(1) The Electricity Commissioners may provisionally determine that any district in the United Kingdom shall be constituted a separate electricity district for the purposes of this Act, and in considering what areas are to be included in a, district, areas shall be grouped in such manner as may seem to the Commissioners most conducive to the efficiency and economy of the supply of electricity and to convenience of administration. Before finally determining the area, of any such district the Electricity Commissioners shall publish notice of their intention so to do and of the area proposed to be included in such district, and shall also give notice thereof to all local authorities and authorised undertakers any part of whose district or area of supply is proposed to be included in such district, and if any objection or representation be made on account of the inclusion in or the exclusion from the proposed district of any area the Electricity Commissioners shall hold a local inquiry with reference to the area to be included in the proposed district:
Provided that where a local inquiry is held as hereinafter provided regarding the improvement of the organisation for the supply of electricity in any district, the area of that district shall not be finally determined until after that inquiry has been held.
(2) Where it appears to the Electricity Commissioners with respect to any electricity district so provisionally determined that the existing organisation for the supply of electricity therein should be improved, the Commissioners shall give notice of their intention to hold a local inquiry into the matter, and shall give authorised undertakers, local authorities, railway companies using electricity for traction purposes, large consumers of electricity, and other associations or bodies within the district which appear to the Commissioners to be interested, an opportunity to submit, within such time as the Commissioners may allow, a scheme or schemes for effecting such improvement, including proposals for altering or adjusting the boundaries of the district and where necessary the formation of a joint electricity authority for the district.
(3) If no such scheme is submitted within the time so allowed, or if no scheme submitted is approved by the Commissioners, the Commissioners may themselves formulate such a scheme:
Provided that no scheme approved or formulated by the Commissioners shall provide for the transfer to the authority of any part of an undertaking other than the generating stations and main transmission lines except with the consent, of the owners thereof, and that unless otherwise agreed any transfer of such generating stations and main transmission lines shall be on the terms mentioned in Section seven of tins Act.
(6) A scheme under this Section may provide for the establishment of a joint electricity authority representative of authorised undertakers within the district, either with or without the addition of representatives of the council of any county situate wholly or partly within the district, other local authorities, large consumers of electricity, and other interests within the district, and, subject as hereinafter in this Act provided, for the exercise by that authority of all or any of the powers of the authorised under-
takers within the district, and for the transfer to the authority of the whole or any part of the undertakings of any of those undertakers, upon such terms as may be provided by the scheme, and for applying in relation to the joint electricity authority any of the provisions of this Act relating to district electricity boards (including the provisions as to borrowing, lending, and giving financial assistance by and to those boards), and the scheme may contain any consequential, incidental, and supplemental provisions which appear to be expedient or proper for the purpose of the scheme, including provisions dealing with any right of purchase of any undertakings affected by the scheme and provisions determining the area, included in the district.
(7) A scheme for the establishment of a district electricity board shall incorporate the board with power to hold land without licence in mortmain, and shall provide for the inclusion, as members of the board of representatives of local authorities, companies, and persons who are authorised undertakers within the district, of railway companies using or proposing to use electricity for traction purposes, of large consumers of electricity within the district, and of labour, and, where any councils (not being authorised undertakers) or the Electricity Commissioners agree to afford financial assistance to the board in manner provided by this Act, also of representatives of those councils or persons nominated by the Commissioners, and the members shall be appointed or elected in such manner, and shall hold office for such term, as may be provided by the Order.
The scheme may provide for enabling the board to delegate, with or without restrictions, to committees of the board any of the powers or duties of the board, and for the payment out of the revenues of the board of travelling and other expenses of members of the board (including compensation for loss of remunerative time).
(9) An Order made under this Section may be altered or revoked by a subsequent Order made, confirmed and approved in like manner as the original Order, and any such subsequent Order may provide for the dissolution of a joint electricity authority and the substitution therefor of a district electricity board.
§ Amendments made: In Sub-section (1), after the word "all" ["give notice thereof to all"], insert the words "county councils."
§ After the word "whose" ["any part of whose"], insert the word "county."
§ In Sub-section (2), after the word "undertakers" ["shall give authorised undertakers"], insert the words "county councils."
§ After the word "using" ["railway companies using"], insert the words "or proposing to use."
In Sub-section (3), leave out the words
Provided that no scheme approved or formulated by the Commissioners shall provide for the transfer to the authority of any part of an undertaking other than the generating stations and main transmission lines except with the consent of the owners thereof, and that unless otherwise
agreed any transfer of such generating stations and main transmission lines shall be on the terms mentioned in Section seven of this Act,
§ In Sub-section (6), after the word "establishment" ["provide for the establishment"], insert the words "and incorporation with power to hold land without licence in mortmain."—[Mr. Shortt.]
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
I beg to move, in Sub-section (6), after the word "district" ["undertakers within the district"], to insert the word "with."
