§ (By Order).
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Captain RAMSAY
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add, "upon this day six months."
The reasons why my hon. Friends and I who are opposing the Measure ask the House not to give it a Second Reading are that matters of general principle are concerned in it. The same reason influenced us in selecting the persons whose names were to be circulated to the House. Although some of us are Scotsmen, we 518 are anxious that English Members should not think this is purely a Scottish matter. The rights of private citizens are intimately concerned, not only as employers and employed, but as ratepayers. Certain provisions of the Bill challenge a recent decision made in the Rating Valuations Court of Appeal in Edinburgh. The Lochaber Power Company went to the Court of Appeal in January of this year, and asked for special rating terms, modifications, that is to say, of their present rating terms, which would put them on all fours with the rating terms which are set forth in the Bill. I am informed on good authority that if the Valuations Court of Appeal had allowed the appeal, which it did not, it would have meant an extra £15,000 a year on all the rates of Inverness county and borough.
To put the matter slightly differently, if the company who are coming to the House for these powers were compelled to pay rates at the rate at which the Lochaber Power Company are at present paying, their rates, I am informed, would come to something like £25,000 per year. On the other hand, if they get the special rating facilities for which they ask the House in the Bill, their rates would be reduced to only £5,300. Even those of us 519 who do not think employment for profit is wrong—some of us hold no brief for that—say that when a private manufacturer comes to this House and says that, out of a burden of £25,000, he wishes to be let off with £5,300 at the expense of the ratepayers, that is not the sort of matter which, with all the attendant costs, should be allowed to go to the Committee upstairs. That is a question of general principle which concerns ratepayers north and also south of the Tweed.
If it were desirable that such rating differences should be made for these companies, we contend that this would not be the method of doing it. There should not be a Clause in a Private Bill upsetting not only the rating system, as we understand it, on such undertakings, but so recent a decision in the Rating Valuation Court of Appeal in Edinburgh.
We are told that unless the company get this relief they cannot function and give us this nationally important power. About that I would, with great respect, offer two observations, the first of which is that I understand that at the same hearing the chairman of the company remarked that the surplus power at the disposal of the Lochaber Power Company would be equal to two-thirds of the total output, and that they saw no prospect of using up that surplus power. That two-thirds amounts to more than the whole output which the new company expects to produce. We are entitled to say, when there is a job going on constructive work of this kind that it is not only a great pity to give the work to an area which is not distressed while there are many other areas who could well do with it, but that it is a mistake to start reducing the supply of power when already sufficiently reduced power is obtainable from a company which is paying its proper rates and is contributing its proper share to the county and to the borough in which it is situated.
There is a further observation. We are told by the promoters of the scheme—we know there are people who have been engaged in promoting this kind of scheme for some time—that they can produce the power they need far more cheaply by this hydro-electric system than in other ways. That may be well for them to 520 say, but it is a statement which I would prefer to challenge. It is an ex-parte statement. I represent a colliery district and I think it is by no means fair to say that a company which says that it can only get this power as cheaply from water should, in the same breath, say that, in order to produce their power so cheaply, they need something which amounts to an unfair and differential treatment from everybody else in rating and purchase of their requirements.
May I explain to the House what I mean? It has been accepted that hydroelectric power companies incur their great, and almost their only, charge at the very initiation of their schemes. One very large payment is sufficient, with a minimum of upkeep and care and maintenance, and this initial expenditure secures the production of the power where they want it. They have received already special treatment on this score. They get a very substantial reduction in respect of their initial expenditure. I think it amounts to 1 per cent, of the total capital value, which, taken yearly, amounts to a very large sum. I do not know if that figure is right, but it is somewhere near right. In this case a further reduction is being asked for, of something like 0.2 per cent. If we are to take a fair analogy between the hydroelectric plant and its competitor using coal, we ought, if we give to the hydroelectric system a special concession in respect of the money that it spends in one large sum, to do the same with the concern that is producing its power by means of coal, and to allow it to take into account, for purposes of assessment to rates, the whole of the expenditure that it has to incur.
That expenditure would be incurred, not only for the erection of plant, but for the erection of plant plus the purchase of coal, plus the sum if money set aside for the winning and delivery of that coal; and, if the competitor producing his power from coal could reckon his costs on the basis of what; it costs him to produce his power on the spot, I think we should have a some what fairer basis on which the respective expenditures of the coal-using system and the hydro-electric system could be computed. It would then become possible, and I believe certain, that schemes of this kind, instead of going to employ Irish labour in navvying in odd parts of Scotland, destroying the 521 beauties of the countryside, annoying every section of the community, and destroying amenities, would go to parts of Great Britain where they are needed—where men are out of work, and where the finding of work for them would not necessarily mean depriving other men of the work which they already have; and we should also find an outlet for the coal which is our special wealth, without using up the source of power which is the birthright of the people who live in these Highland parts of the country, who have no coal or other source of power to fall back upon.
The matter of site is one that is stressed by those who are promoting this Bill, but we say that, as I have already pointed out, there are many places in Scotland more suitable from an industrial point of view, and that this is probably the last place that would be selected for a coal-using plant. It is argued that there are also strategic considerations, and I should be interested to hear why it is thought that a factory erected at the head of this loch canal, this long chain of water from Inverness, would be in a good position from a strategic point of view. I am no authority on bombardment from the air, but I have consulted people who can speak authoritatively on such matters, and they assure me that nothing would be easier than for a single raiding aeroplane at night to follow this long line of water and attack an undefended factory at the end of it. If, therefore, strategic considerations be important, it would surely be far easier to defend a place in a distressed area.
We are told by the promoters of this scheme that the matter is one of national importance. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad that hon. Members say "Hear, hear," because it proves that a great deal of the very active lobbying that has been going on in support of the scheme has been on this basis. But I would respectfully put it to the House that that is not the basis on which the Bill is presented to the House. If it is a matter of national importance, then it is not for the promoters of a Private Bill to come and tell us where the national importance lies. If it were a matter of public importance, it would be the duty, which I have no doubt they would faithfully perform, of His Majesty's Government to explain to the House that it is a matter of national 522 importance, and to put on the Whips, so that the decision should not be left to the whim of private Members. I submit that the fact that this has not been done proves that it is not a question of national importance, but that the Government look upon it as a conflict of interests and desire to leave it to the fair-mindedness of Members of the House to decide.
This is a matter which concerns every section of the community, and, if it is to be left to be decided by private Members on the question of equity, I would recall to the House the fact that the citizens of Inverness County and Borough have within the last seven years been called upon to bear considerable expense in order to defeat a Bill which was suspiciously like this one. It is all very well for people who stand to make, perhaps, tens of thousands of pounds—I had almost said hundreds of thousands of pounds—or, at any rate, very large sums of money, to consider it worth while to come to the House of Commons and take a Bill to a Committee, perhaps spending £15,000 or £20,000 in getting the most expert advice, legal and technical, that can be obtained; but it is a very different thing for a poor Highland county and town to keep on continually paying this kind of blackmail in order to defend their rights in Committee upstairs. The West Highland Power Bill, which came before the House in 1929, and which was, as I have said, suspiciously like this Bill, cost the various parties—borough, county and private persons—in Inverness something like £15,000 to defeat. It was defeated. At the same time they had to oppose another Bill, the Grampian Power Bill, which also was defeated in Committee. Now we are faced with yet another attempt by, I had almost said, the same old gang. Their ramifications are widely extended, but it is fairly easy on careful examination to recognise them every time.
