HC Deb 28 February 1911 vol 22 cc289-305

Order for Second Reading read.

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


moved as an Amendment to leave out the word "now" and to insert instead thereof the words "upon this day six months."

I desire in moving this Amendment to say at the outset that I do so at the request, directly and indirectly, of half the members of the Urban District Council of Acton. The Bill before the House proposes to confirm an agreement entered into between the Urban District Council and the Electric Supply Company, Limited, under which it is proposed to take over the undertaking which now belongs to the district council, but is carried on by the company under the terms of the agreement contained in the schedules of this Bill. I believe that the method fey which this has been brought about is a method which this House should know about, at least before it gives the Bill a Second Reading, because, in my opinion, this Bill deliberately robs the ratepayers of Acton of an undertaking which is beginning to be prosperous, and takes whatever prosperity accrues to that undertaking for the benefit of a few shareholders of a private company. I shall endeavour to give a brief history of this business.

The Acton District Council came to this House and obtained powers to undertake to supply electricity as far back as June, 1891. For twelve years these powers, for what reason I cannot say, lay dormant, and it was not until the Board of Trade brought pressure to bear on the Council and bestirred them to put their powers into operation that they undertook to do so. In 1903 they appointed Mr. Trentham their consulting engineer, and proceeded to put the electric lighting powers which they had into operation. An agreement was entered into on 20th February, 1904, with the Metropolitan Electric Supply Company, and a tender for the erection of a generating station was entered into in July of the same year. Current was supplied by the local authority in 1905 to some schools, and in the following March a supply was begun for the town. It is now generally recognised by the ratepayers of Acton that a mistake was made when this agreement was entered into with the Metropolitan Electric Supply Company, and it is also realised that the company imposed exceptionally onerous conditions upon the council. The agreement which was entered into was for a period of twenty-seven years, but it might be determined at the end of the first nine years on payment by the council of two-thirds of the cost incurred by the company in giving the supply, or, at the end of the first eighteen years on payment of one-third of the cost. The mistake of the council in 1904 no doubt was in agreeing to purchase current in bulk from this particular company. Had they proceeded to generate their own current at that time we should not have a Bin similar to that before us to-night. They had to pay the excessive price of something like 3d. per unit for lighting purposes, which was a heavy handicap. I There is no denying the fact that the financial position of the electrical undertaking to the Acton District Council has been improving during the last three years. At the end of the first complete year, 1906, the gross profit was £278 17s. 4d. In 1907 it had risen to £655 5s. 6½d., and in 1908 it rose to upwards of £1,000. Then the council, which appears at that time to have been approached, were divided in regard to this matter, and, by a very small majority, instead of proceeding with its electrical undertaking adopted a policy which, when looked at by an outsider, seems rather to have been in the interest of the Metropolitan Electrical Company than of their own. In the year 1909 there was a deficit of nearly £200. During the current year it is estimated that the net profit, after meeting expenses, will be something like £158.


That is not in accordance with the information given me.


That is the information which I have got. But it does not affect the main points of my argument. The district council, as I understand, expended nearly £70,000 upon their undertaking, and this sum has to be repaid as in the case of all municipal or urban undertakings by an annual contribution in the way of sinking fund and interest charges.

Anyone who has any municipal experience or company experience, for that matter, knows quite well that practically every electric lighting undertaking throughout the country has been worked at a loss for the first two years. Losses have been incurred in the first two years, but slowly and surely things have come round, and the experience is that, taking the municipalities as a whole that are producing electric current, they are now making a profit. The total assets of the electrical undertaking at present are £68,693. Against these are loan charges of £61,663, and the annual charges of these, I hold, will be easily paid out of the earnings of the undertaking if things go on improving as they did in the past few years. The position of the ratepayers is this. They are to part with the property which is just beginning to pay. They have had to make up loss by a rate-in-aid, but just as the undertaking is commencing to show signs of returning a profit to the ratepayers this company comes along, and through its friends inside the council proposes a scheme under conditions which, I trust, this House will never sanction.


Is there a majority of the council in favour of it?