My object is to include in the joint electricity authority the county council specifically by name. I have two other Amendments on the Paper immediately following which are consequential on this. This Subsection gives the right of representation on the joint electricity authority to any county council situated wholly or partly within the district, either with or without other local authorities. I move this on behalf of the County Councils' Association, who feel very deeply on this matter and who think it would be to the advantage of the proper working of the Bill when it becomes an Act if they are included in the authorities that are mentioned in this Sub-section as the joint electrical authority to be created.
§ Mr. SHORTT
As I understand the Amendment, its object is to ensure that the county council may have a representative on any joint electricity authority or any Electricity Board, but that any other undertakers or local authorities shall only have a chance of being represented. A scheme under this Section may provide for the establishment of a joint electricity authority, representative of authorised undertakers within the district, with the addition of representatives of the council of any county situate wholly or partly within the district, and either with or without other local authorities, large consumers of electricity, and other interests within the district. That is the way I read the three Amendments. If that does not mean what I say, I do not know what it does mean. It means that there shall certainly be representatives of the council of any county. A great county borough in that county might not have representation, because it is to be "with or without them." Take the county of Northumberland, about which I know something. There are large districts there which must, have representation, but this is to be "either with or with- 1257 out them." With or without great places like Newcastle or Wallsend! They are county boroughs, and the county council does not represent them in any way whatever. Take the case of Sheffield and other big centres. Sheffield or Leeds or Halifax, or any one of the big industrial centres in that county, are as much entitled to representation as of right, as the county council of the West Riding. I think the county council are perfectly properly treated if they have the same rights as other authorities—county borough councils and so on. I hope the hon. Member will not press the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Viscount ELVEDEN
I beg to move, after the words "authorities" ["other local authorities"], to insert the words "railway companies using or proposing to use electricity for traction purposes."
I move this on behalf of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). It is a drafting Amendment.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I do not think these words are necessary. One does not want to overload the measure with unnecessary words. If they are necessary we would accept them. The Sub-section says "with or without the addition of representatives of the council of any county situated wholly or partly in the district, other local authorities, large consumers of electricity, and other interests within the district." I should think that those words are clearly sufficient to include a railway using or proposing to use electricity for traction purposes. If you are dealing with generalities, as these are, and if you once specify one particular interest, it is always an argument that the others were intended to be excluded. That is the danger of putting words into an Act of Parliament which are unnecessary. It very often works hardship on other people. Unless the Mover of the Amendment can show me that the words in the Bill do not cover the point of his Amendment, I will ask him not to press it.
§ Amendment negatived.
Amendments made: At the end of Subsection (6), add the words
Provided that no such scheme shall provide for the transfer to the authority of any part of an undertaking other than a generating station or main transmission line except with the consent of the owners thereof and that unless otherwise agreed the price payable on the transfer of a generating station or main transmission line shall be the standard price hereinafter mentioned.
§ In Sub-section (7), after the word "of" ["representatives of"], insert the words "county councils of."—[Mr. Shortt.]
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
I beg to move, after the word "district" ["the district"], to insert the words "of the council of every county situate wholly or partly within the district."
These words are taken from the preceding Section, and might well come in here.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Bridge-man)
The hon. Member will see that the point is covered by the Amendment just moved by the Home Secretary.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment made: After the word "any" ["where any councils"], insert the words "borough or district.—[Mr. Shortt.]
Mr. T. THOMSON
I beg to move, after the word "Order" ["provided by the Order"], to insert the words "always provided that the representatives of the local authorities shall form a majority of the Board."
This Amendment raises probably one of the most important questions which this House will have to decide, because it is a question as to whether these new district boards which are to be set up are to be popularly elected, under democratic control, or whether they may be merely close co-operations, dominated by vested and private interests. It is a clear-cut issue as to whether you are to have on these boards the public interests or the private interests dominating. Under this Bill, when the District Electricity Commissioners have mapped out their districts, and where a joint electricity authority is not established, they will establish these district boards, and in these district boards will be vested the generating stations and the main transmission lines in that area. They will be compulsorily transferred and vested in these boards. It is of the utmost importance that on these boards, charged with such an important duty, there should be a majority of those who are popularly elected and representing public interests. We have heard of national service and public duty. These boards have monopoly rights and special privileges granted to them. They are financed with public money and they should be controlled in the public interest. 1259 It has been suggested, when this or a similar proposal was resisted in Committee, that you should have no hard and fast rule in a matter of this sort. It is desirable in a case like this that we should have a hard and fast rule, established to the effect that these boards should be democratically controlled. We are asking for nothing new. The majority of the electricity undertakings throughout the country, as set forth by the Williamson Report, are now in the hands of local authorities and are under public control. There were altogether in 1916, 557 various undertakers, and of these 230 were in the hands of private companies, representing £36,000,000 of capital, and 327 were in the hands of local authorities, representing £55,000.000 of capital. Therefore you have by far the bigger proportion of the electrical undertakings of this country already under popular control and democratically managed. On the figures and returns given to the Board of Trade the service that these popularly elected and controlled undertakings are giving is as efficient and as cheap as any given by any other undertaking. Therefore it is not a question of asking for anything new that these undertakings should be in the hands of popularly controlled bodies, but rather the principle of the Bill as it now stands is most reactionary. You are taking it-out of the hands of the authorities which are democratically controlled and it may be put into the hands of the new boards which the Bill is setting up on which there may be a majority of private and other interests.
