damnable as any are the hypocrites that feed off it.
          But our history is very much about Mercy, and Redemption – which is it’s Silver Lining. I believe Her Majesty the Queen would know exactly what I mean.

  3. Ian Wragg
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    According to Raab yesterday we will be agreeing to a Level Playing Field with the EU so there will be no competition.
    We have to follow EU rules on sales and manufacturing even to non EU countries.
    This negates any advantage of leaving.
    Of course the supreme arbiter will be the ECJ.
    That’s not taking back control.

    • agricola
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      A very fair question. It was reported yesterday that Boris has insisted that all Conservative candidates sign up to his WA2. If this is so all the above fears are real. Signing up to leaving the EU is one thing but WA2 is not leaving without multiple umbelicals. Would our host let us know if he has signed such an agreement or is it just journalistic licence. WTO terms are still the only way to truely leave along with the offer of a FTA and Art 24 of GATT for continuity pending agreeing the FTA. Will a Conservative majority allow us a clean leave or will we revert to internal wrangling.

      Reply MY position on leaving the EU is as stated on this website. I have not changed in the last month.

      • ian wragg
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        What about fisheries, Fox wouldn’t answer the question when challenged about the EU wanting shared access.
        These 2 points are just there to be negotiated away during the so called transition period where we are full members without representation. Then of course there will be the annual fee to allow the EU to run up a £90billion surplus with us.
        We are not daft or stupid no matter what Martin in (Cardiff) Brussels thinks.

        • steve
          Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

          ian wragg.

          Fox wouldn’t answer firstly because he wasn’t under interrogation, which is the only way you’d get the truth from any of that mealy mouthed lying shower.

          Secondly because France has been given access to our waters. We’re just not supposed to know until it’s too late to do anything about it.

        • Herry
          Posted November 19, 2019 at 4:59 am | Permalink

          If Boris’s deal is passed, there is then a transition period where we are fully subject to EU law, but have no representation at all. There is nothing to stop them passing a law that says all British waters are open to EU boats – but off limits our boats!

      • Sir Joe Soap
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        So then there are also still Conservative PPCs who support nor leaving the EU at all? This sign-up was a Johnson fabrication?
        We could be back to square 1 in December even with a Conservative Gov.

      • Stred
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        The rebels who stopped any WTO have been let back in and have not been asked to sign that they will not do the same again. Why is this. Does the government really want WTO to be stopped?

      • agricola
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        Very pleased to hear your reply. Question is how many returning MPs and new boys are simarly minded.

    • Simeon
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      It was ever thus. Assuming the government is determined to sort out an ‘FTA’ before next year’s end (which, given the Tories priorities – party before everything and everyone else – is surely correct), then it will inevitably have to look just like our current arrangements with the EU. Divergence would take far too long to agree – even if the EU was willing to agree to such, which is doubtful, unless the terms are ludicrously advantageous to them.

      It’s an utter cock up. My view is that the fundamental mistake made (and, sadly, this is one our kind host seems guilty of also) is that economics trumps politics. Often it might, but not in this case, when the EU is a political project, and political considerations have always been the driver of economic decisions. The EU will happily sacrifice economic gains in pursuit of its political objectives, as it has shown time and time again. That this country’s political leaders has always failed to understand this, deluding themselves that the EU is an economic entity with the political bits added on to enure the smooth running of trade, explains just about everything.

    • Mark B
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      A foreigner once said to me many years ago; “Your politicians do not care for you !”

      She was right.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      If you or your family are employees then you should be thankful.

      In addition to buying goods or services, most people also work in supplying them.

      Without proper regulation, unfettered competition leads to a race to the bottom in pay and conditions.

      • Edward2
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        Odd that during the last 100 years pay and conditions have improved enormously.
        And in many cases are much higher in the UK than other EU nations.

      • libertarian
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        Martin

        Total and utter cobblers from someone who has never run a business and has contributed nothing

        Just because you and your marxist friends have no faith in workers doent mean that we dont

        As an employer, like most employers I try to pay my employees the best I can as that breeds loyalty and quality of work. We can only pay within the costs of production of course ( which is why £15 ph burger flippers is a total nonsense) . Workers have power to, they can with draw their labour, they can leave for what ever reason on short notice. The costs of recruiting are high.

        Competition is the lifeblood of innovation, job creation and improved working practices. Thats why workers in the UK are now amongst the worlds richest 10%

        The trouble with socialists is they have this set of assumptions about free markets , you know dog eat dog, exploitation, lowest common denominator, worker exploitation, unequal share of GDP etc . None of it based in reality , all of it got from a book written 130 years ago by a man who had never worked in his life and lived off the back of the son of a factory owner .

        Its about time you stopped being riddled with envy and jealousy , realised that the economy isn’t a zero sum game and that equality of opportunity is everywhere and here in the UK we have the most harmonious industrial relations since the power of dictatorial trade unions where curbed . We have a strong , well educated , talented workforce earning good money with great safety benefits and the most advanced workers rights in Europe

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted November 19, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

          I’m not a Marxist.

          I believe strongly in private property, for instance.

          Your long list of inaccurate, complete supposition, about what I and others believe, or have done, makes you look extremely foolish in my opinion.

          I’d be very surprised if you ran any enterprise of any standing.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 20, 2019 at 5:32 am | Permalink

            How surprised you must be.

    • Timaction
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      No. A sell out! No more Tory’s!

    • BJC
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Indeed, there’s a huge difference between accepting alignment, etc, on an ad hoc basis to suit our own needs and having it enshrined in a catch-all legally binding EU treaty with the ECJ as the final arbiter. In Mr Johnson’s own very inelegant words, he’s still “polishing the t**d”.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

        They are indeed. A very expensive one too.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      The Boris deal clearly not Brexit. Most of the disadvantages of membership with very few of the advantages of leaving and a huge fee too. Plus it handicaps us in the negotiation to come. Just as the treacherous Benn Act act did. Rid of the Ben act and with a majority we can do far better. It seems however that Boris will not even try too post the election with his oven ready Turkey deal.

    • Bob
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      @Ian Wragg
      Obviously, the WA doesn’t allow us to regain self rule, it’s just a delaying strategy while the politicians work out a means to remain.

      • Martin in Cardiff
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        You reckon it’s not leaving?

        Well, try using your silly navy blue passport to get past the three-hour queues for non-European Union passport holders at Continental airports after the UK has left then.

        Good luck with that.

        • a-tracy
          Posted November 18, 2019 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

          Martin, the last time I went to Germany we were stuck hours in long queues to show our purple EU passport.

          • Martin in Cardiff
            Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

            It took me a long time to get served at the bar last night.

            Funny, that. Sundays are usually qiet.

        • libertarian
          Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

          Martin

          Youve never been abroad have you ?

