(1) It shall be lawful for the Board of Trade, after consultation with the Electricity Commissioners, at any time before the establishment of a district electricity board or joint electricity authority for any district, and for two years after the establishment of any such board or authority, with the consent of such board or authority, to construct any generating station, main transmission line, or other works, and exercise any other powers which a district electricity board or joint electricity authority can or can be authorised to exercise under this Act, but nothing in this provision shall be construed as vesting in the Board of Trade any generating station or main transmission line which under this Act becomes vested in a district electricity board.
(2) The Treasury may issue to the Board of Trade out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, or the growing produce thereof, any sums not exceeding in the aggregate twenty million pounds, required for the construction of any such works or the acquisition of land for that purpose, or required for providing working capital for such works, on such terms and conditions as to interest, repayment, and otherwise as the Treasury may think fit.
The Treasury may, if they think fi[...], at any time for the purpose of providing for the issue of sums out of the Consolidated Find under this Section or for the repayment to that fund of all or any part of the sums so issued, or for the paying off of any security so issued under this Sub-section so far as that payment is not otherwise provided for, borrow money by means 1703 of the issue of Exchequer Bonds, and all sums so borrowed shall be paid into the Exchequer.
Any sums received on account of the payment of principal of interest en the advance made to the Board of Trade shall be paid into the Exchequer, but any part of sums so paid which represents the repayment of principal shall be transferred to the National Debt Commissioners and applied by them as and when they think fit in purchasing or paying off as any occasion requires any securities issued under this Subsection, and sums so applied shall be invested and accumulated by the Commissioners.
The principal of and interest on any Exchequer Bonds issued under this Sub-section shall be charged on and payable out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom or the growing produce thereof.
(3) At the expiration of two years after the establishment of a district electricity board or joint electricity authority for any district, or at any earlier time which may be agreed on between the Board of Trade and the district electricity board or joint electricity authority, any generating station, main transmission lines and other works, and any land acquired for the purpose thereof by the Board of Trade under this Section which are situate within the electricity district, shall vest in that board or authority, subject to the payment by the district electricity board or joint electricity authority to the Board of Trade of such sum as may be certified by the Treasury to be sufficient to repay the advances made by them to the Board of Trade (including the cost of redeeming any of the securities issued under the preceding Sub-section) in respect of the construction of and provision of working capital for such works, and the acquisition of such lands, and any interest thereon which may be outstanding, after deducting the amount applied or applicable towards the repayment of the sums issued to the Board of Trade, for defraying that cost; and the payment of such sum as aforesaid shall be a purpose for which the district electricity board may borrow under this Act.
(4) The prices fixed by the Board of Trade for electricity supplied by them from generating stations established under this Section, shall be such that their receipts therefrom will be sufficient to cover their expenditure on income account (including interest and sinking fund charges in respect of such advances as aforesaid) with such margin as the Board may think fit:
Provided that in fixing such prices the Board of Trade shall have regard to the existing scale of charges of the authorised distributors in the district, and that the provisions of Sub-section (5) of the Section of this Act, whereof the marginal note is "Acquisition of generating stations," shall extend and apply to the Board of Trade in the same manner and to the same extent as such provisions apply to a district electricity board.
§ Mr. G. BALFOUR
I beg to move, at the beginning of Sub-section (l), to insert the words,In the event of it appearing to the Electricity Commissioners in manner provided by the Section of this Act, the marginal note of which is 'Constitution of district electricity boards,' that no satisfactory scheme can be formulated for any electricity district other than that of constituting a district electricity board for that district.1704 Later I have an Amendment to an Amendment which stands in the name of the Home Secretary, and it may be convenient to the House if I say most of what I have to say relating to the subsequent Amendment at this stage. The words in Clause 5, Sub-section (4) are almost identical, if not in words in substance, with the Amendment which I have put on the Paper, the sole purpose of which is to prevent the erection of a generating station by the Board of Trade prior to the constitution of any regular authority. In Committee upstairs Clause 5 was originally presented in a totally different form to that in which it now stands in the Bill. As Clause 5 originally stood, Clause 19 was quite inoffensive. Owing, however, to Amendments in Clause 5, there has been a great change, which, instead of directly setting up district electricity boards provides, firstly, for the delimitation of areas, and secondly, for the constitution, voluntarily, of joint electricity authorities, and only in the last resort for the constitution of district electricity boards. That great change having been made, in Clause 19, I think, requires this Amendment to give effect to the original objects of the Bill.
