§ Mr. SPEAKER
With regard to the Amendments on this Clause, they contain two proposals in opposite directions. One being in the Amendments which stand in the name of the hen. Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert) and the other in the Amendment which stands in the Mime of the hon. Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee). I suggest that the House might take the Debate ranging over these two proposals and then take separate Divisions, if Divisions are desired, on the separate Amendment.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
I beg to move in page 3, line 12, after the word "of" to insert the wordsconsidering and adopting schemes under Section four of this Act and.I understand the proposal to be that we should take all three Amendments to this Clause standing in my name as being, in effect, one Amendment. I formally move the first of those Amendments and I propose to explain the intention and meaning of the three taken together. The first two Amendments are matters of form and words rather than of substance and the real substance of the proposed alteration of the Clause is contained in the third Amendment. The first two Amendments propose to describe more particularly what is to be the principal or primary duty of the Board and the third Amendment limits to some extent the powers of the Board. It is proposed to insert words describing what are the duties of the Board and 986 the first Amendment would make Subsection (1) of the Clause read as follows:The Board shall he charged with the duty of considering and adopting schemes under Section four of this Act and supplying electricity to authorised undertakers in accordance with the provisions of this Act.The second Amendment proposes to leave out the words "supplying electricity to" and to insert instead the words "coordinating the supply of electricity by." Then the third Amendment provides that the Board shall not directly-exercise any such powers except so far as they are unable to find authorised undertakers to do so. Therefore the general effect of these three Amendments is to set out that the primary duty of the Board is to try to co-ordinate the supply of electricity and to bring those at present concerned in the industry into harmony with one another and only themselves to exercise the power of carrying on this particular industry if they are unable to get authorised undertakers to do it in a satisfactory way. I do not know the intention of the Ministers in charge of the Bill with regard to these Amendments. If they are of the same mind as they were on the Second Beading, I think they will accept my Amendments. Both the right hon. Gentlemen in charge of the Bill were then most emphatic in saying that the real object which they had at heart was that the Board should co-ordinate the supply of electricity but should not themselves he generators of electricity or run this industry, unless and except in so far as it was found impossible to get those at present concerned in the industry to run it themselves. In effect and in substance these Amendments provide definitely that the Board shall not themselves do this particular work unless and except in so far as they cannot get authorised undertakers to do it satisfactorily. That is the scheme which has been put before us in Minister's speeches both outside this House and during the Second Beading Debate and, in these circumstances, I hone that the Government will accept these three Amendments.
§ Sir J. NALL
I beg to second the Amendment.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport quite clearly said on the Second Reading that the duty of the 987 Board would be to co-ordinate the supply of electricity. Quite shortly, I ask the Government whether that is really the intention or whether, as would now appear, it is intended that the Board should be a trading organisation. I do not know if the Attorney-General, in reply to this Amendment, will say that to adopt it would wreck the scheme of the Bill. That is his usual answer, and I do not expect he will say anything else on this occasion. It establishes a new precedent when the principal and most forcible answer which a Minister can give to an Amendment proposed from his own back benches is either to ridicule it or to indulge in some unpleasant comments on the action of the Member who moves it. We seem to have departed from the system honoured for many years in this House whereby a Member was free to express such comments as he deemed proper on the Measures before the House. Therefore, I want to say emphatically, in seconding this Amendment, that it does raise the issue of whether the Government intend this Board to be a real co-ordinating authority, considering the situation in various parts of the country and adopting scheme based upon that consideration, or whether it is to be. a trading organisation, buying and selling electricity and, in many instances, competing with those organisations and authorities who already do so. We have been led to understand from many of the pronouncements which have been made that co-ordination is the principal object of the Bill. That co-ordination should be the principal object of the Bill is the intention of the Amendment now proposed and the others which are consequential upon it.
If it he argued that the principle of co-ordination, without authority to undertake trading in electricity, would destroy the object of the Bill, I say at once in reply to such a proposition that there need be no difficulty in setting up a Board with the authority—indeed, with the duty—of considering the electricity industry in the various areas of the country, of adopting schemes either as presented by technical advisers or revised by the Board as a result of their own consideration and, having adopted those schemes, of requiring the various electricity undertakers in the areas concerned to conform to them and to carry them out 988 or, in default, to be liable to some penalty by way of losing the rights which they enjoy under Statute or otherwise. That is a perfectly fair and workable proposition, but the Bill as it stands sets up a central trading organisation, and it is no use for my right hon. Friend to say that there is no suspicion of nationalisation in these proposals. We have heard on an earlier Amendment that our interpretation of the Prime Minister's speech is wrong. I cannot believe that the Prime Minister intended to set up a central trading authority which, in a very few years, under the provisions of the Bill, will, in fact, be the only supplier of electricity in the country. Whoever may be the generators, and however dispersed the generation may be under the control of the Board, the fact remains that under the provisions of the Bill the new central Board—an annexe of the Ministry of Transport—will be the only authority, other than the small private plants, empowered to sell electricity in bulk to various undertakers or large consumers.
