HC Deb 29 June 1909 vol 7 cc304-7

As amended, considered.

Clause 354.—(Agreements for Supply of Electricity.) —The Corporation may make agreements with the local authority of any district adjacent to the area of the Corporation for the supply of electrical energy and with any tramway company owning leasing or working tramways within such district and with the County Council for the supply of electrical energy by the Corporation to such local authority company or council for all or any of the purposes-for which such local authority, company or council are or may be authorised to use the same. Provided always that the Corporation shall not supply electrical energy to such company or for any purpose whatever within the district of any local authority without the consent of such local authority under their common seal, but no such consent shall be required to the supply of electrical energy by the Corporation to the Greenock and Port Glasgow Tramways Company for use upon the tramways belonging to or worked by that company.

Mr. RAINY moved to omit from Clause 354 the words, "but no such consent shall be required to the supply of electrical energy by the Corporation to the Greenock and Port Glasgow Tramways Company for use upon the tramways belonging to or worked by that company."

I do not wish to impute anything wrong to the Corporation of Greenock, but there has been a departure, a serious departure, from an agreement on this subject. The inhabitants of Port Glasgow and its corporation have a right to object to this departure. Greenock, Port Glasgow, and Gourock are not far from each other. Only on of these corporations has an electric supply. In 1902, when this tramway was proposed, it was thought necessary to insist upon this, that the tramway should get the supply of power from Greenock without the consent of the other two corporations. It was agreed that the corporation of Greenock should not supply electric energy to the other corporations without the consent of the local authorities. That was the basis on which an agreement was arrived at in 1902. The clause to which I refer was inserted, and Port Glasgow withdrew all opposition to the Bill. Later on the words which I propose to leave out were inserted. What do they mean? They mean that the agreement between Port Glasgow and Greenock shall be taken out of the Bill. They say that the local consent is necessary in the case of the other two boroughs, but that the words shall not apply to the third borough. All that is nonsense. The case was taken to the House of Lords. This is a matter of some importance, although I have been told that, as a matter of fact, it is of no importance. I wish to say that I do not think local authorities ought to be deprived of their jurisdiction over a small area. I cannot see that there is any justification for it. More than that, what I feel very strongly about is that if the other boroughs are to get all their supply from Greenock, the inhabitants of Port Glasgow and Gourock should be in a position to protest against such a proposal. Under this clause what remedy has Port Glasgow? It will be in the hands of the tramway company. If the agreement stood Port Glasgow would be in a position to say that its tramway system should have a station of its own. In the other case it would be in the hands of the tramway company. I am going to rest my case upon this. There was an agreement which it was proposed to alter, and it was suggested that the matter should be put right in another place. These corporations are not extremely wealthy bodies, and to bring the matter before a Committee of another place would be a very expensive proceeding. Therefore I think we should restore the clause to what it was before, particularly as the tramway company has been working under the clause for six years. I beg to move the Amendment of which I have given notice.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."


I rise to second the proposal of my hon. Friend. What he said with regard to Port Glasgow holds very largely with the town of Gourock. This proviso, which makes it compulsory to allow the Greenock Corporation to supply electric force, would probably be a great injustice in the future to Gourock. It is true that Gourock does not stand in exactly the same position as Port Glasgow. They have an agreement with the tramway company in which that company have bound themselves to take the electric energy required for the Gourock portion of the tram line in the event of Gourock establishing its own electric power station. They believe, however, that that would not safeguard them against this particular provision in the Bill, and it is on these grounds I second this Motion on their behalf.


As chairman of the Committee which considered this Bill, I ask the House not to agree to the Amendment. The main object of the measure is to extend to these municipal boroughs and to consolidate the existing law. I venture to think it is a very unfortunate thing that this Amendment should be raised at this particular stage. It is essentially a point to be discussed in Committee. It is not possible here to go into the details of the quarrels which have unfortunately arisen between the three boroughs. As the hon. Member for Kilmarnock Burghs (Mr. Rainy) very properly said, Greenock is situated between Gourock and Port Glasgow, and there is a system of electric tramways which runs through the whole of the three towns, and is worked by the one company. All the electric power is supplied by the Corporation of Greenock under an Electric Lighting and Provisional Order obtained in 1883, and, under another Order obtained in 1901, Greenock is only allowed to supply the power for running the tramways in Gourock and Port Glasgow with the consent of those two burghs, and subject to six months' notice. It may be of interest to the House to know that this is the largest private Bill which has ever been introduced into this House; it occupied the time of the Committee 22 days. It was found necessary to repeal the Electric Lighting Provisional Orders in order to insert in the present Bill the model form of Order, and thus to bring it up to date. The clause, as inserted, was agreed to by both Gourock and Port Glasgow, and these two towns withdrew their petition and their opposition to the Bill. But, unfortunately, the clause was amended without giving notice, and words were proposed to be inserted, to which they both objected. In the case of Gourock, I understood, until a few months ago, the objection had been withdrawn. The agents for Port Glasgow withdrew their opposition, and did not petition for an alteration, and, in consequence, they had no locus standi before the Committee. When the Committee considered this part of the Bill they thought it wise to adjourn it with a view to some arrangement being come to with both Port Glasgow and Gourock, but, unfortunately, the parties did not see their way to agree, and now they are desirous of amending the Bill. I think this is an entirely unnecessary proceeding. The Committee has no reason to believe that Port Glasgow at this moment is able to supply electric power to the Tramway Company which is working the trams, and, if Greenock is to be prevented supplying the power, the only effect will be that the tramways will have to cease working in Port Glasgow. If at any future time Port Glasgow should wish to erect an electric power station, and to run the tramways through its own district they can come to this House and ask for permission, and, if they wish now to provide the power, it is open for them to have the matter discussed when the Bill comes up in another place. That seems to me the proper procedure to be adopted. The Committee think that the remedy of the Corporation lies in another place. I ask the House to give the Bill a third reading, and, if the parties wish to press the matter further they can present a petition and have it discussed in the other House.


I should like to point out that the hon. Member, who introduced this Amendment, is under a misapprehension in stating that, in the event of there being a bad service on the part of the Tramway Company, there will be no alternative for the Port Glasgow authorities. Their remedy is clear. The Board of Trade is always with us. The inhabitants can petition in the event of there being any dissatisfaction with the service. But if the hon. Member will look to the scope of the Amendment he will find it has nothing to do with a bad service of trams. It is simply a question with regard to the supply of electrical energy.

Ordered, "That Standing Orders 223 and 243 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the third time."—[The Deputy Chairman.]