HC Deb 10 July 1889 vol 338 cc1-4

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)

I have no desire whatever to stop the progress of the Bill on account of any technical objection; but I take some interest in the Act which was passed last year, and I wish to be assured that the section of the Act of 1888, which provides that the consent of the Local Authority should be obtained before a Provisional Order is granted by the Board of Trade for the lighting of any district, has not been forgotten. In the case of the Bills now before the House, my complaint is that we are asked to read them a second time without having had an opportunity of considering the special Report of the Board of Trade with regard to those Orders, in respect to which the objection of the Local Authorities has been overridden. The section of the Act of last year provides that, notwithstanding anything contained in the Electric Lighting Act of 1882, no Provisional Order shall be granted by the Board of Trade without the consent of the Local Authority, or, where the Local Authority refuses its assent, without an Order from the Board of Trade suspending consent, and stating the grounds upon which the consent is suspended. If this section of the Act of 1888 is to be practically superseded, these companies will be let loose upon the Metropolis, and allowed to occupy any district they choose to take up without the consent of the Local Authority. [Mr. RITCHIE dissented.] I see that the President of the Local Government Board shakes his head, and I shall be glad to learn that that is not so. I believe, however, that in regard to these Bills in no one case has the Local Authority given consent, or, where consent has been refused, that the Board of Trade has assigned special reasons why the consent of the Local Authority should be dispensed with. For my own part, I cannot help thinking that the laying out of the Metropolis into districts is contrary to the spirit of the Act of 1888. I hope that in granting concessions the Board of Trade will take care that they are not granted unless there is good and sufficient security that the companies applying for them are in a position to carry out the work they undertake.


I do not complain of the course taken by the hon. Member, who takes great interest in this question, in calling attention to the absence of any special Report from the Board of Trade as to the reasons which have induced the Board to dispense with the consent of the Local Authority. The Act of last Session is properly stringent upon the point which the hon. Member has raised, but the facts are these:—A special Report has been duly framed; but owing to that remarkable delay which constantly characterizes the work of the printers, it is not ready for presentation to the Members. There is no special provision requiring that the Report should be made to the House at any particular time, although I think it is only right and proper that it should be in the hands of Members before the Second Reading. I have had to deal with exceptional difficulties. The House is aware that last year a searching inquiry was held by Major Marindin into all the proposals for lighting the Metropolis, made by various companies for various districts overlapping one another, and sometimes made without the consent of the Local Authorities. It has only been with the greatest possible difficulty that I have been able to frame Provisional Orders as the result of that inquiry at such a time of the Session, when I hope it will not be too late to pass them into law. I think it is a great discredit to this country that the Metropolis of this great Empire should not before this time have had the advantage of the electric light. I trust that while every proper interest will be safeguarded by the Committee to which these Bills will be referred, it will be found possible during this Session to deal with this matter, which might have been dealt with some time ago but for defects in the general law. We have, before granting the Provisional Orders, made a very careful inquiry into the financial capacity of the various companies to carry out the powers with which they ask to be intrusted; and we are satisfied that we are justified in granting the Provisional Orders, with the belief that the powers will be carried into effect. The hon. Member has referred to the objections of the Local Authorities, which we have felt it our duty to overrule, as if those objections had been general. That is not the case. It would appear from the special Report that in only two cases in the whole of the Metropolis were objections made on any important grounds. The other objections are practically settled, and in the two cases in question the objections are not based on matters of principle, but on matters of detail affecting clauses, which matters can be properly dealt with by the Committee. I trust that I may ask the House to forward this subject by giving a Second Reading to these Bills.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the second time, and committed.