It is vain for the Government spokesmen to say that this is not nationalisation. It is the kind of nationalisation that was proposed by the Miners' Federation in regard to the coal industry—the setting up of a central board which would control all production and have something to say about distribution. In principle, if this is to be a trading authority, the proposal is similar to the miners' proposal which was turned down by the Samuel Commission and by the Government. Here we are adopting exactly similar procedure for another industry where it is not needed. It is not the policy which is advocated by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, because the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) said in Committee that he did not like this form of Socialism, that this was to be a board of commissars, that this proposal was Communism and was not the pure Socialism. I think the hon. Gentleman expressed that view, and it is borne out by one of the documents published by the Home Office among the Communist correspondence, a letter from Bela Kun, in which emphasis is laid upon the necessity for getting every national service into the hands of a national board and outside the control of what is described as "The Chatter 989 House"—otherwise, the Parliament and in this case the House of Commons.
This Amendment raises the important point of whether we are to have a central authority, appointed by the Minister and an annexe of the Ministry, yet not responsible directly to this House and not financially responsible to the Minister, and able to fall back on the industry to make good its losses and to rely on the State to provide its funds. That is nationalisation. If we adopt this Amendment, we can achieve the object of the Bill, and we can get a really co-ordinating authority, a Board of business men, even if they are appointed by the Minister, who can adopt schemes, laying down definitely the lines upon which electrical development shall take place in the various parts of the country, and ultimately in the country as a whole. There is nothing in this Amendment to prevent that being done. It would ensure that it would be done. Having got those schemes, having got the country mapped out, into areas, these schemes applying to the different electricity districts, the picture complete, the authorised undertakers in every area aware of the lines on which they were expected to develop, then indeed the Bill would achieve some useful object, but, as it is, if it is merely to be a trading authority, merely buying the product of existing stations, adding to it its own expenses, and reselling at a revised price, then I say the machinery which is contained in the Bill defeats every object which has been urged as an argument for supporting the Bill. I hope the House will realise that this is not a destructive Amendment but a distinctly constructive Amendment. It would, if adopted, ensure the realisation of the real object of the Bill, the object which we are asked to believe the Weir Committee wished to see realised, namely, the co-ordination and extension of the supply of electricity.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
In accordance with the arrangement, I should like to put forward the views of Members on this side who are dissatisfied with this Bill and want it very much strengthened. We have had very adequately put forward the company point of view, the view that has been consistently put forward by certain company representatives. I notice that the hon. Member 990 for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert) has joined the Board since the Committee stage.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
I am not concerned in any way whatever with any company at all that is concerned in any electrical undertaking.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I never said the hon. Member was, but I must congratulate him, in that case, on the extremely able way in which he has managed to put up exactly the same arguments as those of hon. Members who are connected with the companies.
§ Sir J. NALL
On a point of Order. May I ask whether the hon. Gentleman and his friends are in order in constantly imputing the motive of private interest in everything originating from those who move Amendments on this side? On that point of Order, I want to say, as a matter of fact, that there is absolutely no ground for the allegation. The objections which we are putting forward are shared by the great municipalities just as much as by the companies.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I did not catch the remark complained of, but hon. Members will remember that it is not in order to attribute interest to hon. Members in any quarter.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Is it not very apparent when hon. Members opposite have made the very point that they were representing private interests?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not take it that way at all. I think hon. Members come here representing the public interest.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The position taken up by hon. Members opposite is that they do not want any interference with the companies in any dealings with the electrical industry. That has been their point of view right the way through. They have endeavoured in all discussions to get rid largely of any control by the Electricity Commissioners, and have endeavoured to belittle the functions of this Board. The Amendment to this Clause which I am supporting, and which will be moved later on, is one of those Amendments put in specially to assist this Board in co-ordinating and controlling the electrical industry. The hon. Member opposite said he was in love with co-ordination, but he does not want 991 a trading concern. Yes, but he never supported us on this side when we moved that the Electricity Commissioners should be the Board, because we have already got the co-ordinating authority in the Ministry of Transport and the Electricity Commissioners. If co-ordination was all that, was needed, you could easily have strengthened the powers of the Minister of Transport and the Electricity Commissioners, but, on the contrary, the whole advocacy of the Board that we have had was that it should be a business Board of trading experience, and, of course, it is perfectly correct, from the point of view of the Government, that if they want to get any effective control, they have got to have a trading concern, if they ore proceeding with this particular method that is laid down in the Bill.
We on this side would prefer to have seen a much bolder Bill that would have fulfilled another saving of the Prime Minister, to the effect that he was going to he ruthless against certain private interests that stood in the path. Our point has always been that we should have liked a clean Bill for nationalisation and municipalisation. This half-hearted Measure is the contribution of the present Government, and they have found it necessary, in order to get control, to have a Board that shall operate at some point or other. They could either have entirely controlled transmission and generation, or they might have controlled the distributing side of the business. They have chosen to step in mainly on the side of generation and partly of transmission, and it is only by getting hold of this generation, this power of causing generation at certain electrical stations, with power to purchase current and re-sell it, that the Board in this Bill will get their finance. Therefore, if you cut out their powers of trading, you cut at the root of the Bill, and it is obvious that the Amendment is really a wrecking Amendment, and that it would destroy the whole principle of the Bill.
