ANOTHER extortionate energy price rise, another review of gas and electricity prices.
This time around, following the announcement that British Gas will be raising its electricity prices by an eye-watering 12.5 per cent, the government has commissioned an “independent” review by Oxford University Professor Dieter Helm.
In the past, most reviews have been conducted by government departments or the tame watchdog Ofgem.
Usually they hint at the possibility of finding in favour of price controls on the Big Six energy giants that have been fleecing domestic and industrial consumers since the privatisations of the 1980s and 1990s.
Then their reports refuse to do any such thing, preferring instead to call for more competition in the sacred “energy market,” while berating customers for failing to switch suppliers in an effort to ride its herd of rogue elephants.
But this review will be different. Having attacked Ed Miliband’s policy of an energy price cap as “Marxist,” before putting it in the Tory general election manifesto and then dropping it from the Queen’s Speech, any kind of price control has been ruled out in advance.
No wonder that yesterday’s announcement of Helm’s mission was welcomed with relief by the energy monopolies.
The “independent” professor has been tasked with concentrating his attention on other ways of keeping energy bills down without abandoning Britain’s modest targets for reducing carbon emissions.
His previous academic work suggests he will propose substantial regulatory involvement in the capital investment policies of the privatised monopolies, with the rest of us — whether as taxpayers or consumers — ultimately picking up the bill for failure.
Certainly, Prof Helm has made little secret of his disdain for public ownership and mutual or not-forprofit alternatives to corporate profiteering.
So we should expect nothing from his review in terms of price controls or democratic control over one of society’s most vital industries.
Detente is the way forward
A NEW barrage of UN sanctions against North Korea will do nothing to resolve tension in that region.
While China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi was wise to warn his North Korean counterpart against continuing with “provocative” missile tests, the Pyongyang regime is unlikely to be listening.
This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with 20th-century history.
North Korea is only too well aware that US-led UN intervention in the early 1950s — after a savage Japanese wartime occupation — prevented the unification of their country, reduced much of the north to rubble, killed more than a million Korean civilians and sustained brutal and corrupt regimes in Seoul that played host to 29,000 US troops.
US, Japanese and South Korean military forces carry out provocative large-scale air, sea and land exercises around the borders of the North with no hint of UN condemnation or sanctions.
US imperialism is a major part of the problem on the Korean peninsula.
The solution can only come through talks, without preconditions, to reach a comprehensive peace and security treaty between both Korean states, China and the US, thereby bringing the Korean war officially to an end after 64 years.