          The queues at EU airports are EU passport holders, there are vastly fewer non EU people in the queues

          Last week at Bordeaux airport I got off a London flight waited 30 minutes to get through EU passport control whilst approximately 4 people sailed through Non EU border control

          • Martin in Cardiff
            Posted November 19, 2019 at 8:18 am | Permalink

            See above.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 19, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

            My experience too Libertarian over many years at airports in Europe and UK.
            Queues for the greater numbers holding EU passports and less queues for other passport holders.
            Especially at airports where EU passport holders have to use those automated gates.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

        I fear you are right.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    If an industry is of such strategic importance that it can never be allowed to fail then there can’t ever be real competition. The monopoly participants know full well there will be government subsidies and bailouts.

    There’s your test.

    Why are we even having to argue with Corbyn ?

    I’ll tell you why. Your party pulled every stroke to keep us in the EU – most insulting to voters was the May can kicking, Sad-Clown faced charade pretending to be a real effort to get us out. Voters may be sucked in or forced to vote Tory by Boris to keep The Others out (not the first time your lot have played this game.)

    I feel suffocated by the Tories and the removal of my option to vote TBXP.

    We are already a banana republic whether Labour get in or not.

    • Mark B
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      Don’t worry, this is their final betrayal, and they know it. When your effectively have to scare people into voting for you, you have lost any moral right to govern.

      • Simeon
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        I thought along the same lines up until the good ship Brexit Party was scuttled before it got out of the harbour. It’s not impossible to imagine the Tories collapsing, but what replaces them? The lack of an alternative to the Lib Dems and Labour beyond the Tories would seem to guarantee their perpetuation. Let’s face it, this present iteration of the Tories is an utter shower – yet still they poll strongly (even if there’s a fair chance much of their support is soft and could fall away come the actual poll).

    • Timaction
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      Agreed. No attempt by the Tory’s to rid us of political correctness or to bring us back to a meritocracy just more of the same!

    • Ginty
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      TBXP

      I thought the Tories liked competition !

      • Wil Pretty
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        Indeed, competition in politics is sorely needed.
        50 years ago I was in favour of the single transferrable vote election process.
        It is good enough to elect a speaker.
        It would allow minor parties to survive, and every voters vote would count.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

          Well it elected a dire speaker with Brecow, mainly due to the poor quality of the electorate not so much the voting system.

  5. Shirley
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    The supply of water could be through shared pipework, but what about sewage treatment?

    Do you have any thoughts about foreign ownership of essential services? As it is, the cost of some UK services is subsidising the same services in other countries.

    • Stred
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      It would not be practical to separate the supply pipes with repair and sewage treatment. Even a separate supply of water would be impractical, with duplication of treatment standards and monitoring.
      My friend found his meter was leaking after receiving a huge bill. After four promises to fix it, they have still not arrived and the latest excuse is that they will have to put up traffic lights. The meter is in the footpath and the road is a short U linked to the main road. They have just got round to applying for permission from the council, who will now waste more time and taxpayers money deciding to charge for the permit. The company is as inefficient as it would be if run by civic servants.

    • dixie
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      Not just other countries, Thames Water customers are subsidising London’s super sewer.

    • Turboterrier
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Shirley

      but what about sewage treatment?

      Very good point Shirley. In Shropshire in the rural areas especially planning and construction of properties has gone on with no regard to the disposal and treatment of waste. Some of the villages over thirty years ago were told that their sewerage system was to capacity and now on quiet summer evenings with no breeze you have this sweet smell enveloping the village. Still the planners allow more properties to be built. The achilles heel of all development within the UK no consideration to the infrastructure. It has to be laid fully at the feet of the planning authorities who at the planning stage have the power to halt development until the infrastructure takes into account all future increases in services, amenities, access and traffic impact.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      The same could easily apply to sewage systems. Basically fresh water in is virtually the same as dirty water out – so no need to measure the volume twice.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      You have correctly identified that Foreign owned utilities are indeed using the UK consumer to prop up their price controlled home Markets.

      More bizarrely it is their own home governments that have a direct investment/shareholding to facilitate the practice.

      That is in part why power supplies are inherently cheaper in the Free World

  6. Everhopeful
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Wouldn’t true capitalism provide competition and choice?
    The nasty form of capitalism we have at the moment makes for lack of accountability.
    Companies are not contactable ( once they have your money)and have no concept of customer service.
    Is it that the dire education/ indoctrination has finally taken its toll in the market place?
    Or maybe biased choices of job candidate?
    Regulations?
    Multi nationalism?
    Contracting out? Bringing in consultants?
    Firms have become too big?
    I don’t know ..but competition in prices alone seems the least of our problems!

    • agricola
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      Contact is a valid point. All companies should be forced to publish a full address, an email address, and a free manned telephone number that is answered by a human being after a max of three rings. Computer respond systems that run you in circles should be illegal.

      I have found that a bit of research away from the company website often identifies the chairman of directors and a head office address. A letter usually gets results particularly when it is pointed out that he is presiding over such a disaster in public relations.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        Indeed or systems that fore you to complain through there particular long winded on line system just to deter you.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Do you think the NHS is really accountable or HMRC (who put you one hold for 20 mins than hang up on you)? The first finds it hard even to feed and water patients properly, infects thousands with deadly infections and kills thousands.

      Of course you can contact businesses write to their registered office with a suitable seven day demand followed by a summons if needed. Or go through your credit card company to get a refund or to have things put right (if over the £100 ? I think threshold).

  7. Ian @Barkham
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Good morning Sir John

    I really do agree with your view on this.

    I would go further and suggest that how takeovers and mergers take place need more scrutiny, are so many of them really necessary? Bean counters talk of synergy and cost saving, when in reality they are looking to remove competitors and reduce the scope of the market place.

    A free market does work and it works well it is lazy management and interfering governments that distort it’s working. As you say shared services are all that is needed, then they should only last while there is mutual benefit to the consumer.

    Did Boots takeover benefit the consumer? Did the Pilkington take over improve the market or benefit the consumer. Many more could be added to the list, all they have created in doing is reducing choice therefore increasing real consumer cost.

    The US the home of the free market principal is suffering from high consumer internet costs mainly due to so-called consolidation between competing companies. Choice has been reduced so costs have risen. Those same companies are now trying to do the same in the UK.
    .

  8. Henry Bone
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    The most important industrial policy of the Thatcher governments was to create and nurture the EU single market. Which Brexit is now taking the UK out of, at vast cost to our economy. Why are you so determined to destroy the legacy of the greatest peacetime PM we have ever had?

    Reply The single market was a means of imposing a large number of laws us including some that were damaging to business and growth.

    • agricola
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      In support of reply.
      Yes it is a cartel that limits competition in defense of it’s own expensive producers.