In these days one ought not to have to apologise for asking the House to maintain democratic control in matters of public service. Where public money is expended, where monopoly rights are enjoyed and public duties are enjoined, you should have popular control. It has been said, and will be said again, that you have the control of this House exercised through the Board of Trade. But hon. Members know from their practical experience that such control is more in the imagination than in reality. This House exercises no effective control through the Board of Trade on boards which may be established up and down the country. Moreover, in so far as you have control through the Board of Trade, or the Ministry of Transport, which is probably one stage worse than we were before, you have it over private power 1260 companies and various private undertakings, and such control as is required in their case is not sufficient. We require more control when public money has been spent. Therefore it is essential that this new scheme which we are establishing should be in the hands of a body that has a majority of popular representatives. It may be said, "Take a district where you had a majority of private undertakings and where a district board is set up. Are you going to suggest that on that district board you shall also have a majority of popular representatives?" It should be so, but it is not suggested that local authorities who are now undertakers should be represented on the new boards. I do not put that forward for a moment. The local authority which has been the undertaker has been bought out. It has been paid for its undertakings and it has no longer any claim to control. But it is the larger principle that where public money is expended, where a monopoly right is given, and where public duties are enjoined, it should be in the hands of a popularly-elected board, not became the undertaker was previously the local authority or a private company that these private companies or these localities have any claim to representation. They have been bought out by the Bill, and their claims have been satisfied, and it is as if you were starting anew; and if you were starting anew to establish electrical undertakings with public money and monopoly rights, they should all be established on a broad, democratic basis of popular control.
We are all anxious that the Bill should be a success, and if it is to be a success you want to have the confidence of the public and of the various undertakings behind it, and you will get public confidence infinitely more if you admit this democratic principle and it is not felt that public-money is being expended and handed over to a board upon which vested interests may possibly have a majority. It has been, said by enemies of the House—I do not think correctly—that this is a capitalist Parliament; more concerned with private interests than with the public weal. I appeal to the Government to demonstrate that there is no truth in that assertion by accepting an Amendment to establish the right that these district boards, charged with a public duty, taking over controls which have been paid for by public money, should be controlled, so far as the majority of the representatives are concerned, by 1261 those who represent the public in one form or another. It is not suggested that every undertaker should be represented, but by means of electoral colleges, as was foreshadowed in the Williamson Report, you should have a measure of public control of what is a public undertaking.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
I beg to second the Amendment.
It seems to me that this strikes at the root of the whole matter. If this scheme is to be a success it requires to secure the confidence of those who are served in the various areas. In no way can that be better secured than by seeing that on every board there is not merely a represntation of the various local authorities, but that those representatives form a majority. We submitted this proposal upstairs, and it was resisted, to the best of my recollection not with great strength or vigour. I think the right hon. Gentleman would be wise to make a concession. We are not wedded to particular phraseology, and if we could be met on the principle, I am quite sure my hon. Friend would be quite pleased to accept any other form of words carrying out the idea which the right hon. Gentleman might suggest.
§ Mr. SHORTT
My hon. Friend is perfectly right. I did not oppose this with very great vigour, because no great vigour was necessary. Upstairs, as is the case here to-night, my hon. Friend (Mr. Thomson) really answered himself. It is true he began his answer by saying, "No doubt I shall be told," but having told us what he was going to be told, he answered himself completely, and there was nothing left for me to say. The effect of this would be to tie the hands of the Commissioners and of local people in forming the joint electricity authority. In some cases it might lead to an added confidence that there should be a majority of representatives of local authorities; in other cases it might not. There may be cases where the local authorities have taken very little interest and have not been themselves undertakers or large purchasers; and if they were not to have the advantage of having those who were intimately connected with electricity, whose whole existence was bound up with it, there might not be the same confidence. The whole principle upon which the structure is built is that there should be a perfectly free hand, each district should be settled by its own circumstances, and those who set up the district authority should have their hands tied as little as 1262 possible They do not depend entirely in this matter on the supervision of the Ministry of Transport. A district electricity board is set up by an Order, and the kind of Order which is necessary under this Clause is one which requires to be laid on the Table of the House and requires an affirmative Resolution before it comes into operation. Therefore no Order can come into existence or operation until it has been before this House. Therefore it is not a question of the responsibility to Parliament of the Minister of Transport, but the House has full control of the scheme set up, and if it thinks that insufficient representation is given to anyone the matter can be raised on the floor of the House and possibly beaten on the floor of the House. Therefore I hope the House will take the same view as the Committee upstairs.