If the Home Secretary is prepared to accept my Amendment to his subsequent Amendment, I will not proceed further with my present Amendment I see the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Therefore, perhaps I may go on to call attention to something which was said by the Home Secretary when speaking in Committee upstairs on an Amendment which was, I think, proposed by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Thomson). That Amendment was to give effect to very much the same idea expressed in the Amendment before us now. Speaking on that Amendment the Home Secretary concluded his remarks by saying,I am willing to put forward a proviso to say what I thought nobody doubted—that an inquiry under Sub-section (2) of Clause 5 will be held.In the Amendment which stands on the Order Paper in the name of the Home Secretary there is a colourable imitation to that effect as to Sub-section (2) of Clause 5, but it certainly does not give effect to what he said. My Amendment simply imposes upon the Board of Trade the obligation that there shall first be an inquiry held under the terms of Clause 5, and that the £20,000,000 shall only be spent if it has been satisfactorily proved 1705 that there is no other alternative—that is, that no voluntary combination can be brought about, and if there is a necessity for a district board. Unless these conditions are satisfied, the money shall not be spent. I do urge that these words are necessary. If I felt inclined to say I should have to press anything to a Division, I should certainly feel inclined to say it on this occasion. I quite, however, realise the purposelessness of such a statement. It would be useless to press such a Division as usually takes place. I do not propose to do it, but I do rely upon the careful attention of the Home Secretary to the real intent and meaning of the words I propose. I ask him very carefully to consider if there is any real objection to these words. Is it not the fact that the maximum objection urged to these words is possibly the additional delay before the Board of Trade can start to spend this £20,000,000, an additional six weeks or two months, or at the outset, three months, until an inquiry under Clause 5 is properly held, instead of, as suggested in the Home Secretary's Amendment, there is consultation with county councils, etc., and other people interested? I urge this Amendment upon the attention of the Home Secretary, and I trust he will see his way to accept it.
§ Mr. SHORTT
The whole object of this Clause is to provide that in an area which requires a board assistance should not be unduly delayed. The whole object of giving the Board of Trade power to spend this £20,000,000 is that they may spend it as may be thought wisely before the establishment of a district electricity board or of a joint electricity authority for any district. The whole object is that when there is some unavoidable delay in forming a district board or a joint electricity authority the central authority, the Board of Trade, should be able to step in and ensure that the necessary work is carried out without a delay of perhaps, twelve or eighteen months. It was urged in the Committee that it was quite possible that you might have the Electricity Commissioners approaching the Board of Trade and asking them to build a, generating station before they had properly considered whether the site was or was not desirable, or whether their proposals were such as fitted in adequately with any scheme that might 1706 thereafter be set up, and that it was essential that provision should be made that this money should not be spent without due investigation and discussion.
These objections, of course, I saw at once, and I think I have succeeded in meeting them by the Amendments I have set down. As opposed to the Amendment of my hon. Friend, I have suggested that the first provision should be the provision for the district, and also arranging the whole area, the amalgamation, the joining together of various authorities and various authorised undertakings in that area, and the area adjacent, so that it can best and most efficiently be supplied with electricity. In order to ensure that the choice of area should be the right one, and also that the site chosen for the generating station should be the right one, I am further proposing that the Board of Trade, before it constructs a station, should consult with practically everybody concerned—with the county councils, the local councils, and the authorised undertakers, all people who would form the district board—if it be a district board; or constitute the greater part of the joint electricity authority—if that is the scheme which is eventually approved.
That seems to me to ensure that the money will not be spent without due consideration and discussion. Equally, I think, it would ensure that there is no undue delay. If what my hon. Friend suggests were put into this Bill, it. would mean inevitably that before the Board of Trade could go to the assistance of any district, before it could help in the development of any district, there would have to be delay necessary to decide upon the scheme and to get the people to agree, or, if they did not agree, for the Electricity Commissioners themselves to set up their own board. May I remind the House that these provisions are not for the purpose of helping those districts which are well able to help themselves. They are not to assist those districts which will rapidly be able to decide as to the best scheme for them to carry into execution. It is for coming to the rescue of those very districts where there are difficulties, where perhaps they cannot agree, and where inevitably there will be delay in forming a scheme and carrying proposals into execution. For that reason I hope the House will reject the Amendment of my hon. Friend and accept those in its place which I have put on the Paper.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Are we to assume, in finding the exact way the £20,000,000 is to be spent, that it will take eighteen months before any improvements take place in various parts of the country in the electricity supply? Is not the time, under the circumstances, likely to be two and a half or three years?
§ Mr. SHORTT
That is exactly what my hon. Friend has not to believe. What I said was that the £20,000,000 was to meet those cases—I hope there will not be many—where, owing to some local or special circumstances, nothing can be done. None of the £20,000,000 will be used in the majority of districts where they will be able to get to work at once. But there are bound to be some areas which require help, or otherwise would be deprived of this power. The £20,000,000 of money is provided to meet these exceptional cases.
