John Swift QC

John Swift QC

John Swift QC is a British lawyer practising at the English bar and a leading authority on competition law.

Rail regulation

From December 1 1993 until November 30 1998, John Swift was Rail Regulator and International Rail Regulator, having been appointed to those posts by Conservative politician and Secretary of State for Transport John MacGregor MP.

In that time, the structure of the British railway industry was radically altered in preparation for privatisation, using powers under the Railways Act 1993. The industry was privatised in the period 1995-1997.

The most controversial part of the privatisation was the June 1996 flotation on the London stock exchange of Railtrack, the owner and operator of the national railway infrastructure network. Railtrack was severely criticised for its poor stewardship of the national railway network, and some observers also criticised Swift for what some saw as an excessively light touch in regulating a company which was malfunctioning in many ways. A year after the Hatfield rail crash on October 17 2000, caused by a broken rail, Railtrack collapsed in highly controversial circumstances which led, eventually, to the resignation as Transport Secretary of Stephen Byers, Prescott's successor.

Swift's role and behaviour were critical to the successful privatisation of Railtrack and the rest of the industry. If he had been hostile to the process, it would not have been completed.

Upon the change of British government on May 2 1997, Swift's chances of being reappointed as Rail Regulator diminished, and when Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott MP announced at the September 1998 Labour Party conference that he intended to carry out a 'spring clean of the regulators', Swift knew his days were numbered. He was succeeded as Rail Regulator by Chris Bolt (December 1998 - July 1999) and then by Tom Winsor (July 1999 - July 2004).

Return to the English bar

Swift returned to private practice at the English Bar, and became head of Monckton Chambers, a leading set of competition lawyers.

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