HC Deb 18 December 1929 vol 233 cc1560-8

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Special Order made by the Electricity Commissioners under the Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1882 to 1928, and confirmed by the Minister of Transport under the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, authorising the Farnham Gas and Electricity Company to raise additional capital for electricity purposes, which was presented on the 12th day of November, 1929, be approved."—[Mr. Ponsonby.]

Commander WILLIAMS

On this Order I want to ask two questions. The Order authorises the Farnham Gas and Electricity Company to raise additional capital for electricity purposes, and I do not think it would be just or right that we should pass this Order unless we know exactly how much the existing capital is, and how much additional capital it is proposed to raise. I do not wish to make matters difficult; I feel sure that the purpose is a good one; but I think that the House, on all occasions when additional capital is being raised, should know the amount, and it cannot be of any value to know it unless it also knows what the original capital was.


When the hon. and gallant Member has had an opportunity of looking carefully through the Order—he will find a copy of it in the Library—he will be able to see in it the particulars that he wants.


I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is treating the House fairly. When questions are put across the Floor of the House, and a responsible Minister is in charge of an Order of this kind, I do not think I am unfair in saying that the Minister must give his explanation to the House. It is not fair that my hon. and gallant Friend should be referred to some document in the Library. We hope that the hon. Gentleman himself is aware of the contents of the Order, and, if that be so, I think he had better at once, in order to expedite the business, answer my hon. and gallant Friend's question.


I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I had no intention

of being at all discourteous to the hon. and gallant Member, and, if he raises any objection to this Order, I am quite willing to postpone it.


This is a very simple matter. Cannot the hon. Gentleman answer my hon. and gallant Friend's question?

Commander WILLIAMS

I accept the personal explanation of the hon. Gentleman that he does not wish to be discourteous, but really I cannot see why he cannot answer two perfectly simple questions which are the business of his Department and which he is paid by the country and the House of Commons to do. I never heard such a scandalous case before, and I am glad that I have raised it, if only to show how entirely lacking every member of this Government is in knowledge of their duty to this House.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 180; Noes, 46.

Division No. 110.] AYES [11.4 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Edge, Sir William Longbottom, A. W.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Edmunds, J. E. Longden, F.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. v. (Hillsbro) Edwards, E. (Morpeth) Lovat-Fraser, J. A.
Amnion, Charles George Elmley, Viscount Lowth, Thomas
Angell, Norman Foot, Isaac Lunn, William
Arnott, John Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Aske, Sir Robert Gibson, H. M. (Lanes. Mossley) Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)
Ayles, Walter Gillett, George M. McElwee, A.
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley) Glassey, A. E. McEntee, V. L.
Barnes, Alfred John Gossling, A. G. McKinlay, A.
Batey, Joseph Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne) Mansfield, W.
Bellamy, Albert Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Marcus, M.
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Mathers, George
Benson. G. Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.) Matters, L. W.
Bentham, Dr. Ethel Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn) Maxton, James
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Hastings, Dr. Somerville Messer, Fred
Bowen, J. W. Haycock, A. W. Middleton, G.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hayes, John Henry Milner, J.
Brockway, A. Fenner Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow) Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Bromfield, William Herriotts, J. Morley, Raiph
Brooke, W. Hore-Belisha, Leslie Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)
Brothers, M. Horrabin, J. F. Mort, D. L.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Muff, G.
Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West) Hunter, Dr. Joseph Muggerldge, H. T.
Buchanan, G. John, William (Rhondda, West) Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Burgess, F. G. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)
Caine, Derwent Hall- Kelly, W. T. Owen, H. F. (Hereford)
Cameron, A. G. Kennedy, Thomas Palin, John Henry
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.) Kinley, J. Paling, Wilfrid
Chater, Daniel Kirkwood, D. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Compton, Joseph Lathan, G. Phillips, Dr. Marlon
Cowan, D. M. Law, Albert (Bolton) Pole, Major D. G.
Daggar, George Law, A. (Rossendale) Ponsonby, Arthur
Dalton, Hugh Lawrence, Susan Potts, John S.
Davies, E. C. (Montgomery) Lawson, John James Quibell, D. J. K.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Ramsay, T. B. Wilson
Dickson, T. Leach, W. Raynes, W. R.
Dukes, C. Lewis, T. (Southampton) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Duncan, Charles Lindley, Fred W. Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)
Ede, James Chuter Logan, David Gilbert Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)
Romeril, H. G. Smith, Alfred (Sunderland) Walker, J.
Rosbotham, D. S. T. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe) Wallace, H. w.
Rothschild, J. de Smith, Frank (Nuneaton) Watkins, F. C.
Rowson, Guy Smith, Rennie (Penistone) Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Salter, Dr. Alfred Smith, Tom (Pontefract) Wellock, Wilfred
Sanders, W. S. Smith, W. R. (Norwich) Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)
Sandham, E. Sorensen, R. Westwood, Joseph
Scrymgeour, E. Stamford, Thomas W. Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Sexton, James Stephen, Campbell Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Shepherd, Arthur Lewis Strauss, G. R. Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Sherwood, G. H. Sullivan, J. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Shield, George William Sutton, J. E. Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Shlels, Dr. Drummond Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Shillaker, J. F. Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.) Wise, E. F.
Short, Alfred (Wednesbury) Thurtie, Ernest Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Simmons, C. J. Tinker, John Joseph
Sinkinson, George Tout, W. J. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Sitch, Charles H. Viant, S. P. Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut. -Colonel Ford, Sir P. J. Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Albery, Irving James Fremantle, Lieut. -Colonel Francis E. Skelton, A. N.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Gower, Sir Robert Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Balfour, Captain H. H. (L. of Thanet) Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. p. H. Heneage, Lieut. -Colonel Arthur p. Smithers, Waldron
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Somerset, Thomas
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K. Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Butler, R. A. McConnell, Sir Joseph Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Castle Stewart, Earl of Marjoribanks, E. C. Thomson, Sir F.
Christie, J. A. Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Todd, Capt. A. J.
Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro) Moore, Lieut. -Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)
Dairymple-White, Lt. -Col. Sir Godfrey Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Davies, Dr. Vernon Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Penny, Sir George TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Edmondson, Major A. J. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Captain Austin Hudson and
Ferguson, Sir John Remer, John R. Commander Williams.
Fielden, E. B. Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Special Order made by the Electricity Commissioners under the Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1882 to 1928, and confirmed by the Minister of Transport under the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, authorising the Farnham Gas and Electricity Company to raise additional capital for electricity purposes, which was presented on the 12th day of November, 1929, be approved.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Special Order made by the Electricity Commissioners under the Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1882 to 1928, and confirmed by the Minister of Transport under the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, in respect of part of the rural district of Godstone, in the county of Surrey, which was presented on the 19th day of November, 1929, be approved."—[Mr. Ponsonby.]

