HC Deb 16 April 1930 vol 237 cc3059-64

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 the rural district of King's Lynn and part of the rural district of Freebridge Lynn, in the county of Norfolk, and for the amendment of the King's Lynn Electric Lighting Order, 1896, which was presented on the 25th day of March, 1930, be approved."—[Mr. Parkinson.]


Seeing that the House has power to criticise these Orders, the Minister of Transport ought to do his duty and attend the House in order to give the information which many of us desire. This Order affects one of the towns on the coast of Norfolk. The first provision refers to: The King's Lynn Electric Lighting Order, 1896 (hereinafter called 'the principal Order') and this Order may be cited together as the King's Lynn Electricity Orders, 1896 and 1930. I have used all my powers in the time at my disposal in endeavouring to find out precisely what is done under this Order, and I think it is essential that an explanation should be given before we pass the Order, because King's Lynn is by no means a mean town; it has an ancient and historic record. The next paragraph to which t would call attention says: Provided also that Section 20 of the said schedule in its application to the undertaking within the said area shall have effect as if after the words 'electric signalling communication' wherever they occur there were inserted the words 'or electrical control of railways'. I am not certain what that means. Does it mean electric signalling in connection with the railways in the area? In Clause 6, there is reference to the "undertakers." I assume that those are the people who are working the scheme; a company or a local authority. I would like to know who are the undertakers. There are some of us who think that the undertakers may be the local authority and some think that they may be the proprietors of a sugar beet factory. Is this in some way mixed up, with the subsidy that is paid to sugar beet factories? Is the subsidy which Parliament gives being used in such a way that a particular locality gets cheap or easy electricity? A further point of which I would like some explanation arises in Clause 11 (3) which states: If during the period of thirty days from the date when the notice is served upon the Undertakers they have failed to comply with such notice the Board of Trade may execute the works required to be done by the notice at the expense of the Undertakers. It seems to me that in this particular case 30 days is not quite long enough, because this particular part of the country does not always move as fast as other parts of the country. What means have the Board of Trade for undertaking the work, if they consider it necessary to do so?

It is conceivable that they may undertake the work and do it so badly as to lay a needless burden on the local authority which deals with these matters. I am interested in the Fourth Schedule, which deals with the maximum price. If these are the usual provisions for regulating prices I will accept them, but if not I should like to know why there has been any alteration. I apologise for having to raise this matter at such an inconvenient time of the night.

Mr. PARKINSON (Lord of the Treasury)

This Order is promoted by the Borough of King's Lynn and is in respect of the rural district of King's Lynn and part of the rural district of Freebridge Lynn in the County of Norfolk. It amends the King's Lynn Electric Lighting Order of 1896. The First Schedule indicates the area of the added area, and the Second Schedule the streets, not repairable by the local authority and railway, which may be broken up by the undertakers in pursuance of the special powers granted by the Order. The streets through which the undertakers are to lay down suitable and sufficient distributing mains for the pur- poses of general supply are given in the Third Schedule, and this work has to be executed within a period of two years after the commencement of the Order. With regard to maximum prices, these are set out in the Fourth Schedule. No objection has been lodged to the confirmation of this Order by the Electricity Commissioners and in view of that fact I hope the House will approve. I apologise for the absence of the Minister of Transport, who is unable to be present.


I should like to ask one question on the Fourth Schedule. In the prospectuses which were sent out the maximum price is 8d., but in the Fourth Schedule no mention is made of a maximum price for electricity which is taken for purposes of power or heating, and unless there is some good reason it would be much better if such Bills as this included a maximum price for light and heating. It is in the interests of consumers that there should be some maximum rate in the Schedule.