§ Mr. ORR-EWING
If I may interrupt my hon. and gallant Friend for a moment, I am not interested in any "old gang," but I think the House itself would be interested to know exactly why the people of Inverness would like this Bill defeated. I ask only for information.
§ Captain RAMSAY
As I understand it, the people in Inverness are not nervous lest this Bill should get through, any 523 more than they were in the case of the other Bills, but they are very anxious not to be compelled to engage expensive counsel and technical experts to defend their rights upstairs, in view of the fact that they have already had to do the same thing twice within the last six or seven years.
§ Mr. ORR-EWING
My hon. and gallant Friend has not given the answer, which I think would interest the House, as to why it is that those in Inverness wish to defeat this proposal.
§ Captain RAMSAY
That is a very wide question. I have dealt with the general principle at some little length—I hope at not too great length—but I should not like to go into all the details. Broadly speaking, it is on the general principle that I have outlined that they wish the Bill to be defeated on Second Reading and not to go to a Committee. If it goes to a Committee, they will have the same confidence in the Committee as they have in this House, but they will be put to very considerable expense in defending their rights. Therefore, I would beg the House to deal with this matter as one of general principle which concerns us all, and to remember that, if it were a question of national importance, His Majesty's Government would have treated it as such and put on the Whips. As that has not been done, I hope hon. Members will resolve to exercise their independent and individual judgment as to whether a company working for private profit should, without showing to the House by chapter and verse how they can produce power more cheaply in this particular place than in any other place or in rivalry with coal, be given this special consideration in regard to rating and so on in order to make their production of power possible. I hope the House will refuse, in the interests of poor citizens who have no other means of defending their rights, to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Sir PATRICK HANNON
With regard to the special provisions, the importance of which my hon. and gallant Friend has emphasised, with regard to the assessment of lands and works to be used in the proposed scheme, would he tell the House why the concessions made in the previous Acts should not be continued in this Bill?
§ Captain RAMSAY
Those concessions are not really germane to the special concessions which are being asked for in this Bill.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Sir MURDOCH MACDONALD
I beg to second the Amendment.
I support the opposition to this Bill because, although I should be glad to see proper developments of water power resources in the Highlands of Scotland, the Bill contains Clauses which, in my view, the House should not pass on Second Reading. My hon. Friend has referred to the first of these Clauses. Clause 67, which is in reality giving to this company a subsidy. I have asked some hon. Members in the House who are supporting the Bill if that was really their view, and I have been informed by them that a subsidy is necessary if this work is to be carried out. It may well happen that somebody has the genius to introduce to this country a new manufacture which could not be developed unless somehow or other it is subsidised, and it might well be that this House of Commons might say that a subsidy was essential and therefore ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to grant a subsidy in order that this particular manufacture should be rendered possible. That is not what the Clause in the Bill says. The Clause in the Bill asks the ratepayers of Inverness-shire to bear the burden of this subsidy. It asks for the subsidy not for a period of time but in perpetuity.
My hon. Friend who sits near me asked whether there are not other cases where similar privileges to those mentioned in this Clause were granted. In the case of the Lochaber Power Bill there is no such privilege. In the case of the Grampian Power Bill that privilege was asked for but only for a short period of time, and it was granted relief from rates for a few years, during which very naturally the promoters were developing to their full capacity. That was a perfectly reasonable thing to grant, and if such a reasonable measure has been asked for in this Bill instead of relief in perpetuity from the rates it would be a very different matter. It would be wrong to ask this House to make my constituents in Inverness-shire, who in the bulk are not a wealthy community and are very largely composed of the crofter class, to bear the burden of this extra money that will be 525 required and get practically no benefit from the rate. The hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Captain Ramsay) mentioned the sum of £5,000. I have been given figures which show that the actual amount that would be paid is something just under £2,700, a still less figure, but whether it is £5,000 or £2,700 the figures are small, and quite obviously they are different from the figures that would be normally payable if the ordinary law of the country was able to take its course.
§ Sir P. HANNON
Is not the point he is arguing about the collection of rates on an assessable value not yet created in point of fact?
§ Sir M. MACDONALD
It will not be assessed until it is created. In the case of the Grampian Power scheme it was not assessed for five years. That is not what is in this Bill. The promoters asked to be relieved of seven-eighths of the taxation which would be normally payable and which another great company, the Lochaber Company, is paying alongside them. You would have this situation that in this particular district of Inverness-shire you would have on one side of the glen a company paying the normal rates assessable, and on the other side you would have a company paying little or nothing. Obviously what would occur would be this: If this Bill passed through the people on the other side would at once promote a Bill to get the same consideration. I hope the House will see it is right and just to reject this Bill and ask the promoters to come back with a reasonable Bill in another Session or another year.
That is not the only point of objection. There is a feature in Clause 51 in this Bill which I am advised has never been introduced into a private Bill or indeed any Bill in this House before. It allows the Caledonian Power Company to purchase land which they in turn are going to sell to third parties whatever might be said about rating relief and asking for a short term of years while the plant is working up to its full capacity, there can be nothing whatever to be said for a Clause of this kind, which gives authority to the promoters to purchase land to hand over to other people to erect factories, mills and other things to whom they may sell power. These two Clauses in the Bill show very clearly the extreme 526 steps to which the promoters were willing to go. I can imagine them saying to themselves, "We have a new industry here. The country wants it. We cannot go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and say we will introduce this; please subsidise it." Instead they take means of altering the ordinary law of Scotland, the rating law, and the ordinary law that is aplicable to England and Scotland in regard to the other point in Clause 51, in their own favour. These two Clauses, on which in particular I ask the House to reject this Bill to-night, are supported by evidence throughout the Bill of the extreme measures to which the promoters of the Bill were prepared to go.
I heard an hon. Member ask why it was that the town of Inverness was opposing this Bill. I can tell him. Sixteen per cent. of the water now flowing down through that beautiful river, one of the most beautiful rivers in Scotland, if not the most beautiful, is going to be wholly taken away from them.
§ Mr. ORR-EWING
Is the hon. and gallant Member suggesting that 16 per cent. of the water is going to be taken away from the River Ness at all times of the year? Will there not be at some times of the year more water coming down the river than has ever come before?
§ Sir M. MACDONALD
I quite agree that my hon. Friend might find himself justified in the point he has made, under a very stringent stipulation. We know quite well that the Lochaber Power Company are only using one-third of their power. This Bill has three power stations, the biggest one of them, on the promoters' own statement, has 22,000 horse power. There is no Clause in this Bill to say, "We will do all the schemes, we will regulate all equally." Very naturally the promoters will take Loch Quoich first, but if they do then they get 22,000 horse power by diverting this water from its natural course down to the sea through the River Ness and shoot it out through a tunnel on the west coast. Need they have done that? Could not that water quite well have come in an open cut along the hillside just as happened in Kinlochleven and drop into Loch Garry? If it did, of the 550 foot head that is available at the present moment, over 300 could be got straight- 527 away at Loch Garry and another 150 or more would be got in the next stage at the next power station.
