HC Deb 30 July 1908 vol 193 cc1846-85

Order for Second Reading read.

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

*MR. CHAPLIN (Surrey, Wimbledon)

said he did not rise to oppose the Bill on general grounds; nor was he concerned to take that course, but he found that the Borough of Wimbledon and the Urban District of Merton were both of them included in the area defined in Clause 48, and that their inclusion would be highly injurious to those parts of the constituency which he represented. Those were the grounds upon which, in the absence of Members who had notices on the Paper, he opposed the Second Reading of the Bill, and when he had stated his reasons for doing so, he believed the House would agree that he was right. His objections were founded on the facts contained in the petition from the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses of the Borough of Wimbledon against the Bill. That borough contained an area of 3,220 acres, a population of 50,000, a rateable value of £454,000, and the needs and requirements of that area, and the population, as to the supply of energy both for lighting and power purposes were amply met already by the petitioners themselves, who were the undertakers for this purpose in that particular locality, under various Electric Lighting Orders dating from 1897 to 1903. In the case of Wimbledon under the Electric Lighting Order, 1887, confirmed by the Electric Lighting Order, 1897, Confirmation (No. 2) Act, 1897, and in the case of Merton, under the Wimbledon Electric Lighting (Extension) Order, 1903, confirmed by the Electric Lighting Confirmation (No. 7) Act of 1893, the petitioners had erected a generating station and other works at a capital cost of no less than £182,394, and they were now supplying energy for the public lighting of their borough, and to consumers within their area of supply both for light and power. That being so, the petitioners very naturally complained that there was no justification whatever for this new company seeking to invade their territory and to compete with them in the supply of electric light or power. He submitted that in the case of an undertaking so recently established as 1893 it would be contrary to public policy, and would inflict a great and unmerited loss on the ratepayers of the district. In proof of this it was stated by the petitioners that the Bill had been so drawn that if passed in its present form it would enable the company to compete with the existing undertaking of the local authority both inside and outside the county of London in such a way as to deprive them of their best business, actual and prospective. And it would be idle to deny that if the company got the powers sought for and the capital to put them in force they would be enabled to take away some business from the borough undertaking, seeing it would be worth the company's while to offer a supply of electricity at very low or even unremunerative terms to the would-be consumers so as to cripple the existing undertaking and force the undertakers to sell their undertaking to the company. So far as the districts of Wimbledon and Merton were concerned, that was the case he had to submit to the consideration of the House against the Bill. He was not concerned to oppose the Bill on other grounds, but it seemed to him that it would be only right and fair with regard to these two places that they should be excluded altogether from Clause 48. If he had an understanding on that point he would not feel it necessary to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, but until he had he should do so, and with that object he begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.


said he was very glad to second the Amendment, although not for the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman. Even if the right hon. Gentleman withdrew his objection it was his intention to press the Amendment to a division. He was sorry that the Bill had been set down for Second Reading at so late a day in this part of the session when so many hon. Members had gone away, and when possibly more than half of them were absent from London. The progress of the Bill could not have been accelerated in any way by bringing on the Second Reading that night, and it might have been taken at a later date, when a full House could have been present. His objection to the Bill was founded on principle and not on a few details; and that could not be overcome by any suggested Amendments in Committee. They had been told that the whole of the London Members, with the exception of two, were in favour of the Bill. He thought that that was a most misleading statement, as there were a large number of representatives of London constituencies who were prepared to vote against the Second Reading. They had been also told that the two Members referred to were the agents of the Metropolitan borough councils, and that they took the very narrowest views on questions like that involved in the Second Reading of the Bill. He did not represent the Metropolitan borough councils, although his own borough agreed with the course he was taking. His object, and that of those who were supporting him, was to stop the Bill at this stage and prevent it getting into Committee, in order to save the money of the ratepayers and of the promoters, although with the latter he had not so much concern. They opposed the Bill because it proposed to give powers to the promoters gratis over a vast area which they had done nothing to develop, but which had been built up by the ratepayers' money to a very large extent. The area was different from any other in the world, and there were already within it thirty-five or forty authorities supplying electricity to the public. In the County of London alone there were sixteen municipal authorities. The area contained a large population which a few years hence would amount to no less than 10,000,000. It included large portions of four different counties. He admitted that the supply of cheap electricity was very important, but he could prove easily that there was nothing offered to consumers in the Bill which would come below the prices at present charged by existing authorities, especially to small consumers. The large consumers could take care of themselves and make their own bargains. There was nothing in the Bill to compel this company to supply electricity for power purposes at a rate lower than that at which it was already supplied. There were other things besides cheap electricity to be considered. If the Bill passed in its present form without some modification of some of its clauses it gave power to the company to break up streets without asking the permission of anyone. Great objection was taken to that power being given to the company. The number of authorities in the Metropolis who were entitled to break up the streets for their own purposes was already so large, and their powers were so extensive, and the expense caused to the local authorities by their actions so great, that he contended that this power should not be granted except in cases of absolute necessity. No one would contend that to have electric energy at the lowest price was a necessity. If this Bill was passed power would be given to this great monopoly to compete with its weaker neighbours, whether they were private companies or municipal authorities, and to supply for a certain period within particular areas energy at such a price as would compel their competitors to accept their terms for their undertaking. What would become of "cheap electricity" after that had been accomplished, and when at the end of ten or fifteen years this huge monopoly had the whole of the area entirely at its mercy? These great monopolies when they came to Parliament for powers always posed as philanthropists. From reading the Bill before the House one would imagine that eight or ten gentlemen were promoting the Bill as a matter of pure philanthropy, and were spending their money in order that people should be able to obtain cheap electricity. When they had obtained their powers it would not be 1d. or 2d., but 4d. or 5d. per unit that they would charge. Furthermore, there was no obligation on the part of the company to supply anybody unless they desired to do so. The President of the Board of Trade wished to insert a provision that this undertaking should be purchased by the London County Council at a certain date. Let the House contrast that with what transpired in 1906, when a Bill promoted by a "progressive" London County Council was before the Committee. That Bill was dropped owing to the then President of the Board of Trade seeking to make it obligatory upon them to provide energy to all who asked for it. If that was necessary then why not now? That right hon. Gentleman also suggested in 1907 that the Bill of that year should contain a clause giving power to the London County Council, if they so desired, to lease the undertaking until 1931, at which date the undertaking should resort entirely to the municipalities of London. This company now came asking for power to lease the undertaking until 1961, with a provision that it should be competent to the London County Council to purchase the undertaking in 1931. They could purchase it, but at what price? Not at the price of the cost of the material alone, but with the value of the goodwill for thirty years tacked on, and added to that price 10 per cent. was to go to the promoters. The thing was monstrous. The purchase clause was a sham, and was never intended to be anything else. He seconded the rejection of the Bill.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the word 'now' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months.' "—(Mr. Chaplin.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