§ Captain BOWYER
The Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead fills me with amazement. I cannot quite understand how it is that he, who knows so much about electricity, should bring it forward. As I understand it, and as the Home Secretary has said, the whole value of Clause 19 will go if this Amendment is passed. Surely the value of Clause 19 is to act as a connecting link between what can be done now and what can be done when the districts are formed, and the district board, or the joint electricity authority gets into its stride? It might well be that those who, at the Board of Trade, have this matter in hand, even now, before the Bill has passed, have very good ideas as to what should be done and what can be done in this country to develop electricity. I trust the House will not pass this Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendments made: In Sub-section (1), after the word "time" ["at any time before the establishment of a district electricity board"], insert the words "after an electricity district has been provisionally determined and."
§ Leave out the word "any" ["electricity authority for any district"], and insert instead thereof the word "the."
At end of Sub-section (1), insert the words
Provided that, where the Board of Trade propose to construct a generating station before the establishment of a district electricity board or joint electricity authority for any district, they shall consult with the county councils, local
authorities, and authorised undertakers any part of whose county, district, or area of supply is within the electricity district, as to the site of the proposed station."—[Mr. Shortt.]
On behalf of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Newcastle (Major Barnes), I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2), to insert the wordsProvided that—The purpose of this Amendment is not in any way to hamper the work of the Electricity Commissioners, but to provide some check on the possibility of extravagant expenditure by requiring that the Treasury shall be consulted before these moneys are spent, and to provide also that, if the moneys intended to be spent exceed £500,000, an Order from ths House shall first be required. I feel sure that the Home Secretary will accept these provisions, because they are taken almost word for word from the Transport Bill, where similar provisions were inserted. Whatever may have been the case when this Bill was before the Committee, and was presumed to be going to the Board of Trade, now that the Government have decided that it shall go to the Minister of Transport, they surely cannot resist the contention that a provision which was put into the Transport Bill, which is under the Minister of Transport, should likewise be put into an Electricity Bill which is going to the care of the same right hon. Gentle man. The House will agree that in these times, no matter how desirable it is to develop the electricity powers of the country with as little delay as possible, it is equally necessary that we should have some check on the finance of such an undertaking. We are putting probably greater powers into the hands of the Electricity Commissioners than have ever before been given to any public body — powers which will involve the expenditure of many millions of money. It is highly desirable, especially at a time like this, when economy is preached from the Treasury Bench, that the Treasury should 1709 have a voice in the matter, and that this House should be in a position to pass an opinion when it comes to a question of expending £500,000 or £1,000,000. The particular wording of the Amendment is not material, and if the Home Secretary would prefer that the sum should be £1,000,000 instead of £500,000, I am quite certain that the hon. and gallant Member whose Amendment I am moving would be agreeable to make that alteration. But it is desired that the principle should be acknowledged, firstly, that the Treasury should have the right of sanction, and, secondly, that this House should have the right to a final voice in determining the expenditure of such sums as £500,000 or £1,000,000 of money. The House is willingly granting £20,000,000 for the purpose, but we say that a further check is necessary in matters of this kind.
- (i) no such works shall be established by the Ministry until an estimate of the capital expenditure required to complete them has been approved by the Treasury;
- (ii) if such estimate as in the preceding paragraph in connection with the establishment of such works is likely to involve a total capital expenditure exceeding half a million pounds the Minister shall not exercise his powers unless authorised to do so by Order in Council a draft whereof has been approved by a Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament."
