§ Colonel ASHLEY
I beg to move, in page 40; to leave out lines 27 to 46, and to insert instead thereof the words(cc) No Order authorising the abstraction of water from any reservoir or other works used by any statutory water undertaker for the purposes of the undertaking shall be made without the consent of such undertaker (which consent shall not be unreasonably refused) and if any question arises as to the reasonableness of any refusal or of the terms sought to be imposed as a condition of giving consent, the question shall be referred to a single arbitrator nominated by the Lord Chief Justice, or in Scotland by the Lord President of the Court of Session, and in any such Order there shall be inserted such provisions as the Minister of Health (or in the case of Scotland the Scottish Board of Health) may consider proper for safeguarding the interests a the water consumers.This is merely a drafting Amendment, turning the words of the paragraph round, and placing first the provision which requires the consent of the water undertaker to the making of any Order. This is considered to be a better safeguard than the paragraph as it stands in the Bill, where the words are the other way round.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir DOUGLAS NEWTON
I beg to move, in page 41, line 6, to leave out the word "wherever," and to insert instead thereof the word "where."
This is the first of a series of three Amendments which are consequential one, upon the other. I should like to refer the House to Section 21 of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, which provides that:Where the consent of the Board of Trade is obtained to the placing of any electric line above ground in any case, the consent of the local authority shall not be required. … but the Board of Trade before giving their consent shall give the local authority an opportunity of being heard.At present the Electricity Commissioners are in the place of the Board of Trade. That provision does not give a county council an opportunity of being similarly heard, and the object of these three Amendments is to give the county council the same right of being heard when overhead lines are carried over roads and bridges for which they are responsible.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made: In page 41, line 7, after the word "they," insert the word "first."
In line 9, at the end, insert the words
and after the second 'local authority' there shall be inserted the words 'and (where it is proposed to place the line along or across any county bridge or any main road vested in a county council) the county council.'"—[Sir D. Newton.]
§ Mr. HANNON
I beg to move, in page 41, line 9, after the words last inserted, to insert the wordss. 22. At the end of Sub-section (1) there shall be inserted:The Minister of Transport., in deciding whether to give or withhold his consent, may award such costs as he thinks just to the owners and occupiers, or to the authorised undertakers concerned.This is an Amendment which I am sure will commend itself to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, as he has been so generously making concessions during the last five minutes. This Amendment seeks to provide, in relation to Section 22 of the Electric Lighting Act of 1919, where the Minister may give or withhold his consent in relation to way leaves, that he should have the power, in giving his decision, to award to owners or occupiers costs which he thinks may have been legitimately incurred. In dealing with questions affecting way-leaves under the Electric Lighting Act considerable expense is frequently involved in the case of companies and promoters of schemes, and if there is a reasonable case for securing payment of these expenses, this Amendment seeks to empower the Minister to do so. It will really be strengthening the Bill if a concession of this kind is embodied in it whereby promoters of electricity schemes seeking to secure the necessary way-leaves for the prosecution of their undertaking can be secured in their costs at the instance of the Minister.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Although my hon. Friend appealed to the Minister to continue in the pleasant path of making concessions I am afraid my hon. 1404 Friend has had his share earlier in the day. The fact is that this provision in the view of the Ministry goes too far. The position at present is that, under the Regulations made by the Minister, provision has been made under which the Minister may, in any case as regard wayleaves under this Section, decide which party is to bear the cost of expenses incurred by the Ministry, so that there is already provision that anyone who is unreasonable may have the whole of the costs of the Minister holding the inquiry thrown upon him. My hon. Friend's proposal would go further and allow the Minister to award the costs of the successful party to be paid by the unsuccessful party. The Government have the fear that if that were done it would encourage litigation being carried on on rather a more expensive scale, with leading counsel, experts and so on. However desirable that might be from some personal points of view, we do not think it is in the public interest. The Government feel, therefore, that the provision which has already been made under the statutory rules and orders is as far as we can properly go, and we cannot ask the House to accept this Amendment.
§ Sir J. NALL
I observe that the Amendment proposes that the Minister may award costs to owners or occupiers where he thinks it just that he should do so. I am sure the House will hear with regret that the Attorney-General thinks the Minister is not competent to exercise that discretion and award costs if he thinks they are just.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I am interested to hear what my right hon. Friend says, that my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment has already had his share. I am quite certain that that was a true explanation. My right hon. and learned Friend has consistently endeavoured to detach various interests which are represented here—if that is the proper term to use—to buy off certain interests so as to detach the real volume of opinion in the Conservative ranks in opposition to this Bill. My right hon. and learned Friend gave true expression to his feelings when he said that my hon. Friend the Member for the Moseley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Hannon) had had his share. An hon. Member below me who moved an Amendment a few minutes ago had a concession readily granted, because I 1405 think in that particular case the hon. Member represented railway interests, and it was necessary to secure— [interruption]. Let me make it quite clear that the hon. Member represents in this House, and very properly, claims which the railway companies wish to advance. My point has no reference whatever to any suggestion that any hon. Member unworthily represents any particular point of view; my suggestion is that it was necessary for my right hon. and learned Friend to secure that to various views which were to be represented From various industries of importance, which had been represented to him in this House, there should be granted concession, so that there should not be a large volume of opinion expressing the true feeling of the party against this Bill. It was vitally necessary in Committee upstairs and down here to see that these opinions were detached, so that he might only have to deal with the disinterested representation of a view which is very strong on these benches against this Bill.
§ Mr. HANNON
May I be permitted to make one word of personal explanation? I should like to say at once that I dissociate myself entirely from the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour). I say, without a moment's hesitation, and I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and the House will accept what say in all sincerity, that there has been no understanding, no bargain, no compromise, no arrangement of interests of any sort, kind or description between my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and myself.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour) seems to be of the same opinion as the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, in his less degenerate days, described the Conservative party as a conspiracy of interests.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I beg to move, in page 41, line 29, at the end, to insert the wordss. 24. The following proviso shall be inserted:Provided that such supply shall be used in such manner as not to cause or be likely to cause any interference (whether by induction or otherwise) with any telegraphic line belonging 1406 to or used by the Postmaster-General or with telegraphic communication by means of such line. This provision shall not apply to any company or authority authorised to use electricity by Act of Parliament or by an Order confirmed by or having the effect of an Act of Parliament containing provisions for the protection of the telegraphic lines of the Postmaster-General in respect of the use of electricity. In this Section 'telegraphic line' has the same meaning as in the Telegraph Act. 1878.I move this Amendment in order to prevent the unqualified and unrestricted rise of electricity by railways. I understand that it is agreed to.
§ Amendment agreed to.