The mysterious cloth that obscures backsides (tariffgate related)

Some interesting spin on the fall-out from ‘tariffgate’ appeared in the ‘Times’ on Friday. According to the piece (here £) , ‘David Cameron and Nick Clegg are poised to agree a mechanism that would simplify the number of bills on offer…’ and ‘…the changes would form the centrepiece of the forthcoming Energy Bill and would largely live up to the Prime Ministers surprise promise two weeks ago to force power companies to put homes on the cheapest deal.’

I don’t know whether this is an example of journalists taking what they are fed as an ‘exclusive’ on trust in order to keep the  ‘hot news’ exclusive, or simply a lack of research into what has been fed them, but:

  • If Cameron and Clegg really are ‘poised to agree a mechanism’ in the way described then they obviously haven’t looked at the terms of reference of Ofgem which already possesses the power to introduce  arrangements to simplify bills on offer in line, for example with their recent report on the matter without going near the statute books.
  • If the ‘mechanism’ really concerns what energy companies might ‘offer’ customers, then  their legal advisers haven’t told them that such a mechanism already exists in terms of Sect. 76 (I and 2) of the Energy Act 2011 that allows the ‘Secretary of State’ (that’s you Ed Davey) to modify supply licences  to inform customers  and offer ‘the licence holders lowest domestic tariffs’.
  • If these proposals really  are to be the ‘centrepiece of the forthcoming energy bill’ then they will be, in addition to being quite meaningless, a very long way from ‘forcing’ anyone to do anything, a proposal that, it is clear, all concerned have abandoned.

So, in short, the ‘Times’ piece is pretty much all hooey, fact-wise.  But of course, it may be reporting quite accurately, what screws are being applied to DECC to put stuff in the Energy Bill to legislate to do what they already have ample powers to undertake if they so wish.  That’s a different story altogether, which perhaps some journalists ought to get onto: why is a lot of money, time and effort being wasted on diverting part of the Energy Bill’s legislative structure and timetable into this swamp?  Not about applying the flimsiest piece of obscuring legislative gauze across the embarrassingly exposed backside of Mr D. Cameron is it? Surely not.

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