HC Deb 17 March 1908 vol 186 cc489-91

I have very reluctantly to move "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Resolution." At the present moment I express no opinion at all about the merits of the Bill itself. I do not think it would be fair to do so, because it would prejudice the consideration of the proposals contained in the Bill. I do not think, however, that the course suggested in the Resolution is the best method of investigating the merits of this Bill, and more especially of investigating the details of these various propositions. As all those who have been engaged upon the investigation of this question know, it is a very difficult one indeed. There have been several proposals brought before the House for the supply of electric power to London during the last four or five years, all of them more or less of a different character, and up to the present we have not suc- ceeded in securing any proposal which has obtained the confidence of the House or of the Committee after inquiry into the details of the Bills sent upstairs. My own personal opinion is that no settlement of this very thorny and complicated problem is possible unless some measure of agreement is come to between all the parties engaged. There is a very general feeling that something ought to be done, and done quickly, for the purpose of supplying London with cheap electricity for power purposes. I think it is a great scandal that something has not been done before, because, after all, it is almost entirely a business matter, and it is a great pity that it should have become a question which has engaged parties as if it were purely a political problem, which it is not. I cannot help feeling, however, that we are approximating towards a reasonable settlement and a compromise. If these Bills go to a Committee of the Lords and are examined there carefully, I think that by the time they come down here the parties will be in a better position—I will not say frame of mind—to consider the best way of putting something through that will ensure general consent. That is one reason why I think it will not be facilitating inquiry into this subject to have a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. If a Committee of the kind suggested in the Resolution were set up, what would happen? The Bills would go to that Committee who would arrive at some conclusion with regard to them in the course of the next few weeks, probably before opinion has matured for the full consideration of this problem from the broader point of view. I think that, even before a Committee considers it in this House there ought to be a conference between all the parties concerned to see whether there are not some general principles upon which agreement can be secured. I must, therefore, oppose, and I do so reluctantly, this proposal that a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament should have this question referred to it. I do not wish it to be inferred that there is any opposition on the part of the Government to any one of these proposals or any of these Bills. I shall confine myself at present to resisting this proposal because I do not think it will accomplish the object which those who wish for a cheap electrical supply for London have in mind. For that reason alone I oppose the proposition on the Paper, and I trust the House will see that it is not in the public interest to pass it. I therefore move "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Resolution."

Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.

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