I will come to that point in a moment. The total assets of the electrical undertaking are given in the accounts as £68,693. The position of the ratepayer that he is going to part with a property of the value of £68,693, and he gets for this in return £2,500 certain, and a further £2,500 contingent upon certain eventualities. He is to have an opportunity to re-purchase the undertaking at the end of forty-two years, during that forty-two years the company are to pay the interest and sinking fund charges which would otherwise have been paid by the district council. These are the salient points of the agreement as laid down in the schedule of this Bill. Judging the future by what has happened in the past in the case of Marylebone, we may form some idea of the kind of bargain this corn-many will endeavour to drive with the ratepayers when that time arrives. In the case of Marylebone, the buying back of the undertaking amounted almost to a public scandal. I have no doubt whatever that if this House passes this Bill the company will drive an equally hard bargain with the Acton District Council. What is the position of the ordinary consumer of electric light under this Bill? He will be called upon to pay up to 7d. per unit for current in towns where electricity is being produced. Some of the best concerns in the Kingdom are now producing electricity at under 1d. per unit. In this Bill there is no provision for a reduction in the charges, although there are provisions for increasing them under certain conditions. I submit that the position of the consumer and the ratepayer is one which this House ought to seriously consider before passing this Bill. I have been asked what the council did with regard to this matter. As I said at the outset of my remarks, I have been requested to oppose this Bill by half the members of the council. I may point out that the agreement contained in this measure was only carried by the casting vote of the chairman of the council, twelve members voting on one side, and twelve on the other. The whole of the members of the council were present on that occasion, twenty-four in all. These are the facts as supplied to me. It will be argued, no doubt, by those who are going to support this Bill that a Referendum of the people has been taken. We have heard a great deal about Referendums recently in regard to another matter, and if this is a sample of the result of that process then the Referendum does not carry us much further with regard to this or any other question. In the district affected by this Bill there are some 12,000 electors, and 4,000 of them cast their votes, and there was a majority of 200, according to the Referendum, in favour of this Bill being proceeded with. While the Referendum was being taken public meetings were being held in various parts of the district, and at those meetings Resolutions were unanimously passed against this Bill becoming law. Those are briefly the facts of the case, and I submit that what the company is offering to the district council of Acton is not a fair price for the undertakings. I maintain that this House has no right to allow a district council to sell its undertaking when that council has been levying a rate in aid of such undertaking during the "lean" years just at he time when the ratepayers would be likely to get some relief from it in the shape of profit. In addition to that, I submit that anyone who goes carefully through this Bill and notes its provisions will find that the consumer of electricity and the council will be largely at the mercy of this private company, and it will be a case of "heads they van and tails the public lose." It is because I have been requested by practically half the members of this council that I move the rejection of this Bill.


In rising to second this Motion, I desire to say one or two words supplementing what my hon. Friend has already said. I want, first of all, to refer to the agreement arrived at by the casting vote of the Chairman. There are one or two features which, I think, are of interest, and which ought to be known by all of us before we are called upon to cast our votes upon this question. Not only was this agreement arrived at by the casting vote of the Chairman, but, so far as I have been able to gather, it appears that the meeting itself at which this agreement was sanctioned was called in violation of the Act of Parliament. I understand that the Act requires in the first place, that an absolute majority should be obtained, and that ten clear days' notice ought to have been given in the Press, by means of public advertisement calling the meeting. In the second place, it is provided that any resolution promoting a Parliamentary Bill ought to be advertised in the Press circulating in that district at least twine. I am informed that neither of those requirements have been complied with, and the meeting was not advertised in accordance with the Act. I wish to make one or two references to the Referendum. Like my hon. Friend, I sincerely hope that if there is any real intention of adopting the Referendum upon important matters, those responsible for it will try and avoid some of the things which have happened in connection with the Refendum on the subject now under discussion, things which none of us can take any pride in. It has been said that out of 12,000 electors for some reason or other, only 4,000 returned their voting paper, showing approximately a majority of 200 in favour of this undertaking. I am given to understand there were in connection with this Referendum some very grave abuses. In the first place, accompanying the voting-card there was a circular which set out in a biased and unfair manner the circumstances in which it was proposed to dispose of this undertaking. It was so unfair that three months out of eight or nine months were put forward, and by that means those who wanted to force the sale were able to produce a more unfavourable balance-sheet than they could have possibly done if they had taken the whole period which ought to have come under review. It seems to me that one thing in itself ought to decide this House against granting permission to part with this undertaking. I am also informed that many of those who were called upon to vote did not receive the voting-cards until the last post on Saturday night, whilst the returns had to be in by nine o'clock on the Monday morning. That, again, shows that the people who were forcing the sale had something they wished to hide and something which would not bear the light of day. I am further informed that in some cases whole streets of ratepayers failed to receive any cards at all, whilst others who were known to be favourable to the schemes received more than one card and used them, voting, I presume, in favour of the sale. That shows that things have been very loosely conducted, or perhaps I ought to say that they have from the point of view of those who wished to force the sale been very carefully and astutely engineered.