§ Mr. SHORTT
This sum of £20,000,000 was definitely voted by Parliament for the purpose of carrying out certain descriptions of work. It is provided in the Bill that it has to be done by the Minister of Transport on the requisition of the Electricity Commissioners, and, having regard to the Amendments which have just been adopted by the House, after properly defining the area and after due consultation with those who are most intimately concerned with the whole matter. If these proposed words were inserted, the question of delay would again arise. This is not a case where public money is concerned in the ordinary sense of the word at all. This sum of £20,000,000 is for the purpose of advances. The State will not lose it, but the industry itself, through the district boards, will pay the whole amount which is expended out of that twenty millions. The district boards, as provided by Sub-clause (3) of Clause 19, will eventually have the generating stations vested in them, and they will be liable to pay for them, and therefore provision is made in order that they may pay such charges as may be imposed upon them. It is not a case in the ordinary sense where public money is going to be spent which will eventually be a charge upon the taxpayers of the country. The money has already been advanced to those bodies, and they are responsible for spending it. The industry for whom they are concerned are the people who will have to pay, through the district boards 1710 and through the Electricity Commissioners. Therefore, I would ask my hon. Friend not to press this Amendment. It really is not necessary. The case is on quite a different footing from one in which money is going to be spent for which the public will eventually be responsible. The public, as the public, and the taxpayer, as the taxpayer, have no concern in this. Their only concern is that, as consumers of electricity, they should see that the money is spent to the best advantage. That is not a matter for the Treasury at all; it is a matter for the Minister in charge and the Electricity Commissioners. It would cause undue hampering and undue delay, and, by undue delay at any rate, would partially defeat the very object of this Clause.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I must say I agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite who has moved this Amendment, and I am sorry to say that I am not convinced by the arguments of the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary brings forward two arguments. One is that this amount of £20,000,000 will eventually be repaid to the Treasury or the taxpayer, and it is to be repaid by the profits made by the Electricity Commissioners. But one of the things that we are told, and, as far as I know, the only reason for supporting this Bill, is that the public are going to have cheap electricity. Now, if I may use a sporting phrase, it is 1,000 to I that the public will find in two or three years' time that they have not cheap electricity, but very dear electricity, and the first thing that will be said will be that money must not be put by to repay this twenty millions. It will be said that the electricity is not cheap and that the money must not be put by. That is the answer to one of the reasons advanced by the Home Secretary. With regard to the other, it is the same argument which was advanced, only with a great deal more reason, during the War. It was said that we must have all these time and line contracts, that we must go to all sorts of extravagances, because there was a hurry, and because we were at war. I do not see that it makes any difference at all whether we wait for two, or three, or four months for the electricity plans, provided we are sure that the money is properly spent. Speaking as Chairman of the Select Committee on National Expenditure—and I believe all the members of that Committee agree with me—we found that, while in the case of the old Departments 1711 economy is generally observed, in the case of the new Departments there is no such thing as economy. All they say is, "Let us get what we were set up to do done as quickly as possible," and cost is a secondary consideration. We are going to set up a new Department, and we are told that it is very necessary that we should hurry or the object will be defeated. I hardly like to venture an opinion, but I should think it would be at least three or four years before we see anything done under this Bill. Therefore, as I have said, hurry does not very much matter.
What will these people do, especially after the bad example set them by the Home Secretary, who tells them to hurry on irrespective of cost? They will go to a contractor, and he will say. "You want this work done at once; I must have my time and line contract; I cannot have a contract for a lump sum." This time and line contract will be carried out, and it will be found that twenty millions is not enough, that they have not carried out anything like what they intended, and that the whole scheme is more or less a failure. Then, if the present Government is in office, they will certainly come down with an amended Bill for another twenty millions. I think that is what is very likely to happen, and I think the Treasury are the proper body to see that these people do get a proper estimate, because after all that is what it amounts to. It does not say that the Treasury are not to allow it; all it says is that the Treasury are to see that the estimate is a proper one, made out in a proper manner. Why not? That is one of the reasons why the directors very often come in in a company. Why should not, the Treasury be placed in the position of directors, and see that the estimate is a reasonable one and made out in a businesslike manner? The Electricity Commissioners and district boards have nothing to fear if they are businesslike, but if they are not businesslike, I maintain that the influence of the Treasury will be good.
Then we come to the other part of the Amendment, which says that, where a sum exceeding half a million is going to be spent, the House must be consulted. Under the circumstances, as we have already voted the twenty millions, I am not quite sure that we could very well put that in, and I rather think that perhaps it ought to be abandoned, but I quite agree with the other part. I have 1712 not seen the terms of the Financial Resolution, and I do not know whether we are committed to the whole twenty millions, or whether it speaks of a sum not exceeding twenty millions. If the latter is the case, I think the proposed words could be brought in, but I do not see how they could be if we are committed to the whole twenty millions. In any case I think the Government would be well advised to accept the first part of the Amendment, and give the Treasury the power to see, not that the money is not spent, but that it is spent in a proper manner.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I regret that this Amendment has not met with a more favourable reception by the Minister in charge of the Bill. The arguments adduced by my hon. Friend who moved it have, as is usually the case in these matters, been admirably supplemented by my right hon. Friend on the other side of the House (Sir F. Banbury), and what he says I respectfully support. There is no doubt at all that an estimate submitted to the Treasury would be a most effective safeguard, in the public interest, in regard to the expenditure of public money by an entirely new body, which is in the main unused to the expenditure of public money in accordance with the custom and practice of old-established Departments. Such a new Department undoubtedly will set to work with very little of the traditions of the older Departments. It will be staffed with new men, with the new ideas of expenditure which have come into practice since the War began and which are being continued after the War has been concluded. I urge upon my right hon. Friend that he might very well accept the first part of the Amendment. I dare say that the second part is open to some objection. The money has been granted by the Financial Resolution, and I would point out to my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) that it does say "not exceeding in the aggregate £20,000,000." I am not stressing that so much, because I hope to get something out of my right hon. Friend. I really do think that a very great deal of argument extraordinarily difficult to meat can be advanced in support of the first-part of this Amendment, and I hope what has been said will convince my right hon. Friend that he will be doing a wise thing in the interests of public economy, and. in deed, in the interests of the efficiency of this new Department, if he accepts it.