    • Fedupsoutherner
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      Good reply John. The UK would be better off with a true leave and not attached to the EU in any shape or form. I thought that was what I voted for but it has been manipulated by all parties in parliament. I am most disappointed in Boris. Most of us now have no choice but to vote for him. Politics stink at this time like never before.

    • Robert McDonald
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      I cannot see this vast cost to our economy that leaving the eu would result in. We were 2nd/3rd largest world economy when we were joined and we are now the 6th largest. We should thank the eu for that ?

    • HJ
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      That’s a slight misunderstanding of Margaret Thatcher’s position. The ‘Single Market’ is/was more properly called the ‘Internal Market’. There can be an Internal Market in two ways – one by centralised uniform regulation (the approach the EU has been taking in recent years) or by regulatory competition with mutually agreed equivalence. Margaret Thatcher was in favour of the latter, not the former.

      It’s also worth reading her thoughts in her Bruges speech about how this should not mean the EU being protectionist against trade outside the EU.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Brexit will result in neither a “vast” loss for our economy nor a “vast” gain for our economy; what have always been and continue to be “vast” are the exaggerations of the impact of EU membership on our economy.

      Ask Michel Barnier about the economic gains from the EU Single Market and he may refer you to his own 2012 report estimating the increase in the collective GDP of the EU member states as about 2%; but that is the average gain, and according to another source the gain for the UK has been about half of that.

      Then to correct that gross gain to a net gain, or a net loss, look at the EU’s own worried estimates of the high costs of its regulations and you will find that they exceed the estimated gains.

      http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2018/08/02/what-happened-to-the-record-temperature/#comment-951993

      Then having come to the conclusion that the UK economy may have gained 1% or perhaps 2% of GDP from EU membership, but probably on balance it has lost 1% or perhaps 2% of GDP or possibly more, and compare that gain or loss to the trend growth rate of the UK economy, natural growth averaging 2.5% a year:

      http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2019/01/18/the-german-establishment-wants-the-uk-to-stay-in-the-eu-of-course-they-do/#comment-989329

      and it becomes understandable why the point when we joined the EEC, and the point when the EU Single Market was created, cannot be identified on a chart of UK GDP against time; and nor do I expect that in the future it will be possible to identify the point at which we left the EU and its Single Market.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      To reply. Exactly it was called the “single market” but was really a protection racket, anti-competitive and a power trap by the EU. An excuse for yet more misguided laws and endless regulation of almost everything. That is why we should leave all this now and without anymore expensive delays.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      That was the theory behind the EU foundation. It failed in that those that controlled it didn’t want any scrutiny on the laws and regulations they made to protect the established empires.

      The EU parliament as well as not being democratically selected does not have the power to scrutinize, amend or repeal any thing the EU Commission generates. The ECJ is not a court in the established UK sense in that it is not independent – it takes its guidance from the Commission.

      As far as cost goes – all UK industry will benefit when(if) we leave, as the greater majority of it is paying additionally for regulations and laws that would never be needed in the UK . The greater majority of UK enterprise has no involvement with the EU. Of UK production GDP just around 4.7% is with the EU. The other 95% is being held back.

  9. agricola
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Competition and choice every time. Look at how we have benefitted from our wide choice from the restaurant world. Catering has undergone a revolution in my lifetime, long may it continue. Same goes for air travel. It has made almost anywhere in the World accessible and thanks to competition, at affordable prices. Governments regulate it for safety standards via such as the CAA to our benefit, but fail us by not expanding airports to allow it to compete with rail and road in the 100 to 500 mile area. What I pay to travel 1200 miles compares very favourably with much shorter distances by rail and road. This only happens because of competition.
    Labour take us back to British Restauants, school dinners, and the horse and cart.

    • Simeon
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:19 am | Permalink

      You forgot to mention aviation fuel is not taxed, which amounts to a state subsidy – though your points still stand in principle.

      • Edward2
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        There a other taxes levied on flights.
        Long haul flights in particular have large sums added to the ticket price.

      • The Prangwizard
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        Passengers are taxed directly via APD.

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Flying is made economical partly because aviation fuel has no duty applied to it, whereas for road fuel it represents the majority of the costs.

      • agricola
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        It is not practical to tax aviation fuel because there is no control of where you fill up. It leads to fair competition in that fuel is a level playing field worldwide. Other aspects of aviation are taxed by individual countries with landing fees and passenger tax. At one time it paid to hop over to Holland, and fly intercontinental from there.

        At the end of the month I will fly 1200 miles for £39, I doubt I could drive 100 miles to central London for that never mind parking the car and the congestion charges. If I chose the train I could be even worse off. I would advocate developjng London City Airport to handle flights from regional airports at £20 a seat. The price I paid last time I flew Birmingham to Dublin.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      The Greens loons would certainly take us back to the horse and cart – and we would all be wading through tons of horse manure (cycling might be more difficult given this) Also freezing in our homes and living in poverty. It would not make any significant difference to the climate either.

      • agricola
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Yes the Green Loons do not acknowlege the existance of the Sun , the controller of climate since the World was created. End of story.

        They should concentrate on the environment, almost exclusively man made and therefore available for correction. Start demonstrating in China against their purchases of Rhino horn and ivory or perhaps India against air pollution. I am sure they would get a sympathetic hearing while blocking streets. Convert the fishermen of the World to using natural fibre nets. Stop polluting our oceans with plastic in all it’s forms. Use science and engineering to control the down sides of fossil fuel. It is all there to challenge man on many different levels.

        When all is achieved and climate continues to change you will need to take steps to mitigate it. Flood defenses come to mind, or is it sun cream on the NHS.

        Were all this done to approaching perfection, sometime somewhere a volcano will decide to blow or heaven forbid an asteroid decide to strike and we could be back with the dinosaurs. Who are the loony Greens going to blame or tax then. Ask the pubescent from Scandinavia perhaps.

        • mitchel
          Posted November 18, 2019 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

          The financial sector-in the west- will be used to force investment into green causes-and/or,equally,starve non-green businesses of it.

          The EIB announced last week that it would no longer fund any projects to develop fossil fuels(inc natural gas) from late 2021.Their CEO said “This is an important first step-this is not the last step.”

          He who controls the money…….

          • agricola
            Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

            Well providing we are not part funding tbe EIB it is Europes problem.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted November 19, 2019 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

          Exactly.

  10. David in Kent
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Interestingly, despite the NHS offering a ‘free’ service, people are still prepared to pay for a network of private hospitals. Makes me think it might be a good idea to offer ‘free at the point of use’ alternatives to the NHS

    • Mark B
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      Business have, and wish to, offer employees private health insurance. Currently the government see it as a benefit. If it were to remove this and allow ordinary people to take up private health care it would free the NHS and slowly introduce much needed competition.

