HC Deb 24 May 1922 vol 154 cc1255-6

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [15th May], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."—[Mr. G. Balfour.]

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


The House generally will agree that this Bill has been already shorn of its most controversial features, but it still raises issues of very great importance, not only to the electrical industry but to the whole future of industry in this country. The Bill comes before us to-day in a relatively modest guise. In its present form it might almost be described as the remnant of a remnant, if not the torso of a torso. Still, it is a measure of great importance, and is entitled on that account to something more than that portion of Parliamentary time which it has so far occupied. This Bill is an amplifying and amending Bill, and it is impossible for the House to understand it without some passing reference to the Measure which is described in the Bill as the principal Act. The House will remember that in the first Session of the present Parliament there was submitted an exceedingly elaborate and ambitious scheme for dealing with this subject. The scheme of that Bill, now known as the Act of 1919, was based upon the recommendations of a very important Committee which, in 1919, issued its Report, namely, the Electric Power Supply Committee.

That Committee virtually recommended that three important principles should be accepted. In the first place, the Committee recommended that there should be set up a new body, to be called the Electricity Commissioners, in whom were to be vested powers for regulating, encouraging and controlling the generation and distribution of electricity in the United Kingdom. That was the first principle embodied in the Act of 1919. The second recommendation was to divide the United Kingdom into certain convenient electricity districts, which were suitable in the technical sense for the economic-generation and distribution of electricity. That also was a feature of the Act of 1919. The third main recommendation, which was made a feature of the Bill as originally introduced, was to set up a District Electricity Board in each of the electricity districts. It was to be the function of that Board to be responsible for the generation of electricity in the district, to purchase all the generating stations in the district, except the private generating stations, to establish new generating stations, and to own and control the main transmission lines in the district. These district boards were to make no divisible profits, but were to be financed by funds raised with Government assistance, except where it was possible and desirable to finance the Boards locally.

I, with many others, took very strong exception to some of the main provisions of the Bill as originally introduced in 1919. There was general agreement in the House as to the insistent necessity of an ampler and cheaper supply—