Herbert Smith energy partner Mark Newbery is spearheading a legal attack on Stephen Littlechild, the director general of electricity regulation, on behalf of the 14 regional electricity companies (RECs) in England, Wales and Scotland.

Herbert Smith was appointed to advise the RECs on implementing full competition by April 1998 in September this year.

In a letter to Littlechild last week, leaked to national newspapers, Herbert Smith warned him that adoption of proposed competition codes in the electricity industry would be “unlawful” since there were too many unresolved legal issues.

A spokesman for the Office of Electricity Regulation said Littlechild had offered a meeting with the 14 RECs to resolve the issues, but as yet the offer had not been accepted. The spokesman pointed out that limited competition for business consumers of more than 100Kw had already been successfully introduced.

Newbery said his clients had asked him not to comment on the recent letter: “if we are having a meeting I wouldn't be able to tell you.”

But when he was appointed in September he said: “Immensely complex contracts need to be drawn up and we have a pretty tight timetable. Most of the work will have to be done before Christmas.”