A popularly elected body has done that to which the hon. Gentleman objects.


Since the hon. Baronet has asked that question, I may give him my opinion. The question was decided on the casting vote of the Chairman, and I should rather think it is the Chairman who is responsible for the position in which we are to-day. For my part, I do not care whether it is the Chairman or who it may be. I think if a Referendum is to be taken, whether it be upon Tariff Reform or upon the Acton Urban District Council's electric undertaking, it ought to be taken in a fair and straightforward manner, and that a fair statement of facts should be made. This Referendum has cost £75, and it has been put to such a poor use that it has been made the vehicle of corruption. We ought, therefore, to look carefully into the whole position before we cast a vote giving to a powerful corporation such as this company the power to purchase this ewe lamb of the Acton Urban District Council.

My hon. Friend mentioned the purchase price and hazarded the opinion that it was ridiculously and absurdly low. I agree with him that £5,000—£2,500 of which appears to be problematical—is hardly a fair price to pay for a property which a council has been working for five years, trying to build up a valuable undertaking. During that period the urban district council has had resort to grants-in-aid to the extent of £16,424. Just as it is about to be in a position to turn the corner and to become self-supporting and profitable, the council is to be asked to part with this property for £5,000. That will practically be the only possibility they will have of recouping the loss they have already sustained of £16,000. I feel convinced, from the figures of the balance-sheet I have seen, that if they are allowed to go on, the undertaking in a short time will be self-supporting and will be able to pay off the deficiencies incurred. The scheme would not be a loss to the ratepayers, as it evidently will be if this agreement goes through. Five or six years have generally been accepted as the period within which ventures of this kind turn the comer, and, curiously enough, it is five years ago or thereabouts that the Acton Council took up this venture. From that time to this they have progressively shown better business management. The income has been increasing, and the charges have been decreasing. I have here a statement prepared by the urban district council. It shows that, so far as generating expenses are concerned, there has been a progressive decrease. Starting in 1906, with a cost of 3.11d. per unit, they have fallen to 1.59d. in 1911, showing a very satisfactory decrease. Again, under the head of repairs, renewals of lamps, and so on, there has been another fall from.17d. to.08d. in 1910. The same thing is seen in rates, taxes, insurance and general establishment charges. There has been a fall in the expenses under that head from.62d to.42d. in 1910. The total working expenses, commencing very low at 4.01d., has now dropped lower still to 2.48d. After all, the real test as to whether this an improving concern, and whether it may be possible if it is given a chance to recoup itself is the profits that have been made. The figures appear to me very instructive. Commencing in 1903 with a loss of £478, it has gradually worked up, until last year a gross profit of £4,226 was made. I think we must all admit that to transfer a loss of £478 into a profit of £4,226 in five years is, at any rate, not a record of something which is going the wrong way, but is a record of a concern which has in it the elements of success, and which, if it is given a fair and decent chance, will be a profit to the people who are running it. There has, too, been a gradual increase in the total income. I am not counting the income for the year 1905, because it is only for a part of the year. The total income of 1905 was only £22 5s. 10d. In 1906 the income was £5,284, and last year it had risen to £11,914. The estimated income of this year is £11,520. It will be seen there is a slight decrease in the estimated income for the year ending 31st March, but the confused and unsettled state of affairs so far as the electrict supply of the district is concerned appears to me quite enough to account forthat. Again in the net deficiency under Loans—instalment and interest—there has been a great decrease from 1906 down to last year, although there was a slight increase in the present year. There are one or two other points in the schedule which call for mention. Forty-two years is the term fixed during which, if the agreement is carried, the company are to be allowed to work the undertaking, after which it is to be optional to the council to repurchase at a valuation. In paragraph 2, page 6 of the schedule, there is reference to the rental to be paid by the company to the council for the land on which buildings are erected, and it appears to me that if the council are to part with their undertaking, the rent which they are to charge, and which the company are to pay, ought to be specified, and not be left in the present hazy fashion. One's experience of corporations tells us how a private monopoly may get unfair terms in these matters, especially in the case of a small council, by threatening to run it to considerable expense by calling in valuers to get the rent fixed, and it may be the case that the Acton Urban District Council would be induced to agree to an unfairly low rental rather than go to the expense of calling in valuers. It would therefore be much better if the House would deal seriously with these unscrupulous attempts on the part of the Metropolitan Company to purchase this undertaking on these terms.