Major ROSS

There is one point which occurs to me on which I should like to have further explanation. In the Fourth Schedule there is an added area of supply. The fact of this area being added gives the undertakers considerable powers over the district. In the Second Schedule it is said that: Streets not repairable by the local authority may be broken up by the undertakers in pursuance of special powers given by this Order. Those are country roads, and two of them are in the parish of Gaywood and two in the parish of South Wootton. The undertakers are the mayor, aldermen and burgesses of King's Lynn, and on that body of undertakers there does not appear to be any representatives of the area added under this Bill. We get in the first Schedule the parishes of Gay-wood and South Wootton, and the rural district of Freebridge. These are the areas affected by the second Schedule, and they are liable to serious inconvenience. They can have their roads broken up by the authority of King's Lynn itself. Suppose that they object to the actions of the undertakers, as well they may. What is their remedy? They cannot apply to the Courts of Law, because the matter is taken out of their hands by Sub-section (4) of Clause 9. If a dispute arises between the county council and the undertakers it is stated "that the same shall be determined by an arbitrator to be appointed, on the application of either party, by the Minister of Transport." These two rural districts in their case against the undertakers are to be outside the law. They have merely the assistance of an arbitrator to be appointed by the Minister of Transport, although their local roads will be liable to be interrupted, and there is the confusion which must naturally ensue on the will of the King's Lynn authority. They have no representative on that authority, and if they have grievances the only possible procedure is by the county council, who may, or may not, take up their case. If they do not take up their case, they have no remedy. If they do take up their case, they cannot go to the Courts of Law. They must submit to some arbitrator. They do not know who will be the arbitrator who will be appointed by the Minister of Transport. These are reasons why we should have some further inquiry.


I think this House should pay attention to this Order, and I wish to ask some questions of the Minister in charge. In Clause 5 it is stated that, subject to the provisions of this Order, the undertakers are empowered to break up streets and railways within the added area. The House would like to know how far this power of breaking up streets and railways will go. It appears to give the undertakers immense powers to cause almost a transformation of some parts of King's Lynn, to the detriment and inconvenience of the inhabitants. This scheme contemplates that some alteration will have to be made in the way of laying mains. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman in charge will let us know how far this scheme is going; what the area to be broken up amounts to; what the cost is likely to be; whether the undertakers are responsible for putting back everything in the position in which it was found; and whether the inhabitants will be compensated for the inconvenience to which they have been put. That point ought not to be overlooked, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman who is in charge, will inform the House as to how it is proposed to deal with the matter.

Commander SOUTHBY

May I draw attention to the fact that in paragraph 11 of the Order, it is provided that where any work constructed by the undertakers, under the powers of the Order, are: situate wholly or partially on under or over the shore or bed of the sea or of any creek, bay, arm of the sea or navigable river then if such works are allowed to fall into decay, the Board of Trade is allowed to step in and require the undertakers to repair the part of the works below high water mark of ordinary spring tides, or to remove the same and restore the site to its former condition. In this instance the owners of rights over the foreshore are concerned. Paragraph 9 provides the right to appoint an arbitrator in any dispute between the county council and the undertakers, and I wish to ask why there should be a different procedure in the other case, where it is a case of a dispute between the owners of public rights over the foreshore and the undertakers? Why should the right of having an arbitrator be taken away from the owners of these public rights, and why should they be forced to abide by the arbitrary decision of the Board of Trade? It seems to me that it is just as fair to have an arbitrator between the undertakers and the owners of public rights, as to have one in the case of a dispute between the county council and the undertakers.


I do not think the House will expect an explanation of everything which is contained in this Order. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] The questions which have been asked are more or less concerned with the breaking up of roads and carrying cables and wires over bridges and that kind of thing. As there has been no opposition from the parties concerned, I take it for granted that their rights are being protected, and on reference to paragraph 9 it will be seen that the county council are protected in respect of all county bridges. As to the point raised in reference to paragraph 11, that paragraph has been inserted in the interests of the Board of Trade to deal with the case of constructions by the undertakers which have been abandoned. I take it that all the objections indicated by hon. Members have already been covered.


What about the question of the maximum rate of charge for electricity?


In paragraph 7 of the Order, there is provision with regard to fixing maximum prices in the area of supply, and in the Fourth Schedule to the Order the maximum rates are stated.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Special Order made by the Electricity Commissioners under the Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1882 to and confirmed by the Minister of Transport under the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, in respect of the rural district of King's Lynn and part of the rural district of Freebridge Lynn, in the county of Norfolk, and for the amendment of the King's Lynn Electric Lighting Order, 1896, which was presented on the 25th day of March. 1930, be approved.

The remaining Orders were, read, and postponed.

It being after half-past Eieven of the Clock, upon Wednesday evening, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Twenty-nine Minutes before One o'clock.