In other words the promoters of this Bill think nothing of the interests that they were affecting by altering the course in which the water flows from the source to the sea, but think only of extracting the last ounce of power from the water and sending the water to the west coast. They could have got five-sixths of that power by leaving it in its natural course and thus not affecting the town of Inverness. There are many similar matters in the Bill which show the extreme limit to which the promoters are prepared to go. There is a Clause which says that the Secretary of State may form a committee of people interested in amenity and they can make suggestions and meet the company and consider what would be best in the interests of amenity. If they disagree, the Secretary of State is to be empowered to settle what in his mind is right, but there is this serious proviso, that he dare not cause one drop of water to flow into a channel except as the promoters desire. It is Clause 74, and it says:Or such as to limit the amount of water which the company arc by this Act authorised to use for the purposes of the undertaking.In other words, not even the Secretary of State has the right to say that a little trickle of water can go anywhere or be diverted from the purposes of the promoters. When the first two matters that I mentioned, rating and the right to purchase, are taken into account when, as I have shown, the promoters have exhibited no regard whatever for the interests of Inverness or for amenity if it touches one drop of their water, the House would be very fully justified in rejecting the Bill.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Brigadier - General Sir WILLIAM ALEXANDER
The speeches that we have heard show quite clearly that the Bill contains a very large number of technicalities. It has been stated that it is perhaps almost notorious for the amount of lobbying and propaganda that have been displayed in connection with it on both sides. So much lobbying has left many misunderstandings in the mind both of those in favour and those 528 opposed to it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the rejection believes that there is no national necessity for the Bill or the objects that it seeks to achieve. I am going to accept his challenge, and I shall confine myself as far as possible to an exposition of the reasons why this is a national industry of very great and serious moment. Carbide plays an enormous part in engineering, shipbuilding and other industries. I can best give the House an insight into its value by relating a few experiences that came under my notice during the last War. I had the responsibility for the supply and production consecutively of high explosives and propellents, and finally for all classes of products handled by the Ministry of Munitions.
At the outset of the War we had no carbide industry. We were dependent upon those countries that have a monopoly, and the monopoly resulted from the fact that they had cheap water power. We started by drawing supplies from Norway. For every ton of carbide that we got from Norway we had to send them a ton of anthracite. Feeling that we were not too safe in the hands of Norway, the Treasury and the taxpayer had to expend large amounts of capital in establishing and developing a carbide industry in Canada. Again, we had to send coal in return for these supplies from Canada. It was not so much a matter of disorganisation in bringing this material in from Canada and Norway as the risks that we ran from submarines. Our supplies had to be convoyed, at very considerable inconvenience to the Shipping Board, and it took away shipping which was badly needed for the purpose of bringing in foodstuffs. The Government decided finally that it was necessary at whatever cost to have a carbide factory in this country and they erected plant at Spondon in Derbyshire. That plant operated during the War, but when we got back to peace time, it was found that power generated from steam for the production of carbide could not compete with carbide produced from water power and, therefore, that plant fell immediate y into disuse. It is to-day lying derelict at Spondon. Surely, that is one argument against what we hear that this industry should be placed in a distressed area and the carbide made from steam power. You 529 cannot make electric power for this industry if it is to compete with the foreign, and right hon. and hon. Members will remember that carbide to-day, owing to our weak position, is not even subject to the general 10 per cent., but is on the free list, and was put on the free list under our Trade Agreement with Norway. I maintain that this industry is vital in the case of war, and goodness knows, there are enough rumours of war around to-day.
§ Sir W. ALEXANDER
I agree that there are, but we have to be prepared. This industry is the one industry that at all costs should be one of our first lines of defence. I will go further, in connection with war products, because, while the plant for the production of carbide is a very flexible one, and, if necessary, would be capable of producing another vital raw material for the iron and steel trade, namely, ferro silicons, carbide is also a source of production of other essential war materials, such as acetic acid and acetone, and even to-day 14,000 tons per annum of carbide of calcium is being imported into this country for the production of acetic acid at Billingham. So that the industry, not only from the point of view of the necessity for the engineering and shipbuilding trade of oxy-acetylene, is also of vital interest for other essential war materials. One reason why the industry is being placed in Scotland is that, as I have stated before and shown from evidence already available, Scotland seems to have the necessary water facilities. In 1920 the question of carbide calcium as a national industry was evidently placed before the Nitrogen Products Committee, of the Ministry of Munitions Inventions Department, and in the Blue Book issued in 1920, the following final report appears. It is in page 215, beginning at the first paragraph. I do not propose to quote it all, but I will quote two or three pertinent sentences:Calcium carbide, the intermediate product in the manufacture of cyanamide, is of considerable commercial importance. The demand for this product in connection with oxy-acetylene welding and metal-cutting and for lighting purposes is rapidly increasing, and there have been important recent developments in its utilisation as a raw 530 material for the manufacture of synthetic aldehyde, acetic acid, and acetone which are essential for munitions, and are largely used in various industries.The observations on page 17 are as follow:To sum up, the higher cost of electrical energy under British conditions, although an important factor from the point of view of foreign competition, is to a large extent off-set by other favourable factors, such as cheap and abundant raw materials and the elimination of sea freights. There seems no reason why the manufacture of both carbide and also of calcium cyanamide, if laid out on a large scale, should not be successful in this country. There are blocks of undeveloped water power in Scotland of sufficient size for the operation of a large factory.That is the report from a special Department of the Government set up to investigate these matters.
§ Sir M. MACDONALD
Does that report presume that a subsidy would be given by the relief of rates in the County of Inverness?
§ Sir W. ALEXANDER
As a matter of fact, in the last War, what we did in setting up these factories in Canada and in this country was to grant a compulsory subsidy for this industry. I am not dealing with subsidies at the present time. The place to deal with them, in my opinion, is in the Committee room upstairs.
§ Mr. D. EVANS
The paragraph to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred and which he has read, does not, I submit, limit the possibility of the manufacture of carbide from hydro power. It mentions that there are other compensating factors.
§ Sir W. ALEXANDER
I will grant the hon. Member that there are other compensating factors, and if carbide could be manufactured, even in a distressed area, from steam power, I do not think that the British Oxygen Company would go to the Highlands to put down this plant. All things being equal, I think that they are patriotic enough to place this plant in a distressed area, but it is impossible, and you cannot produce power from a steam plant which will allow you to produce carbide to compete with the foreigner and give an economic price to the consumers in this country.
531 I will deal with a few of the Opposition factors which have been mentioned in connection with this Bill. The first one is the question of amenities. A great deal too much has been said on the question of amenities. As far as the hydroelectric part of the Bill is concerned, while the amenities may be prejudiced during the construction of the plant, once that has been cleared up, I do not think that the plant will be a blot on the landscape of Scotland.
§ Captain RAMSAY
Is it not a fact that a good many miles of river are going to be completely dried up?
§ Sir W. ALEXANDER
I am not aware of anything of the kind. That is why I say that all these misunderstandings among hon. Members with regard to this question should be fought out in Committee. You cannot in the course of a few hours' debate get all the information and details which are desirable in connection with the Bill. There has been a great deal of lobbying also on the question of the destruction of sporting rights in the Highlands. I remember the strong indictment made many years ago by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that the lairds and tenants of shooting and fishing estates in Scotland were preventing the Highlands of Scotland from growing foodstuffs. He said that mangel-wurzels could be grown in the Highlands of Scotland quite easily. It would be about as easy to grow hair on pavements as to grow mangel-wurzels on the mountains, moors and glens of some parts of Scotland. Then there is the question of rates, and we all sympathise with the misgivings of hon. Members in regard to the question of rates. I am certain that the promoters of the Bill do not want to put anything on to the community of the districts, including Inverness, which will cause them to be out of pocket by the Bill. They are perfectly reasonable. They have undertaken to consult and co-operate, but it is quite certain that if you are going to levy rates upon a capital of £2,800,000 on the usual scale you are going to kill the possibility of this great national industry coming to Scotland. I have already dealt with the depressed areas. In my opinion there would be no objection to going to a distressed area 532 if it were possible to get the water facilities which are absolutely necessary.
