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  • by Trevor Loveday

National Infrastructure Commission kicks off Chancellor's probe into regulation

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has called for evidence on future changes needed to ensure water and other utility regulation supports investment and innovation while at the same time keeping costs down for consumers. The call is part of a probe into regulation announced by Chancellor, Philip Hammond.

“Technological change is having a transformative effect across the economy and regulators must be able to respond to keep the UK at the forefront of these advances,” said Hammond.

“That’s why I’ve asked the NIC to look at how our regulators can prepare for and adapt to this change. Their findings will be key in helping ensure we rise to these challenges and remain fit for the future.”

The study is expected to examine

  • the future industry changes that may affect the regulated sectors; whether the current regulatory model encourages sufficient competition and innovation;

  • whether there is regulatory consistency between the sectors; and

  • the relationship between regulators and the government.

The NIC highlighted some questions asked in the study including:

  • whether fundamental change to the current model is required;

  • whether consumer interests could be better represented in the future and how;

  • how regulators can act in future to win and maintain consumer trust in the sectors;

  • what impact competition has had on investment in the sectors;

  • whether regulation has been slow to adapt to changing market circumstances, and if so, where; and

  • whether greater levels of transparency and accountability could be achieved and how.

NIC chairman, Sir John Armitt, pointed out the regulators’ role in defending consumers but emphasised the need for watchdogs to encourage utility investment: “Regulators are a vital part of ensuring we are treated fairly by these essential service providers, and that vulnerable customers get the support they need. But their work should also encourage investment and innovation which will benefit households and businesses alike for the long term,” Armitt said.

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