      • libertarian
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

        Mark B

        Exactly , but of course we all know that politicians dont think rationally its all about the lowest common denominator . They hate to think that by paying we get a better service

        However more and more people are now paying for private healthcare Where I live there are specialist private hospitals for oncology and neurological surgery . There are even private A&E hospitals now

    • Iain Gill
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      State should provide guaranteed health insurance to everyone, pay according to ability, payouts according to need. But get the state out of owning and allocating care providers. Let patients take their insurance payouts anywhere they like.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      Yes!
      Private Drs Surgeries in the High Street.
      Kind, polite doctors and receptionists.
      Why not?

      • Lifelogic
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        Doctors happy to see you that day plus you are often able to go straight to a doctor who has expertise in the appropriate medical area. A doctor with time to actually deal properly with your issue or issues.

        It works very well in many countries. If you can pay for sky, a car and haircuts you can pay for the GP.

        • Iain Gill
          Posted November 19, 2019 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

          GP as gatekeeper simply does not work.

          eg Skin condition go see a dermatologist, pointless seeing a GP (most will admit they are clueless on many skin conditions)

          GP here is just a rationing mechanism, and not even cheaper than seeing the relevant consultant directly would be

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Exactly free but still so useless, rationed, endlessly cancelled at the last minute, often incompetent and delayed such that you had better go any pay £10,000 for your urgent operation elsewhere anyway. Better than no health care at all but not by much.

    • agricola
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      While I use private and NHS healthcare, it is not a simple question of one or the other. Often the providers ie:- medical staff work in both regimes at the same time.

      The private sector tends to cherry pick where the NHS cannot answer demand. What if the NHS was funded to a level where it could answer demand. By this I mean having the front line medical expertise, utilising the capital equipment it has 24/7, professionalising its purchasing. Where the NHS is fighting long term illnesses such as cancer, my experience is that it does a very good and compassionate job. There are areas that have been neglected, mental health and long term elderly care for instance.

      It is a subject that merits a grown up discussion,devoid of party politics, to decide what the extent of the NHS should be and therefore what might best be done privately via insurance. It should involve formulating the rules for the insurance industry too. I hope a party in government has the courage to conduct such an enquiry and the implement it’s conclusions.

  11. Simeon
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Taking on board all you say, much of which is fair comment, there is still the issue of very poor outcomes.

    With respect to the railways, there is a serious question to ask as to whether they are a viable business without state intervention, as of course there presently is. There are common goods that result from rail use, and so an argument can be made that all that benefit indirectly, and not just rail users themselves, should contribute. However, this does not excuse the present arrangements, which are demonstrably poor.

    As regards energy provision, that to all intents and purposes the energy suppliers act like a cartel is a failure of the market and of the regulators. Reform is clearly necessary. But a further point to be made is that national security must also be considered in this; how can it make sense that foreign states own energy companies on which we depend? More importantly, how on earth can it make sense that we are reliant on inward investment for infrastructure from foreign states with potentially very hostile intentions toward us?

    You have frequently, and eloquently, made the case for food self-sufficiency, a highly desirable outcome for a variety of reasons including those of national security. There is also a case to be made for energy self-sufficiency, which of course would have the added benefit of cheaper energy prices (assuming sensible energy generation).

  12. Iain Gill
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    I agree, let’s have competition in healthcare, schools, and social housing.

  13. Dominic
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    The lexicon or language used by Labour when describing their plan to bring back under ‘public control’ is classic subterfuge and deceit by the Left, the unions and Marxist Labour. What they actually means is under the ‘political control’ of Labour and the unions but for some reason the Tory party, clueless as ever, will not explain this simple lie to the public.

    As a member of the public, what control will I have when my gas is supplied by a State owned organisation that is run by a commissar answerable to a faceless union consigliere or one of his drinking buddies? I can’t switch supplier. I’m held to ransom by an organisation that is run for the benefit of a political organisation (Lab-union). That’s real public control that is, not.

    Nationalisation is quite simply a plan to increase the political power of Labour and the unions at massive cost to the taxpayer. Why should my taxes be used to finance Labour’s and the unions political fortunes?

    Politicisation of these industries will also expand Labour’s client state and gives them unlimited amounts of leverage over the British public. Considering the fact that If Marxist Labour do achieve power they’ll scrap all democratic structures that regulate union activity and balloting. The customer will be held to ransom over and over again. And when they are kicked out of power, assuming they don’t nobble democracy, for destroying this nation and its people for the cause of increasing the power of the Labour, left, union triumvirate we will find it impossible to reform these utilities

    If they do achieve power they won’t make the same mistake they made in the 1970’s. They will build a Marxist structure so complex, embedded and without accountability to make it almost impossible to reform

    Prices will rise as debt costs rise and inefficiencies due to union lethargy and politicisation of service delivery (installing Labour people to manage complex industries). General taxes will rise as Labour seek to raise income to finance these huge inefficiencies

    The public and the taxpayer will foot the bill one way or another. All in the name of upping Labour’s political power-grab

  14. Mark B
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    It is quite possible to have competing supplies of water using a pipe network as a common carrier.

    I am with SES Water for my water and Thames for drainage and treatment. Who does our kind host suggest I can go too to get a better price ?

    Choice is power. If those in the market what my custom they have to provide what I want for an agreeable price. Innovation is another driver. Look at the motor car. The choice on offer is wide and competition strong. This has lead to a reduction in unit price both to the consumer and the manufacturer. It has also seem enormous innovation and is very attune to customer needs. Years ago VOLVO where the only manufacturer dedicated to passenger safety. Today all manufacturers treat safety seriously as the consumer is very conscious on this.

    Of course the Eastern Bloc had its own car industry. And, if you were lucky, you got to own a Trabant. Whereas over the otherside of the Berlin Wall you got the choice between Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Opel and Porsche. 😉

    • Mitchel
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      If you were really lucky you got a Skoda,the eastern bloc’s Porsche,produced by the Vladimir Illyich Lenin Plant,as it was renamed after WWII!

    • forthurst
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      I see you that the Japs own your water.

      In the bad old days local water companies supplied water derived from the local geography, whether from surface or aquifer supplies. Water costed a few pence on the rates. The water supplies were nationalised and denationalised as regional monopolies and now are sold separately and cost hundreds of pounds a year, much of which is remitted to foreign owners: such is progress.