Commander SOUTHBY

Before the House agrees to this Order, I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman a few questions upon it. Is this the first Order which has been asked for in connection with this undertaking, or has there been a previous one? I should like to know a little more about the position of the undertaking if the hon. Gentleman will enlighten the House on the subject, and in particular I should like to know whether this electricity supply will in- clude Caterham in its usefulness and activities.


This Order really affects my constituency very much indeed. My own house is within a mile and a-half of the boundary of this rural district. There are talks of electricity development along the North Downs, where I happen to live and which adjoins the Godstone Rural District. I notice that in this Order it says "part of the rural district of God-stone," and I should like to know which part of it is affected? Is it the part near my constituency, or is it the part over Oxted and in the other direction?


I gave my hon. Friend notice earlier in the evening that having previously accepted his advice to read this Order in the Library I had done so, and that there were one or two points which I desired to raise. I wish to ask my hon. Friend whether we may be assured that in future in submitting these Orders to the House adequate consideration will be given to the way in which they link up with the previous Orders which have been submitted in connection with the same undertaking. His late lamented Majesty King Alfred the Great, in mapping out the parishes in this rural dis- trict, detached a portion of the parish of Godstone and placed it next to the parish of East Grinstead, with the result that this rural district wanders about over the county of Surrey in a most irregular and sporadic way, to the great detriment of local government within that county. This Order links up with the Order for the urban district of East Grinstead, in the county of Sussex. There can be no greater insult offered to a man of Surrey—I speak as a native of that county—than to link him up with a man of Sussex, because the men of Surrey have an alliterative adjective which they place in front of the word "Sussex," which expresses their quite proper opinion of the men of Sussex.

The serious point that arises is that these various Orders mature so far as their purchase rights are concerned at a fixed date after the granting of the Order. The East Grinstead Order has been in operation for a considerable number of years, and the purchase rights under that Order in respect of East Grinstead, in the County of East Sussex, will mature at a far earlier date than the purchase rights of the extended Order which we are granting to-night. It is desirable, if public control is to be obtained over these undertakings, as was promised by the Minister of Transport the other day, that these Orders should be so drafted as to make the purchase rights synchronise. The granting of this Order is so important for the future development of this district and for the immediate needs of the locality that I shall support the Government in the Division Lobby to-night; but I do want to be assured that before fresh Orders of this kind are brought in—there is another Order relating to another part of this very difficult and scattered rural district that may be in front of us a few nights hence—the points that I have raised will receive consideration in the drafting of the Order.