§ Mr. SHORTT
This Amendment was only put down this morning, and I have not had time to make inquiries, but, so far as I know, the Treasury have no machinery for going into estimates for the setting up of a generating station. Probably, the only effect of accepting the Amendment would be that the Treasury would employ the very same experts to advise them as the Minister of Transport himself would employ, and that would not give Treasury control in the way the House desires. I am bound to say that I shall have to fight, the second part of the Amendment, but, with regard to the first part, if I find that the Treasury have been accustomed to do this work, and have the machinery to do it, I will certainly consider whether something cannot be put in when the Bill reaches another place to meet the object which this Amendment is intended to attain. The Treasury would not have to decide whether the works were necessary, whether they were in a desirable position, whether the site was the right one, or whether a cheaper site could be obtained in another place. That would be no part of what the Treasury would have to do. That would make the thing impossible. They would simply go into the estimates and approve of the expenditure. If they have the machinery to do it, I agree to this being put in when the Bill gets to another place, because I quite appreciate that some control, especially over the estimates of a new Department, may be very valuable indeed, so long as that control does not curb the expert opinion or cause any undue delay. So long us those two things are excluded, then I quite agree that some kind of proper control over the estimates would be a good thing. I do not think, however, as at present advised, that the Treasury are the best body to do it, but, if this Amendment be withdrawn, I will certainly consider whether something can be put in when the Bill gets to another place to meet the object which it is intended to attain.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
If I am not mistaken, the Estimates for the Army, the Navy, and the Civil Service do come before the Treasury, and they have all that tradition and experience behind them which all those who have had anything to do with the Departments know is a very valuable check. The Treasury do not go into policy in these matters, but I am confident that the existing machinery could be well brought to bear upon these Estimates with very great advantage.
§ Mr. G. BALFOUR
I think the fear of the right hon. Gentleman that there will be any difficulty in the Treasury going into these estimates is quite unfounded. An overhauling estimate would be submitted to the Treasury, so that they would be able to see that the amount to be expended would be a certain sum. They would not need to go into the cost of the machinery or of the site. The Minister of Transport himself would have to be satisfied with regard to those matters. It seems right and proper that such an estimate should be submitted to the Treasury and be approved by the Treasury, so that, we may not in the first instance be told that the station is to cost £2,000,000 and then ultimately find that £4,000,000 has to be paid. I entirely endorse the view that the second part of the Amendment would hamper the Minister of Transport, but I trust that the Home Secretary will see his way to accept the first part, and, if he docs not do so, I hope that my hon. Friend will divide the House upon it.
§ Mr. N. CHAMBERLAIN
The Home Secretary has suggested that my hon. Friend should withdraw this Amendment and trust to him to get some form of words inserted in another place to carry out the object which he desires. I want to suggest that it would be more satisfactory to the House if the reverse course were taken and it the Home Secretary would accept the Amendment, or, at any rate, the first part of it, and then see what alterations, if any, were necesssay when, the Bill got to another place. The great majority of the House are agreed (hat some form of Treasury control is necessary, and we should all feel very much happier in our minds ii the Bill left this House with that control inserted in it, rather than that it should leave this House without it and we should trust to another place to insert it.
I do not think that anyone will take very much exception to something in the form of the first part of the Amendment, but it is important to realise that if you insert it you are not going to get anything of very great value. It has been suggested that a general estimate will be put in and will be approved by the Treasury. The only way of testing the estimate is to do so by exports, and presumably there will only be experts in the Department which deals with the matter. There is rather a danger in this proposal. I am as keen as the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) to get proper 1715 effective, Parliamentary control, but there is nothing worse for control over expenditure than to suggest to the spending Departments that they can rely upon Treasury control. The only way to get proper control over expenditure is for the head of each Department to realise that he is responsible for the economical administration of his Department. If we rely too much upon Treasury control, it simply means that the Department shirks its work and puts it on to the Treasury, which has not the staff to do it. Time and time again it has been put to Treasury witnesses who have appeared before Committees, "Do not you think that it would be a good thing if the Treasury were to have further power?" They have answered perfectly frankly, "No; you cannot turn the Treasury on to do the work which it is the duty of the other Departments to do". The work is either done twice or it is not done properly at all. I trust, therefore, that the House, if it puts these words in, will not think that they will be a valuable safeguard. The real safeguard is the efficient administration within the Department itself. I hope the Home Secretary will not accept the second part of the Amendment. One is always a little suspicious when one finds the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) and the Mover of the Amendment (Mr. Thomson) in collusion over anything. I am not quite sure what is the motive of the Mover, but I am quite clear what is the motive of the right hon. Baronet. It is that as little as possible should be done under this Act within the next five years. If you put in this limit of £500,000, the work which this Act is intended to do cannot possibly be accomplished.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I said that I was doubtful about the advisability of accepting the second part of the Amendment, and I was the first to say so.