  15. Walt
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I remember the pre-Thatcher era in which our country was repeatedly held to ransom by the unions of nationalised industries. Also, I remember that some elements of those industries were better for the customer than are their privatised successors. Two examples, the biggest first…
    Water: one of the first things done by management of newly-privatised South West Water (now Pennon) was to enrich themselves; next their shareholders; a long way down in their priorities came their customers, with no choice of supplier. Useless regulators allowed Pennon to under-invest in their core task and, over three decades later, they are still releasing raw sewage into our rivers and beaches whilst rewarding themselves and their shareholders. And the old water companies had trained staff who could be called on for domestic tasks.
    Rail: BR had its faults, but buying a ticket to anywhere in the country was easy, long-distance trains had restaurant cars and most trains had a buffet car. Also, pre-Beeching we had branch lines that served their local communities and which, with frequent local bus services, meant that car ownership was not essential.

  16. Kenneth
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I am all for free markets but a system that shares the same network but be constructed carefully in order to avoid a cartel or other market distortions.

    I am not convinced the market model we have for power generation works to the benefit of the customer.

    In short: why do we need OfGem?

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      The market is predominantly EU owned in the UK, OfGem doesn’t have the jurisdiction on the main players as the EcJ would stamp on them. – That is called freedom.

      • forthurst
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

        Power generation is a rigged marketplace, rigged in order to savetheplanet. There is a large man-made foreign owned hazard to shipping off the coast where I live which which produces electricity when the wind blows (not too hard). When it fails to produce electricity, as it did recently as a result of an undisclosed transmission fault, a foreign-owned coastal CCGT unit cuts in producing cheaper electricity. Of course, the CCGT unit, although prevented from competing with the more expensive supplier on price (assuming their electrons are of a similar quality) is paid for standby in order to defer the date when the lights go out.

  17. alastair harris
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Thank you for making the point. I wish more people understood this.
    It would be good to explore further the idea that you could make policy choices such as “free at the point of delivery”, without owning the businesses or assets that deliver the policy.

  18. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    A single pipe into homes or businesses does not improve competition. Customer services and prices maybe but not infrastructure. My broadband speed is fixed whoever I rent it from because the infrastructure is delivered by a monopoly.

    As it is with gas electricity rail and water.

    My water can only be bought from one company, similarly rail. Gas and electricity prices are fixed by government I can’t even negotiate that.

    Better to open it up completely. Let the market decide.

  19. Dominic
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Tell it as it is. The taxpayer is being told by Labour it must finance a political power grab by Labour and its Marxist allies if it comes to power. That is what ‘public control’ or nationalization actually means in practice.

    The Tories do themselves no favors at all by engaging in this debate on the terms set by Labour ie the nature of service delivery. Labour and the Marxist unions couldn’t give a rat’s about quality and efficiency of delivery.

    Labour’s (and their unions) only concern is long term political control of all and everything at any cost

  20. Robert McDonald
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    I am by nature a supporter of competition through privatisation. My only concern is who should best be responsible for the installation and maintenance of infrastructure such as cabling, railing or piping. That cannot be open to all as it may result in every street being dug up by several companies placing their infrastructure for their use alone.

  21. Alec
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    “Nationalised monopolies usually serve both customer and taxpayer badly.” Yes they do and the biggest monopolies are in Westminster and Whitehall. Since you can’t have two governments in the same space the only answer is to reduce, or better still eliminate, their power.

    • forthurst
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      There needs to be fair competition in the statute market. The EU is a monopoly supplier of most statutes but the liblabcon party is also a monopolist of statute production. Either the liblabcon party is run by amments or they actually hate the English and want to harm them. Either way, we need a proper market in political ideology which will only be achieved when the FPTP electoral system is abolished.

  22. Kevin
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    As an aside, I notice that Wikipedia has a table of polls that predict the number of constituencies the various parties are likely to win. In the past week, in three successive polls, the “Other” category has gone up from an estimate of one seat, to nineteen. At what point does it become important to discuss this “fast-growing” category?

    • Kevin
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      I think I can answer my own question:
      the first poll, which I reported as reading 1 in the “Other” column this morning, now reads 0;
      the figure of 19 in the third poll is, I think, a simple grouping of the N. Irish seats plus one other; and,
      as for the second poll, which gives an estimate of 1-11, well, I stopped being interested when I learnt my mistake with the third poll.

    • tim
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      Kevin- an old lady gave me this advice the othe day: Nothing will make any difference, even if the BP won 650 seats. The rich people who run the puppets would offer 351 of them enought to betray Brexit.

  23. Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Agree mainly. Not sure where my competition in water is. One bill in another out mirroring first but from a different provider.

    Strange you don’t include NHS, umpteen costly ‘useless?’ Quangos, and what about lack of competition in Local Authorities, I am stuck with constant local tax increases from a mainly unaccountable monolith, with an unreformed pension scheme, yes I know I have an elected counsellor, but frankly of dubious quality and as for Police Commissioners, don’t get me started!

    All parties are committed to a bigger State, let’s have some competition on this subject.

    • See!
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

      On the internet, the NHS advised I see my doctor for two separate extremely minor temporary problems which age-old safe remedies cured in no time at all.
      Of course with every ailment and advice they give to persons who might otherwise not go to a doctor they edge on the side of caution.
      Understandable. Costs billions and has to be causing waiting times to rocket, people to die or suffer by waiting.
      Good intentions by an organisation with money to burn. Our money

  24. James Snell
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    As regards gas and electricity supply for the residential customers we are being told to ‘shop around’ the inference being that we should change supplier every year to get the best price deal. But this only works for the switched on patrons who are computer literate and have time and interest to mind these things. My query is- what about the old, infirm and forgetful or the ones too busy at work or in spending their time going in and out of hospital- are these people to be screwed to pay for the ones who are getting special deals? and that is where competition is failing- I fear. It would be much fairer if the regulators fixed a fair price for all and left it at that.

    Secondly I have also heard of petrol and diesel fixing of prices for villages and small towns- all done on Wednesday afternoons by retailers on the greens at the local golf courses- Competition is a nice idea but for a lot of people it doesn’t work. My thoughts

    • Stred
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      My bird has a smart meter in her house and changed back to the original company after the smart went dumb. Now we find on a comparison site that the original company is charging 25% more for gas and electricity and the new cheaper company can’t access the smart meter until possibly next year when they may have some software or the new meters are available which work for different suppliers

      • Oldie
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        I’ve never found any contraption or machine “smart”

    • graham1946
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      I change my electricity suppliers every year, but it still results in increased prices every time. The best I can achieve is to keep the price lower than it would be by sticking to one supplier. Competition? It’s a joke perpetrated on the public for the benefit of large corporates, often foreign owned at that.

      • Mark B
        Posted November 19, 2019 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        Ditto. Just changed mine and, price went up. Could have got a little bit cheaper than that those who I went with but, that would have come with a ‘smart’ (sic) meter. No thanks !

  25. Andy
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    The theory behind privatisation might be great.

    But in practice it has often been lousy.

    I cannot choose which water company I have. I get the one which serves this area.