I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that the point he has raised is one to which the Minister of Transport attaches great importance. In this particular case I think that some objection was raised to this Order. Unfortunately, the objection has not reached the authorities early enough in the day, otherwise, in view of the procedure, the points raised by the objectors would have been considered and met, if possible. If the hon. Member for South Shields will inform those who are objecting on the grounds he mentioned, the matter will be reconsidered by the Ministry. There is only one point to which I must take very serious objection, and that was the hon. Member's reference to the inhabitants of Sussex, of which I am one. If I were to express the feelings that we in Sussex have in regard to the people who live in suburban Surrey, I think my hon. Friend would feel that he had better not have mentioned the matter. The hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Smithers) is concerned about his house.


No. I am not concerned about my house, but I am concerned about my constituency. I want to know what part of the rural district of Godstone is going to be served by this scheme, and if it is the part that touches the village where I live, and my constituency.


The parish of God-stone which is affected, that, I take it is what the hon. Member is interested in, is Purley Downs Road, the parish of St. Paul, which very likely adjoins his estate—


On a point of Order. I object very strongly to this being made a personal matter. I have a very small house. I have no estate; and I object to these Socialist points being made against me.


I quite understand. I will withdraw the word "estate" and substitute the word "seat." I need not go further into details. I think I have satisfied the hon. Member with regard to this matter.


The Parliamentary Secretary has stated that objectors did not have sufficient time to lodge their Objections. Will he let us know what notice was given so that they could lodge objections?


That is not exactly what I said. The notices were issued in good time for objections to be sent in, but in the particular case mentioned by the hon. Member for South Shields a drafting objection was unfortunately sent in too late.


Surely if we pass this Order to-night the opportunity of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will be lost. In view of the fact that there are valid objections which the Parliamentary Secretary himself has admitted ought to be considered, the obvious course is to withdraw this Order. If it is passed, the points which have been brought forward cannot be discussed. I do not know whether it is a good or bad case, but if we pass the Order now there will be no opportunity of discussing it.


As a representative of a Sussex division, may I say that it is natural for hon. Members opposite to sneer at Sussex because of its political solidity?


Sussex is not mentioned in this Order.

Commander WILLIAMS

On a point of Order. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the County of Sussex in a rather sneering way and surely the representatives of that great county are allowed to rebut it.


It is really a, very simple matter to reduce the discussion to proper proportions. The real explanation is that the Minister in charge is not equipped with a proper answer to the question.


The Minister mentioned the county of Sussex and so did an hon. Member opposite. I think I was perfectly entitled to mention the county in reply.




The hon. Member has already spoken once.

Commander WILLIAMS

May I draw attention to one point? The Minister never explained why the divisions were made under the Order.


The Minister told us that a copy of the Order can be found on the table in the Library. Is there more than one copy? A signed copy is always locked away, and it is very inconvenient for Members to see it, and when a Member has got it and is called away to a Division in the House he has to hand it back to the Librarian.


On a point of Order, and with great respect, Mr. Speaker, I think you were under a misapprehension just now. I was just starting a few observations when I was interrupted. Am I not in order in continuing my observations now? They are strictly relevant to the Order.


I thought the hon. Member had resumed his seat when he spoke last.


The last thing I would wish to do would be consciously to be out of order. I said that the whole difficulty had arisen because the Minister in charge was not in a position to give a simple and explicit answer to the question he was asked. It is well known to the older Members of the House that the procedure in connection with legislation of this kind is clearly laid down, and if the hon. Gentleman had given the simple explanation that all the questions raised by my hon. Friends were fully investigated by the Electricity Commissioners, with the right to further investigation by the Ministry, there would have been no difficulty. Though I am not familiar with the details of this Order, I have no doubt that every possible question has been explored. Listening to the Debate, I came to the conclusion that the difficulty in which the House finds itself arose not because there is any reason why the Order should be delayed and those responsible for it embarrassed, but because the Minister in charge could not explicitly answer the questions raised. That is possibly due to the fact that he has not had sufficient experience on the Front Bench in dealing with these matters. This Order follows the ordinary procedure, and I know of no special reason why it should not be passed.

Resolved, That the Special Order made by the Electricity Commissioners under the Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1882 to 1928, and confirmed by the Minister of Transport under the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, in respect of part of the rural district of Godstone, in the county of Surrey, which was presented on the 19th day of November, 1929, be approved.