§ Mr. NEAL
I am extremely sorry that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough has proposed this Amendment. If one had heard his speech only, and had not known the contents of the Bill, one would have been convinced, but the smallest examination of the contents of the Bill disposes of all his arguments. I cannot imagine a more democratic scheme than that which is now set up. By Clause 5 of the Bill, before a governing authority of the district is constituted, first there has to be a local inquiry at which everyone concerned is to be heard; second, there is an opportunity given for agreement between the various undertakers in the district to form a joint Electricity Board under a scheme of their own with the approval of the Ministry of Transport. If they fail to do that then you come as a last resort to the district board, and on that district-board there is specific provision for the inclusion as members of the board of representatives of local authorities, companies, and persons who are authorised under it. If you consider the various districts into which England may be mapped out, you find some districts wholly municipally supplied. Obviously, to introduce there any private interest would be a fault.
But you get some districts where they are wholly supplied by authorised undertakers other than municipalities. The proposal is that those districts which have not got municipal interests in them now, municipalites which have never established a single station or undertaking, are necessarily to be controlled by the majority of representatives of local authorities who have had no experience whatever in the 1263 development and management of electricity. At present they are to have representation on it as representing the public; they may even get a majority under the scheme, but to say that they must have a majority is altogether wrong There is no ground at all for saying that in a case of this description we are violating the principle of spending public money by people who are not under public control. The fact is that the great weakness of the Bill is that there is no public money in it. When we come to another stage of the Bill I hope to say a few words on that aspect. Meantime I trust that the hon. Member will not press the Amendment.
We have just heard a very interesting speech from the hon. Member for Hillsborough. There is no man in this House who has more facility for putting a case in an attractive and convincing way, but on this occasion he has missed the real point of the Amendment. The issue raised is really a very much larger issue than that which has been dealt with by the hon. and learned Member. The position which my hon. Friend puts forward, and which I support, aims at securing that this great service shall be regarded as a public service, to be under public control and shall not be looked on in any sense as a field devoted to the play of private interests. That view is in accord with the view that has been held by this House and the country for a considerable time. With the exception of the power companies the whole of the electric service of this country is carried on under Provisional Orders, based upon the Electric Lighting Acts of 1882 and 1888. When these Acts were passed it was clearly contemplated that the time would come, and at no distant date, when the services under private control should become a public service under public control. The Act of 1882 provided that at the end of a period of twenty-one years local authorities might have the right to purchase. That was found not to be long enough, and later on it was extended to forty-two years. All over the country there has been an expectation, a proper expectation on the part of local authorities that at the expiration of that period they would come into control of this service. As regards most of the country, that period is rapidly approaching. Within from seven to ten years most of the Orders will have expired, and local authorities throughout the 1264 country in the vast majority of cases were anxious, and rightly anxious, to come into possession of these undertakings.
Now Parliament has intervened, correctly I think and with good reason, and is taking a course which is going to defeat that expectation. The supply and control of electricity in the bulk is no longer going to be a matter for the local authorities in their respective areas. The opinion of the Government is that the local authorities cannot remain in their respective areas in charge of this great service. We think that this occasion should not be used by the Government for defeating the legitimate expectation on the part of the local authorities, and that those authorities should not be placed in the position of seeing, not only those undertakings which they hoped to acquire, but undertakings which they have now in their possession, taken out of their hands and placed under the control of boards which may have upon them preponderating private interests. That is retrograde action. If the Government had pursued the right policy they would boldly have set up these boards as district or provincial boards under public control, spending public money and providing a public service. It has been impossible in Committee to get that. What we are trying to secure now is that, while from these boards there shall not be excluded altogether persons having private interests in the distribution of electricity, yet at least the majority of the membership, and ultimately, if need be, the control of these boards shall be in the hands of the public acting through the local authorities. It does not interfere with the administration of the service. It has been suggested by the hon. Member for Hills-borough (Mr. Neal) that the effect of this Bill in some parts of the country would be to place upon the board people who have no experience at all in managing a concern of this sort. We have had an illustration in this House to-day of a Minister placed in charge of the whole electrical undertaking who confessed at the Table, freely and unreservedly, that he was not able to enter into a technical controversy on the Bill. But I do not think any Member of the House would suggest for a moment that the fact, that the Minister has not this technical knowledge is a disqualification for the important position he holds. It is perfectly well known that for technical knowledge and business administration these boards depend very largely upon their technical and commer- 1265 cial staffs. What we need to secure is not men with actual technical knowledge of the industry, but men of sound common sense in the administration of affairs, and men who have the public interest at heart. That we believe is best secured—we do not say perfectly secured—through the local authorities. Our proposal is
§ moderate; it is in keeping with the times; and it will ensure that this great public service shall be really under public control.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 54; Noes, 153.1267