In connection with the national aspects of the question I should like to know the opinion and the views of the great Services of this country as given to them by their supply departments. Each of these services must know the value of carbide in the fulfilment of their various programmes. I should like to know whether the Board of Trade have not some views and opinions in connection with this project. Further, I am interested to know what is the view held by the supply section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. Carbide of calcium is not an isolated case in our requirements in the event of a crisis. There are others, but it is one which should be tackled immediately in view of its great importance. All things considered, hon. Members of this House will be failing in their duty to themselves and their country if they do not grant this Bill a Second Reading, so that it can be debated in Committee with all the cards on the table, promoters and opponents getting a fair deal.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I am certain that the promoters of the Bill will be pleased to hear the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for the Central Division of Glasgow (Sir W. Alexander). He began by saying that it was difficult to wipe up the mess made by the extraordinary amount of lobbying done on the Bill, but he wiped it out by making it clear that in his opinion this is a war measure. Private enterprise, under a claim that this is in the national interest, comes in and puts all its fingers and its feet into the pie. The Bill is another evidence of the incapacity of this country to organise industry, Even the arguments so far as they affect war necessities show an absolute lack of co-operation of ideas and knowledge. The Bill is put forward on a single basis, but once we have the statement from the hon. and gallant Member for the Central Division of Glasgow we get tae full light of the sun as to the real purpose of the Measure. The question of water power has come to the front lately and riot too soon. This particular area is the last of our great water catchment, areas which can be used for water purposes. This is the last Bill, if it goes through, which can 533 be passed dealing with water power. There is no other place left to which you can go for water power for any purpose.
But the promoters of the Bill do not stop at the little plea about industry. Everything in the Bill, every Clause in it, just makes over as a complete monopoly the whole of the water supply of the Highlands of Scotland. One would have expected that when a company was anxious to find accommodation in an area such as this, it would have consulted with the local authorities in the area. If for no other reason than that of trying to be friendly, the county council and the borough council ought to have been taken into consultation. The company has made it appear by its actions that there is something it did not want the local authorities to know, and while we do not know the whole of the story yet, if this Bill has the misfortune to go to Committee, we shall get to the bottom of it. If the local authorities had been consulted a great deal of trouble would have been avoided and a great part of the cost entailed in this Bill would have been saved. If the promoters had consulted those in charge of the area, we would have had to-day, instead of this continuous lobbying, a clear statement of the facts. It is evident that in making this effort to ignore the local authorities they had something to hide, for if they had not, why did they not consult the local authorities?
On reading the Bill, one finds that the promoters put forward all-embracing ideas of establishing a monopoly, but they bury the real objects of the Bill. On the question of rating alone, they have tried to make it appear that they have some special rights as against everyone else in industry in this country. That is the meaning of Clause 67. What does the 1 per cent. spoken of in that Clause mean? It means that in the audited accounts—and we know what some audited accounts can be—the base is to be 1 per cent., and after that a deduction of 20 per cent., which is equal to 8s. per £1,000. After they get that concession, they go still further and ask for all the rights under the existing Acts in relation to rating. We on these benches have always tried to have the whole system of rating in the British Isles reviewed and put on a sane basis.
534 It is a very strange thing to find business men, men who claim to be the brains of business, men who say they have been acquainted with business all their life, men who have been running the company since it began, saying that they cannot proceed with this proposed works unless they get this concession. They are most unfair to everybody else engaged in industry. Why should they alone receive this concession? There is no conceivable reason why everyone engaged in industry should not come with the same plea. The company is not a poor company, but is a very wealthy one making good profits. Either they have no confidence in their power to continue that or they wish to cover up that, fact in order to place a financial responsibility on a given locality in the form of rates.
Taking the proposal as a whole, it would appear that the Government are prepared to stand behind certain industries and to give them facilities that cut across the existing system of rating. There is nothing in the Bill which gives any control once it is passed. No statement has been put forward as to the available power in that district. All has been hearsay. There are hon. Members sitting on the opposite benches who, if this is a great national question, as has been stated, and if they had the national interest at heart, could tell the House all about that area and could tell it whether these hearsay statements regarding the amount of power available are true. They could tell us the cost of the unit at the machine and what would be the cost of transport to that part of the Highlands where it is sought to establish this works.
The chief defect of private ownership everywhere is that there is no co-operation or correlation. If the industrialists in this country desired to co-operate, why should the promoters of this Measure not have known in a friendly way whether or not there was power available and at what price that power could be supplied? The promoters come to the Lobbies and say that unless they get the electricity unit at a certain price, they cannot go on; but if promoters in industry want to get things through this House they ought to tell the whole story, and they ought to be able to say that their friends in the same area using water power to produce current can make it at a certain price. Had this power been in national hands, 535 information concerning the surplus power and all knowledge connected with it would have been put forward, not in the interests of getting a subsidy from the rates or in the interests of trying to hide something, but in the interests of the nation and its industry. We do not find those in private industry ready to help the nation; they never do so except for profit.
We are told that certain power exists in the area and that after three or four years the company having that power may require it. But if this thing is so essential to industry, and if the works could be built a mile and a half from the source of power, which would mean a transfer of a mile and a half in order to get this essential commodity to industry, why are we not told the reason for private enterprise holding up these possibilities for the immediate manufacture of this essential thing? Apart from the fact that there is no co-operation between industrialists, the placing of all this water power in the hands of a private monopoly means something more than appears in the Bill. The promoters state that grants in respect of rating, such as they request, have already been made in the cases of the Grampian and Galloway schemes. Here is another instance of the withholding of information. Statements have been printed that are not in accordance with fact. What is the position in regard to these two schemes? In 1924, in the case of the Grampian scheme, the committee refused what was asked, but they granted the company relief for five years to give them time in which to turn round and we know that to-day that question is occupying the attention of the authorities in Edinburgh, because the five year period is coming to an end. It now becomes a question of the company, in that case, having to face rates. One would have thought that, in the national interest they would have said, "We have had five years for nothing; we have done very well and we are now going to pay our part of the rates."
The Galloway Bill is no analogy because in that case the county council came to an agreement with the distributors and the company paid large sums to them which the county council could if they cared use for rating provision. It is a pity that hon. Gentlemen in presenting 536 a case to the House should try, by not giving details, to lead to misrepresentation, because that is what it means in the end. It is far better to put all the cards on the table. I do not believe that, even if this Bill should go upstairs, all the cards will be put on the table. You will have to pull them out. They will not be put down but you will have to get them out, one at a time. When you want information of this character it is like drawing teeth. In the case of the two Bills already mentioned it was made clear that, when the period had elapsed for which conditions of relief had been granted, the question for consideration would be, not whether any rates should be paid or not but the amount of rates which should be paid. It was understood that the company was to be free of rates for five years and at the end of that time, it was not to be a question of deciding whether the company should continue to be free from rates or not but of deciding the amount of rates which the company war then to pay and that is the question which arises in Edinburgh now.
