Utility Week

UTILITY Week 28th October 2016

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Page 9 of 31

10 | 28TH OCTOBER - 3RD NOVEMBER 2016 | UTILITY WEEK Policy & Regulation Lobby Policy / Party conferences Policy & Regulation Conference curtain call This year's party conferences marked the turning of the political tide against free markets as intervention gained favour, says Mathew Beech. A s MPs return to Westminster, the cur- tain falls on yet another dramatic and fascinating party conference season. While Brexit and leadership tussles occupied national media coverage of these events, there was plenty to interest utilities too. The Tories, jubilant at their performance in the polls and with their members celebrat- ing Brexit, now have to deal with the devil that is the detail of leaving the EU, while try- ing to keep the economy on track. Labour still has Jeremy Corbyn as leader and he has pleaded with the party for unity, although this cry appears to have fallen on deaf ears. In Glasgow, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who previously said she would not chase a second independence referendum, has now begun to chase a second independence refer- endum as she aims to retain Scottish access to the EU single market. The Tory conference had a jubilant feel about it, with members and many MPs still revelling in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union. Remainers appeared to have accepted the decision and were trying to make the best of it. In the first of her two keynote speeches, the prime minister discussed adopting the acquis – transposing all EU law into British legislation – once the Article 50 process, due to start no later than March, is complete. This means all environmental and water quality legislation will continue, although environment secretary Andrea Leadsom was eager to say that from 2019 the UK will look to adopt its own measures to further boost environmental and water quality. "What works for 27 other member states doesn't necessarily work here," she said. May also made time in her keynote to issue a battle cry to failing markets, includ- ing the energy sector. "Where companies are exploiting the failures of the market in which they operate, where consumer choice is inhibited by delib- erately complex pricing structures, we must set the market right." Business and energy secretary Greg Clark echoed these comments and suggested that in the coming weeks the government will unveil interventionist plans that go above and beyond the Competition and Markets Authority's remedies, such as an extended price cap. We're still waiting for details to emerge. One thing we are no longer waiting for is the result of the leadership challenge to Jer- emy Corbyn, who saw off the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and Owen Smith, while increasing his winning margin and support among party members. The bitter leadership fight further ingrained divisions in the party, although it is putting on a united front in public with its opposition to the Tories. The conference was quiet and flat, with many supporters going elsewhere in Liverpool to the Momen- tum meetings. In terms of policy, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said in his keynote speech: "The winds of globalisation are blowing in a different direction. They are blowing against the belief in the free market and in favour of intervention." "I want to ensure future genera- tions can agree Scotland was bold [on climate change], Scotland delivered and Scotland got it right." Roseanna Cunningham MSP, secretary for environment, climate change and land reform, SNP "Our departure from the EU means we can develop policies tailored to our most precious habitats and wild- life." Andrea Leadsom, environment secretary, Conservative "We must not allow envi- ronmen- tal legislation to become zombie legislation with no means of enforce- ment." Mary Creagh, EAC chair, Labour Photo: Stefan Rousseau PA Wire/PA Images

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