I wish to emphasise the point that there is no provision in the schedule for a reduction in the price at which the current is to be sold. One would have thought, if there is going to be a change, somebody will benefit, but, after having looked very carefully into the whole matter, I find that not only is the council going to lose, but the consumers of the current are not going to get any compensating advantage in the way of reduced terms. That point appears to me to call for close attention. The company seems to have been very astute in the provisions with which they have surrounded their central object of getting hold of the property of the council. They have put in a clause the object of which is to compel the council, under certain conditions, to provide capital for the company. They have put in a provision that five years before the expiration of the forty-two years the council must give notice of any wish on its part to repurchase. That appears to me in itself to be rather fishy. It is peculiar, to say the least, that the council should have to give five years' notice to the company if it wishes to repurchase, in order, presumably, that the company may have an opportunity to rush up unnecessary buildings, and to buy unnecessary plant, and then to recoup themselves at the expense of the corporation when they are bought out at a valuation. It goes further than that, because if in doing these things the company find it necessary to raise further capital, the council are to be compelled to borrow the money for them. That makes it almost impossible to believe that this House will consent to any such scheme as that which has been brought forward by the company. Again, as if they want to tie up the council as completely as possible, they have inserted a further clause stipulating that the council shall oppose the entrance of any competitors in the district who may want to compete with the Metropolitan Electric Supply Company. That may be a very desirable provision from the standpoint of the company, but it is hardly one which this House can look upon with any degree of satisfaction, I presume it is one of those things which this House, in its capacity as guardian of the people, ought to resolutely refuse to pass. If some other company want to compete with the Metropolitan Supply Company with a view of giving a cheaper service and a cheaper current, a good many people who swear by the doctrine of competition because it makes things cheap will surely object to binding the council in this way. I therefore, should hope that hon. Members who hold that view will offer this agreement uncompromising opposition. I notice that, as if the company wanted to have a final stab at the council, they have inserted a clause at the end saying that if, for any reason whatever, this agreement does not get the Royal Assent—and this seems to suggest that the company has very grave doubts as to whether the House will pass their Bill—then the term in which the company is to supply energy in bulk to the council is to be extended one year further than is provided for under the terms of the present agreement. It appears to me that this company have done their level best not only to tie up the council (which is quite a legitimate thing according to hon. Members opposite), but they have done all they could to secure an agreement which will give them what in a few years, in the hands of the council, may prove a very valuable undertaking, and they have done that, and they have done it in what one may call a subterranean manner.

The decision of the majority of the council is in itself hardly a good recommendation, especially when it is remembered that one of the twelve members who voted in favour of the sale has now gone to foreign parts, and presumably, if this resolution were again put to the council, it could not be carried even by the chairman's casting vote. Three public meetings, I believe, have been held, and each of them unanimously decided against the course now being taken. Coupled with that is the fact that the Referendum was grossly unfair and misleading. The council's undertaking is just on the border-line of success, and I think that this House ought to declare that it is to have the opportunity of working out to a legitimate and satisfactory conclusion, the work which it has begun. I would also impress upon Members the fact which I believe to be the case that £5,000 is a ridiculously low price, and from that standpoint I think we ought to be very careful as to what we do in this matter. Not only that, but I have striven to show that under the terms of this agree- ment, the Council is to be bound hand and foot, and it is to be committed to the same charges as have been paid for some time past. There is no possible chance of reduction, so far as I can gather under the schedule. It is committed to the entry also of the whole of its competitors into the district, and generally it has bound itself so that it cannot possibly, with credit to itself, emerge if this Bill is passed. It has done all that at the bidding of one or two people inside the corporation, led by the chairman himself, who appears to be a most uncompromising anti-municipalist, and for these reasons I beg to second the Amendment.