expressed his pleasure in supporting his hon. friend the Member for Fulham in this matter. The hon. Gentleman's constituency was at one end of London, and his own was at the other, and that might be taken as the extent of the feeling that had been raised by this Bill. He did not intend to refer to the purchase clause, monstrous though it was, except to point out that the form of that clause was an indication to the House of how little they could trust a Parliamentary Committee to protect the interests of London. Those who had these interests at heart, therefore, must take the duty upon themselves and give the Bill its quietus. He did not rest his objection to the Bill upon the purchase clause, which it might be contended could be altered, but on far broader grounds. He objected to the creation of great monopolies. He objected to these great powers being handed over to a speculative syndicate. Surely London had suffered enough from similar policy in the past. Recently London had to buy out the water companies at a price which had tied a dead weight round the neck of the ratepayers for the next three generations. Yet, with a light heart, the House was asked, and London Members were urged, to repeat the old mistake upon a colossal scale. It was proposed to bring into existence a company with a capital of £4,500,000, and to grant to that company power to manufacture, sell, and distribute in bulk electrical power for London, and an enormous area round London. It was proposed to authorise the company to tear up the streets in order to lay down their pipes, to abstract from the Thames 200,000,000 gallons of water daily, and to carry their line, whether the London County Council liked it or not, through the Blackwall and Rotherhithe Tunnels. He mentioned these matters to show how extraordinary were some of the concessions which it was proposed to confer upon Sir Hugh Bell, Bart., and the syndicate of gentlemen named in the Bill. The Bill gave to the new company powers to compete with the existing municipal distributors of electricity. He knew the borough councils were not popular in certain quarters, but he could not forget that they represented the London ratepayers, and that it was the money of London ratepayers—and there were many millions of that money—which was at rest in these municipal enterprises. It was said by those who differed from him that they ought to be willing to accept the Bill, because the London County Council was to have power to purchase the undertaking. The company would be put in a position to destroy businesses which had been built up with the money of the London ratepayers, represented by the London County Council; and, when those businesses had been destroyed, it was proposed to buy the company, again with the money of the ratepayers of London, represented by the London County Council. Such a grotesque scheme had never been conceived outside the realms of Gilbertian opera. It was a farce from many points of view, but it was a tragedy for the London ratepayers. It was said—and this weighed with some people—that the Bill would give a cheap supply of electricity; but he contended, without fear of contradiction, that there was no security within the four corners of the Bill of a cheap supply at all. It was true the second schedule contained a scale of prices, but it was not a scale of prices for electrical power to the ordinary consumer, but for the supply in bulk to distributive companies. It might be that large industrial concerns which took a very large supply would get it at a shade lower than the price they were paying at the present time; but there was no kind of security in the Bill for the protection of the man with a small industrial concern, whom this House ought to protect. He was surprised that some of his colleagues were going to support the Bill. He considered their reasons were absolutely inadequate, and he could hardly understand how hon. Gentlemen who, upon a hundred platforms had denounced this policy of handing over London to a speculative company, could now turn their backs upon their convictions and vote for the Bill. He cordially supported its rejection.


said he could hardly give a silent vote upon the question. His two hon. friends had dealt with it as if it were a very simple matter indeed, but he did not know any subject which was much more complicated than the present position of the supply of electricity in London, and there was no subject affecting great industrial interests which was in a more unsatisfactory condition. He might be entirely wrong and his hon. friends right, but the reasons they had adduced did not prove it in the least. The hon. Member for Fulham was quite inaccurate in some of his descriptions of the Bill. He had pointed out that the Board of Trade required the Council to enter into an obligation to supply electricity, and he said that therein they had treated the Council worse than they had treated this company. Personally, he objected, as the mover of the Second Reading of the Council Bill, to its being made obligatory; but in the sense in which it was desired to make that Bill obligatory this Bill was also obligatory. It was an entire mistake to suppose there was any difference between the two.


It is not made obligatory upon the company to supply the small consumers.


said his hon. friend displayed his ignorance in that remark. The Council was not obliged to supply small consumers. There was this contradiction in the arguments of both his hon. friends. They complained in the first place that the company would compete with the borough councils, and secondly, that it would not have to supply small consumers. It was for the protection of the borough councils that the provisions had been put in, limiting their powers of supply. It was a bulk Bill for the supply of electricity to distributors. He held no brief for the company, but he might say that the price in the Bill was the lowest ever inserted in any Bill for supply in bulk, and it was lower than the County Council itself proposed. The complication of the question arose from the fact that powers were given for electrical supply at the time when there was no central authority in London. So far as they were given to municipal authorities, they were given to vestries in areas too small for the purpose. The supply of electrical power was a matter of great industrial importance and urgency. The Committee which dealt with the matter in 1906 pointed out that in their opinion the provision of further electrical power in London was so important and pressing that they did not view with favour the possibility of the question being indefinitely hung up. He entirely agreed with his hon. friend in prefering a complete municipal solution of the matter; and in 1906 he had the honour, on behalf of the London County Council, of introducing a Bill for dealing with the question by way of creating a municipal bulk supply, though he must point out that if that Bill had passed they would not have got a complete and unified electrical supply. He very much preferred that solution to the solution with which they were faced at the present day. The objects with which he brought the Bill of 1906 forward were three. First of all it was that they should have a cheap supply of electricity in London; secondly, that they might ultimately have a unification of that supply; and, thirdly, that they might ultimately have a municipal supply. He had not changed his views. He believed in these objects now and thought them desirable, and any action he might take on this subject would be in the direction of those objects and in no other direction, but it was not so simple a question whether those objects were best obtained by rejecting the Bill or by dealing with it as proposed by the President of the Board of Trade. Last year, so much did he feel the urgency of the question, that when the County Council brought in a Bill with modifications to which he was entirely opposed, he advocated its Second Reading, hoping that it might be so shaped in Committee as to bring about the objects he had described. There was no municipal Bill this year, and there was no possibility whatever of one. He would not for a moment support the Bill if it were not for the important modifications proposed in the instruction of the President of the Board of Trade, nor did he in the least approve of the proposed terms of purchase which came to them from a Committee of the other House. The period of fifty-two years was too long and other terms required modification; but it was obviously a matter which should be referred to a Committee of the House. If the terms of purchase were still somewhat exorbitant, then it would be a matter for consideration on Third Reading. He wanted to point out the different classes of objection to the Bill. First of all, there was the kind of objection represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon. He said: "Cut Wimbledon out of the Bill and I do not care what you do." Members came from various borough councils in London and their argument was just the same. To hear hon. Members speak one would imagine that this company had unrestricted power of competition with Wimbledon, Bethnal Green, and Fulham. He was not ignorant as to the sources of the opposition, but the powers of competition were most carefully safeguarded. If the proposals of the promoters of the Bill had been carried they would have had certain advantages to consumers, but they would have permitted more effective competition with the existing authorities. But that competition had been carefully safeguarded. The existing companies had had a great opportunity of settling the matter in their own way. It was a very extraordinary thing. They had had no whisper of opposition to the proposals of the existing companies, but if the proposals of the existing companies were carried without this Bill they were sterilising the development of electricity in London, because once they gave these companies the power of linking up they would hear no more of cheapening electricity. If they had put forward a definite scheme for a comprehensive supply and a large central generating station, they would have occupied an unassailable position. But instead of that they had failed to agree. They had two Bills representing two groups of these companies. They put forward the view that there was an adequate provision at the present moment, that they supplied all the power that was necessary, and he supposed, quite cheaply enough. He thought electricity ought to be about half the price it was at present. They actually said that their present generating stations were adequate. Were progressive London members to accept that position? Were they to be so indifferent to the industrial development of London as to let the matter stand in that position and allow the borough councils and the existing companies to go on as they were at present? Committee after committee had had that argument before them and rejected that solution. No Committee had taken the view of the existing companies. Then they had an opposition which was more serious—that of the borough councils. When he had the duty of trying to pilot a municipal bulk supply Bill through a Committee, his bitterest and most effective opponents were the borough councils. They cared nothing for the supply of electricity in London, but they did care for the supply of electricity in Fulham, Bethnal Green, and Wimbledon. They took a purely parochial view. Month by month, almost week by week, the County Council had applications from borough councils for capital in order to extend generating stations, which in many cases were too small for economic working, and too badly placed to supply cheap electricity. The remedy for that was to have a cheap bulk supply, so that the supplemental supply might not be got by an extravagant waste of capital, but be given from a large station which could supply on the cheapest possible terms. Seeing that the London County Council would not provide that generating station, which was the solution he would have preferred, he was not prepared to say he would not allow anyone else to do it. It was to the interest, not only of the ratepayers of London, and the vast district outside, which was growing and requiring more electricity, but of the ratepayers in the areas which his hon. friends thought they were defending, because if those ratepayers were going on in an uneconomical way their undertakings could not possibly be so profitable or supply at so cheap a rate as if they were getting their bulk supply on the best possible terms. But the crux of the whole question, and this was the consideration which would determine his vote, was that they had not only not got a proper municipal supply, but they had no prospect of a unified municipal supply under the present system. The right of purchase that existed was nominal and not real and effective. The borough councils, though they had a nominal right of purchase, had in only one or two cases any practical hope of ever buying the undertakings of the company. One company which supplied nine different local authority areas had only two generating stations, and it was a common case that the mains were purchaseable, but they would not be able to buy the generating stations. What was the position about this right of purchase? Were the borough councils losing anything substantial? They were only losing a nominal right in nine cases out of ten and not an effective right, because the small area, even if they could purchase, could never be a permanent solution of the question. These borough councils objected as strongly to a comprehensive bulk supply being given by the County Council as they now objected to a supply being given by a company. His hon. friend did not raise the question of the area or the engineering proposals, and that was very natural because the engineering proposals were the same as existed in the Council's Bill, and the area was very nearly the same. He was rather surprised at the hon. Member for Fulham objecting to seeing the County Council go outside its own area for a municipal purpose. That was not the kind of sentiment he expected from him. That was the very difficulty they had to deal with in the case of the waterworks, which led to the setting up of a board, and that was the difficulty which had given rise to proposals about traffic. One of the reasons why he welcomed this proposal was that it would give the County Council power to purchase an undertaking which extended beyond its area, because they must recognise that where they had a great town and surrounding areas, which were best served by municipal undertakings, they must give the great town the opportunity of serving the areas which were not within the artificial lines of local government. That was one of the great advantages in the proposal of the President of the Board of Trade. He recommended the House to give the Bill a Second Reading and refer it to a Committee, who would consider what would be a just scheme of purchase, a scheme which would be fair to the ratepayers of London. He did not agree with the present scheme, but he believed they could not consider this Bill by itself. They had to consider the position of the companies. The Committee had agreed to give them powers of linking up. It would be a calamity to give the existing companies a power of linking up without creating a bulk supply. They had to consider the matter altogether. His ultimate object was unification and municipalisation of the electricity supply. They could not get that all at once. If they had carried their Bills in 1906 they would only have got one step towards that end. He was not prepared to refuse to take a step which was practicable at the moment; and everybody knew that there was no probability of the present London County Council bringing forward a municipal proposal. The difficult questions of purchase and of deciding what was to be the ultimate authority would thus be settled, and he regarded that as so great a step forward, that he would vote for this Bill.

