HC Deb 23 March 1899 vol 69 cc123-5

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made— That the Bill be read a second time this day sis months."—(Mr. Hedderwick.)

* MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)

I move that this Bill be read a second time on this day six months. The only grounds upon which I take this action are grounds, as I conceive them to be, of public policy, and I hope the House may consider them of importance enough to warrant me in requesting the indulgence of the House for a few moments. My objections to this Bill are twofold. In the first place, I object to the mode of procedure by means of which the promoters are seeking to obtain the powers from Parliament which they say they require; and, in the next place, I object to the Bill because of the district councils affected. I oppose the Bill for the very good reason that they themselves are about to provide the inhabitants of their area with electric light. I said that my first objection to this Bill is the mode in which the promoters are endeavouring to secure their ends. The House is no doubt aware that Parliament, in 1882, passed an Act under which the Board of Trade was empowered to grant provisional orders to certain bodies for the supply of electric light. In my opinion that was a very wise and valuable piece of legislation, because no doubt it was designed to secure the supervision of the Board of Trade, so that there might be some sort of guarantee that the schemes that might be promoted should be of a just and valid nature. Some years later this House passed another Act, which further provided that in no case should the Board of Trade grant a Provisional Order to people who wish to supply an area within a local authority's jurisdiction with electricity except with the consent of that local authority, "unless," the Act goes on, "the Board of Trade should be of opinion that, under all the circumstances, such consent ought to be dispensed with." The mode of procedure by which these promoters are proposing to secure then-ends is by Private Bill, and not by Provisional Order. In point of fact their procedure is not only contemptuous of this House but of the Board of Trade, inasmuch as the promoters seem to be deliberately ignoring the powers which Parliament has conferred on the Board of Trade. Well, now, it might be supposed that in pursuing this course the promoters of this Bill were acting in ignorance of those Acts by proceeding with a Bill without first applying to the Board of Trade, as they might easily have done, for a Provisional Order. But if my information is correct—and I am glad to see the President of the Board of Trade in his place, for he will correct me at once if I am wrong—this company were actually in communication with the Board of Trade, and had inquired of the Board of Trade whether the Board of Trade would grant them the powers which they sought. I am also informed, that in reply to that communication the Board of Trade stated that there was no reason why they should not apply in the usual way for a Provisional Order, which would enable them to do what they wanted, providing they were empowered to expend the requisite funds in obtaining the Order, and in supplying the area they wished to supply. There, for some reason or other, the promoters stopped. There is one reason which suggests itself to my mind as being the reason why they did not press for a Provisional Order, and that is, that by the Act which I have cited, the Act of 1888, they could not obtain a Provisional Order from the Board of Trade unless they had first armed themselves with the consent of the local authorities. They knew they could not obtain the consent of the Walker Urban District Council. Now, what is the position of affairs? This urban district council, on whose behalf I crave the attention of the House, has proceeded in a regular manner. They have proceeded by that method which the House of Commons itself has laid down as proper for all undertakings, whether by local authorities, private companies, or private persons who may wish to supply any district with gas, electricity, or water. This urban district authority have applied to the Board of Trade—they applied at the end of last year—for a Provisional Order to enable them to supply electricity within their own area, and I am informed—the President of the Board of Trade will correct me at once if I am wrong—that they have actually obtained the Provisional Order they re-required. If then this House proceeds to sanction what I must again say I consider to be the contemptuous disregard both of Parliamentary practice and the Board of Trade, what will occur will be this—the urban district authority of Walker, which has placed its plans before the Board of Trade, and which has obtained the sanction of the Board of Trade, will be placed within its limited area in competition with this company which already has the power of distributing gas over the whole of the area. Mr. Speaker, I will not dwell further on the facts. I think I have stated them to the House with sufficient fulness to enable the House to form a judgment upon them. Let me, in conclusion, add that in the interests of the Board of Trade, in the interests of local authorities, and in the interests of municipalities, I think this House would be doing an unwise thing if it were to sanction a departure of this sort, and were to pass the Second Reading of this Bill. Mr. Speaker, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time upon this day six months.

MR. CRUDDAS (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

Mr. Speaker——


Does the honourable Gentleman rise to second the Amendment?


No, Sir.


There being no seconder the Amendment fails, and the Question is, that this Bill be now read a second time.

Read a second time, and committed.