9.0 P.M.


I do not propose to follow the Proposer and Seconder of this Resolution into those matters of detail which they have brought forward, and if they are to be discussed that had better be done in the ordinary way upstairs. I would only allude to a few very simple facts, and one is that the municipal council—or the urban district council in this case—approached the company and asked them to take over the undertaking in which they had authorised powers, and not only had the council authorised powers, but it also appears made the transfer and undertaking with the consent of the Board of Trade, the only difficulty existing being the fact that the company itself had not the necessary statutory powers. What is the nature of the agreement? It is not only that £5,000 should be paid to the Council for their undertaking, but they get their entire debt, amounting to something like £70,000, taken over. Thus they would get £5,000, and the Council would be guaranteed against any loss in regard to a very large sum whish they had expended in setting up this electric light undertaking. If any one is injured, in any sense, the promoters of this Bill do not in the least desire to shut them out from having a proper hearing. At the present time, the period has passed during which a petition can be lodged against the Bill, but I want to throw out the suggestion, and perhaps it will meet the views of the proposer and seconder. If there are any persons interested in the subject matter of the Bill, and who are desirous of appearing before the Committee, the promoters would not take technical objection to any application made by such persons before the Standing Order Committee for leave to appear against the Bill. We cannot say what attitude the Standing Order Committee might take upon the matter, but we would not ourselves raise any objection. On the general question, I may say that a large number of facts were stated by the proposer and seconder of the Resolution, which I have no doubt they have stated accurately according to the information given to them, but in regard to which different information has been given to me. It would be no use, however, to thrash such matters out on the floor of the House. Here is a municipal council asking the company to take over their undertaking. That was referred to the electors, who confirmed the action of the municipal council, and if there is anybody who objects the promoters will not raise any technical objection before the Standing Order Committee. There is nothing exceptional in this case whatever, but it comes under the heading of Ordinary Private Bill Legislation. I hope if the Motion is pressed which has been brought forward by the mover and seconder, it will rot be accepted by this House.


I only rise for one moment on behalf of the Board of Trade to say that we are not concerned for one moment with the merits of this Bill. The hon. Member opposite has made a suggestion that the Bill should go through a Committee, and I wish to say that we should have no objection as it stands to the Bill going to a Committee as it has worked out. I do not know whether that would remove their objections to this Bill, but I think it ought to weigh with them. As I say, I am not concerned with the merits of the proposal, but there are certainly facts which were laid before us which are not in consonance with those stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax. For instance, he put the gross profits at £300 a year, but I understand that during the last six years this undertaking has lost £15,000.


That which the hon. Member calls loss we simply regard as payment for having got the undertaking. It is simply Sinking Fund charges; it is the interest on the money necessary in the early stages before the undertaking is developed.


I do not know whether my hon. Friend is a greater optimist than I am, but if I paid £70,000 for a thing which produced in six years a loss of £15,000 I do not think that I should be very badly treated if I sold it for £5,000 and got a certain sum which would help me to raise a loan in order to pay for it.


The whole loan.


The whole loan and the Sinking Fund charges would be borne, but these are details with which I am not really concerned. What I really do is to make the novel suggestion that the Chairman of Ways and Means will not treat this as a purely unopposed Bill, and that he is willing to allow it to go to a Committee in order that the whole thing may be thrashed out in the ordinary way. I think the House may reasonably allow this Bill to go to a Second Reading in order that this investigation may take place.


As the Member representing the Division in which this controversy has arisen, I feel it my duty to make an explanation of my position to the House. It is true that my position involves a divided duty, because I must hold the scales equally between the parties, but I think it is significant that I as Member have not received any representation on the subject. I believe that the opposition which comes from my hon. Friends representing the Labour party is not confined to that party, it is only fair to state that, and there is certainly no petition and no proceedings in the law courts which could have been taken very easily. An injunction can be obtained at the last moment, and at the moment when a resolution was about to be come to, and there has been no application to the Court to restrain what is, if the hon. Member (Mr. Parker) is correct, a grossly irregular proceeding which the Court of Chancery will put an end to on hearing an application for an interim injunction. I think it would have been very desirable that the Bill should be sent before the Committee upstairs on an opposed petition, and I hope that course will now be taken. It is unfortunate that statements should be made in relation to an undertaking of this sort in the House itself where there is no opportunity of testing them. No doubt the chairman of the council against whom so many irregularities are alleged, would go into the witness-box before the Committee and an ample opportunity would be afforded to have the statements tested. My own view is that it will turn out that the facts are very different from what is suggested, and that really a bonâ fide attempt was made to ascertain the views of the district by means of this Referendum. Of course, I cannot challenge the statement that whole streets were omitted or anything of that sort. That is a matter which can be tested upstairs. Then there is this position. This council has no generating station—they have been taking electricity in bulk—and it will be necessary for them to build a generating station, to get a fresh loan and to undertake the risk which is always attendant upon a generating station and its machinery becoming obsolete, and there has been no attempt, as far as I know, throughout the district, although this has been a matter of controversy for months past, to take active steps to challenge what the council propose to do. Although I am in such a position that I prefer not to express any opinion at all on the merits of the proposed transfer, I am bound to say that a very large portion of the district is absolutely content to let the Bill go through.