I come to what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for the Central Division of Glasgow on the technical side. We have been told repeatedly that tariffs gave us bargaining power with other countries. Here we have the statement of the hon. and gallant Member that this industry is of great national importance and that when we purchase calcium carbide from other countries we have to send out our anthracite and coke. He went on to say that that was, in some way, involved with the question of price. If you want to bargain with a country which has to get its anthracite and coke from you, surely, on that basis, you ought to be able to come to some arrangement with regard to price. He went on to speak of the 1920 committee. I am sure that he knows about the tragedy of Gretna. He spoke of the plant that had been allowed to go to ruin, but he did not give any details.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I think the hon. Member might have found time for one or two sentences on that subject. There was no subsidy mentioned in 1920 and the representative Government chemists who sat on that committee made it quite definite in their oral estimates that there 537 was no necessity for any help to be given to the industries who wanted to make calcium carbide in this country.
§ Mr. MACLAY
The hon. Member is referring to a report which was drawn up in 1920 when trade conditions and the margin of profits were entirely different from what they are to-day.
§ Mr. HARDIE
In 1920 the cost of anthracite was much higher than it is to-day and the costs of lime and calcium were much higher than they are to-day. I think the hon. Member will on reflection see that his remark does not apply. Furthermore, the margins of profit then were not margins of reality, on the figures. We know the way in which the industrial accounts of this country have been kept. When we ask what happened to those profits we are told that they just melted away like snow in the sunshine. The hon. Member ought to take up this question and study it, and he will find the answer to his own interruption. The chemists were quite certain of the view I have just indicated in 1920 and what they said applies to-day, even more than it did in 1920, if we take the capacity of this country to-day and its electrical production compared with 1920.
Why has no one mentioned anything about the Electricity Commission in this connection? Why should not evidence have been given by the chairman of the Commission as to the point at which they can produce and supply? Why have we not been told of the experience of the Electricity Commissioners since the grid was instituted and bigger plant was employed in the production of electricity? Why have we not been told of the possibilities in that respect in relation to the present scheme? It is remarkable that the promoters have sought to hide every real point in relation to the subject. The committee's report was very detailed and the hon. and gallant Member for the Central Division of Glasgow said that when they referred to carbide they had said there were other things as well. Yes there were, but not one of those things was ever mentioned in relation to a subsidy or any kind of outside support. The men who gave evidence were acquainted with the work and knew the conditions. I am surprised at the use which has been made to-night of that 1920 report.
538 In regard to the national importance of this subject, all those engaged in engineering know its importance. We know that we can produce calcium carbide in this country. It seems strange that it should come to be 1936 before any serious effort is made in this direction. It is very strange indeed on the part of the industrialists of this country. We shall be told about this thing in the Highlands that there are going to be great difficulties. Suppose you take the question of the raw materials. The first raw material is water, and that is translated into light and power, and now we are going to make calcium carbide, and since in that area I have no knowledge of any calcium carbide, we are told by the promoters that there are some men engaged in looking for it in Scotland. Since the days of Hugh Miller we have known a whole lot about geology in Scotland, and the promoters of this Bill must know this, that you have to bring the anthracite from Wales and the calcium from Ireland. You may have got that which is claimed by the owners of mines in Scotland to be anthracite, but has the hon. and gallant Member opposite seen the analysis of the coal that is claimed to be anthracite, and does it correspond to that of the anthracite from Wales?
§ Mr. HARDIE
I cannot accept that, because while I could have analysed it myself, I did not do so, but I got the Royal Technical College in Glasgow to analyse both. When I was on the Glasgow School Board, I changed from that system of heating to a system using anthracite, and I said to the mineowners who offered what they claimed was anthracite, "I will buy your anthracite, but you must first take your sample to the Royal Technical College in Glasgow, and if on analysis it is found to be anthracite, you will get the order." We are going into the Highlands where there are no raw materials for this proposal. One of the promoters told me in the Lobby outside that they had coal on the banks of the Caledonian Canal. How do you expect us to sit here seriously when people come along and talk such rubbish as that? But getting back to the question of the raw materials and the transport, when you get where you are going to put your work, you have to traverse the Irish Sea with your anthracite, and you will 539 have to put it in big boats, but you cannot get your big boats into the water where your works are to be.
§ Mr. HARDIE
It is. You provide in the Bill for Dredging. Why do you do that? When you come to these realities of the question, you cannot stand up against them. I want to put this question: Suppose you have the lowest point at which steam can be produced with coal, and you balance that against the cost of shipping your raw materials from Ireland and Wales up to that point, have you made out a balance-sheet to show whether it would be a loss or a saving? These questions have to be dealt with by the people who want to understand what is meant by the Bill.
§ Mr. HARDIE
You are asking too much to go upstairs. I do not agree with that. I think the Members here are more active than they are upstairs in the Committee, and the light is better here, so that you can see the cards being moved about here better than you can upstairs. Now I want to say a word for the men on the land in these areas. Why is it that the crofter is not mentioned? When we have any Bills dealing with the Highlands, we always get the crofter mentioned, and there is always somebody ready to look after him, but there is nothing in this Bill dealing with that question, and there is nothing to say that since they are to have all these de-rating facilities if they get it, these houses will be de-rated too if they start building houses on that land. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent that happening.
Now we come to the employment of men, and we are told that this is being done in order to increase employment. We have not been told in the Bill or by the promoters anything definite about numbers. Some tell us 5,000 and some tell us 300. I can understand that if you are going to do mining, you will require a number of men to do that work, but once that is finished you are likely to find more at the Labour Exchange than at Fort William. But what guarantee is there in regard to an increase in the number of men employed, and what 540 number of men will you be displacing by your work, by the flooding of areas, and interrupting the fishing that is going on now to a certain extent? All these questions ought to be faced. Let me say, finally, that I hope the House will insist upon it that when private companies come along to ask for privileges—and this is a great privilege—instead of having a big, clumsy kind of Bill like this, they will get their brains to work and give us something that every Member can understand.
§ Sir W. ALEXANDER
Before the hon. Member resumes his seat, I should like to ask him a question. I am sure he does not wish to misrepresent the promoters in this matter.
§ Sir W. ALEXANDER
He made a statement that the local authorities had not been consulted. I have verified it since then that not only were the local authorities consulted, but also the county council.
§ Mr. HARDIE
In reply to that, we had this afternoon the representatives, the officials, from both these councils, and we put the question to them, and they said they were never consulted. This is something more than hearsay, and the promoters ought to have got letters showing that they have written to these authorities.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
Order. Both hon. Members have finished their speeches, and I think they should allow others to continue the Debate.
§ 9.13 p.m.
Marquess of CLYDESDALE
The object of this Bill is cheap production of electricity in the Western Highlands of Scotland. The electricity produced is to be used mainly for the manufacture of carbide, and I am supporting this Bill principally because I am impressed by the urgent necessity of having adequate supplies of carbide in the United Kingdom. Carbide is a product that is greatly in demand in connection with the process of oxy-acetylene welding and metal cutting, and at the present time it is not manufactured at all in this country, because of the high cost of power here as compared with the cost of power 541 in foreign countries. Last year some 50,000 tons of carbide were imported into this country, but there is no reason why carbide should not be manufactured successfully in this country provided cheap electrical power is available. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Glasgow (Sir W. Alexander) has shown how carbide can be used and developed as raw material in the manufacture of various products, such as acetic acid and acetone, which are most necessary in the manufacture of munitions and also for other industries. Oxyacetylene welding is essential among other things, for the manufacture of aeroplanes. Approximately 90 per cent. of the aeroplanes manufactured for the Royal Air Force require oxy-acetylene welding. In a case of emergency, if the importation of carbide were stopped, possibly 90 per cent. of the manufacture of aeroplanes in this country would be brought to a standstill.