I do not care very much, as the hon. Member opposite said, for the Government's scheme. I agree, as he said, that the Government are setting up Commissars, and I do not much care for the Commissar system, but I prefer it to the Nepmen, and wherever ibis Bill 992 was really going to do something, we have had Clauses brought in taking away the powers of the Board. We, on this side, want to see the Board generating electricity, we want to see the generation co-ordinated in the public hands, we want to see the generating stations owned by the general public, we want to see the transmission lines owned by the general public, we want to see them constructed by a public authority, but all through this Bill—it is the chief vice of the Bill—you have that principle whittled away in order to provide opportunities whereby companies may make profits. That is our charge against this Bill. We realise that there are good points in it, but it is on this Clause particularly, dealing with the general powers and duties of the Board, that this Bill must stand or fall. If the hon. and gallant Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) has his way, and the Board becomes a mere co-ordinating authority, the Bill might just as well go by the board. You have got the co-ordinating authority already, and we know perfectly well the futility of trying to set up a co-ordinating authority without effective powers. If you take the Bill as it stands, you will have a certain amount of power in the Board, but it will be a feeble power, because the policy all through has been to cripple the power of the Board.
I have noticed all the way through a very great distrust by hon. Members opposite of their own Ministers. They lo not seem to think it is possible for the Minister of Transport to select efficient business men. They do a little lip-service to him flaw and again, but, by their actions and Amendments, they try to show that he is of no use at all. If they really believed in the efficiency of the business man—because that is the idea of this Board, to be mainly composed of business men—they should give these business men full powers, and entrust them with the functions of a trading concern. We want, it to be the prime duty of the Board, not only to form schemes, and to lay down a network of transmission lines, but to get into its hands the whole of the power of generation. If the Board has that power, I believe that under this Bill, especially if it is strengthened by some other Amendments, it can, through the power of controlling generation, actually control to 993 some extent the distribution and the cost of distribution. There again it is one of the weaknesses of the Bill that it does not effectively touch distribution, but I hope this House will reject the Amendment now before it, which, as I say, would kill the Bill, and I hope it will support the Amendment which we, on this side, are moving, to try and make this Bill a real Bill.
It is no good doing things in a halfhearted way. If you want a co-ordinating board, if you give the board power to do certain things, you should try and make it effective, but hon. Members opposite do not want an effective board. They do not want anything effective at all, but have frequently in the past mangled and crippled the Clauses of the Bill in order that they should not work, so that they might be free to continue their private enterprise. I am not attacking them as morally wicked or anything of that sort. The hon. Member opposite was rather concerned when I said he spoke on behalf of the companies. He has a legitimate belief that the electrical industry is safer in the hands of companies than in the hands of public authorities. He may be quite right, but we, on this side, do not believe in handing over any part of a great national service like this to private enterprise. We would take it right away from private enterprise if we could, and because we believe that this whole matter of, the co-ordination of the electricity supply is one of enormous moment nationally, economically, and socially, we shall oppose this Amendment and support the Amendment to be moved later on from this side.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The Government find themselves in the unhappy position at the present moment of being attacked from both sides. Possibly that may show we have chosen that middle way which we know is the safest one for the State to follow. I agree with the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) that this business of electricity is one of enormous moment to the nation, and I agree that it is of vital importance that this House shall solve, in the right way, the problems which are now before it. But I hope to be able to show the House that the solution which we have chosen is the wise one, and that 994 there are obvious objections to either of the alternatives which are put forward from such different points of view. The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert), who moved the Amendment, said that he was in doubt as to the intentions of the Government. No doubt that was because he was not a member of the Committee when these very Amendments were discussed at great length, and when I explained, I am afraid also at some length, what the views of the Government were on this particular point. Our intentions are the same now as they were expressed to be then.
The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment accused me of setting a new precedent. He said that I was destructive, and that it was an interference with the free rights of any Member of the House to comment on any proposal put before the House. I have never sought to limit or to challenge the right of any Member to criticise the opinions put before him, but a Member must not be surprised if the fallacy of his arguments is exposed or the absurdity of his suggestions commented on. The Amendment we are discussing immediately is one that in fact will wreck the It is said that the Government proclaimed their intention of co-ordinating the supply of electricity. I agree. So we did, and so we intend to do. But the hon. Member who moved the Amendment then said if that was so, that was wholly inconsistent with supplying electricity under Clause 2 of this Bill. In fact there is no such inconsistency. The plan which the Government asked the House to adopt was that we should coordinate the supply of electricity by a named method, anti we asked the House to approve the establishment of a central Board to decide the most suitable places in which electricity should be generated, and to acquire from those stations the electricity produced, and then sell it at cost price to the consumer. That is the scheme which the House accepted by a large majority on the Second Reading of the Bill. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment can hardly be surprised if the leaders of his party comment a little adversely on his Amendment when he himself considers himself at liberty to describe us, not only as Socialists but even as Communists, and says that there is something in our Bill worse than any- 995 thing put forward by the most extreme section opposite.
