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Persuasion from London

Sometimes you do think the UK government seems determined to do all in its power to persuade the Scots to vote for independence in their referendum this September. Take this latest ham-fisted example, perpetrated by energy minister Michael Fallon.

Diligent readers will recall how panicky the UK government is about the current formal inquiry by the competition officials at the European Commission, who consider the £multi billion subsidies on offer to Electricté de France to build Hinckley C power station to be  “state aid”. And therefore illegal. So jittery are they Fallon, the responsible minister, took the quite unprecedented step of warning his opposite number in the Scottish government, Fergus Ewing, that any representations to Brussels from him about this power station would be viewed as a “hostile act.”

The Scottish government, which opposes nuclear energy, is understood to be concerned about the project, not least because it could pose competition to renewable exports from north of the border. Consequently this prompted Scottish first minister Alex Salmond to write to prime minister David Cameron, accusing Fallon of trying to silence Ewing. Salmond wrote: “I would invite you to explain exactly what the UK government would do if we choose to express our views to the Commission. At best, this could be interpreted as an inept attempt to stifle legitimate views from the Scottish overnment. At worst, it is a direct threat with implied retribution.”

It is not hard to guess the reaction of most Scots to such inept bullying from London. No wonder that the opinion polls are tracking an inexorable move towards a positive vote for independence.

Five star alert

Hergen Haye is a German citizen, working at the Department of Energy & Climate Change.  He is in charge of UK new nuclear development. He was invited to speak at a seminar to students at Edinburgh University about the policy he oversees. This he did, setting out the established government line to the letter. He then took questions.

He was quizzed by students about the great difficulties of getting private companies to invest in something as commercially risky as nuclear power. He acknowledged several large companies ­SSE, Centrica, ScottishPower ­had all very publicly turned their backs on such investments. But there was of course interest from overseas investment funds. Like from where, he was asked? You mean the Chinese?

As the prime minister has publicly acknowledged the Chinese government is in discussions about funding, Haye felt on pretty safe grounds revealing such talks were taking place. Given the Chinese reputation for stealing industrial secrets, and given the established links with nuclear weaponry, such discussions may have caused some disquiet with friends at GCHQ.

But nothing like the five star alerts prompted when Haye casually revealed he himself had been involved in “preliminary talks” with the Russian state nuclear company about building in the UK. When the word

Chernobyl was mentioned, it was pointed out this nuclear accident had been in Ukraine not Russia.

When a few hours later, the Russians began massing troops on the border and then marched in to annex Crimea from the Ukraine, there may well have been many of Haye’s colleagues that wished he had not been so naïvely open. He may have been addressing students. But students possess recording machines too.

Remain unaware

Knowing what a highbrow lot my thousands of devoted readers are, I fear there may be one or two who remain unaware of the disrespectful way in which the Daily Mirror is reporting the very distinguished CEO of Centrica, Mr Samuel Laidlaw. For  a start, they never cease to remind readers that Mr Laidlaw was privileged enough to be educated at the same alma mater as our prime minister.

The day the regulator Ofgem announced it was referring the Big Six to the new Competition & Markets Authority, most of his opposite numbers shrugged, acknowledging the inevitable. Not so Mr Laidlaw. He exploded that this quite unnecessary diversion would delay all investment in new power generation, causing the proverbial “lights to go out” disaster. All of which resulted in Mr Laidlaw’s face appearing on the front page of the Mirror, inserted in a (tungsten!) lightbulb. And framed by the words “blackout blackmailer.”

But perhaps the greatest indignity of all is the name by which the Mirror now automatically refers to this captain of industry. The newspaper has established there is to be new building work undertaken at Mr Laidlaw’s country estate. This includes the construction of a large swimming pool. As there is already a similar leisure facility in the grounds, he now is referred to by the name of ‘Sammy Two-Pools’. As one unsympathetic rival scoffed, truly a “Fred the Shred” moment.

 

Much mockery

Much mockery of RWE, which operates the nPower brand, for its incompetent accounts system. What else could explain placing £151,786.69 into the bank account of a 30-year-old Oxfordshire call centre worker?

Especially as he hadn’t been one of their customers for over five years.

Strictly, it is down to the individual who benefits from such an undeserved windfall to inform his benefactor. Otherwise he could be prosecuted under the 1968 Theft Act. But what if such an incorrect transfer is made into one of the many tens of thousands of dormant accounts that litter the banking system? Given the laxness of RWE’s  system, it seems most improbable they would ever have spotted such an error. Even now.

It could of course explain why last autumn it is RWE found it necessary to increase its standard household tariffs by more than any other company.

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