I wish to say a word or two in reference to a remark of the hon. Member (Mr. Parker) in regard to the Marylebone electric light undertaking. I think the words he used were that there had been something like a public scandal in the Metropolitan Electric Company selling their undertaking to the Marylebone Borough Council for £1,250,000. Some of the inhabitants of Marylebone thought it rather an unfortunate purchase, but I am sure no one designated it as a public scandal. It was after a very long and exhaustive arbitration case that the £1,250,000 was awarded to the company for selling their undertaking. Marylebone was a good paying concern, and they were able to show the arbitrators that they were making a proper investment, because there was a return of something like £40,000 profit. Marylebone had no generating station when it paid the £1,250,000. It had to set up a generating station of its own, and, I believe, the total now amounts to something like £2,000,000. It is not of course, a very paying concern at present, but it is steadily improving, and we in Marylebone hope that the purchase, after all, will turn out the best. But with regard to the conditions at Acton they have no generating station, but they have a bargain for taking their supply in bulk from the Metropolitan Company at Willesden, and they are having very exceptional terms for the supply in bulk. The company is now charging the Acton Council less than they could do or can revert to under their agreement for supplying bulk. Just a word as to the question of profit. According to the statement I have in print, made by the Clerk of the Acton Council, the deficiency for the September quarter of 1909, after charging £1,220 for loans, instalment and interest, was £445. The deficiency for the September quarter of 1910, after charging £1,302 to loans, instalments and interest, making an adjustment on account of increased price charged for electricity during the September quarter of 1909, was £969. It is a steady and progressive loss, and surely, after Acton had taken a public vote on the subject and there was a general feeling among the consumers, because I have no doubt that the 4,000 who replied were mainly consumers, while those who did not reply were more or less disinterested, I think hon. Members might very well withdraw their objection and let this go to a Committee.


Ah appeal has been made to my hon. Friends who Moved and Seconded the Motion for the rejection, and we feel that we ought to make some response thereto. It is our intention to carry this matter to a Division. We feel that the exceptional circumstances surrounding this matter are such as should not warrant the House of Commons in giving this Provisional Order a Second Reading. First of all we must be impressed by the fact that the council were evenly divided on an important matter, and that it was only carried by the casting vote of the Chairman. My hon. Friend who seconded the Motion, also made it clear to my mind, at any rate, that the Referendum was decidedly unsatisfactory. A very small proportion voted, and the majority in favour of the proposal was very small. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Alfred Cripps) stated that the promoters of the Order do not intend to object to any interested person being heard before the Committee. Of course, he is not able to give us an assurance that the Standing Orders Committee of the House would sanction such a proceeding. Therefore, of course, the undertaking is not one of a very tangible kind. A further point which weighs with me is that the objecting element of the Urban District Council, that is the twelve who voted against this scheme going forward, are comparatively poor men. It is not in their power to take the necessary action to secure a full and dispassionate consideration of the matter. It has been demonstrated, I think, pretty clearly according to the information with which my hon. Friend has been supplied, that the experience of this municipal body is very closely akin to that of other municipal bodies who have initiated electricity undertakings. It very often happens that the first few years show a loss in working. But it seemed to me to be clearly proved that the corner has been turned, and that the council, if they are able to maintain their ownership of the concern, will be able ultimately to place it on a fair and economic footing, and to realise, in the interests of the ratepayers, some of that money which has been expended in the form of rates. For, after all, no one will induce the House to believe that this company is simply moved by philanthropic purposes, and that they are going to the rescue of the ratepayers because they desire to take the liability off their hands. Evidently this company consists of business men who are able to apprehend that the corporation has succeeded in bringing this undertaking to the point where it is now. Having regard to these facts, we are not at all satisfied with the observations or the undertakings which have been suggested, and we deem it to be necessary to go to a Division.