The right hon. Baronet has not shown any great disposition to assist the Government in carrying out this work. There surely is no need to insert any such provision. You have almost identically the same provision with regard to advances made by the Public Works Loan Commissioners, but it has never been suggested that every one of those advances should be brought up for approval by Parliament.
In response to the suggestion thrown out by the Home Secretary, I am quite willing to withdraw the second part of the Amendment if he can see his way to accept the first part. Under Clause 16 of the Transport Bill the consent of the Treasury has to be given for works of construction, such as railways, bridges, harbours, and docks. Surely the same experts would be able to advise the Treasury with regard to this Electricity Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in Subsection (2), after the word "fit" ["otherwise as the Treasury may think fit"], to insert the wordsProvided that—(i) no such works shall be established by the Ministry until an estimate of the capital expenditure required to complete them has been approved by the Treasury.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I cannot accept these words. Everything that I have heard shows me that it is difficult to distinguish between what is the financial control which this House desires and control of policy. Everything that has been said shows that control of transport policy would be the effect, whatever the motive, and I really cannot accept any words without more careful thought. I am willing, however, to consider the whole position between now and the Bill reaching another place, but further than that I cannot go.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we are to understand that if we do not divide on this Amendment he will insert in another place some words which will more or less carry out what the majority of the House desire?
§ Mr. SHORTT
I did not promise to insert words. I said that I would consider the question with those who are interested in the matter between now and the Bill reaching another place, and see if anything be necessary, and. if so, what?
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I have listened carefully to tins Debate, and I am afraid that the undertaking given by the Home Secretary is no undertaking at all. It is for this House to decide whether some safeguard should not be inserted, and that is the sole question we have to deal with now. We have had Departments embarking on extravagant expenditure which certainly, in ordinary times of Treasury control, would not have been permitted. 1717 The House itself appears to have parted with its control over works undertaken by new Ministers, and the only control now possible apparently is Treasury control. I certainly hope my hon. Friend will not withdraw the Amendment, but will take the opinion of the House whether these words be inserted, and thereby maintain the principle, notwithstanding that other words may have to be devised in order to meet the case.
§ Sir W. PEARCE
Will the Home Secretary allow these words to be put in without making himself responsible for them, and reserving to himself power to modify them if necessary in another place? I feel the right hon. Gentleman has a good deal of reason in suggesting that he requires further information, and surely if the words are put in now there will be an opportunity to alter them later on?
§ Sir A. WILLIAMSON
Let the House consider what is the object of this Clause. It is to cover what otherwise would be a hiatus. At the present moment all development is practically paralysed pending the passage of this Bill, and the constitution of every district board or electricity authority is held up. First of all, districts have to be suggested and discussed, and afterwards it has to be decided whether there is to be a scheme for an electricity authority or for a district board. Those conversant with the public know all this will take a considerable amount of time. There is overwhelming evidence of a clamant demand in the country for these electric powers to be supplied at as early a date as possible, and the only way in which that can be done is for the Board of Trade to provide what is urgently needed without waiting for the formation of every electricity authority or district board. In the first instance, the district will have to be sketched out, and the local authorities in the district will have to be consulted before that can be done. Then there is provided in the Bill a purely temporary power. It is not whether a new authority shall be set up, but whether a generating station shall be established without Treasury control. That, however, is not what we are discussing here. As I understand the Bill, after the electricity board is set up, there is another proposal that it should go to the Treasury for sanction to set up a generating station. The 1718 House of Commons does not regard that as at all necessary when it comes to the temporary setting up of a generating station to meet an urgent demand. Not only are the Board of Trade and the Electricity Commissioners and the local authorities to be consulted, but now it is proposed you should go to the Treasury, which knows nothing about local needs, and beyond that it seems to be suggested you are to come to this House and have the same procedure, all of which will involve further delay. I think this is totally unnecessary. It is urged because of a misconception of what we are now dealing with. We are dealing with a temporary matter. We are strictly limited in this Clause to two years for the establishment of the authority, so that the whole thing is of a temporary character. If you are going to provide for reference to the Treasury with regard to the erection of a temporary generating station, then it should be equally necessary to go to the Treasury for power for the electricity board to set up a new station.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
What delay is there going to be? One would imagine it is to be a question of a month or six weeks or even more. But as a matter of fact it will be nothing of the kind. All the Amendment asks is that before the Treasury shall give their authority for these payments business estimates of the expenditure shall be submitted. There is nothing more asked for.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
They will only have to look at it in the same way as they deal with other estimates. It will not involve any question of policy. What have we come to? Here is this House, which is the financial guardian of the country, having it solemnly suggested to it that this matter should be passed over to the House of Lords to be dealt with!