|Division No. 134.]||AYES.||[8.53 p.m.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Guest, J. (Hemsworth, York)||Royce, William stapleton|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hartshorn, V.||Sitch, C. H.|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Hayday, A.||Smith, W. (Wellingborough)|
|Bromfield, W.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Spencer, George A.|
|Cairns, John||Hirst, G. H.||Surtees, Brig.-General H. C.|
|Cape, Tom||Irving, Dan||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Jephcott, A. R.||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Kenyon, Barnet||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|clynes, Rt. Hon John R.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Thorne, G. R (Wolverhampton)|
|Cood, Sir Cyrn||Lunn, William||Thorne, Colonel w. (Plaistow)|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Martin, A. E.||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||O'Connor, T. P.||Wignall, James|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Remer, J. B.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.— Mr.|
|Gray, Major E.||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)||T. Thomson and Mr. Raffan.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Robertson, J.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Murray, John (Leeds, w.)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Goff, Sir R. Park||Murray, William (Dumfries)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gould, J. C.||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Greame, Major P. Lioyd||Neal, Arthur|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)|
|Bell, Lt.-Col. w. c. H. (Devizes)||Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Betterton, H. B.||Gregory, Holman||Oman, C. W. C.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Griggs, Sir Peter||Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (Leic., Loughboro')||Pearce, Sir William|
|Bird, Alfred||Hacking, Colonel D. H.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Hall, Lt.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||Perring, William George|
|Borwick, Major G, O.||Henderson, Maj. V. L. (Tradeston, Glas)||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Herbert, Denniss (Hertford)||Pownall, Lt.-Colonel Assheton|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hilder, Lieut-Colonel- F.||Pratt, John William|
|Bruton, Sir J.||Hood, Joseph||Preston, W. R.|
|Buckley, Lt.-Colonel A.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Bull, Right Hon. Sir William James||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Purchase, H. G.|
|Burdon, Cot. Rowland||Hudson, R. M.||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Rankin, Capt. James S.|
|Carr, W. T.||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Chadwick, R. Burton||Hurd, P. A.||Renwlck, G.|
|Colvin, Brig.-General R. B.||Hurst, Major G. B.||Richardson, Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Coote, Colin R. (Isle of Ely)||Inskip, T. W. H.||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Cory, Sir James Herbert (Cardiff)||Jesson, C.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Curzon, Commander Viscount||Jodrell, N. P.||Royden, Sir Thomas|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Johnson, L. S.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur|
|Davies, Sir D. S. (Denbigh)||Kerr-Smiley, Major P.||Sassoon, Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Davies, T. (Cirencester)||King, Commander Douglas||Seager, Sir William|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Knights, Captain H.||Seddon, James|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Dean, Com. P. T.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T., W.)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Lewis, T. A. (pontypridd, Glam.)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Edge, Captain William||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Elliot, Captain W. E. (Lanark)||Lioyd, George Butler||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
|Elveden, Viscount||Lorden, John William||Sturrock, J. Leng-|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.|
|Falcon, Captain M.||Lynn, R. J.||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||M'Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (M'yhl)|
|Forrest, W.||Macquisten, F. A.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Foxcroft, Captain C.||Magnus, Sir Philip||Wallace, J.|
|Gange, E. S.||Mason, Robert||Ward. Col. J. (Stoke, Trent)|
|Ganzoni, Captain F. C.||Matthews, David||Ward, Colonel L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke)||Mitchell, William Lane||Wardie, George J.|
|Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Cambridge)||Moles, Thomas||Waring, Major Walter|
|White, Colonel G. D. (Southport)||Winterton, Major Earl||Young, Lt.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Whitla, Sir William||Worsfold, T. Cata|
|Wild, Sir Ernest Edward||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord E.|
|Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)||Talbot and Mr. J. Parker|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I beg to move, in Sub-section (7), to leave out the word "other" ["and other expenses"], and to insert instead thereof the word "subsistence."
I must apologise for moving any Amendments, as I was not a member of the Committee, but I look upon this from the point of view of controlling expenditure, and I feel it is very necessary to put some limit on the expenses which are going to be allowed to the members of the district boards. When the Ministry of Health Bill was first introduced it contained a provision that the consultative councils should be paid travelling and other expenses, but the Committee upstairs, without a Division, insisted that the expenses should be restricted to travelling and subsistence allowance and to reasonable compensation for loss of remunerative time. That provision is contained in Section 6, Sub-section (3), of the Ministry of Health Act. I think that is a very good precedent. What other expenses besides travelling and subsistence and compensation for loss of remunerative time can be contemplated? The word "other" is too wide, and might mean, for instance, clothing or any other kind of expenses.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I hope the Government will not accept this Amendment, as it will mean that working-class members of these bodies will not be able to be paid for time lost.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
That is not so, because that would be covered by the words "including compenstion for loss of remunerative time."
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
My only objection to the Amendment is that it ought to have a subsequent Amendment making the last line read "including reasonable compensation for loss of remunerative time." If you put in "subsistence" without that, it would be inconsistent, but if you add those words I shall have no objection.