I want to ask the Government a question if the Amendment moved by a Member of the Labour party is to be pressed to a Division. I wish to know whether the pledge given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will be adhered to, because it is obvious that there is sufficient difference of opinion to make this an opposed Bill. It is quite obvious that part of the council and a large proportion of the ratepayers are opposed to it, and if it is sent to an Opposed Bill Committee they will be able to express their opinions in the usual way.


On behalf of the Chairman of Committees, I have to say, in reply to the hon. Member, that it is the intention to send this Bill to an Opposed Bill Committee.

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

The House divided: Ayes. 96; Noes, 81.

Division No. 23.] AYES. [9.20 p.m
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F. Goldman, C. S. Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Astor, Waldorf Goulding, Edward Alfred Pollock, Ernest Murray
Balcarres, Lord Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward Rawson, Col. Richard H.
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Gulland, John W. Rice, Hon. Walter Fitz-Uryan
Barlow Montague (Salford, South) Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Robinson, Sydney
Barnston, Harry Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Royds, Edmund
Barry, Redmond John (Tyrone, N.) Henry, Sir Charles S. Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)
Bathurst, Charles (Wilton) Hillier, Dr. Alfred Peter Salter, Arthur Clavell
Beck, Arthur Cecil Hills, John Waller Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich) Hoare, S. J. G. Sanders, Robert A.
Bigland, Alfred Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)
Bridgeman, W. Clive Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Brigg, Sir John Hunter, Sir Charles Roderick (Bath) Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Bull, Sir William James Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel Steel-Maitland, A. D.
Burn, Colonel C. R. Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh) Stewart, Gershom
Carlile, Edward Mildred Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)
Castlereagh, Viscount Kemp, Sir G. Swift, Rigby
Cautley, Henry Strother Knight, Capt. E. A. Talbot, Lord Edmund
Cave, George Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Tennant, Harold John
Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood) Maclean, Donald Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)
Clive, Percy Archer Magnus, Sir Philip Touche, George Alexander
Clough, William Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Clyde, J. Avon Molteno, Percy Alport Tullibardine, Marquess of
Corbett, A. Cameron Mooney, John J. Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Craik, Sir Henry Morpeth, Viscount Webb, H.
Cripps, Sir Charles Alfred Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton) Welgall, Capt. A. G.
Croft, Henry Page Munro, R. White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)
Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C. Whitley, John Henry
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers. Neville, Reginald J. N. Weimer, Viscount
Fell, Arthur Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A. Wood, Hen. E. F. L. (Ripon)
Forster, Henry William Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Gelder, Sir William Alfred Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir Banbury and Mr. Boyton. F.
Gibson, Sir James Puckering Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Addison, Dr. C. Higham, John Sharp Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)
Bottomley, Horatio John, Edward Thomas Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)
Bowerman, Charles W. Johnson, William Roche, John (Galway, E.)
Brace, William Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) St. Maur, Harold
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe) Sherwell, Arthur James
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.) Jowett, Frederick William Smith, Albert (Lanes., Clitheroe)
Byles, William Pollard Kilbride, Denis Stanley, Albert (Staffs., N. W.)
Cowan, W. H. Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Cullinan, John Lansbury, George Sutherland, J. E.
Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy) Marks, G. Croydon Sutton, John E.
Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth) Molloy, Michael Thomas, James Henry (Derby)
Delany, William Morrell, Philip Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Doris, W. Nolan, Joseph Toulmin, George
Duffy William J. O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Wardle, George J.
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) O'Dowd, John Watt, Henry A.
Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley) O'Shaughnessy, P. J. White, Sir George (Norfolk)
Edwards, Enoch (Hanley) Pickersgill, Edward Hare White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid) Pointer, Joseph Whitehouse, John Howard
France, Gerald Ashburner Power, Patrick Joseph Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
Furness, Stephen W. Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) Wiles, Thomas
Gill, Alfred Henry Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham) Wilkie, Alexander
Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Pringle, William M. R. Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) Radford, George Heynes Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Hackett, J. Raffan, Peter Wilson Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)
Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Rendall, Atheistan
Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Richards, Thomas TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Parker and Mr. Chiozza Money.
Hayward, Evan Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Roberts, George H. (Norwich)

Bill read a second time, and committed.