We have heard eloquent speeches for and against this Bill. The main objections appear to fall under three heads—first, the objection that natural amenities will be spoiled; second, the question of rates; and, third, that too much power is being given to this company. With regard to the objection of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Captain A. Ramsay) in connection with the strategic position, I can assure him that, as far as vulnerability to air attack is concerned, it is one of the best places in which an industry could be situated. One has not only to consider geographical position in air attack, but the weather conditions. In that part of the country the weather conditions are not always perfect; moreover, they are very often far from perfect between that part of the country and Europe. My hon. and gallant Friend misled the House—unintentionally, I am sure—in the various statements he made as regards the Lochaber scheme. He implied that there was no reason why the surplus power of the Lochaber scheme should not be made available for the manufacture of carbide. I have been put in possession of a letter since he began his speech, from the Vice-Chairman of the British Aluminium Company, of which the Lochaber Company is a subsidiary industry. In this letter he specifically states that the Lochaber Company are not in a position to use their surplus power 542 for that purpose. I regret that my hon. and gallant Friend was not able to read the letter before he made his speech.
§ Sir M. MACDONALD
Is the Noble Lord aware that a few months ago the same Vice-President said that only one-third of the power of the Lochaber scheme was in use?
§ Sir M. MACDONALD
It is apparent that what is intended by the letter is that they are now, perhaps, contemplating using that power, but actually two-thirds of the power is not being used at this moment.
Marquess of CLYDESDALE
The date of the letter is the 16th March, 1936. It is a rather long letter, but I will read the significant passages:The production of aluminium is a key industry and an adequate home supply is essential for national as well as industrial requirements. We have, therefore, intentionally put ourselves in a position to supply, at short notice, any additional quantities of aluminium which may be required from time to time either by the Government or by industry. Consequently the whole of the water at our disposal, including the limited amount which we can still bring in under our Parliamentary powers, must be reserved for the purposes for which its use was authorised by Parliament, namely, the production of aluminium.Then the letter goes on:The utmost which we might possibly be able to do in the direction of supplying power to outside consumers would be to give a very temporary and restricted supply.
§ Mr. HAROLD MACMILLAN
Does that letter mean that the company is not in a physical position to give the supply required, or are not in a legal position?
Marquess of CLYDESDALE
I cannot furnish my hon. Friend with any more information than I have already given. This letter was only handed to me during the course of the Debate, and I have not any other information.
§ Mr. H. MACMILLAN
My Noble Friend will, I am sure, see that the point is whether the company has a physical difficulty about the extra power, or only has a legal or technical difficulty about making it available.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The date of the letter is 16th March, 1936. Is not the demand for armaments the cause of the change in regard to power that could not be used in November?
Marquess of CLYDESDALE
That may be the case. I have already told the House that this information has only been brought to me since the Debate started, but it is clear, as things now stand, that you cannot in any circumstances count on getting the surplus power from the Lochaber scheme for the manufacture of carbide.
§ Mr. ASSHETON
The letter the Noble Lord has quoted conflicts with the evidence which the gentleman who wrote it gave, in the appeal on the rating question as recently as 10th September last, when he made a statement completely contrary to that which has been quoted.
Marquess of CLYDESDALE
I am not aware of that. We are confronted with a completely new situation. We are not concerned with the manufacture of aluminium, and there is no doubt that if the hon. Gentleman made further inquiries he would find that the Lochaber Company would refuse to supply any power outside what they require in their own industry. Turning to the amenities which have been dealt with, I have had the opportunity of visiting several hydroelectric stations, in various stages of construction, in different parts of the world, namely, Norway, India and Ceylon, and as regards the question of their destroying natural amenities I think that the ideas in this respect are very much exaggerated. I do not think that anyone loves and admires the glories of Scottish scenery more than I do, but we live in a mechanical age and we have to accept the world as it is, and not as we would like it to be. The country already is immersed in a network of high tension cables, telegraph wires and railway lines, and we have to accept that. This scheme would embody a few more high-tension cables in the North of Scotland. It may be regarded as a pity and a disadvantage. I quite agree, but, on the other hand, one must balance the advantages.
The third objection, that this company is being given too wide and too great powers, is also a question in which one has to balance the advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I do not advocate 544 companies being granted such sweeping powers normally except when a national asset is involved. One must balance the advantages and disadvantages, and in my opinion the advantages far more than outweigh the disadvantages. I feel that the scheme which this Bill embraces deserves far more consideration than it is possible to give to it in a Second Reading in the limited time before us now. It is impossible to discuss all the details which can be very satisfactorily altered in Committee. Although I support the Bill I would not like to see it passed into law in its present form. Constructive criticism is required, but fundamentally the Bill is bringing to Scotland a great national asset and therefore I ask the House to give it a Second Reading.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. T. M. Cooper)
I very much regret that the Secretary of State is unable to be here to-night owing to indisposition, and it now falls to me, quite briefly, to present to hon. Members the information which they will desire to have as to the attitude of the Scottish Office and the other Ministers whose duty it has been to examine this scheme from the various angles of their several Departments. Let me say that with many of the strictures and criticisms which have been passed on this Bill I am in entire sympathy. There are certain features in the Bill which are definitely objectionable, and certain other matters which require the most narrow and careful scrutiny. I should like, quite briefly, to run over the principal points which have been the subject of criticism to-night. For example, the valuation and rating provisions embodied in Clause 67 to which so much reference has been made are definitely unacceptable to my right hon. Friend and if this Bill goes to a Committee it will be his intention to report in that sense to the Committee, with the result that in the light of that report, and still more in the light of the observations which have been made by various hon. Members to night, the fate of that Clause in its present form should not be in doubt. I, therefore, think that the apprehensions entertained on that score by hon. Members on both sides of the House may fairly he regarded as allayed.
I should like in fairness to correct what I venture to think was a slight mis- 545 apprehension underlying certain of the speeches which were made on this subject. It is hardly correct to say that this company or any of those other concerns receive anything in the nature of a subsidy, or a benefit or an exception from the operation of the general Scottish law on rating. I would rather put the matter in this way. When you come to apply in 1936 a system of valuation and rating which rests on a Statute passed in 1854 in relation to a type of subject which was never thought of in 1854, it necessarily presents a peculiarly difficult and intractable problem to the courts, and there may well be a case for special undertakings of this kind receiving, it may be for a temporary experimental period, some adaptation of the general law, not with the object of giving them an advantage, but of securing a fair and just balance between that type of undertaking and the lands and heritages of other ratepayers. But so far as Clause 67 is concerned the proposals in that Clause are definitely unacceptable, and I think that the observations which have been made on that topic must have made that plain to the promoters of the Bill.
Next I should like to say that, in the view of my right hon. Friend, there do not appear to be in the Bill in its present form sufficient safeguards for various interests which are liable to be injuriously affected by the construction of these works. I am not going to detain the House by entering into details, but it may be of interest to hon. Members who have expressed fears in relation to the possibility of persons being thrown out of employment by the construction of the works if I say that the Departments in Scotland report, as a result of independent investigation, that the number of persons whose livelihood is likely to be affected as a result of the construction of the works, either by reduction in the fishing or the submerging of land, is exceedingly small. I do not wish to commit myself to a definite figure, but the estimate we have received is in the region of only 10 or 12. While I do not suggest that the House should necessarily accept that figure, the apprehensions under that head are not likely to give rise to any serious difficulties.