§ Sir J. NALL
I have never attacked any individual until I was attacked by that individual. What I have attacked is the principle of the Bill.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I am within the recollection of the House with regard to the attack on which I commented. This is a Bill which I am putting forward on the authority of my colleagues in the Cabinet as well as myself. I am not going to embark on a discussion on the merits of nationalisation. We believe on this side of the House that nationalisation is bad.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Those of us who understand what nationalisation is object to it on the ground, first of all, that in our view it is undesirable to establish a large body of wage-earners dependent on the State for their wages and therefore liable to create a body of electorate which would put great pressure on Members of Parliament and be open to all sorts of illegitimate inducements to vote in a particular way. We believe also that nationalisation is a mistake because it would tend to hinder and discourage private enterprise and the incentive to private gain that is given by private enterprise. We believe that nationalisation would lead to the setting up of a large bureaucracy and an inefficient machine. The scheme we put forward has none of those objections. We do not propose that there should be any large body of people employed in generating electricity by the State or even by the board. Our proposal is that the generation of electricity shall continue to be in the hands of the electricity stations. We do not propose to discourage private enterprise, because the owners of stations will have the best possible incentive to work them efficiently. We do not propose to set up a big Government bureaucracy in Whitehall, because we intend only to have this board of eight or so people who are to co-ordinate the supply of electricity by the means I have mentioned.
The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) puts the other point of view and says that this Bill is a bad Bill or of 996 little value because it does not impose on the Board the primary duty of generating electricity. It is precisely because we regard that as a mistake that we have framed the Bill as we have. We desire generation and distribution to remain in the individual authorised undertakings and we desire that electricity, wherever it is distributed, may be distributed in the most economical way. By this Bill we hope to insure a general cheapening of the cost to the consumers wherever they may be situated. All we can possibly do with regard to the Amendments now before the House is to ask the House to reject the Amendment designed to deprive the Board of the power to supply electricity, and equally to reject the Amendment that is designed to impose on the Board the duty of generating electricity and deprive stations at present generating it.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I am always rather interested when I hear hon. Members opposite tell us how deadly opposed they are to any nationalisation proposals, because whenever the nation is in urgent need of either an improved service or of a cheapened service, whenever the nation is in real need of some perfect organisation, they always resort to nationalisation. Why have we this Bill before us at all this evening? Is it not the fact that the very cause of this Bill being here is that private enterprise has failed to provide the necessary power as cheap as it would have been supplied if the nation had had the control long ago? The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert) is one of the most persistent opponents of nationalisation—hence his Amendment. I have never heard him argue against nationalising the Army, nor for the denationalisation of the Navy, nor even against the National Debt. Although those services may not be so technical as electricity, it is extraordinary that they should never be referred to. It is the vested interests of the time that are preventing this Bill from being as useful as it might be. The Amendment which stands in my name has for its object the elimination of ten or twelve words which would permit the Board, not only to supply electricity but in case of need to generate electricity. The discussions in Committee rather indicated that it is true that in many large areas of this country 997 the large companies have been more interested in extending their scale of influence by further Parliamentary powers than they have been in either generating or supplying electricity according to the needs of various districts. The opponents generally of this Bill, and the supporters of the Amendment have as yet been unable to take the national point of view on this vital subject. We are told by the Prime Minister that until we have a perfect co-ordinated electricity supply we are bound to be lagging behind industrially because we fail to take advantage of twentieth century science. Yet here we are without this electricity supply. Private enterprise has failed to deliver the goods. Municipalities have always been the first, the best and the cheapest in the field—municipal undertakings where profits are entirely eliminated.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Personally I would not disturb a municipality that has done its duty to its purchasers, but in the interests of the industrial life of the whole nation I would co-ordinate the generation and supply of electricity on a basis similar to that which we have in our municipal undertakings. That is why I want to see not only a Board whose duty shall be to co-ordinate the chaotic private enterprise undertakings, but the whole of municipal undertakings so that every corner of this country may have available electricity at reasonable prices. When hon. Members are pitting private enterprise against what they call Socialism, I wonder if they really believe what they themselves have said. After all, the municipalities of Great Britain not only have taught private enterprise in the matter of economic production and distribution, but it is on record that the price charged by the municipality invariably is less than the price charged by private enterprise in any part of the country. That example ought to be built upon, and would be built upon, if hon. Members opposite would take the national point of view, instead of the point of view which affects the private interests of a comparatively few people.