I am perfectly astonished at some of the statements made by the Home Secretary. After all the object of this Amendment is to curb the experts when they are expending money. As far as I can understand, in connection with the Army and Navy and Civil Service the Treasury is used to 1719 curb expenditure, if it is bad or if it is extravagant, it is done in the interests of the taxpayers as a whole, and I would like to urge upon the Home Secretary to agree to put these words in here, so that this House may have some definite power
§ and some opportunity of exercising its control through the Treasury over tins expenditure.
§ Question put, "That those words be-there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 66; Noes, 182.1721
|Division No. 137.]||AYES.||[7.10 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Gretton, Colonel John||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Palmer, Major G. M. (Jarrow)|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Guest, J. (Hemsworth, York)||Parkinson, John Alien (Wigan)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Perring, William George|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Hallas, E.||Rees, Captain J. Tudor (Barnstapic)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Hartshorn, V.||Richardson, Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Bramsden, Sir T.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Robertson, J.|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Hirst, G. H.||Roundell, Lt.-Colonel R. F.|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Hogge, J. M.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone)|
|Clynes, Right Hon. John R.||Holmes, J. Stanley||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Coob, Sir Cyril||Hood, Joseph||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Johnstone, J.||Thomas-Stanford Charles|
|Davies, Major David (Montgomery Co.)||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Walsh, S. (Ince, Lancs.)|
|Duncannon, Viscount||Lort-Williams, J.||White, Charies F. (Derby, W.)|
|Du Pre, Colonel W. B.||Lunn, William||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Edgar, Clifford||Lyon, L.||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavlstock)|
|Finney, Samuel||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Young, Lt.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Gray, Major E.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greer, Harry||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)||Mr T. Thomson and Mr. Raffan.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Doyle, N. Grattan||Jodrell, N. P.|
|Astoury, Lieut. -Com. F. W.||Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Johnson, L. S.|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvi')|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Edwards, J. H. (Glam., Neath)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Banner, Sir J. S. Harmood-||Elliot, Captain W. E. (Lanark)||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, S.)||Entwistle, Major C. F.||Kidd, James|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Eyres-Monsell. Commander||Kiley, James Daniel|
|Barnston, Major H.||Falcon, Captain M.||King. Commander Douglas|
|Barrand, A. R.||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Kinloch-Cookc, Sir Clement|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Farquharson. Major A. C.||Law, Rt. Hon. A Bonar|
|Bell, Lt.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Fell, Sir Arthur||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (Greenwich)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Bird, Alfred||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.||Lorden, John William|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Foxcroft, Captain C,||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Lowe, Sir F. W.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Gange, E. S.||M'Laren. R. (Lanark, N.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Ganzoni, Captain F. C.||McMicking, Majo" Gilbert|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke)||McNeill. Ronald (Canterbury)|
|Britton, G. B.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)||Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir E. A.||Maitland, Sir A. D. Steel|
|Buckley, Lt.-Colonel A.||Greame, Major p. Lloyd||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Cape, Tom||Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar||Mitchell, William Lane|
|Carr, W. T.||Griggs, Sir Peter||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Manchester)||Grundy, T. W.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut. -Col. J. T. C|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (Leic., Loughboro')||Morden, Colonel H. Grant|
|Casey, T. W.||Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham)||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hanson, Sir Charles||Murchison, C. K.|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||Hayday, A.||Murray, Maj. C. D. (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Henderson, Maj. V. L. (Tradeston. Glas)||Murray. William (Dumfries)|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Hennessy, Major G.||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Clough, R.||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Neal. Arthur|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Hickman, Brig.-General Thomas E.||Newbould, A. E.|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hilder, Lieut-Colonel F.||Newman, Major J. (Finchley, M'ddx.)|
|Colvin, Brig. -General R. B.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Newman, Sir R, H. S. O. (Exeter)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Parker, James|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish University)||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Pearce, Sir William|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Horne, Sir Robert (Hillhead)||Pinkham. Lt. -Colonel Charles|
|Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.)||Howard, Major S. G.||Pollock. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hume-Williams. Sir Wm. Ellis||Pratt, John William|
|Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster)||Prescott. Major W. H.|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hunter-Weston, Lieut. -Gen. Sir A. G.||Raeburn, Sir William,|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Hurd, P. A.||Ramsden. G. T.|
|Denison-Pender, John C.||Jophcott, A. R.||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Dewhurst, Lieut. -Commander H.||Jesson, C.||Reid, D. D.|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton)||Sturrock, J. Leng-||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Sykes, Col. Sir A. J. (Knutsford)||Wheler, Colonel Granville C. H.|
|Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Sykes, Sir C. (Huddersfield)||Whitla. Sir William|
|Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs.)||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)||Wigan, Brig.-General Sir Tyson|
|Rowlands, James||Thomas, Sir R. (Wrexham, Denb.)||Wignall, James|
|Royce, William Stapleton||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)||Thorne, W. (Plaistow)||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur||Townley, Maximilian G.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Sassoon, Sir Philip A. G. D.||Tryon, Major George Clement||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Seddon, James||Waddington, R.||Woolcock, W. J, U.|
|Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Wallace, J.||Yale, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N 'castle-on -T., W.)||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.||Young, William (Perth and Kinross)|
|Simm. M. T||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)||Younger, Sir George|
|Smith, Harold (Warrington)||wardle, George J.|
|Spencer, George A.||Waring, Major Walter||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Stanley, Col. Hon. G. (Preston)||Waterson, A. E.||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
|Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
Question put, and agreed to.