I pass to another point which was stressed by certain hon. Members and 546 which is really of crucial importance. We feel that it should be a condition of the grant of powers in relation to a scheme of this kind that it should be made clear beyond reasonable doubt that hydroelectric energy is essential for the economic production of calcium carbide, and that it would not be practicable to establish this industry, as we should like to see it established, either in the industrial part of Scotland or in one of the depressed areas. Hon. Members will have fresh in their recollection the discussion a fortnight ago on the location of industry, and if the question were put in this form, "Would you rather have this industry in Inverness-shire or in Lanarkshire" I think everyone would reply, "Lanarkshire." On the other hand, it is impossible to avoid giving full weight to the fact that the production of calcium carbide on a large scale has hitherto, so far as we are aware, only been possible in association with the use of hydroelectric energy, and from the information placed at my disposal I can confirm the statements in regard to that which were made in the course of his very interesting speech by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Sir W. Alexander). But if it be the case that on a balance of the estimates, due consideration being given to what was said by the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) in relation to the cost of transport of the anthracite and the limestone—I am not sure where they get the limestone—it is satisfactorily shown that without hydro-electric energy this industry cannot be economically conducted, and if one remembers, as certain hon. Members have pointed out, that the West Highland area is practically the Only, if not the only, source of water power now left for development in this country, then the question takes another form. It is not a question of whether the industry should be located in Inverness-shire or Lanarkshire, but whether we should have the industry in Inverness-shire or not have the industry at all.
§ Captain RAMSAY
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman arrives at these conclusions I suggest that it is begging the question to say that this industry is only possible with hydroelectric energy when in arriving at these calculations or conclusions, which I 547 challenge, he has allowed for the special rating facilities to be established in regard to hydro-electric power without allowing the same facilities of a plant producing power from coal.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
The hon. and gallant Member must have misunderstood me or I must have failed to make myself clear. I have expressed no opinion on that question. All I have said is that it should be a condition precedent to the grant of the powers that the promoters satisfy the Committee, which is an entirely different matter. What I would say on that point is that one cannot leave out of account the fact that in other parts of the world, including Norway and Germany, large-scale production of calcium carbide has, in fact, only been possible with water power, and that we have the water power in the Highlands.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
When I say that the West Highlands are the only source of water power available I am basing myself on the conclusions of the committee which investigated the water power resources of these islands. The last point of criticism I would make relates to a point to which reference has been made. I think, following upon the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for East Renfrew (Marquess of Clydesdale), that it would be very desirable and, indeed, essential that the availability or non-availability of reserve power in an adjoining scheme should be satisfactorily cleared up before authority is given for this new development. On that point it is fair to point out that in the evidence which was given in regard to the valuation appeal concerning the Lochaber Power Company it was stated, on their behalf, according to the information in my possession, that the development of aluminium which was under contemplation was expected, within a reasonable time, to absorb in great measure the surplus supplies which they had and which they were not at the moment using. But it is not for me or for the House to draw deductions from the very imperfect material before us to-night. It is for the promoters to put that question and 548 other questions beyond reasonable controversy.
I pass to a wider consideration, and one which deserves careful balancing by hon. Members before deciding how they shall vote. It is the case, and I say this advisedly, and with the authority of the various Ministers concerned, that all three Defence Services, the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Air Ministry—with, in addition, the Board of Trade, from the standpoint of t le civil industries of the country—regard a project for the establishment of carbide manufacture in this country as of such national importance as to deserve the fullest and most careful consideration. The statement is not that careful consideration should be given only to a proposal for establishing such manufacture in Scotland, but in the United Kingdom. On the other hand, that recommendation enables me in very large measure to corroborate the statements made by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow, to which I think the House listened with much interest, because it does appear that supplies of carbide not only for our heavy industries in peacetime, and for aircraft manufacture in peacetime and in wartime, and for certain explosive materials, are of considerable moment. The hon. Member for Springburn said, I think, how much the heavy industries were dependent upon carbide for oxyacetylene welding, independently altogether of the requirements of the defence Forces. From that point of view, therefore, consideration of this matter seems to be highly desirable from the widest national standpoint—from what might be called the United Kingdom standpoint.
There is one other consideration and one only to which I will refer. In questions to my right hon. Friend and in Debates relating to the Special Areas, there has been much discussion upon the problem of Scottish industrial depression, and upon the difficulties peculiar to Scotland created by its concentration upon the heavy industries and its dependence upon overseas markets. There has been insistence that everything should be done to encourage Scotland to broaden the range of her economic activities and to strengthen her forces against depression by encouraging new enterprises, in addition to those with which the Commissioner is concerned. The suggestion—and it is no more—which will be before 549 hon. Members when they decide how to vote on the Bill, is simply that this is the first concrete opportunity which has been afforded since the depression of 1929-30 of putting into operation the theories which have been expounded on this side of the House and of seeing, subject to my conditions being satisfied, how this entirely new industry could be set up.
§ Captain ARTHUR EVANS
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether, in the event of the Bill not receiving a Second Reading to-night, that proposition would be definitely dropped, or whether an equally suitable site in another part of the country would be contemplated by the promoters?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I am not sure whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman was in the House during the part of my speech when I dealt with the location of the site, but I have already made the point, and I repeat it, that the Western Highland area of Scotland is the only one, so far as I am aware, in which water power resources on a large scale have not been developed. If—I put it as a condition—they are still going on for the manufacture of car-bide—
§ Mr. HARDIE
If this work, as suggested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, is a national necessity, are the Government prepared to go on with it?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I cannot undertake to say that, because it is obviously quite outside the scope of my authority and of the information which has been supplied to me by the appropriate Departments for the consideration of the House. All I can say, including the point I made a moment ago, is that if we have an opportunity in the Bill—I am addressing myself particularly to my Scottish colleagues—of putting those theories into practice and of attracting this new enterprise to Scotland, would it not be a somewhat unfortunate beginning for the practical working out of the theories if this scheme were rejected without giving it an opportunity for dispassionate and thorough inquiry?
§ Captain RAMSAY
As my right hon. and learned Friend makes such a point of the view that he is urging us to take, may I ask whether, as this is a question of public policy, a committee is not the place to take it?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I think that is an entirely different point. Under the Rules of the House a Private Bill of this kind would, so far as I am aware, normally go to a Select Committee, which is the only place where the type of investigation which I should prefer, including the examination of witnesses, would be proper and competent.
§ Captain RAMSAY
On a point of Order. May I ask for your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? Is a Committee such as that to which the Bill would be sent a proper place to give a decision on public policy?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Obviously. If this Bill is committed, it is within the cognisance of the Committee to take a decision on whatever ground they see fit to take up. At the same time I should point out that it has been not infrequently the custom of this House to deal with questions of public policy on the Second Reading stage.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I have put my suggestion before the House as fairly and moderately as I could. I did no more than suggest that the proper and wise course is not to reject the Bill without an opportunity for proper investigation. I would remind hon. Members that in giving the Bill a Second Reading they are not accepting the objectionable features.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
Have the Government made up their minds that a point of definite policy is concerned in the Bill? Are they in favour of developing and encouraging water power, as the Bill proposes, or do they wish to use every opportunity of developing the use of the surplus of coal which we have in this country?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I am not going to make an announcement of policy outside the scope of the Bill, hut, so far as the hon. Member's question relates to the general custom, I have already answered the question by saying that unless the balance of economic production of calcium carbide from hydroelectric energy demonstrates that such a 551 method of production is definitely preferable to production from coal, I would certainly see this industry established in a coal area, and provide it with coal.