    Mine is threatening a hose pipe ban. I doubt there will be discounts as a result.

    But I can’t swap because they are the company for my area. The money they charge me goes straight to shareholders.

    Same with the trains. There is one supplier on my line. If there are two perhaps they could compete on price or quality. But there aren’t. And what if they did compete on price – how would that work if I just wanted to turn up and go – like many commuters do?

    Gas and electricity privatisation has not worked for most people either. Most stick with the same supplier. I switch regularly. Does it get me a better price? Sometimes. Sometimes I pick other things. Has it made much difference to me? Not really as the profits go to shareholders and the service has not improved.

    I am not against privatisation. I am not against nationalisation either. Indeed I’d argue that both the Tory approach – sell off everything- and Labour approach – state owned and operated everything are both misguided.

  26. GilesB
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Competition is a means to an end, not a shibboleth to be pursued in all circumstances.

    The real objectives are 1). quality customer service including flexibility and reliability , 2). efficient use of resources and assets including the environment and returns to providers of capital, 3). being a good employer and corporate citizen and 4). innovation. It’s a long enough list without introducing competition as an additional requirement. Unnecessary constraints invariably lead to suboptimal solutions

  27. Dominic
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    It’s time for the Tories to get nasty and start exposing Labour and the history of their MPs since 1970 when Labour ceased to be no more.

    I have no doubt that if the Tories chose to expose Labour’s entire history since 1970 they could destroy Labour in the north and finally end the cultural, ideological and emotional grip they have over ‘traditional Labour voters’. Thatcher almost broke that grip but failed as her own MPs destroyed her only to lay the foundations of what we see today, Marxist Labour in full cry

    The EU outriders Major and Clarke have so much to answer for

    Tell the nation the truth about Labour. They electorate need to know who they are

    • Andy
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      It’s time for the Tories to get nasty….

      You have clearly missed the last 40 years of Tory nastiness.

  28. acorn
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Most UK privatisations have turned monopolies into oligopolies. The industry concerned ends up with circa five major players who dominate the market. They create barriers to entry, like in energy, where newcomers rarely survive for long. As most are now foreign-owned the profits are paid into other countries.

    Risks are high for the few firms in oligopoly they often avoid this uncertainty by subtle colluding. Energy prices particularly Petrol prices, in an area, always seem to move in concert. If one petrol station puts its price up, its sales will move to other stations that didn’t. If one station puts its price down, the others have to. Otherwise, they all end up with very little increase in sales volume for a lot less revenue. So they don’t let it happen.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Very true.

      At a meeting I went to a while back the CEO of a major EU corporation explained they had been holding back their price rise so as to be inline with the UK supplier when they applied theirs.

      In essence most take-overs or mergers are the result of lazy management. They don’t have the ability to serve their customers, to innovate, to extend reach. The easy option is to grab some other entity that is on its way up. That has a twofold effect you stymy competition and control prices – so management no longer has to be entrepreneurial .

      • acorn
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        There is an exemplar that gets told to A Level Economics students as follows. Go into your local UK supermarket; one that is part of the price/profit controlling Oligopoly of UK supermarkets, and observe the following.

        Of all the multiple brands of washing machine detergents on sale, how many of them are not made by Unilever or Proctor and Gamble?

        • Edward2
          Posted November 19, 2019 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

          Try checking Aldi or Lidl or other supermarkets that stock detergents of other manufacturers brands.

  29. graham1946
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Water can be competitive? Theoretically of course, so why have you not done it in the 30 years since privatisation and billions have been siphoned off (pun intended) often to foreign owners?

    Regulation? Good idea, but why haven’t you actually done it? Regulators with no teeth or at least a willingness to use any powers to control those industries, just a token cap on electricity prices which are too high already. All the regulators act like trade associations for their industries not guardians for the consumer and are mostly staffed by the incompetent. Any time there is a problem you hear them on the radio saying they are going to hold an inquiry or do this or that at some unspecified time in the future but the rip offs and poor service continue. Jobs for the boys it seems. You need a better argument than this.

    Reply Water competition for corporate customers was introduced in Scotland. There is some over the boundary competition between English water companies.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Not forgetting our utilities have now been primarily purchased by EU State run corporations and its EU Law that protects those companies at the expense of the consumer and competition

    • graham1946
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply.
      I am not a corporate or in Scotland or the North East.

      Why not offer it to households nationally? – not that I am all that certain it would make much difference, as with power there is an unofficial cartel in that they all charge more or less the same and can see each others prices, so the trend is always up.

  30. Polly
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Labour free broadband – The only broadband !

    Full of exciting government approved words to enslave your day….

    Call 📞 Communist Connection on 1984 to get yours now !

    • Mark B
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

      And when they control the broadband, they will be able to control you !

      There is no such thing as a free lunch 😉

  31. IanT
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    I generally agree with you on competition Sir John – however (for all its faults) the Royal Mail has not been exposed to ‘fair’ competition – in that it’s competitors are able to cherry pick the profitable geographies and ignore the less profitable ones.

    The Royal Mail has to deliver mail nationally – so should anyone wanting to share their postal franchise, otherwise you create an unfair competition which will not end well.

    • a-tracy
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Eventually, because of the costs of unprofitable geographies the Royal Mail’s requirement to deliver nationally will be reduced (as it has already been from twice per day to once per day) – to I suspect twice per week, if further-flung locations want their post daily they will have to collect it themselves from their nearest sorting office or pay extra to have it delivered as people in Cities won’t want to subsidise this service and will use cheaper local competitors causing problems for the Royal Mail.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      The Royal Mail is a universal service and as such much of what it does doesn’t attract a sales tax(VAT). It would be logical that those that just want to cherry pick – grab the close together addresses – are not offering a competitive service, so VAT should be collected.

      Then again the EU has instructed the UK Government that unfair and unreasonable competition to the Royal Mail by EU sponsored entities has to be permitted by their laws.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      Indeed and why do people who live in areas of high population or cities have to subsidise those who choose to live in remote parts and islands on mail rates? Indeed competition need to be fair – be it in post, the BBC, the NHS, transport, education, housing, energy, universities, banking ….. all these markets are appallingly rigged by governments to a greater or lesser degree. It is hugely damaging to do so.

      So Hammond gives us the highest taxes for 40+ years and already, even before the election, Boris is stopping the one area where the conservatives had sensibly promisted tax cuts (Corporation taxes) in order to tip it down the dysfunctional drain of the dire and idiotically structured and finanaced NHS. We are still waiting for the IHT threshold promist made by Osborne 8 years back or so.

      Perhaps Boris thinks it will win votes but let us hope he ditches the idea post the election. We are hugely overtaxed and have dire and declining public service too. The last thing the country needs is yet more taxation and more government!