MR. ROWLANDS (Kent, Dartford)

speaking as a representative of three municipal authorities which had undertaken electric lighting and trams and were supplying great works with electricity, said that he was rightly asked by those authorities to look after their interest and welfare when a large supply like this was being created. The hon. Gentleman had put forward certain qualifications which he hoped might be embodied when the Bill came out of the Committee, and then appealed to them to let the Bill go to Committee, urging that if these things were not conceded they could deal with the Bill on Third Reading. But when they fought a private Bill on principle they must take it on the Second Reading. If they moved to reject a Bill on Third Reading the stereotyped argument was that they should have taken the earlier opportunity, that huge expense had been incurred and the Bill thrashed out before a Committee, and that it would be wrong to go against the Committee's decision? His hon. friend said he knew the sources from which the opposition sprang. He thought those were the right sources to look after their interests. He was not attacking private companies, but he was specially concerned in the question from the point of view of municipal authorities who had their own supply. Could they be expected to sit silently by while a big corporation came into existence, without taking every opportunity to defend the right given them by Parliament and to see that the welfare of the community was looked after? The promoters of this Bill were absorbing a large portion of Kent, and he wanted to know why they were going there. If the County Council did not purchase in the year 1931 then this large trust would have another ten years, and again if not bought up at the end of that ten years this huge corporation would continue for a further period. Practically this great corporation would say to the municipal authorities: "Although we have no authority over your area we are going to purchase you out of existence." Did the Government think that was an easy task? Why was the Water Board formed? Simply because there were a series of water companies in existence the areas of which were not confined to the area of the London County Council, but went out into the other surrounding counties. That was exactly the case in this Bill. The moment an attempt was made to buy out those outside areas they would say: "If you are going to purchase our electric supply we must have a voice in the matter." The same thing would arise in connection with the electric supply as happened in regard to the water supply.


But we have avoided that.


said that was not so. On the contrary they were creating it. In his district they had a distinct supply of their own which they thought they could control themselves. There were other municipal authorities in the area dealt with who had control of their own electric lighting and trams, and supplied the local industries with electricity, and of course, they meant to have a voice in this matter. He supposed that his experience with regard to municipal light in London was not shorter than that of any other hon. Member in the House. In fact, he thought he had been mixed up with it longer than any other hon. Member. He knew the great difficulties attending any attempt to get areas extended. He was not going to deal with the question of purchase because that had nothing to do with it. His hon. friend had thrown that question to the four winds of heaven. He would like to know what security they had after passing the Second Reading that they would have any better terms put in upstairs. They were all aware that the details of the Bill must be discussed upstairs, but the measure having passed the Committee they had to look at the terms inserted with the consent of the promoters, and so far as they knew those were the terms that would pass. If they filtered those terms root and branch they would take away the whole of the demand of the promoters; they would have incurred an enormous expenditure of the money of the local authorities, and on the Third Reading they would have to reject the measure. What did this octopus want to do? It wanted to cross the Thames through the tunnels constructed at the expense of the ratepayers, and come into the areas of the local authorities, and it was not going to supply the small consumer—the localities could do that, because it would not pay. It was said that they would have the protection of the Board of Trade, but he preferred not to rely upon that. In his district they had now the power to supply their own manufacturers with electricity, and they were doing it. He was strongly in favour of a cheap supply of electricity, but he was also strongly and determinedly opposed to creating another trust. Along with some of his hon. friends he had fought gigantic monopolies like the water companies, year after year, and he was old enough to remember when Mr. Cross's Bill was introduced in the latter part of the seventies. They succeeded in getting rid of the water companies and they had got a public supply. Now they had an important measure promoted by the Board of Trade, passing through a Joint Committee, the object of which was to get all the private interest in the Docks of London into the hands of a public authority, in order that the well-being of the community at large might be looked after. That Bill provided for things which he did not care for, but they had always realised that it was necessary to have one great public authority representing varied interests, from the working men to the wharfingers and the merchants, and consequently they created a public authority to manage the river. If they could introduce a scheme to constitute a body for the purpose of looking after the interests of municipal authorities now supplying electricity in bulk they were prepared to consider it, but with the experience they had had of these great enterprises he hoped they were not going to create any more of them. The time to fight this Bill was now. They were not going to allow to be created a huge trust which had not in any way promised them a cheaper supply of electricity nor undertaken to meet the difficulty of giving a bulk supply under proper conditions. He contended that this was a question which ought to be in the hands of the representatives of the people.