§ Amendment agreed to.1268
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I beg to move, in Sub-section (7), after the word "board" ["expenses of members of the board"], to leave out the word "including," and to insert instead thereof the words "and reasonable."
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Do I understand: that compensation for loss of remunerative time is to be the same whatever the employment of the man may be, or is it to vary according to whether a man is a labourer, or an engineer, or a capitalist? I think we are throwing ourselves open to considerable differentiation, which might cause much heartburning, and I should prefer to see an all-round payment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (7), to-insert the words, "Provided that the scale-of any such payments shall have received the approval of the Minister of Transport."
I shall be glad if the Government will accept this, but I shall not press it.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I do not think this is necessary. They will receive the approval of the Electricity Commissioners, and I think that is quite sufficient.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
I beg lo move, in Subsection (9), to leave out the words "or revoked."
I should like to call attention at the same time to the next Amendment in my name, which is to leave out the wordsand any such subsequent Order may provide for the dissolution of a joint electricity authority and the substitution therefor of a district electricity board.The object I have in moving this may be very briefly explained. The point is that any Order made by the authorities should be subject to alteration, but that it shall not be possible to dissolve a joint authority and to set up a district board in its place. I think the majority of the Members present are familiar with the proceedings upstairs, and they, at any rate, will remember, and the members of the Government will remember, that the great alteration which was made in this Bill in Committee was to alter the balance between the district board and the joint electricity authority. As the Bill left this House after 1269 the Second Reading, the substantive authority which was to be set up was the district board, but by the concurrence of all parties, and not least by the active concurrence of the Government itself, while we were upstairs, the balance of the Bill was so far altered that the district board receded relatively into the background and the joint authority came into the foreground. I appeal to the hon. Members present to say if that was not the great alteration made in the Bill upstairs. If a joint authority is set up, the authorised undertakers included in that joint authority may have to transfer their generating stations to the authority so set up. They will have to work their undertakings in some joint or co-operative way and will have all the conditions of their business so altered by joint working that they will lose in greater or less measure their separate identities, and it will be impossible after a few years to say what is the separate undertaking of each. Now let us suppose that an Order is made revoking the original Order, dissolving a joint authority, and setting up in its place a district board. What then will be the position of the separate undertakers who have been merged in that authority? I submit that the position of those undertakers will be exceedingly difficult, and I ask the House to observe what will happen. They would already have parted with their generating stations, with their main transmission lines, and so on, to the joint authority, so that when the district board is set up and stations vest in the district board the separate undertakers cannot exercise the option which is given to them under Clause 12 of this Bill to surrender the undertakings. That is really the pith and the point of this Amendment. When this operation has taken place, it will be impracticable to do what the Bill contemplates should be done. It will be impracticable to reestablish the conditions existing before the authority was set up.
Allow me to put this point to the House and the Government. If this possibility of revocation is retained in the Bill, it will be very difficult to get authorised undertakers to unite in the formation of joint authorities. Does the Government want that to take place or not? By the whole presupposition of your Bill you do want it. You want to do everything in your power to bring these people, in a friendly co-operative way, to unite in joint authorities. That is the object of your 1270 Bill. Your Bill will not work if you do not get it. I say that, unless my Amendment be accepted, it will be very difficult—it will be almost impossible—to get these authorised undertakers to unite in the formation of joint authorities, for two reasons. In the first place, because they have no security that the arrangement made will be allowed to continue for any definite time or term of years; and, in the-second place, because if the arrangements made are upset, or are to be upset, by revocation—that is the point of my Amendment—and dissolution, they will have no stations to sell under Clause 7, and they will have no opportunity of selling the remainder of their undertaking under Clause 12, Sub-section (4). What will be the result? They will be worse off than if they had a district board formed at the outset.
The whole point of the Amendments carried upstairs is to say that they shall be in a better position than that. But, unless the Government and the House are willing to accept the Amendment which I am now proposing, the whole presupposition of this Bill will be upset, and, although it may appear a point of minor importance, really the point is a vital one to the whole structure of the Bill. The uncertainty of the danger introduced by Sub-section (9) as it stands at present will, I submit, be so great as to form a very powerful discouragement to the organisation of these very joint authorities which you desire to set up, and will go a very long way to defeat the intentions of the Government and the intentions of the Standing Committee in altering this Clause so as to permit of the formation of joint, authorities. Yet there is not a Member of this House who has followed the Bill or a member of the Committee upstairs, I venture to say, who does not agree, and the Government themselves agree, that the formation of these joint authorities is one of the great improvements introduced in the Bill. It is, of course, admitted that experience may show that an original Order may in course of time need alteration. It is not against alteration that I am arguing this Amendment. I fully admit that as time goes on, as the working of these schemes is developed, as you gain experience, that experience may demonstrate that an original Order does need alteration. We are not out against that at all. Some members of a newly-constituted authority may be obstructive—I will not say it is likely—or they may 1271 be quarrelsome or even apathetic. They may not have followed this Bill more closely than some members of the Government have followed it, and it may be necessary to vary the relative weight of representation of the different interests on the joint authority. I recognise that danger, and therefore, as I am whole-heartedly and fundamentally in favour of the general principle of this Bill, I say that I have no objection at all to your altering these matters, but the Sub-section as I propose to amend it leaves the power of alteration. This, I venture to submit, will give the Commissioners all the power they need to call to order any negligent authority or any undertakers forming part of a joint authority. I hope the Amendment, which I have now the honour to commend to the House, may receive the very favourable attention of the Government.