      • steve
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic

        “The last thing the country needs is yet more taxation and more government!”

        Well you’re going to get them.

        Vote tory for higher taxes and pretend brexit.

        Vote Labour for higher taxes and no brexit.

        A stitch up, pure and simple. The monkeys are in on it together and up to their necks. The whole business stinks.

        True to form not one of their pre election promises will be honoured, but the money to pay for them will still be taxed out of us…..and probably end up in the EU’s pockets.

        Same as it ever was.

      • steve
        Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic

        “We are still waiting for the IHT threshold promise made by Osborne 8 years back or so.”

        You didn’t believe him, did you ?

  32. Denis Cooper
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Off topic, I saw on TV this morning that Carolyn Fairburn of the CBI now wants an end to the Brexit uncertainty that she and the CBI have helped to perpetuate.

    From exactly a year ago:

    http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2018/11/18/a-letter-to-young-voters/#comment-974407

    “Meanwhile the woman from the CBI says that this is not a perfect deal but it would be far far worse to leave with no deal, so there would be rationing at ports and shortages and interruptions of supply chains etc etc; but the ideal of “frictionless trade” will be for the next stage, with a permanent customs union; the “backstop” is just a “technicality”; and she is thinking about real people in the country and their futures, etc etc.

    Well, if this deal is not a perfect deal from her point of view it is coming very close to that, as claimed in a CityAM article I first referenced months ago …

    … The Chequers deal is proof that the government has listened – it is as close to what we asked for as we were ever likely to get … ”

    “As for her idea that any deal is better than no deal … I wonder how many of her CBI members go into negotiations thinking like that … “

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      The Confederation of British Industry – there’s a misnomer. British Industry steers well clear of being involved.

      To suggest you represent British Industry also suggests you are domiciled in Britain, in that sense the CBI is predominantly foreign and representing the interest of foreign (even EU) governments.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      The CBI and Ms Fairburn certainly do not seem to act in the interests of the UK it’s people or indeed of most businesses in the UK or the UK economy. They largely represent crony capitalism, the EU is great for them with endless new red tape to advantage larger international companies over smaller more regional ones. Amazing profits can be made by lobbying, paying consultants and similar to get laws and red tape changed.

      Quentin Letts has her at number 72 in his top 10o people in his excellent and amusing book (perhaps a bit low she is endlessly on the BBC talking drivel) – Patronising Bastards how the elites betrayed Britain.

  33. Dan R
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    This is the perfect topic to lead into the conversation of the care industry and the delivery drivers. In both areas, the free market has seen the race to the bottom on price. Who then looses? At the moment it seems the delivery driver, the care worker, and the customer. My observations are that the care work should be organised from the local GP with logistics team and care workers database. Deliver industry requires some regulatory input to allow for minimum wage to be correctly met at required basic hrs. Surely not too simple?

  34. BillM
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I’d say that Water companies and Public Transporters are a monopoly. However, they differ from a State monopoly in that they have to compete with others seeking to “serve” us. With train and bus service providers they can compete with each other for the passengers and also with the automobile of course. Unfortunately there is no alternative to the existing regional Water supplier and we trust in the ombudsman/government to keep them into line. Each of these providers have to generate their own income and expect to plough back some of their profits into enhancing their services. The elephant in the Cabinet Room for State monopolies is that funding comes a single source for all Government funding, namely The Treasury.
    When funding is limited it will be these public services which will suffer the most.
    I do see the NHS as a State monopoly as it has no competition unless the patients pay for treatment.
    For that reason I do believe the NHS should be analysed by a team of professional Management consultants to establish where the patients can get more for their tax paid money, as I believe the NHS has far too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
    It is top heavy in management and too light in front line staff. – the ones that are essential to the NHS.

  35. Dominic
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Both Income and Corp. tax cuts now shelved on the orders of Merkel, Macron and Juncker.
    We don’t wanna upset that level playing field

    What is the point of the Tory party? Maybe an article about this topic? they betray morality. They betray the UK. They betray democracy. They keep open our borders. They capitulate to Labour. They embrace identity politics, feminism that is then used against them. Indeed they protect Labour from political harm by refusing to tell the truth across many issues that could seriously damage Labour

    Your party is a disgrace to every decent Tory voter and I include myself in that. No more

    • Chris
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      I certainly do not like the sound of the sort of government that the Tory Party seems to be offering to us. It is not what I consider to be grassroots Toryism, with sound common sense policies to enable our country to have a bright and prosperous future, free from the stranglehold of bureaucracy and diktats from the EU. There is nothing inspiring about what Boris has to offer, just more of the same left of centre policies which the metropolitan elite find palatable. For goodness sake, Boris, you could have done so much better. You were given, but shunned, the most wonderful opportunity. I do not think you deserve to win this election, and you certainly will not be getting my vote.

    • steve
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

      Dominic

      “Both Income and Corp. tax cuts now shelved on the orders of Merkel, Macron and Juncker.”

      You forgot Varadkar…..Boris’s regional handler.

      And the joker expects people to vote for him ? Not many English people will that’s for sure.

  36. Ian @Barkham
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    The Confederation of British Industry – there’s a misnomer. British Industry steers well clear of being involved.

    To suggest you represent British Industry also suggests you are domiciled in Britain, in that sense the CBI is predominantly foreign and representing the interest of foreign (even EU) governments.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      This is in the wrong place – replying to Dennis Cooper

  37. outsider
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Dear Sir John,
    Sorry, but there are natural monopolies, especially where heavy infrastructure spending is required. Can you think of anywhere in the world that has competing domestic sewerage systems? And oil companies sharing pipelines would be illegal cartels if the pipelines were not natural monopolies.
    Regulated private operation is usually far better than state ownership, particularly in quality and levels of service, but citizens should have a stake in the profits. Sadly, the City would not allow mass consumer ownership of utilities to continue indefinitely.
    Where monopoly licences are issued, the state might instead insist on owning up to 30 per cent of the supplying company, keep it out of the maw of the Treasury (the worst kind of short-termist shareholder) and use the dividends to help fund public sector pensions – starting with MPs pensions.
    Labour’s plans would, yet again, damage the future pension prospects of almost everyone employed in the private sector.

  38. The Prangwizard
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Don’t expect much belief in freedoms with the Tories. Javid is reported today as planning to tax land values.

  39. Rule Britannia
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I would like to see a public service company run in competition with privatised firms in many market sectors.

    Some of the companies have been allowed to get too big (in energy, telecomms to name but two) so having inept watchdogs doesn’t work, but having competition from the State sector might just keep them straight and narrow while the presence of private sector firms in the market would (we hope) keep the State-run entity competitive.

  40. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Evidently 17% business tax is on the wrong side of the laffer curve.