*MR. CAVE (Surrey, Kingston)

said he was going to vote in the same lobby as the hon. Member who had just spoken, but he came to the same conclusion from a somewhat different point of view. He was not so much in love with municipal enterprise of all kinds; but Parliament having for many years not only allowed but encouraged local bodies to supply electricity, he did not favour the proposal to create a private body now, with power to compete with the local bodies. The hon. Member who from the Treasury Bench said he was in favour of the municipal solution had a strange way of showing it. It was said that this Bill would supply them with cheap electrical energy, but there was no provision in the Bill that the consumer should get the energy cheap. Even if a limit were inserted it would be an illusion. This great body might begin with cheap energy and the effect would be to destroy other sources of supply. When that end had been achieved and the other competing authorities had gone, prices would go up and the consumer would have to pay a great deal more. The hon. Member who spoke from the Treasury Bench said that if they allowed existing companies to combine they would put up the price. Surely that was equally true of the body they were proposing to create under this Bill. He noticed that the purchase clause had gone, or at any rate, it had been abandoned.

MR. JOHN WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)

They are going to propose thirty years goodwill.


said that they were going to give purchasing powers to the London County Council After all, the local authorities outside of London thought that they could manage their own affairs, and the proposal that the London County Council, with all its merits, should have power to extend its hand, not only over the great county of London, but over three neighbouring counties to the exclusion of the county councils of those counties, was one which he could not support. He did not wish to say a word against the London County Council, but the proposal now made was antagonistic to the principle of local government, because it proposed that one county council should have power to go into the area of others. The instruction proposed to be given to insert a power for the London County Council to purchase the undertaking would make the Bill worse.

MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)

could not understand why the Government had taken up this Bill. There were many interesting private Members' Bills which they might have taken up which would have been a real boon to the community, instead of giving facilities for a company like this to fleece the public. His hon. friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education had used, an elaborate argument to show how they could get over the trouble. He had always thought it a wicked thing to get over trouble in our own time, and leave it to somebody else. If there was fighting to be done, why did they not tackle it themselves? Had the Government taken this course because they wanted certain opposition out of the way at the next election? The question was whether what was now proposed was right or wrong. These people were not coming in from love of the small trader. They were giving these people power for all time, and it was quite easy to see what would happen. Why were these great interests being studied? This Bill, while looking after certain interests, would leave all the other people out. Why did not the Government say to all the authorities in and around London: "We will create a board and give you representation upon it." That would have been a strong policy to pursue, and no one would have dared to say that the board was being created in the interest of a few people who desired to do the work for the public good, while also desirous at the same time of getting a little more percentage out of it for themselves. The question in connection with these enterprises always was "How much more can I get out of it? "He could not understand the late Progressive Leader in the London County Council speaking in favour of the Bill. There ought to be no easy path to an honest goal, and if they had to fight, let them fight now, and not put it off to future generations. They were asked to create the biggest trust that London had ever known or ever would know, and one that left the water companies absolutely in the shade. He thought he was entitled to ask whether there were many parties in the House who were interested in the Bill, and whether the Deputy Speaker, if he was in the Chair when the question was put, would instruct that no person interested in it should go into the lobby to vote upon it. They were entitled to know that because it left a prodigious amount of suspicion in his mind. He hoped he might be wrong. He hated to think that anybody would vote from personal interest, but they should be satisfied on the point. Why had the Government taken it up? What was behind it all? He asked the Government to leave the matter entirely to the House rather than that a profit-mongering scheme like this should be foisted on London and the neighbouring districts.

MR. DICKINSON (St. Pancras, N.)

said that the discussion showed how very complicated the question now before the House was. It was a question which could not be decided by a mere application of first principles, however lofty those principles might be. He would like to say a word in reply to the observations that fell from his hon. friend the Member for Kingston and others with regard to the position of the local authorities outside of London. They asked why the local authorities outside London should be affected by the Bill. The answer was to be found in the considered Report of the Committee of the House which sat in 1906, which showed that no promoter could possibly put forward a scheme for the bulk supply of London which would not apply outside. There were two paragraphs on page 4 of the Report in the following terms— The Committee are of opinion that the best means of providing for the supply of electrical energy in bulk, and for power and motive purposes, is by one large and inclusive scheme extending not only over the entire County of London, but also to adjoining boroughs and districts. For the purpose of carrying out such a scheme some central authority is required with ample statutory powers and corresponding duties. In addition to the proposal of the London County Council various other proposals have been placed before the Committee. After giving full consideration to this question the Committee are of opinion that the London County Council should be the authority. That, he submitted, settled the question raised in regard to the outside supply. He admitted that some of the municipalities were supplying electricity now with very great success, but, nevertheless, if it could be shown that the public could be better and more cheaply served by means of a large supply of electricity in bulk, which could be sold through the medium of the local authorities, that was a matter worthy of the consideration of a Committee of the House. Personally, he had a great deal of sympathy with the arguments of hon. Gentlemen below the gangway opposite, but he was bound to say in fairness to the Government, and in fairness to those who supported the course which had been taken, that the hon. Members who had spoken as representing London constituencies had spoken without a full knowledge of the facts. His hon. friend the Member for Woolwich had taken up a very strong position in regard to this Bill. The hon. Member said that he could not understand why the late leader of the Progressive Party should stick up for the Bill. He hoped that he would be able to show to the House that his hon. friend in so acting was doing what was really best for London, and for the municipal administration of the whole of the surrounding area. It was for that reason he supported the proposal of his hon. friend that this Bill should be allowed to go upstairs to a Committee.

Last year there was a Bill before the House, promoted by the Progressive majority on the former London County Council, to authorise that body to provide a bulk supply and to buy out the existing companies in London. That Bill would have enabled the County Council to supply the London borough councils at a very much cheaper rate than they could supply themselves, and would have afforded the only arrangement whereby the chaotic condition of the present supply could be made to work to the advantage of the public. He did not believe that the House realised the position of London in regard to the supply of electricity. There were no fewer than sixteen borough councils and thirteen different companies which supplied electricity at present, each of them having their own customers. As regarded the companies they were all purchasable at one time or another—in 1914, 1918, 1921, 1928, but all by 1931. A provision in the Bill of last year gave power to the London County Council to purchase all these undertakings at the dates at which they fell due, and the reason for this was that even with the existing powers of purchase, it would be impossible for many of the boroughs actually to exercise their power of purchase in 1931, because their areas were not conterminous with the areas of supply by the companies. They had not all of them a generating station and some of them had their generating station outside their area. It was therefore thought advisable in the public interest that in 1931 there should be one authority who should have control over so large an area so that it might buy the whole of the combined undertakings when these were purchasable in 1931. It was for this purpose that the Bill of the Progressive Party in the London County Council was brought forward. The electorate of London, however, had refused in a very distinct and definite way to authorise the Council to institute a bulk supply, and immediately after the election the Moderate majority in the London County Council practically said that they would have nothing whatever to do with the bulk supply of electricity. He maintained that the house was bound to consider this question from a practical point of view, and to recognise that the municipal authority in London for the present was not willing to undertake anything like the duties which such a Bill would have placed on them. So those who were anxious to protect the interests of the public thought it right to ascertain whether there was any other means of attaining that end. He thought they could, and that if this Bill went to a Committee upstairs with the Instruction which had been put on the Order Paper by the Board of Trade, it would come back in such a form as would enable the public in a very short distance of time to enter into possession of their rights and to supply electricity in bulk. He believed that without endangering the principle of ultimate public supply and possession an immediate and cheaper supply could be achieved by the Bill. Cheapness was absolutely essential, and that could be attained, because there was a clause in the Bill to establish what was known as a sliding scale, which would reduce the price in concert with increases in dividend. Also the very fact that this company would have power to compete with other companies, would undoubtedly lower the price. He believed that no one in the House would object to that, but that they did object to the borough councils being placed in a position of competition with this company. He certainly would not vote for any Bill which he thought had any power in it which would destroy the municipal work carried on by the borough councils. If the Bill were carefully read, he believed that the fears of the borough councils in this respect had not the serious foundation which was represented. It was proposed that the company should not have the right to supply electricity to small customers without the consent of the borough councils, and if the borough councils objected, the company could appeal to the Board of Trade, which, after going into the whole question of capital expenditure, might over-rule the objection as unreasonable. But even this point could be re-considered by the Committee upstairs. He did not see how anyone could desire to see the borough councils displaced as long as they were doing good work. This was the first time a Bill establishing a bulk supply had contained a clause of purchase at all. In 1898 the Joint Committee of the Lords and Commons considered the question. The London County Council then strongly represented that the bulk supply undertakings should be purchased, but that Committee reported against the proposal, stating that bulk supply was not a proper subject for municipal control. But they had got in this Bill a practical operative purchase clause. The main difficulty lay in the fact that there was no authority which could properly purchase the undertakings at the present moment, and therefore it was desirable that the Committee upstairs should establish the London County Council as an authority to purchase the bulk supply. His hon. friend had said that the terms were not good, but the Committee upstairs could vary them. He himself thought that the terms were somewhat harsh, and that the period before which purchase was to be made was too long. The great thing, however, was that the company's undertakings were to be purchasable at one time or another. An objection had been raised as to the possibility of this company buying up the existing companies, and so becoming a great monopoly. That was a matter with which the Committee was perfectly capable of dealing; but even under the present Bill the company could not do so without the leave of the Board of Trade. However, the Committee could strengthen the to the Bill so as certain that provisions of the make it absolutely company could not purchase the other undertakings. That was the position in which the London Members were satisfied to let the Bill go upstairs. If they allowed the present opportunity to pass of practically securing to the public of London the reversion at no distant date of the whole of the electrical undertakings, he thought they would be making a very serious mistake. It was for that reason that he asked the House to give its support to the Second Reading of the Bill accompanied with the Instruction to be moved by the President the Board of Trade.

*MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)

said that the hon. Member who had just spoken had perhaps better explained this Bill and the motives of those who promoted it than any Member who had previously addressed the House. The hon. Member was referred to somewhat sneeringly as "the late leader of the Progressive Party" by speakers below the gangway, who saw in him an illustration of the inevitable tendency of office to modify extreme opinions. It seemed to him that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the front bench must feel that hon. Members below the gangway had been extremely ungrateful to them, for not recognising that these proposals really constituted a Machiavellian scheme to convert the London County Council into the lighting authority for the whole of London. The process was quite obvious. They could not themselves provide a supply of bulk electricity, but they consented to the creation of a company for that purpose, in order subsequently to purchase its business. Then they would take powers by the two other Bills to take over the rights now possessed by the borough councils. In the end they would see the London County Council not only in possession of the revenue of all those powers, but the lighting authority for London, making it the greatest employer of labour in London, and a machine which could be manipulated for electoral purposes by the Government of the day. At present he did not know whether he was voting on the Bill as it was or the Bill with the proposed Instruction attached to it. It was obvious that the Instruction giving the London County Council powers of purchase would be carried, and therefore he had to regard the Bill as having that Instruction attached to it. As the hon. Member opposite who spoke for the Government (Mr. McKinnon Wood) mentioned Westminster, and did not seem to be well informed upon that subject, he would state what the position was. Westminster was possessed of powers of purchase under the Acts of 1882 and 1888. The two great electric companies which supplied Westminster, the St. James's Company and the Westminster Company, combined in 1905 to erect a great generating and bulk supply station for Westminster, outside its local government area, in Marylebone. Although the hon. Gentleman was quits right in saying that under these Acts Westminster had no power to purchase the generating station, that power was specifically given by the Act of 1905 authorising the station. The city of Westminster was therefore in a very favourable position, and when those powers matured could possess, both as to bulk supply and distribution, a complete self-contained and self-controlled electric system. If hon. Members would refer to the Bill they would find that Clause 90 protected these powers possessed by Westminster. It was very explicit, and the question he wished to ask was what bearing had the Instruction, to be moved by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, on that clause. It was a mandatory Instruction to the Committee to confer permissive powers on the London County Council, and he wished to know whether it would render Clause 90 of this Bill nugatory. If it interfered with the protection afforded to Westminster by the clause, he should vote against the Bill.

*SIR JOHN BENN (Devonport)

said he associated himself most fully with the views expressed by his hon. friend the Secretary to the Board of Education. He asked the House to direct attention to three points—first, London badly wanted a bulk supply of electricity; secondly, how was that to be obtained; and, thirdly, the opposition which had been brought to bear against this private Bill with regard to bulk supply. Those borough councils who had electrical undertakings at present thought they could supply it. During the last few years Committees of both sides of the House had inquired into the matter, and had come to the conclusion that the present conditions of generating electricity in London were very bad. They were put upon London by no Liberal Government. The system of splitting up London into borough councils, and allowing them to set up their own electric stations on a sort of chandlers shop system with a single eye to the parish pump instead of to the general good, had led to confusion of the most distressing character. Two Parliaments had recognised that the only way to supply London was in bulk, so that by means of a large generating station or one or two stations on the outskirts of the Metropolis great manufacturers might be given a chance of making London flourish by being supplied with electricity at bottom prices. He had hoped that great object might be achieved by municipal enterprise. They tried it in 1906, when they brought in a permissive Bill which left the borough councils alone. The very men who were at the back of the opposition to-night prevented the passing of that Bill. [Cries of "No."] He would not make that statement unless he were prepared to fortify it. The hon. Member for Fulham, who seconded the rejection of the present Bill, quoted from a document which he now held in his hand. The opposition was engineered by the borough councils of London, and the document was signed by Mr. Mansfield Robinson, Clerk of the Shoreditch Vestry, the same gentleman who engineered the opposition to the municipal Bill of 1906 and to the second attempt of 1907. Of course, the Members representing the boroughs of London stood up for the borough council installations; but he asked the House to look at the matter from the wider point of view. Some Gentlemen opposite had not had the advantage of studying the question from the London point of view and had not, as some of them had, devoted a long time in trying to get at the bottom of it; and he wished to tell them that if they followed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon into the lobby, they would be thwarting municipal development. He had to say with the greatest regret that the present London County Council would not look at a municipal settlement. Supposing they were on the eve of another London County Council election, and that they put as the first item on their programme, another municipal electricity scheme, with £5,000,000 capital, London would not look at it. It was done in the memorable right conducted by his hon. friend, and for the moment London would not have it. The hon. Member for Westminster properly understood this measure. He said it was a Machiavellian scheme for creating an electrical supply by the London County Council. The hon. Member was absolutely right. If the Bill were adopted with the instruction suggested by the President of the Board of Trade, he hoped and believed that in the fulness of time they would have the same happy result as was achieved under the Tramway Act of 1870. That Act gave companies free running power in London for tramways, but a Liberal Government inserted a wise purchase clause, and the Act was now called the Tramway Charter. After the companies had been running some time, the London County Council stepped in and were now establishing one of the finest municipal tramway systems. They were not able immediately to get through a municipal measure for the bulk supply of electricity, but, if these Instructions were adopted with regard to the present Bill, and the purchase terms were amended as they ought to be, they would have an opportunity of doing with regard to electricity what they had done with regard to the tramways. The London County Council, under the proposed purchase clause, would be able to step in and possess themselves of another heritage, and they would, he believed, manage the electrical undertaking as successfully as they had managed the tramways. He should therefore vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. He believed hon. Members would be ill-advised if they voted against it under the impression that they were thereby voting for a municipal supply against a company supply. Those who understood the matter and desired to serve London would follow the proposals of the front bench; and if that were done, he thought the time would come when this great enterprise would become possessed by the people of London as an addition to those municipal enterprises which in the past had worked such good for the metropolis. He entirely associated himself with the late progressive leader of the London County Council.

