HC Deb 11 November 1926 vol 199 cc1321-2

I beg to move, in page 21, line 19, to leave out the words, "Electricity Commissioners," and to insert instead thereof the word "Treasury."

The object of the series of Amendments which I have put down to this Clause is to secure that all these financial matters shall be subject to Treasury control. I think it is absolutely necessary that where money is being borrowed with a State guarantee, it should be subject to the control of the Treasury. That is the form adopted in relation to other credits in regard to which it is provided that the Treasury must be satisfied and properly informed before such credits can be sanctioned. In this case the allocation of money to capital expenditure and various matters of that kind are dealt with in this Clause, and primarily are matters to be considered by the Electricity Commissioners. My view is that the final approval should be in the hands of the Treasury, and it should not be a mere question of confirmation by the Commissioners, but should be confirmed by the Treasury.


We have had a continual repetition of objections to the Electricity Commissioners, and the whole of the arguments used in this connection have not been based upon anything that can be said against those Commissioners. Judging from the persistency of hon. Members opposite in this respect, I am inclined to believe that the real reason is that they envy the efficiency and the competency of the Electricity Commissioners. Personally I cannot see what is going to be gained by leaving out the mainspring in this Bill, because, after all, the Electricity Commissioners are going to be the mainspring of this Measure. I think it is a great waste of time to go on discussing matters of this kind.


The House will be pleased to know that I am not going to accept this Amendment. The position is that, under all these Acts, the Electricity Commissioners are the people who have to sanction loans and borrowings. They have even to sanction the borrowings by the Joint Electricity Authority, and they have to give their consent under Regulations made by the Ministry with the approval of the Treasury. The Electricity Commissioners is the body which has to refuse or consent to these loans, and they have to determine in the particular line of the Bill we are now discussing whether a particular expenditure ought to be spread over a term of years or not. Of course, it is a problem for an electrical engineer to say whether a certain expenditure ought to be spread over a term of years or not, and, therefore, we leave it to the Electricity Commissioners to decide that point. They have also to determine the period of repayment which, again, is a very technical problem. In view of the fact that the money borrowed is borrowed under a Treasury guarantee, they have to determine the period after consultation with the Treasury and, therefore, the Treasury is the proper body to give them financial advice. I respectfully submit, to the House that there is no reason for taking away from the Electricity Commissioners in this Bill the power which they already have under all the earlier Acts, and I ask the House to reject the Amendment.

Mr. BALFOUR rose


I understood that the hon. Member seconded the Amendment.


I understood that an hon. Member opposite seconded it, and I rose to make a few remarks on it.

Amendment negatived.