    Otherwise why would it cost money? If it was going to cost money why was it proposed? Surely if we are attracting business to the UK then overall there is a benefit. Again if not why was it proposed?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      No taxes should ever be anywhere near as high as the Laffer point (the point at which raising them further would reduce the tax take not increase it). Government should raise the minimum it needs to do the few things that government can do better than the private sector and individuals can – which is very few things. Something like 20%-25% of what would be a far higher GDP is about right. Plenty for government to provide the essentials.

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted November 19, 2019 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        And if reducing corporation tax was forecast to bring in more revenue the case could have been made. The statement said we are saving £6bn from this tax cut to give to the NHS. Therefore the tax cut was cosmetic, not income raising.

  41. Alan Joyce
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Redwood,

    If I had a suspicious mind I would be tempted to think that Mr. Johnson’s scrapping of a planned cut to corporation tax in order fund the NHS, is a step towards the EU level-playing field.

    • Mitchel
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      “Everything must change so that everything can remain the same.”

    • Chris
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that has been mentioned elsewhere in the blogosphere, AJ. People are beginning to think for themselves and question what we are told by politicians, having been let down by them so badly with broken promises. Furthermore the public now has excellent tools at its disposal to check on the veracity of what a politician is claiming, and to identify reasons for political decisions that our politicians might fail to tell us about.

  42. agricola
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    While I use private and NHS healthcare, it is not a simple question of one or the other. Often the providers ie:- medical staff work in both regimes at the same time.

    The private sector tends to cherry pick where the NHS cannot answer demand. What if the NHS was funded to a level where it could answer demand. By this I mean having the front line medical expertise, utilising the capital equipment it has 24/7, professionalising its purchasing. Where the NHS is fighting long term illnesses such as cancer, my experience is that it does a very good and compassionate job. There are areas that have been neglected, mental health and long term elderly care for instance.

    It is a subject that merits a grown up discussion,devoid of party politics, to decide what the extent of the NHS should be and therefore what might best be done privately via insurance. It should involve formulating the rules for the insurance industry too. I hope a party in government has the courage to conduct such an enquiry and the implement it’s conclusions.

    • a-tracy
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      agricola, perhaps the bit that should be privatised is the administration, not the medical services. This way medical practitioners and nurses do not have to be involved with the eligibility for treatments, paperwork, billing to other Countries and individuals and chasing debts, treatment recharges should match the prices we get billed from Spain, France etal. We make everything relating to the NHS in this Country such a big mess.

      I’m confused about the Conservative proposed NHS charge of £625 pa is that rebated if the person has paid more than £625 pa in national insurance premiums the previous year? On a 35 hour week, a national minimum wage worker will pay £645 pa in Employees NI. Those workers over 25 years of age on the national living wage working 35 hours per week for basic pay will pay £757 pa in Employees NI. I’m not sure how much gig economy workers pay in national insurance per annum? Someone on this blog told me that we can rebill back EU countries for health treatment but choose not to, is this correct or not?

  43. John P McDonald
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Dear Sir John,
    The point I made was that Networks of anything are best managed with one management structure. The trains are late it’s not our fault it was the signalling. I did not suggest that the Government was the best manager of Utilities. Who actually owns the Electricity Supply Industry and where do the profits go? I want to travel between two of more train companies not that easy to get the lowest price. Are the fares any cheaper now?
    It would be good to have cost comparison data between costs before and after privatization.
    I stress I would like to see single ownership of large Utilities in principle owned by the Nation but not controlled by Government.
    I get my electricity cheaply from a small company in Devon but what about the person that is somewhat confused by choice and is be charged a great deal more by a big supplier ? If there is a supply issue it’s still the local Electricty Board (if I may use that old term) that can fix it.

    • David Magauran
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

      John McDonald. I totally agree with you. The problems all stem from the lawyer MPs who just do not understand how good management works. Look to see how our military do it. No lack of direction and confusion there. The problems all begin with our joke politicians.

  44. a-tracy
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    So John what happens to allow competition.

    One of our railway services was discontinued, instead of a train once each half-hour it is now only once per hour, nothing we could do about it, no other competition on the line. We don’t want to go to our nearest Major City via an out of the way route that adds ten minutes to each journey, we don’t want to have to go South on a once per hour train to then wait at the main station to go North to our Nearest big City which now takes 2hrs 20 minutes to do a 45 minute car journey.

    If Burnham was serious about reducing cars in Manchester he would introduce a free park and ride near the far point trams but they also have a limited service and if you go to the Arena trying to get on the single tram home is a nightmare.

  45. Gareth Warren
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Thinking through the impications of greater competition in the water mrket, I wonder if running local municipal water companies has prevented more national connections being built?

    Something that is an issue during droughts/floods.

  46. The Prangwizard
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Competition includes the making it clear to the world that our industries our services our ports our land infact virtually everything in our country is up for grabs.

    All the surplus cash and profit goes off overseas which then means we need to sell even more, more desperately to make up the loss to the economy..

  47. Al
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Strange you should post about monopolies. Thanks to what has been reported as the Conservative party’s late-term deal with the Brexit party, I have the choice of a Conservative (Remain) candidate, or Remain Alliance (Labour, Lib Dem, and Green) candidates.

    I sincerely hope we have an independent running here, as otherwise the main parties have tried very hard to disenfranchise Leave voters in this constituency.

  48. You are not here
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Sky News has just announced that Mr Bercow will be with them and us for the General Election night.
    We thought, he had retired from politics-proper.
    We were wrong, weren’t we.
    We are happy we can hear more from him on the 12th.
    Yes we are

  49. margaret
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Competition is good.. curious proposition . Competition can be dirty , negative and inappropriate .

  50. margaret
    Posted November 24, 2019 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Competition means choice .. sorry just changed it slightly ,for the sake of competition . If you mean better efficient services with companies / services all trying to improve and better themselves then you’ve got me …….But this is not the real world .. it’s lies deceit putting those better than yourselves down , categorising what should be good , but in essence isn’t!

  51. Jon Paddick
    Posted November 26, 2019 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    My gas and electric deal ends in December, as the previous deal did last year. I’m going to have to spend time on the internet again, looking through comparison sites for a new deal with a supplier who, I can only hope, won’t try to raise interest free loans from me by constantly bumping up my monthly payments; but I know I’ll be disappointed again. In the new year I’ll be doing the same for my phone and broadband, for my ISA provider, my car insurance and breakdown recovery service.

    I don’t want choice. I don’t care who bills me for my energy. I just want a fair service at a fair price, and not to have to waste endless hours on GoCompare trying not to get ripped off. Whether this is achieved by tougher regulation or re-nationalisation, I really don’t care.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

    Promoted by David Edmonds on behalf of John Redwood both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU

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