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More bullheadedness from Bradford

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Labour Leader Helen Clark said today that after Max Bradford's record of failure on electricity his claims to be the consumer's friend are preposterous.

"It is Mr Bradford and his National colleagues who will bear the responsibility for any price rise in electricity over the next year.

"Line companies are prepared to hold their prices while a sensible regime is worked out. They made this offer to Mr Bradford two months ago, as the letters Labour has released today show.

"But his political panic was such that he in essence rebuffed these representations and lurched on with legislation with hopeless timeframes which he could not have met.

"His incompetence, and the continued willingness of his colleagues to back him, has led to the current shambles.

"Mr Bradford has not been able to produce any convincing evidence that the line companies have been the problem. He could have ordered a Commerce Commission inquiry into why prices have gone up but failed to do so because it would not have suited his purpose to have the monopolistic practices at the retail end exposed.

"Mr Bradford has consistently ruled out regulation over retail companies because he claims it is a competitive sector. The reality is there is very little competition in the sector at this time. Some who are in it have certainly been raising their prices, no doubt to try and recoup some of the high prices paid when the stampede was on to buy up the retail assets of local energy trusts.

"Mr Bradford should now order an inquiry by the Commerce Commission into what is behind electricity price rises.

"His continuing failure to do that leaves him looking silly and consumers blaming him for the fact that their prices have gone up.

"He botched electricity restructuring and he will pay the political price for that," Helen Clark said.

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