Therefore, I want to suggest that, instead of the Government urging, stimulating, co-ordinating chaotic private enterprise, they ought to be carrying out 998 the duties for which they were elected, namely, to preserve all they can for the 46,000,000 people, and not for the 50,000 or 100,000 shareholders. This House is dealing with the business of the whole nation, and, taking the national outlook, legislating on behalf of the whole of the people, and not the people interested in these electricity undertakings. I suggest that, instead of further decreasing the power of the Board, we ought to increase the power of the Board, permitting them not only to supply, but to generate, for when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, there will be districts where it will be most difficult for the Board or the Electricity Commissioners to persuade people who are in business exclusively for profit to generate and supply in various districts where their returns may not be as good as they would be, for instance, in the middle of a city. Therefore, I suggest that this Board and the Electricity Commissioners should have power to settle a scheme which is going to supply the whole nation as quickly and as well as can be. For that reason, I shall not only oppose the Amendment, but I hope that not only Members on this side, but at least a few Members on the other side who take the community point of view in the municipal sense, will follow us into the Lobby, go one step further, and vote at least on one occasion in the national interest, instead of in the interest of private investors
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I am sorry my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is not in his place, although I understand he cannot be on the bench all the time, for I am sure he would have appreciated very much the speech which has just fallen from the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), as I am quite sure he appreciated the speech of the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). Before concluding his speech, he contested with my hon. Friend as to who was the best judge whether the Government proposals were Socialistic or not, and he rather inferred that he was a better judge as to whether this was a Socialist measure or not, stoutly contending that is was not proposed as a Measure of nationalisation. There are judges and judges in this House, and I think even my right hon. Friend would admit that, perhaps, the best judges are hon. Members on the benches opposite who have commended this Measure as, a 999 Socialist measure, and given wholehearted support to my right hon. Friend [An HON. MEMBER: "We shall go a lot further than this!"] The Amendment we are now discussing, it is perfectly true, was discussed in Committee. After a short experience, the Committee did not expect much satisfaction, and, frankly, as little satisfaction is expected here, having regard to past experience. What does emerge from the discussion is that this Board is to be a State-trading Board. My right hon. Friend took no exception to the observations of the hon. Member for Limehouse when he said the companies did not want any interference. Interfere with the companies certainly at once, if you can show that the public generally will benefit. You have a perfect right to pass legislation through this House interfering with companies, or municipalities, or anybody else. I have no right to stand here and say you must not interfere with these companies because it will affect my personal interest, but I say, make out a case to show that the public interest demands it. Let us have the facts. I asked upstairs quite respectfully, temperately, and consistently, let us have the facts upon which you rely. I am still waiting for those facts. No facts are being produced which entitle us to assume that there should be a new Central Board in complete control with trading powers, which the hon. Gentleman opposite quite frankly, and, from his point of view, quite properly, said they should have. He said that if they (the State) are to have any effective control they must he a trading concern. That was said by the hon. Member for Limehouse in support of the speech made by my right hon. Friend from these benches.
My right hon. Friend taunted us as to who were the best judges of Socialists. I think I am, at any rate, a supporter of the Conservative party. If my leaders betray me, there is no reason why I should become a Socialist; I can still remain a member of the Conservative party. That is the position in which we are placed on this Amendment, and I would beg hon. Members on this side really to begin to turn their attention to this Measure, which the Prime Minister described as the first and most important Government Measure. We have dealt with several Amendments. How many 1000 hon. Members in this House are interested? I do not blame them, because they do not understand, and, trading on them, my right hon. Friend believes it is perfectly easy to get this Measure through the House of Commons, and, no doubt, through the other House. We must pay attention to the Amendments we are now considering. The plain blunt issue is, are we supporting a Socialist Measure or private enterprise? As far as I am concerned, I say frankly I support private enterprise. I am quite content to turn round, and become a Socialist when the facts, based not on the personal interest, but on the common welfare of the people at large warrant it. No such facts are produced, and, notwithstanding the odium attaching to me for being deeply concerned in the industry, I shall go on endeavouring to do what little I can to protect what I consider to be the rights of private individuals, until facts are produced which will show that another scheme will make for a happier and a more contented people.
It is on little Amendments of this kind, as I quite understand, hon. Members on this side, at any rate, are apt to look at the Order Paper and say, "Oh, this is a trivial matter." I can understand that, until a search is made into the operation of this Bill, it is impossible to understand the real hidden meaning, from the point of view of Members on this side, of a Clause like this, and the true effect and meaning of such an Amendment as is proposed. I reiterate on this Amendment, as I have reiterated on other Amendments, and shall go on reiterating to my right hon Friend, even at this late hour, that he should give us something which tends to conform to the hopes and ideals of his own party; or does he intend to pursue the line he has pursued right from the commencement of this Bill, of collaborating with the official Opposition, and denying to the Members of his own party that which conforms to the ordinary ideals of that party?
§ Mr. HARDIE
The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour) has tried more than once to attach this Bill to the Socialist party. He has a fair knowledge of the technical side of any electricity proposals, but when he says this is a Socialist Bill it shows he does not understand what Socialism is. He 1001 deplored the ignorance of other people in not understanding the Bill—and I cannot blame them, because of its technical difficulties; and I have to deplore his ignorance of Socialism. If hon. Members want to understand clearly why this is not a Socialist Bill, let them look at page 1905 of the Amendment Paper. They will see there an Amendment, proposed by the Attorney-General, to insert the following wordsand the scheme shall not authorise the acquisition of a main transmission line belonging to the owners of a private generating station without the consent of the owners thereof.We were told by the Prime Minister, who has told us a great many things that are not true, and has made a great many promises which he has not fulfilled, that this was to be a Bill to contribute in some way to the national control of electricity, and that by that national control we should produce cheaper electricity. Here, however, is an Amendment saying that any private individual who cares to stand in the way is to have the right to oppose the national interest. That is what that Amendment means; and if in face of that anyone comes along and describes this as a Socialist Bill, I am sorry for his understanding, or his lack of understanding.
