HC Deb 10 November 1926 vol 199 cc1216-20

I beg to move, in page 15, line 28, to leave out the words "in any year."

This is a purely drafting Amendment as the words "in any year" have now become meaningless.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 15, line 32, to leave out the words, "the whole quantity of electrcity required for their undertaking," and to insert instead thereof the words such quantity of electricity as the undertakers would require for the purposes of their undertaking if the station were closed, and undertake to give such a supply for a period of not less than seven years. This is really to correct a mistake which occurred in Committee. This Clause provides power to close uneconomic generating stations in certain cases. In Committee it was pointed out by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) that there was no period over which the Board bound itself to supply at any given price, and it was suggested by him that it should be a period of not less than seven years. That was a view which commended itself to the Committee and the Government, and we were willing to accept an Amendment on those lines. Unfortunately, by some misunderstanding, the Amendment was not moved in Committee, and the Government have now framed the Amendment which meets the point raised, and proposes that the power to close shall not exist unless the Board are willing to undertake to supply such a quantity of electricity as the undertakers shall require for the purpose of their undertaking if the station were closed, and give such a supply for a period of not less than seven years. There is a slight alteration from the original Amendment, because under that, there might have been an obligation to supply what the undertakers were getting from some other supply. The Amendment is designed to protect the owners of generating stations and to carry out the promise given during the Committee stage.


This Amendment was to have been made at the end of the Clause when the Bill was in Committee, but the Committee were led away by the eloquence of the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. Hall) and the Amendment was forgotten. I have put on the Paper some Amendments designed to strengthen the Clause, but on consideration I think that the present Amendment meets the point that I wished to raise, and I shall not move the Amendments standing in my name.


The Amendment illustrates again the difficulty that this House must have in understanding the exact measure of the actions we are taking. I agree that on reading this Amendment without a somewhat detailed knowledge of these matters I should assume that it was a good Amendment, and in fact very little different from the Clause as it stands. But in fact what will happen will be this: An undertaker owns a station which at the present moment and with its present size is not operating efficiently. That station is in course of change. Many stations in the country at the present time are changing over from one steam pressure to another. Two-thirds of a station may be changed over, and one-third has still to be changed. When that one-third is changed the cost of production from that station will be very materially decreased.

In some cases it will be very nearly halved. [Interruption.] I do not want to burden the House with long and elaborate explanations, and I think hon. Members will agree that I have refrained from long and technical details which I might well have put before the House on a large number of Amendments. But I think it is only right, on an occasion such as this, to illustrate to the House on an odd occasion exactly the difficulties in which we find ourselves in settling matters of this kind.

There are local stations in course of change over, which will have facilities for an output double or treble the present output, and the cost of producing, when they get the station up to that larger output, will be so much reduced that theirs would be a good case for maintaining their own independent supply. Under this proposal they will be prohibited from doing it. Stations have been going through this period of change rapidly since 1922. The price is going down at all stations now. As the price comes down the demand goes up. The Electricity Commissioners know perfectly well that this sort of thing is going on at a rapid rate all over the country and that never has there been since 1922 such a rapid growth of electricity as now. They know it is not a question of proving to the people of this country that something has to be done to speed up the production of electricity. At the present moment it cannot be held up, except by legislation. The main point is that we are all interested in seeing if we can get a cheaper supply of electricity in this country, and it has never been proved that this ought to be done necessarily by closing down certain small stations. These stations to-day with the form of machinery available can in relatively small stations be developed—


I fear the hon. Gentleman is making a general speech on a Bill. We are here on a particular Amendment with regard to the undertakers getting a supply for a period of not less than seven years. The time for a general debate is on Friday.


With very great respect, Mr. Speaker, I think if you read the word in the Amendment, you will see we are dealing with the question of the amount that the undertakers may require for the purposes of their undertaking if the station were closed. The point I am raising is that of a station not being closed, but expanded to its normal limits, with the development of machinery at the present time. I am quite conscious it is extremely difficult to enter into a full explanation on any Amendment without having the appearance of straying beyond the Amendment. I will content myself with what I have said, namely, that the people concerned who understand these matters fully think that these points can be given effect to in a totally different manner than that proposed under the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 15, line 33, to leave out the word "calculated," and to insert instead thereof the word "ascertained."

I understand the Attorney-General regards this as a drafting Amendment and is prepared to accept it.


I beg to second the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 15, line 36, after the word "undertakers" insert the words "of generating electricity at the station."

In page 15, line 42, after the word "undertakers" insert the words "at the station."—[The Attorney-General.]


I beg to move, in page 16, line 1, to leave out the word "calculated," and to insert instead thereof the word "ascertained."

The word "calculated" in the previous line has just been altered by the House to the word "ascertained." I suggest it might be well to move the Amendment here to alter the word "calculated" into "ascertained" in the same way as previously.

Amendment agreed to.