MR. FORSTER (Kent, Sevenoaks)

said that as the representative of a part of the county contiguous to the municipal area of London he had been in some doubt as to which way his vote, should be cast, but he was grateful to the hon. Member who had just sat down for having removed any possible doubt in his mind. He had told them that London was anxious for a bulk supply of electricity and that the most desirable way in which electricity could be supplied in bulk was by the creation of a private company.


I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I said it was the only possible way for the moment. I think the municipal supply the most desirable.


said the hon. Member had in his mind the acquisition of the undertaking by the London County Council, and would only create it in the present case in order that it might be so acquired.




said they now knew how the matter stood. The hon. Member for Woolwich was perfectly justified in using picturesque language in describing this. He said it was a Parliamentary job, or used an expression of that kind. Would it not have been a little more honest to say they would sanction the creation of a private authority subsequently to be acquired by the London County Council, but they adhered to the view they had so often, so strongly, and so consistently expressed, that the only possible authority for the creation of electricity in bulk was the County Council? He remembered night after night, speech after speech, on Bill after Bill, when the hon. Gentleman opposite took up that attitude and flatly refused his sanction to the creation of companies for the supply of electricity in bulk. It would be more honest of hon. Gentlemen if they made it plain that they only supported the Bill because they intended to destroy the company as soon as possible. He would like to make it plain why he intended, now that he understood the situation, to vote against the Second Reading. He at any rate was consistent. He still believed that the best war of supplying electricity in bulk was not by municipal enterprise, but rather by private enterprise or by the creation of a body ad hoc. He did not believe the London County Council was the best authority to control the supply of electricity in bulk. Then that part of his constituency which was affected objected very strongly to being brought under the control of the London County Council in any way. He did not think that even the right hon. Gentleman opposite could make it a matter of blame to them that they should prefer that local autonomy which had formed so prominent a plank in the edifice of his speeches. He entered a very strong protest against the line which had been taken by supporters of the Bill, and he thought it was a pity that the President of the Board of Trade did not make it clear sooner that the whole object of the Bill and of the Instruction that he had put down was that the company which they were creating should be destroyed at the earliest possible moment. His constituents thought they would be better off if the Bill did not pass.


said he was very sorry indeed for the position in which the hon. Member for Woolwich found himself. He had made a very excellent and charming speech, with his usual gifts of humour and flexibility, and they all knew that the views he put forward on these subjects were soundly and sincerely democratic. But what was the company in which his hon. friend found himself? The hon. Member for Sevenoaks and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon. What an unholy alliance! What a strange combination to fight for the interests of the people of London! He hoped the House would allow him to state the reasons which induced him to counsel them to send the Bill up for examination by a Committee. There were three Bills and three Instructions had been put down in regard to them. They could only discuss one Bill, but they ought not to overlook the other two, because the three Bills were inter-related, and they proposed to ask the House to apply a common policy in regard to all three. He had taken the advice of many of those who, on other subjects, had always on previous occasions voiced the opinion of the majority of the late Progressive members of the County Council and who at present voiced the opinion of the majority of the Liberal Members for London. It was in consultation with them that the Board of Trade had adopted the policy of counselling the House to agree to the principle of the Bill, subject to examination by Committee, and thus to afford every facility for existing private enterprise and for those who now sought the sanction of Parliamentary authority to develop the best possible system of electrical supply for London, and to arrange for the transference of that supply at the earliest possible moment to the government of London. At present there were sixty-six different generating stations in the London area, and fifty-five main distributing centres. The price of electricity in this city was on the average 1.38d. over the whole area. That was considerably more than double as much as the price in Newcastle, and yet the size of London and the area would make it possible, according to all the expert engineers whose opinion he had consulted, to make the cheapest possible supply. The industries of London were specially suited to derive benefit from the cheap supply of electricity. This new plan in its general aspects proposed to establish a great outside tap, by which through the agency of the existing distributing centres, the mains of London could be flushed with cheaper electricity, and railways, canals, and navigation could be supplied. The whole intention of this proposal was that there would be a superior economy from the production in bulk. That superior economy was derived from the great scale of production, from the advantage of possessing modern plant, and above all from the great advantage of having ocean-borne coal delivered in the close proximity of the generating station. He had heard it said that the cheapness resulting from this proposal would not reach the small consumers. He did not think this production in bulk could be carried out without benefiting the small as well as the large consumer. The price charged would be subject to periodical revision by the Board of Trade, who could eventually compel the undertakers to pass on any general benefit they received in the course of time to the consumer. He did not think it possible to flush London with cheap electricity without that benefit reaching the small consumers. An hon. Member had said that this did not promise to give a cheap supply. It promised to give a supply of bulk electricity at half the prices which ruled in the Metropolis at the present time. Of course, he did not say whether it would perform that promise, but the Committee would decide that point. All he could say was that all the ordinary harnessing apparatus for controlling private enterprise according to modern ideas was in full operation in the Bill. The maximum prices were fixed, and fixed at a lower rate than had ever been specified in any Bill before; there was compulsion to supply, and the usual limitation of dividends by a sliding scale; and in order to ensure that it was not a bogus enterprise it was provided that the whole enterprise should lapse unless £600,000 was subscribed in the first year, and unless substantial progress was made in the second. The opposition to the Bill came from two very different sources. It came from those who on perfectly sincere grounds and on grounds of regulated opinion were opposed to private enterprise of any kind. It came from those who voiced the narrowest selfishness of minor localities. It was those who were arrayed against them in an unfortunate and miscreated alliance. The borough councils had, no doubt, rendered great services, and he would be the last in the world to urge the House to speak ungratefully of them. But a borough council could not claim immunity from all competition which most improvements created. The hon. Member for Fulham had spoken of the purchase terms. They were not committed to those purchase terms. All he suggested to the House was that they should have these terms thoroughly scrutinised by a trustworthy Parliamentary Committee. He did not submit them to the House with the imprimatur of the Government bench at all; but never before had any purchase clause been inserted in a bulk supply Bill which had been passed. In addition to that they must remember that they were not dealing with a brand new area, but with an area already fully occupied, in which the operation of the new supply authority would be very strictly guarded in reference to the interests of the existing occupants of the ground. He agreed that the transference which the hon. Member for Sevenoaks had referred to was necessary and desirable. The enterprise would really not involve any very serious or complicated financial operation. As-to the attitude of the Board of Trade in the matter, they were charged with particular duties with regard to the Bill. The Board of Trade was a great deal more than the party officer who for the moment represented it. The Board of Trade was a great accumulation of valuable knowledge; it was an immense ramification of machinery all over the country, operating and intervening under every conceivable condition in the numerous stages of the daily life and labour of the people. From the point of view of the Board of Trade, when they approached questions like this they were compelled to see in the foreground two main facts—the greatness of London and the importance of a cheap supply of electricity. They saw the greatest city in the world, with six millions of people; the greatest manufacturing centre; the greatest port, the greatest centre of human activity. They saw six millions of people living under conditions of the highest artificiality, and following these facts from a purely non-party point of view, whether collectivist or individualistic. Moderate or Progressive, capital or labour, they saw that to all these millions, rich and poor alike, whether in their units or in combination, cheap and abundant electricity was scarcely less important than cheap and abundant food. By all means let them discuss the true principles of municipal government, but let them not deny the assistance which applied science alone could give to the great mass of the people for whose welfare they were responsible. Any hon. Member who stood between this great city of London and an absolutely modern and uniform system of electric supply would run the gravest risk and assume the gravest responsibility. This was the fifth successive year in which an attempt had been made to furnish London with a bulk supply. Huge sums of money had been spent on fruitless proceedings. The uncertainty had hung like a pall all the time over electrical enterprise. The initiative of private promoters had been seriously discouraged. Nothing had been done for five years. Meanwhile, municipal enterprise had not advanced to fill the gap, and there was no immediate prospect that it would advance. In these circumstances, the House of Commons would take a very grave decision if it swept out of court the elaborate proposals now put forward without allowing them to receive the detailed attention that only an impartial Committee of the House of Commons could give. He could not conceive it being argued that a rush was being made upon the House by private individuals and corporations to grab concessions against the commonwealth for the exploitation of private interests. In 1903 the number of Private Bills deposited with the Board of Trade was 188, and in succeeding years the numbers were 159, 131, 151, and 102, an average for the period of 147. In the present year only ninety-eight such Bills had been deposited. This was the smallest number of Private Bills deposited in a session. Was it reasonable to contend that the House could be accused of being unduly lax in regard to the private enterprises put before them? Hon. Members on the Labour benches were quite consistent; they were against private enterprise in any form, and in favour of organised communal enterprise not carried on for profit. But what was to happen in the years intervening between the disappearance of private enterprise and the time when communal enterprise was to reign supreme throughout the land? He submitted to the House that they would take a grave responsibility if they dismissed this great enterprise of solid material advantage to London without allowing it to be examined by a Committee. He would not be doing his duty in the office which he had the honour to hold if he did not put this counsel before the House. After all, every one was giving up something. The Moderates acquiesced in the proposal to place upon the County Council ultimately the ownership of this large under- taking. The companies themselves had acquiesced in the transfer. Those who had been Progressive leaders had come to believe that this scheme was, on the whole, in the interest of the great community which they had represented. The opposition to the Bill had not been on broad principles, but of highly organised minor interests. He earnestly appealed to the House that the measure might proceed.