The Clause with which we are now dealing appoints a Board. Why should a Board appointed, as this is to be appointed, be restricted in any way? The supply of electricity does not differ from the generation of it, so far as the Bill is concerned. It has only been made to differ because in face of the power of private enterprise and vested interests on the other side of the House that the Government could not afford to remain logical. They had to whittle down every proposal they brought forward in order to meet the vested interests in the trade. Why is that? It would not have been so years ago; but electricity now has become something worth putting money into, a good investment. That is why all this opposition comes up. The Bill as it stands puts difficulties in the way of the logical development of the electrical industry. Everyone who understands this subject will, if he be honest, admit that if this Bill were "bust"—as I should like to see it, for I do not like the Bill—the next immediate step would be nationalisation of the electrical industry. Hon. 1002 Members cannot get away from that. We do not compare with any other country as regards electrical development. Despite what the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Sir P. Dawson) said in an article in the Press the other day, the position in this country is such that we cannot compare with any other country.
What this Bill does is to put every possible difficulty in the way of the logical development of the electrical industry, and so to establish vested interests that it will be more difficult to nationalise the industry. Hon. Members must not forget, however, that times are changing. If they look at the results of the municipal elections they will get some indication of what is happening. It. will not be under the conditions they think will prevail that what belongs to vested interests will be taken over when we want to nationalise them in the interest of the nation. Things will not be taken over at their valuation; they will be taken over at the value of the service they can provide—not because someone has run a main up through a stretch of country in the hope that he is to be allowed to claim the development of that district and to say, "We were pioneers here. We ran this main up when no one was wanting electricity." We know all those games. We know all those "bunks," as they call them in America. We are quite aware of the practices of 'cute business men, whether they come from America or whether they are plain Englishmen. Hon. Members need not think that by putting difficulties in the way they will stop us on this side when we get power. When we get power it will be "The nation first!" "The interests of the majority of the people," and not the interest of a few with money investments. That is what every Clause in this Bill is based upon—the protection of vested interests as against the rights and the needs of the nation.
The Government could not go on with a Bill like this, however, unless they took the Socialist position, and that is why it is such a muddle of a Bill. If they had taken our Amendments and our advice, they would have had to-day a Bill of which any Minister might be proud. [Interruption.] Well, look at the mess you are in. The Bill is so mixed up that even the Government are quarrelling about it. Is there any 1003 better illustration of the incapacity of the Government to draft a Bill to suit even the Tory party? You would have done better to have taken our advice, and then you would have had something that your children's children would have been glad to be associated with. The Amendment we have put down to this Clause is to leave out the wordsbut shall not, save as hereinafter expressly provided, themselves generate electricity.Why should not a Board faced with difficulties put up by private enterprise generate electric power? If they are not to have that right, why are they to have any rights as to the distribution of the power There is no logic in it. There, again, we see the claw of private enterprise. The big risks and expenses lie in distribution; the kudos and the money are obtained through the simple process of generating electricity. That is why we have all these inconsistencies with regard to the production and the distribution of electricity. The reference that was made to Clause 4 shows just exactly the farce that is being created by this Bill. First of all we have got a Board. We do not know what that Board is going to be like—it will be dependent on a choice. When we have that Board and have got it working, it will be mixed up with—supposed to be working in conjunction with—the Electricity Commissioners. What I have always protested against is that you can never get any satisfaction either large or small from an organisation in a business where you have a body of men, some of whom understand the subject and some who do not. The result is that you never come to any considered opinion; it resolves itself into a question of voting power and that is bad business. The whole of this Bill depends entirely upon what the Board is going to be by its membership. If we are lucky in getting a good Board—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
The hon. Member is now dealing with the constitution of the board. I would like to point out that Clause 2 deals only with the powers and duties of the Board.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I was trying to point out that the success of the work of the board depends upon the character of the men who form it.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
May I point, out that Clause 1 deals with the constitution, and on Clause 2 we can only discuss what the members of the board have to do.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I am simply pointing out that under this Clause the members of the Board do not know what they have to do. Here you are proposing to appoint men at a large salary, and they are not told what their duties are going to be. It was suggested that one ought to be a highly trained lawyer, but he would not know a lot about the electricity business. Everything depends entirely upon the character of the men comprising the board, and if we are lucky to get a good board something may be done to improve matters. If, however, we do not succeed this respect, tins Measure will lead to an increase in the cost of the production and distribution of electricity all over the country.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
It is certainly no part of my duty to defend the Government against the charge of betrayal which has been made from the back Conservative benches. The hon. Member for Hampstead has accused the Conservative Government of having betrayed its followers by embarking upon a Bill which introduces Socialism wholesale. I do not agree with that statement, although I think this Measure will make a good starting point when a Socialist Government gets a chance of legislating. I suggest to the hon. Member for Hampstead that it is not the Government that has betrayed them because they still believe very strongly in private enterprise, but they have been betrayed by the circumstances of the case. I do not believe for a single moment that the Conservative Government believes in Socialism. The right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of this Bill is, I believe, the president of the Anti-Socialist Union, and he does not believe in Socialism, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman wishes to see Socialism established in this country by his Government or any other party.