Sir F. HALL
I beg to second the Amendment.
I think my hon. Friend has put the matter exceedingly clearly before the House. I can quite understand that, arrangement having been made for joint authorities, it would be of great Advantage, but if, for instance, there is going to be hanging over the heads of these joint authorities the possibility in two, three, or four or five years' time that that may be revoked, and the local electricity board take it over, then I do not think the desires that have been put forward are likely to be carried out. It was advocated very strongly upstairs that these joint authorities should have a fair chance of success. It was a proposition of the Government that there should be these joint authorities. Now on the one hand they say, "You may make your partnership arrangements, set your house in order and start along properly," and, on the other hand they say, "But be careful, because perhaps in a few years' time we shall revoke the authority we have given." Does a man in the ordinary course enter into a business if he thinks that after he has started and has got into deep water there is a clause in the agreement by which the business can be summarily finished? I cannot think that the Government are going to oppose this Amendment. It is against all common business principles to expect that these undertakings are going to dispose of the properties they have today, cut off their generating stations and then have these things taken over from the 1272 joint electricity authority and thrown into a district electricity board. What would they have to dispose of afterwards? Nothing. If their generating stations and main transmission lines are taken, all that is left is débris. What will be given for a part of an undertaking which cannot be worked? If the Government do net accept this Amendment I trust my hon. Friend will press it to a Division, and if he does so, I shall certainly support him.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I think there is some amount of substance in the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Oxford. At the same time I feel great difficulty in will agree not to move his second Amendments as they stand together.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
If my hon. Friend will agree not to move his second Amendment and will confine it to leaving out the words "or revoked," the Government would be prepared to agree to that, but we could not agree to the two Amendments making it impossible ever to supplant a joint authority that had not been doing its duty.
§ Sir KINGSLEY WOOD
Will the hon. Gentleman say what course the Government propose to take with regard to the second Amendment? There is a certain amount of substance in it. I contend that the Commissioners already have power to deal with this matter without the matter being taken further. What does the hon. Gentleman propose to do?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I propose to the hon. Member for Oxford that he should accept our agreement on the first Amendment and not move the second.
Sir F. HALL
I hope that the hon. Member for Oxford will insist on his first Amendment and will then let us have a discussion on the other point. I am not prepared to accept the decision of the Government. We might be able to come to some arrangement afterwards with regard to the second Amendment.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
There are two separate Amendments. We had better deal with the first and then come to the second.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I do not think we are agreed on the first Amendment. If the second part is not accepted, I hope the Government will stand to the words "or revoked," otherwise they whittle down enormously their powers under the Bill.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
Yes, Sir. I beg to move, in Sub-section (9), to leave out the words "and any such subsequent Order may provide for the dissolution of a joint electricity authority and the substitution therefor of a district electricity board."
I feel bound simply to move the second Amendment.
Sir F. HALL
I hope that the hon. Gentleman who represents the Government, if he cannot accept this Amendment as it stands will suggest amended words which he can accept. The Government say they will not revoke the Order, but that at some subsequent time they should have the opportunity of coming in and dissolving the joint electricity authority and substituting for it a district electricity board. The Amendment we have just agreed to is of little or no use by itself. What does it mean if you say you will not revoke an Order, but that at some later date you reserve to yourselves the right of putting these people in a position which was not anticipated at the time they entered into a joint electricity scheme? That is exactly the position. The Government want these joint authorities, and said so upstairs. There has been no difference of opinion on that point. For goodness sake, if you want to assist them, do not put the brake on them directly. Do not say that the horses are to go full speed ahead—I believe the Minister of Transport is going to send everything full speed ahead—and then say, "Now we are going to put the brake on and stop you." That is what will happen if these words are left in.
Those who have not followed the details of the proceedings on this Bill in the Committee are a little muddled in regard to this matter. What I am not quite clear about from the speeches which were made on the last Amendment or from the answer given from the Treasury Bench is this: It is quite clear to the House that the Government 1274 could not give to a joint electricity authority carte blanche for ever, I strongly support the idea of joint electricity authorities, because I feel that State interference ought to come in as a last resort. Supposing a joint electricity authority is-inefficient, are the people who have gone into that joint electricity authority in any worse position if, at a subsequent date, they are converted into a district electricity board? Some people say that they will not be able to take advantage of Clause 12. If that is so, surely they ought to be put in the same position and to have the same rights at the date when the joint electricity authority is converted into a district electricity board as they would have in the first instance where there is a conversion of a number of companies into a district electricity board. If the hon. Gentleman could assure us that there is no distinction, or that the position will be properly safeguarded, that would meet the general sense of the House.