Take off the Government Whips then.


asked if the hon. Member felt that he would not vote according to his conscience if the Government Whips were telling? He did not think they should allow themselves to rise to any tragic height of tension in this matter. The proposition before them was a very simple one. It was, whether they should allow a proposal of this character to be examined carefully and properly by a Parliamentary Committee reserving to themselves the fullest right of rejection on Third Reading if, after that examination, it did not suit their views, or whether they should, without even investigating the proposal, cast aside the last attempt, for a considerable number of years, either private or municipal, to provide London with a bulk supply of electricity. A Committee of that House two years ago examined the whole question. They reported that the need of a bulk supply for London was important and pressing. If the House were to reject this measure on Second Reading, the need would still continue important, but it would press no more.

MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)

congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on having enunciated what he thought was a most excellent principle on this subject—a principle which they had always heard contradicted by the right hon. Gentleman himself and by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He supposed that the Party on that side of the House had maintained that no more excellent way of contributing to the public service could be found than in such enterprises as this; first, a private company with a limitation, if they liked, of dividend, as in the case of the gas companies, a sliding scale to secure prices, and, ultimately, purchase by some public authority, not necessarily the County Council. He believed, himself, that that was a sound view, and he was delighted that they had found so able a convert to it as the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. At the present moment he might congratulate his own side of the House on having secured from the Government an acknowledgment of the principle which they had long opposed. There was one question put to the right hon. Gentleman by the hon. Member for Westminster, to which he himself had endeavoured to get an answer from the right hon. Gentleman before he began his peroration, and to which, he thought, the House was entitled to an answer, because it might have a material effect on this case. The Instruction which the right hon. Gentleman was to move was a matter of business not a matter of rhetoric. It was to include in the Bill a provision conferring purchasing powers on the London County Council. His hon. friend had spoken against that Instruction on behalf of the City of Westminster because Westminster had a special interest in the existing supply which was safeguarded by Clause 90 in the Bill. The question which his hon friend put to the right hon. Gentleman was, did he mean by his Instruction to put aside Clause 90 or did he not? Did he mean that in any case in 1931 the London County Council should become the purchasing authority, and did he intend to sweep aside the provision which the promoters of the Bill and the House of Lords had inserted in favour of the City of Westminster? At present Westminster had the power in 1930 to buy out two large electric lighting companies within its area, and also power to buy the generating station at Marylebone so as to give the City of Westminster the ability to have an entirely self-contained electric supply. In his judgment this raised a very important point. He himself thought it would be entirely wrong that in 1931 the London County Council should be the purchasing authority when it was unnecessary that it should be so. The City of Westminster was a very large and rich area, with a very able corporation, quite capable of managing its own affairs, and it had a fully equipped electric supply plant. Surely then, it ought not to be invaded by the County Council. That was not in the interest of the ratepayers of the City of Westminister nor in the interests of the ratepayers of London.


said that the Instruction made it mandatory on the Committee to arrange for the transference to the County Council of all the powers which exist or which the Bill would confer on the promoters.


said he understood that the Committee upstairs was not to have the right to consider whether the rights that had been conferred on the City of Westminster by two statutes were to be maintained or not. If that was really the decision of the Government then he did not see how the proposal could be accepted for a moment. Unquestionably it raised, in the acutest form, the position he had desired to take, and he would have to reconsider it.


said he wished to make one or two observations, particularly one which had been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman—that there was no particular principle involved in this Bill, and that what they ought to do was to give the Bill a Second Reading and send it to Committee upstairs and then pass judgement on the Committee's Report. That advice would absolutely stultify the position of many hon. Members when the Bill came down to the House from the Committee upstairs. He remembered that when the Second Reading of a suburban Water Bill was before the House they were told that it was only necessary to send it upstairs when the Committee would make every inquiry—


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided:—Ayes, 156; Noes, 70. (Division List No. 237.)

