§ Order for Second Reading read.
Mr. WILLIAM ADAMSON
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill deals with the issue of stock by local authorities in Scotland, which is regulated by the Local Authorities Loans (Scotland) Acts, 1891 and 1893. Under those Acts a minimum price of issue of 95 per cent. is fixed, and it is also provided that, where a local authority has issued stock, any further issue by the authority must bear the same rate of interest as the original issue. Those Acts give the Secretary for Scotland certain powers to make amending Regulations, but, as I am advised by the Law Officers of the Crown, these powers do not enable me to alter the minimum price of issue or to fix a rate of interest, in the case of a new issue, different from that carried by earlier issues by the same authority. In these circumstances, it is obvious that the statutory provisions have become useless for the purpose of new issues in the case of local authorities who issued stock before the War.
As an example, I may state the difficulty of the Fife County Council. That authority issued stock before the War at 4 per cent., and now requires to make a further issue, but it is clearly impossible for them to comply with the 4 per cent. rate of interest and the issue minimum price of 95 per cent., and, consequently, a state of deadlock has arisen. The Fife County Council is not the only one of our local authorities that is in a similar difficulty. All our local authorities in Scotland are in that position in the event of their requiring to issue new stock, with the exception, I think, of the City of Edinburgh, and, consequently, they desire the relief for which provision is made in this Bill. In the case of the corresponding Statute in England, the Minister of Health has powers of a very wide nature to make Regulations varying the statutory requirements so as to avoid such a situation as has arisen in Scotland. Consequently, I find it necessary to ask the House for similar powers, which are provided for in this Bill.
I am sure we on this side of the House will offer no objection 1632 to the passage of this Measure. We agree that the same power should exist north and south of the Border—certain dispensing power in the hands of the Minister—and we are convinced that if we are to entrust it to any Minister we could not entrust it to anyone of a more cautious and canny nature. Perhaps it is an example of the strong fellow-feeling of the part of the country to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs, and I believe the desire is not perhaps so universal he would have us believe. But, certainly, if the County of Fife wishes special treatment it is only just that it should be a Fifer who asks for it, and we are willing to believe that the County of Fife will have a close enough grip upon its money to make cure that it does not rashly or casually make use of the wider powers which the Secretary for Scotland asks for and which, on this side of the House, we are very ready that he should have.
§ Sir F. WISE
I do not want to object to this proposal at all. I quite agree that you could not raise a loan at 4 per cent. interest with the stock at 95, but is there no condition attached to the new authority? I understand the old authority had this price and a discount of 5 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman has not, told us whether there is any new statutory authority as to the discount or the interest.
I wish to add one word to say that we on these benches will offer no opposition to the Second Reading.
If any of our local authorities desired to make a new issue before the War, they had to do it on the same terms, and so for as my powers go, or whoever may hold the office, they cannot change that.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
§ The remaining Government Orders were read, and postponed.