§ Mr. NEAL
Perhaps I may say to my hon. Friends around me that their fears in this matter are not really so serious as they appear to them. Under the joint electricity authority there need be no transfer of property at all from the original undertakers. That is the fundamental difference between the joint electricity authority and the district board. The first opportunity which is given to the undertakers in this Bill is to become co-operators under the scheme. That scheme may provide for the transfer, on terms, of the power station involved and the main transmission lines. If it does so provide, then it follows on that that the terms under which the generating stations and the main transmission lines are taken over will have been mutually agreed between the parties, and they will be content, as one may assume, with the bargain made. It is not to be assumed that the Government would force upon them a scheme which they were not willing to adopt. Therefore you can look at the matter from two points of view—If I may presume to answer the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last. Either the undertaker is still in possession of his power station and his main transmission lines, in which case he has the whole of his undertaking which may be transferred to the district board, or he has already sold his interest in his power station and main transmission lines to the joint electricity authority, in which case he has no ground for complaint.
1275 Under what conditions and circumstances can the powers which the Government seek in this Clause come to be operative and effective? The joint electricity board might itself desire a dissolution of the partnership. It may very well turn out that experience dictated that the very persons who had been quite content to join in the joint electricity authority might themselves ultimately come to the Electricity Commissioners and say, having regard to all the circumstances, we think we made a mistake; the best thing that can be done for our district is to put an end to the joint electricity board and have a different régime. If you take these words out, as is proposed by this Amendment, that could not be done even by consent. Under what circumstances would the Electricity Commissioners be likely to interfere with the joint electricity authority that once was established? Of course, if it turned out that the joint electricity authority felt that they had a plain duty imposed upon them by Statute, and the scheme, then, everyone in the House will agree that they should be superseded. Assume the other side of the question: that they are working out their business in a way intended for the national production—national, perhaps, is too large a word—but for enlarged production of electricity for the district. If they are carrying on their business, under terms, it is impossible to conceive that the Commissioners would wish arbitrarily to interfere with them,
Suppose the Commissioners were so foolish as to desire to upset the existing state of things which was being worked smoothly and naturally in the district, what machinery would they have to bring into play? They must go back over the whole of the tracks which they had to travel in setting up the joint electricity authority. They must hold their local inquiry. Everybody interested would have the chance of being heard. They must then propound a new scheme, or an alteration of the old scheme. They must then submit that to the Minister of Transport. The latter must assent, and must be responsible, on his authority as Minister, for bringing it to Parliament. There must be an affirmative vote of both Houses before it takes effect. Is there any bogey that we need be afraid of?
§ Mr. G. BALFOUR
It does not very much matter whether this Amendment is 1276 accepted or not. Probably in Clause 28 there are ample powers allowing the Commissioners to give effect to the purposes they seek to give effect to by retaining in the Sub-section the power of revocation. I think, perhaps, if the Parliamentary Secretary would refer to the powers in Clause 28 he would then feel that he is running no risk in limiting the powers of the Electricity Commissioners by accepting an Amendment of that part of the Clause.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I think the points have been perfectly answered by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough. My hon. Friend is perfectly alive to the situation.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
I am a little doubtful on this point. I am bound to say, as it appears to me, my second Amendment was really consequential on my first. The Government has met us very handsomely in this matter, and I would desire to acknowledge it to the Under-Secretary. But I should like, before this matter is finally disposed of, if he would be good enough to say how my second Amendment falls short of being consequential to my first?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I thought I pointed out that if these words are left out we should have no opportunity or power for getting an inefficient electricity authority out of the way. That is why we want, these words in.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
The point that has been put, and which I have endeavoured to help to solve by the words I used a few, moments ago, might, perhaps, between now and this Bill going to another place, be considered. If these words were left out, as suggested in the Amendment, is not the position fully covered in Clause 28?
§ Amendment negatived.
Sir F. HALL
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (9), to add the words, "if so desired by the joint electricity authority or they neglect to carry out their obligations satisfactorily."
Two objections have been raised. If the joint authority does not carry out its work satisfactorily, or if it is negligent in regard to its obligations, certainly it ought to be done away with. On the other hand it is quite within the range of possibility that some of these joint electricity authorities may wish to dissolve themselves, and if they had these words in the Clause the 1277 objections on both those scores would be met. I cannot see any reason for declining to accept this Amendment.
I beg to second this Amendment. We want these joint authorities to come into existence, and I think there ought to be some assurance that they will not be superseded if they do their duty.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I cannot imagine any circumstances which would lead to such a change as thin except those mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend. I do not really think that these words are necessary, and I do not think that the Electricity Commissioners will exercise any unfair powers.
Sir F. HALL
My Amendment is only to get over the two objections that have been raised, and I hope it will be accepted.
§ Amendment negatived.