Abraham, William (Rhondda) Fuller, John Michael F. Pease, J. A (Saffron Walden
Acland, Francis Dyke Gibb, James (Harrow) Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Centra
Acland-Hood, Rt Hn. Sir Alex. F. Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West) Rainy, A. Rolland
Ainsworth, John Stirling Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John Rea, Russell (Gloucester)
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Glendinning, R. G. Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro
Balcarres, Lord Gretton, John Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Balfour, Rt Hn. A. J. (City Lond.) Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Roberts, Sir John H. (Denbighs)
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B. Robson, Sir William Snowdon
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Hamilton, Marquess of Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Banner, John J. Harmood- Harcourt, Rt. Hn. L. (Rossendale Roe, Sir Thomas
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Haworth, Arthur A. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Baring, Capt. Hn. G(Winchester Hobhouse, Charles E. H. Salter, Arthur Clavell
Beauchamp, E. Holland, Sir William Henry Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)
Bellairs, Carlyon Houston, Robert Paterson Sears, J. E.
Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonp'rt Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Seaverns, J. H.
Benn, W. (T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo. Hyde, Clarendon Seely, Colonel
Berridge, T. H. D. Illingworth, Percy H. Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Isaacs, Rufus Daniel Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick, B.
Bridgeman, W. Clive Johnson, W. (Nuneaton) Sherwell, Arthur James
Bright, J. A. Jones, Leif (Appleby) Simon, John Allsebrook
Brodie, H. C. Jones, William (Carnavonshire Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John
Brooke, Stopford Kearley, Sir Hudson E. Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Kekewich, Sir George Spicer, Sir Albert
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Laidlaw, Robert Stanger, H. Y.
Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles Lambert, George Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)
Carlile, E. Hildred Lewis, John Herbert Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staft'sh.
Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Lonsdale, John Brownlee Strachey, Sir Edward
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Lupton, Arnold Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Lyell, Charles Henry Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Cheetham, John Frederick Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred Tennant, Sir Edward(Salisbury
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R. Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Tomkinson, James
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. McCallum, John M. Valentia, Viscount
Clough, William McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Verney, F. W.
Coates, Major E. F. (Lewisham) McLaren, Sir C. B. (Leicester) Waring, Walter
Cobbold, Felix Thornley Manfield, Harry (Northants) Wason, Rt. Hn. E. (Clackmannan
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston) Waterlow, D. S.
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Marnham, F. J. Watt, Henry, A.
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Masterman, C. F. G. White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)
Craik, Sir Henry Micklem, Nathaniel Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)
Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Middlebrook, William Whittaker, Rt Hn. Sir Thomas P.
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S. Molteno, Percy Alport Williamson, A.
Dewar, Sir J. A.(Inverness-sh.) Mond, A. Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N. Montague, Hon. E. S. Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)
Duckworth, James Mooney, J. J. Winterton, Earl
Du Cros, Arthur Philip Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall) Wodehouse, Lord
Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall Morrell, Philip Wood, T. McKinnon
Elibank, Master of Morse, L. L. Younger, George
Essex, R. W. Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'r
Evans, Sir Samuel T. Norman, Sir Henry TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Claude Hay and Mr. Burdett-Coutts.
Everett, R. Lacey Norton, Capt. Cecil William
Fell, Arthur Nuttall, Harry
Ferens, T. R. Paulton, James Mellor
Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.) Cleland, J. R. Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)
Barnes, G. N. Clynes, J. R. Forster, Henry William
Bethell, Sir J. R. (Essex, Romf'rd Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S. Panrcas, W Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford
Bowerman, C. W. Compton-Rickett, Sir J. Harcourt,Robert V. (Montrose)
Burke, E. Haviland- Cooper, G. J. Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.
Byles, William Pollard Corbett, C H. (Sussex, E. Grinst'd Halsam, Lewis (Monmouth)
Cave, George Crooks, William Hemmerde, Edward George
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Edwards, Clement (Denbigh) Henderson, Arthur (Durham)
Higham, John Sharp Murphy, John (Kerry, East) Summerbell, T.
Hodge, John Nicholls, George Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)
Hudson, Walter O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Idris, T. H. W. O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Thorne, William (West Ham)
Jackson, R. S. O'Malley, William Wadsworth, J.
Jenkins, J. Radford, G. H. Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)
Jowett, F. W. Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n Walters, John Tudor
Lardner, James Carrige Rushe Roberts, G. H. (Norwich) Wardle, George J.
Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E. Roberston, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd Wiles, Thomas
Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside) Wilkie, Alexander
Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Ronaldshay, Earl of Williams, J. (Glamorgan)
Macdonald, J. R (Leicester) Rowlands, J. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
MacNiell, John Gordon Swift Seddon, J.
Macpherson, J. T. Smith, F. E.(Liverpool, Walton) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Timothy Davies and Mr. Pickersgill.
MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S. Snowden, P,
Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry) Stewart, Halley (Greenock)
Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)

Question put accordingly, "That the wood 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 138; Noes, 90. (Division List No. 238.)

Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.) Harvey, A. G. C.(Rochdale) Rainy, A. Rolland
Acland, Francis Dyke Haworth, Arthur A. Rea, Russell (Gloucester)
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hn. Sir Alex. F Hemmerde, Edward George Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'
Ainsworth, John Stirling Hobhouse, Charles E. H. Roberts, Charles H.(Lincoln)
Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry Holland, Sir William Henry Roberts, Sir John H (Denbighs.)
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (City Lond.) Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Hyde, Clarendon Robson, Sir William Snowdon
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Illingworth, Percy H. Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Baring, Capt. Hn. G (Winchester Isaacs, Rufus Daniel Roe, Sir Thomas
Beauchamp, E. Johnson, W. (Nuneaton) Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Bellairs, Carlyon Jones, William (Carnarvonshire Samuel, Herbert L.(Cleveland)
Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonp'rt Kearley, Sir Hudson E. Sears, J. E.
Benn, W. (T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo. Kekewich, Sir George Seaverns, J. H.
Berridge, T.H. D. Laidlaw, Robert Seely, Colonel
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Lambert, George Shaw, Charles Edw.(Stafford)
Bowles, G. Stewart Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich) Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)
Bright, J. A. Lewis, John Herbert Sherwell, Arthur James
Brodie, H.C. Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David Sinclair, Rt. Hon John
Brooke, Stopford Lupton, Arnold Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Lyell, Charles Henry Spicer, Sir Albert
Burke, E. Haviland- Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Stanger, H. Y.
Burns, Rt. Hon. John M'Callum, John M. Stanley, Hn A. Lyulph (Chesh.)
Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)
Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester) Strachey, Sir Edward
Cheetham, John Frederick Manfield, Harry (Northants) Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R. Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston) Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S Marnham, F. J. Taylor, Theodore C.(Radcliffe)
Clough, William Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry) Tomkinson, James
Cobbold, Felix Thornley Masterman, C. F. G. Verney, F. W.
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Micklem, Nathaniel Waring, Walter
Compton-Rickett, Sir J. Middlebrook, William Wason, Rt Hn. E. (Clackmannan
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Molteno, Percy Alport Waterlow, D. S.
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Mond, A. Watt, Henry, A.
Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Mooney, J. J. Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)
Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.) Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall) Whittaker, Rt Hn. Sir Thomas P.
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N. Morrell, Philip Wiles, Thomas
Duckworth, James Morse, L. L. Williams, Llewelyn (Carm'rth'n
Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall Nicholson, Charles N (Doncast'r Williamson, A.
Evans, Sir Samuel T. Norman, Sir Henry Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Everett, R. Lacey Norton, Capt. Cecil William Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)
Ferens, T. R. Nuttall, Harry Wodehouse, Lord
Fuller, John Michael F. O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Wood, T. M'Kinnon
Gibb, James (Harrow) O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West) O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Joseph Pease and Master of Elibank.
Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John O'Malley, William
Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Paulton, James Mellor
Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B. Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington
Harcourt, Rt. Hn. L. (Rossendale Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)
Abraham, William (Rhondda) Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Balcarres, Lord Gretton, John Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Hamilton, Marquess of Ronaldshay, Earl of
Banner, John S. Harmood- Harcourt, Robert V.(Montrose) Rowlands, J.
Barnes, G. N. Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E. Salter, Arthur Clavell
Bethell, Sir J. H (Essex, Romf'rd Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Seddon, J.
Bowerman, C. W. Hay, Hon. Claude George Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)
Bridgeman, W. Clive Henderson, Arthur(Durham) Snowden, P.
Burdett-Coutts, W. Higham, John Sharp Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staff'sh.
Byles, William Pollard Hodge, John Stewart, Halley (Greenock)
Carlile, F. Hildred Houston, Robert Paterson Summerbell, T.
Cave, George Hudson, Walter Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Idris, T. H. W. Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Jackson, R. S. Thorne, William (West Ham)
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Jenkins, J. Valentia, Viscount
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Jones, Leif (Appleby) Wadsworth, J.
Cleland, J. W. Jowett, F. W. Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)
Clynes, J. R. Lardner, James Carrige Rushe Walters, John Tudor
Coates, Major E. F. (Lewisham) Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.) Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent)
Cooper, G. J. Lonsdale, John Brownlee Wardle, George J.
Corbett, C H (Sussex, E. Grinst'd Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Weir, James Galloway
Craik, Sir Henry Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred White, J. D. Dumbartonshre)
Crooks, William Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Wilkie, Alexander
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S. MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Williams, J. (Glamorgan)
Du Cros, Arthur Philip Macpherson, J. T. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Edwards, Clement (Denbigh) MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.) Winterton, Earl
Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Younger, George
Essex, R. W. Murphy, John (Kerry, East)
Fell, Arthur Nicholls, George TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Pickersgill, and Mr. Timothy Davies.
Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey Nield, Herbert
Forster, Henry William Radford, G. H.
Glendinning, R. G. Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n

Bill read the third time, and passed, with Amendments.