Amendment made: At the end of Subsection (3) add,
Provided that the date of vesting under this Sub-section shall not, be later than the date fixed for the vesting in the district electricity board or joint electricity authority of any geuerating station of any authorised undertakers within the district."—[Mr. Shortt.]
§ Mr. G. BALFOUR
I beg to move, in Sub-section (4), to leave out the words "(including interest and sinking fund charges in respect of such advances as aforesaid)."
The provision made for fixing the costs in this Sub-section is for the temporary period while the power stations are operated by the Board of Trade before a district electricity board is set up. Under Clause 31, which deals to some extent with the price to be charged after the district electricity board is set up, there is a specific provision to spread over a term of years the interest and sinking fund charges. I understand that this Bill is supposed to provide a cheap and abundant supply of electricity. If these words are left in and the price to be fixed is to include what the generating station costs and all other charges, including the interest and sinking fund charges and the energy which is delivered from that power station is to be delivered to an extent of perhaps only one-third or one-fourth of the total output of the power station, how can that one-third or one fourth possibly meet the total interest and sinking fund charges? In fact, the interest and sinking fund charges may be higher than the total generating cost. What are the charges a consumer would have to pay if the interest and sinking fund charges are included in; this temporary period? There is the cost j of generating the electricity at the power station operated by the Board of Trade, the cost of the administration of that power station and interest and sinking 1722 fund on the loans for the new generating station which has been erected by the Board of Trade and which may not be fully loaded for many years to come. He is to take the burden of paying interest and sinking fund charges in connection with that station. Probably the only consumer is going to be a person whose power station has been shut down in order that he should be able to get a supply from the Board of Trade power station. He also has to pay interest and sinking fund charges appertaining to his own generating station, which has been shut, down. If he has all these charges compulsorily thrust upon him it will mean such a price as to make it an impossible proposition. I am entirely in accord with the view that so far as is consistent with the object of this Bill, namely, giving a reasonably cheap and abundant supply of electricity, the purchaser of that electricity should bear all the costs of generation, administration and interest and sinking fund within the limits of giving him what it is proposed to give him by this Bill. But I think there should be sufficient flexibility to include either the whole or a portion of these charges during the transition period which is the only matter with which we are concerned on this Clause. If these words were left out, the words which follow—with such margin as the Board may think fit.will do all that is necessary. I trust I have made out a case for the deletion of these words.
§ Mr. SHORTT
Whether the words in this Sub-section are wise or unwise, I am afraid they are part of the arrangement under which the £20,000,000 was granted by the Treasury. The Treasury gave permission to the House being asked to allow the £20,000,000 being advanced. If hon. 1723 Members will look at Sub-section (2) they will see that the £20,000,000 is to be advancedon such terms and conditions as to interest, repayment, and otherwise as the Treasury may think fit.In order to carry that out it is absolutely necessary, as a part of the agreed terms, that there should be included a provision for paying the interest and sinking fund charges to meet such conditions as to the payment of interest, repayment and otherwise as the Treasury may think fit. Having regard to the fact that the whole Clause is an agreed Clause with the Treasury, I am bound to oppose the Amendment.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Will the right hon. Gentleman give any information to the House as to how it is possible, in. answer to the argument I have advanced, to give a cheap and abundant supply if the interest and sinking fund and all other charges are to be planted on the small output in the first instance?
§ Mr. SHORTT
The various advances as they come from the Treasury are subject to such conditions as the Treasury may think fit in regard to interest, repayment and otherwise. If the circumstances are such that a sufficient charge cannot be made in order to provide for interest and sinking fund, the Treasury would no doubt make conditions which would meet these circumstances.
§ Amendment negatived.