This Bill has been introduced because it is recognised that in this country we are in an extremely backward situation as far as the supply of electrical current is concerned, and this Measure has been introduced because it has been recog- 1005 nised that commercial and manufacturing efficiency depends to a very large extent at the present moment, and also in the future, upon the provision of the cheap supply of electrical power. This Measure has been introduced because these facts are clearly recognised, and because we have a tremendous amount of leeway to make up. I am convinced that the Minister of Transport and the Prime Minister have, after their review of the situation, come to the conclusion that private enterprise is not capable of remedying the present situation inside a reasonable time, or within such a period as would give our traders a chance of competing in the foreign markets of the world. That is why this Bill has been introduced.
I do not believe this Measure will meet the situation which exists in this country to-day. I think it will fail, and experience will show that it is only a halfhearted Measure. The hon. Member for Hampstead has said that no case has been made out for public control on this question. If I understand the facts aright, in London they show that municipal ownership in the city of London has proved more efficient and cheaper than private enterprise, and that the supply of electricity by municipalities in London has proved to be cheaper and more efficient than private companies operating in the same areas. We know that, with perhaps one or two rare exceptions, our great municipalities have operated in regard to electrical undertakings as efficiently and more cheaply than most private companies. There is certainly one outstanding exception in the North Eastern Power Company, which operates in Northumberland and Durham over a much larger area than would be possible in the case of a municipality, and which has access to a volume of trade which is denied to most municipalities. I repeat that in regard to this Bill the circumstances and the facts have betrayed hon. Members opposite, and it is a very remarkable testimony to the growing necessities of our times that a Conservative Government has been compelled by the actual facts of the case to recognise that private enterprise has broken down completely in regard to a vital supply like electricity.
I was reading a speech a short time ago by Governor Smith of New York. He was dealing with the question of 1006 electric current in the United States, and he was commenting upon the great stations at Niagara erected in the very home of individualism and anti-Socialism where there is no Labour or Socialist party occupying the position which we occupy in this country. Governor Smith said that so far as their system crippled the supply of electricity it would have to go, and that all boundaries laid down by State agencies would have to disappear. He was arguing in favour of State control and State ownership, and he suggested that the time was not far off when the Canadian and the United States Governments might be called upon to operate upon an international basis for the supply of this vital necessity as opposed to its control by private enterprise and private companies. That is a very remarkable testimony to the necessity that is arising in the realm of industry and commerce for the destruction of these bonds that are cramping our industry at the present moment. We are only taking the line here that has already been foreshadowed by private enterprise itself, and it is amazing that from the apostles of private enterprise there should be this tremendous objection to State control in this case, while they have no objection to international control in their own industries provided that the international trusts which they impose give them an unlimited control over the dividends and profits wrung from their consumers.
We on this side have no idea of setting up a bureaucracy. The Attorney-General spoke of this as an attempt to prevent the growth of bureaucracy. It is quite a mistake to assume that Socialists are in love with bureaucracy any more than any other party is. We have no more idea than other parties of creating an officialism, but the Manchester municipality is not a bureaucracy in any sense of the term, and we who are putting forward this Socialist theory are prepared that municipalities should retain as much power as possible. We want as much decentralisation as possible, but here we would say that, in certain aspects of the supply of electricity, State control is necessary. This Bill, however, does not conform to the necessities of the case. Although the Government will bring it into operation, and will probably do the best they can under the cramping condi- 1007 tions which the Bill itself lays down—with, all the time, the active opposition of companies represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who will attempt to crab the pitch of their own Government's Measure and hamper it as much as they possibly can—in spite of all that can be done by the Commissioners, who also are going to be hampered by business, although I cannot discuss that on this occasion, the Measure will be ineffective to meet the demands of the situation, and will not bring that quick relief to hampered and harassed traders that our commercial situation demands and requires. Alongside the development that is taking place on the Continent amongst our great competitors, highly organised
§ on a scientific basis, this weak attempt to meet the attacks on our foreign trade and commerce will fail because of the half-hearted nature of the efforts of the Government themselves.
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill," put, and negatived.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 187; Noes, 111.1009
|Division No. 449.]||AYES.||[8.41 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel|
|Albery, Irving James||Fermoy, Lord||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Fielden, E. B.||Meller, R. J.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Merriman, F. B.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Forrest, W.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred|
|Atkinson, C.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B M.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.||Moore Sir Newton J.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Gates, Percy||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J, T. C.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Goff. Sir Park||Murchison, C. K.|
|Birshall, Major J. Dearman||Grace, John||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Graham, Frederick F. (Cumb'ld., N.)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Grant, Sir J. A.||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Oakley, T.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Braithwaite, A. N.||Hammersley, S. S.||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hanbury, C.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Philipson, Mabel|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Harrison, G. J. C.||Pielou, D. P.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Pilcher, G.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Pilditch, Sir Phillp|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Hawke, John Anthony||Radford, E. A.|
|Burman, J. B.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Chadwick, sir Robert Burton||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Christie, J. A.||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hudson, Capt A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Rye, F. G.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey. Farnham)|
|Cope, Major William||Huntingfield, Lord||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Sandon, Lord|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Shaw, Lt-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Kidd, J. (Linilthgow)||Shaw, Capt. Walter (Witts, Westb'y)|
|Danes, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Knox, Sir Alfred||Skelton, A. N.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Dean, Arthur Weilesley||Loder, J. de V.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine,C.)|
|Dixey. A. C.||Looker, Herbert William||Smithers, Waldron|
|Drews, C.||Lord, Walter Greaves||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Duckworth, John||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Edmondson. Major A. J.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Macintyre, Ian||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|England, Colonel A.||McLean, Major A.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Macmillan, Captain H.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.||Womersley, W. J|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)||Wood, E. (Chester, Staly'b'ge & Hyde)|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||Watts, Dr. T.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||Wells, S. R.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Tinne, J. A.||Winby, Colonel L. P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||Captain Viscount Curzon and|
|Waddington, R.||Wise, Sir Fredric||Captain Margesson.|
|Wallace, Captain D. E.||Withers, John James|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Sexton, James|
|Amman, Charles George||Hayday, Arthur||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hayes, John Henry||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Smillie, Robert|
|Baker, Walter||Hirst, G. H.||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Barnes, A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Barr, J.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Bromfield, William||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sutton, J. E.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Cape, Thomas||Kelly, W. T.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kennedy, T.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Clowes, S.||Kirk wood, D.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lansbury, George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lawrence, Susan||Townend, A. E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lawson, John James||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Lee, F.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lindley, F. W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lowth, T.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dennison, R.||Lunn, William||Walsh, Rt Hon. Stephen|
|Duncan, C.||MacLaren, Andrew||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dunnico, H.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||March, S.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Fenby, T. D.||Maxton, James||Westwood, J.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Murnin, H.||Whiteley, W.|
|Gillett, George M.||Naylor, T. E.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Gosling, Harry||Owen, Major G.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Paling, W.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coins)||Potts, John S.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Purcell, A. A.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Groves, T.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Windsor, Waller|
|Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hall. F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Scrymgeour, E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Hardie, George D.||Scurr, John||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. HANNON
I beg to move, in page 3, line 22, at the end, to insert the wordsProvided that the Board shall not delegate any of their powers in respect to selected stations without the consent of the owners of those stations.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I understood from Mr. Speaker that that was not to be moved—that the discussion was to comprise the three Amendments in the hon. Member's name, and that subsequent Amendments were not to be moved.
§ Mr. HERBERT
I agree that it was not to be discussed, but I was under the impression, none the less, that we should have the right to move it.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am sorry if there has been any misunderstanding. If the hon. Member wishes to move the last Amendment in order to take a, Division on the matter of principle, I will accept it.
§ Mr. HANNON
This has been the subject of considerable discussion. I understand my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) is prepared to accept it. [Interruption.] I should have said I understand the Attorney-General will accept it. It is submitted in order to protect the London area and other areas where under a recent Act of Parliament certain rights had been conferred upon them, and obviously it would be very improper in a Measure of this kind to upset rights already established by preceding Acts of Parliament.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
This is a matter which has been the subject of a good deal of discussion between those interested in the Bill. It seems not unreasonable that before you delegate powers which are in the aggregate very wide, the owners of the selected stations in any area affected should first have to give their consent. After all, the House is setting up the Board; the public will know who the Board is, and the owners of stations will know who the Board is, and before the owners are asked to accept a delegation of powers, it is not unreasonable that they should be consulted. I understand my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), who is intimately connected with one of the principal electricity authorities of the country, thinks the proposal not an unreasonable one, and that possibly is why my hon. Friend who moved it referred to his assent rather than to that of the Government. I understand the hon. Member opposite sees no objection to it so far as the joint electricity authorities are concerned, and the Government think it not unreasonable, and if the House sees fit to accept it, it may tend to alleviate the apprehensions of some of those whose undertakings are undoubtedly affected by the Bill.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
This is rather a difficult Clause, and the Amendment is aimed at rather restricting the power. We have in the Clause power to delegate the powers of the Board to authorised undertakings. I should like to have seen that restricted to public authorities. It has not been so restricted, and I have to consider what may happen under the Clause. It is possible that in a joint electricity authority area the powers might be delegated to a joint electricity authority, and they might have the power of selecting stations. As a member of a joint electricity authority. I should like that. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to select, say, the Barking station, and make it into a public station for all London. But in other areas it may be different. The power of delegation might be given to a power company. The power company might then be able to select a municipal station and take it 1012 away. And on the whole I think this proposed Amendment, although I do not think it is going necessarily to be helpful to me in London, is a wise one considering that we know so very little about what the Board may be, what they may do, and to whom the powers may be delegated. That is why I should not oppose it, although I do not welcome it specially. The delegation Clause is unsatisfactory at the present time, but I think this Amendment does safeguard the position of authorised undertakers.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I am very glad that the Attorney-General will accept the Amendment. I think he is wise and prudent. I can understand the position of the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) who happens to be a member of a joint electricity authority who, in due course, are going to erect power stations with the assistance of State finance or the guarantee of the London County Council. I am sure that they have sufficient fish to fry in London. I am glad that, for once, under the pressure of my hon. Friend the Member for the Moseley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Hannon), who has done a great deal of work in regard to this matter, and with the assent of the hon. Member for Lime-house, we have got one tiny little improvement in the Bill.
§ Amendment agreed to.