I endeavoured to make clear earlier in my speech that this is a question on which I should expect the Committee to be satisfied and to insist upon the promoters submitting evidence, because this is the basis of the whole proposition. I repeat that the House, in giving this Bill an opportunity for fresh and dispassionate investigation, are committing themselves to nothing in the way of approval of the suggestions in the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I say "No." They are simply declaring that here is 'a proposition which has the support of the Defence Departments and the Board of Trade, and which, if embodied in the Bill now, would be entirely under control. That is to say, if the Committee pass the Bill the House has not entirely parted with it. Subject to these considerations, my humble suggestions to hon. Members would be that their proper course is to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 9.54 p.m.
Mr. MATH ERS
While I thank the Lord Advocate for the admirable statement which he has made on the Bill, I would ask him whether, if the Bill had not contained this particular matter of public policy which has to be decided, it would not have been here but would have been dealt with by the ordinary Scottish procedure'? In giving a Second Reading to the Bill, as he invites us to do, are we not committing ourselves to the principle, and are we not, apart from any other consideration, involving those who are opposed to the Bill—and there are many petitions against it—in all the very great expense of putting forward their petitions? Is it fair that we should refrain to-night from deciding on this particular point of public policy and let the Bill have a Second Reading, involving the possibility of all that expense, and, as the Lord Advocate invites us to keep our rights, involving, it may be, the final rejection of the Bill, when all the expense and trouble will be of no avail? Might I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to deal with that aspect before he finishes?
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
You will no doubt guide me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as 552 to whether the question which the hon. Member has put is one which should be put to me or to you. Under the Private Legislation Procedure Act the decision as to whether a Provisional Order shall be dealt with as a Pre visional Order in Scotland or as a Private Bill in England rests upon the Chairmen of Committees of the two Houses, and it is because such a decision has been taken that the Bill is being dealt with as a Private Bill, and not as a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Act, 1899, and the amending Act of 1933. But that does not necessarily mean that there is a vital distinction of procedure between the two cases, because, if and when this Bill goes upstairs to a Select Committee, there will be two stages in the procedure. The first stage will be the proof of the Preamble, when, so far as I know, all questions of public policy will be capable of determination, and capable of determination, if I may se put it, far more intelligently, after the facts have been obtained, than is possible for anyone here in this House. After that has been done there will fall to be embarked upon a separate investigation of the details of the Bill. As regards the hon. Member's final point on the question of expense, there is, no doubt, hardship in connection with the expense which has to be borne. That is inseparable from Private Bill procedure. But I would point out that there are, I think, no fewer than 18 or 19 petitions outstanding—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir C. MacANDREW
Is it not a fact that, as a matter of Private Bill procedure, the Chairman of the group of Private Bill Committees can call witnesses himself, and that petitioners can appear in person, without being represented by either counsel or Parliamentary agents?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
That is perfectly in accordance with practice, and it is entirely a matter for the petitioners to decide as to the extent of the expenditure that they incur. I would point out, however, that only two or three broad cases have to be made, and, since the expenditure will be shared between some 18 or 20 different petitioners—who include, I observe, railway companies and other apparently substantial persons and associations—I imagine that the hardship will not be of so severe a character as the hon. Member suggests.
§ Mr. MATHERS
Arising out of the statement of the Lord Advocate, may I ask, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if you can give the House any guidance with regard to the bringing of this Bill here instead of dealing with it as a Provisional Order?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The House will remember that a few years ago the law dealing with the promotion of Provisional Orders in Scotland was altered, and, although I am speaking from memory, I think that under the existing law a Provisional Order is only brought to this House as a Private Bill if it does one of two things—first, if it affects matters outside Scotland, or, secondly, if it raises matters of such grave public importance that, in the opinion of the Lord Chairman and the Chairman of Ways and Means, it should be dealt with in the first instance by this House.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Sir GEOFFREY ELLIS
The questions which have been put and the answers which have been given have made it quite clear that this is a question of definite public importance which the House has a right to consider and vote upon before the Bill is sent to a Committee. I want to put before the House two or three questions of public importance, and I submit that, if the House is satisfied that these questions are of public importance, the burden of answering them and of giving a full explanation is on the promoters of the Bill before they can expect it to be sent to a Committee.
The first consideration is that the Government of this country have decided over a long period that the method of producing current in this country shall be that which is at present carried out by the grid system, and that system, as everybody knows, is dependent in its essence on a coal supply. It was said at the beginning of this Debate that, if we had to make a comparison between water power and coal supply, it was impossible to give an answer in any direction except that of water supply. If you compare the giant water supplies of Canada and Norway with the coal supplies in this country, there can be no answer other than the one which has already been supplied. And if you compare these great sources of power with the doll-like arrangements that it is proposed to put up in the glens of Scotland, the reply 554 is equally in the direction that those supplies do not compare in any sense with the supplies from Canada and Norway. The real point here is that we have to face the fact, first of all, that it is in the national interest that calcium carbide should be produced in his country. It cannot be produced in this country, by any source of power developed in this country, against the competition of Canada and Norway, unless it is placed on what we know as the Key Industries list, or on some other list which may be considered to be the same as the Key Industries list. In other words, it has to be given some protection in order to enable it to work itself out in this country.
Let us presume that, if it is going to be produced in this country, that protection is given to it. Then we have only to ask ourselves this simple question: Is the supply which it is suggested can be produced in. Scotland so much cheaper than the supply which can be produced in a distressed area by means of coal—in an area which is ready in every respect to take up a new industry Is there any very great difference between the two? I think it is symptomatic to-night that we have not heard from the promoters of the Bill a single statement as to the inquiries they have made in regard to coal-produced power and what the grid is prepared to do in this country. I know from my own experience, as one who is keenly interested in the production of power, that very little inquiry indeed has been made. It has been assumed all along that the cost of production to-day is as much in favour of water-produced electricity as it was 10 years ago. That assumption is completely wrong.
§ Mr. MACLAY
I am advised by the promoters of the Bill that the Central Electricity Board have been approached and they say that as far as the grid is concerned they cannot help this company, and therefore the company have to produce their own.
§ Sir G. ELLIS
Have they made inquiries elsewhere? Carbide was produced in several places in free competition in the old days, and ceased to be produced because it could not be produced as cheaply here as in Canada and Norway. The burden of proof on the promoters of this company has not been shown in such 555 a way as to justify the statement that we could depart from the principle that we could use existing national supplies which are ready for new production, where labour is ready to take on new production, and where new production ought to go.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Mr. MACLAY
I rise to support this Bill, and I feel there is going to be a very close Division on this matter. I wish I had the persuasive powers of debate to bring in one or two of the waverers. The propaganda has been heavy on both sides, and I am thankful that the conclusion of this matter has not brought about what it might have done 300 years ago, by the waters of Loch Ness being reddened with the blood of the protagonists on either side. I rise really to say that here, as a Scottish Member, I see a chance of bringing an important industry, which may have great developments in this area of Scotland. I have examined the advantages and disadvantages likely to accrue to Scotland and also the principles involved in this Bill, and at the same time I have had to keep in front of me the fact that without the majority of the powers asked for in this Bill we will have no industries in Scotland. I admit quite freely the important principles involved in the Bill. There is a private company asking for powers to acquire way-leaves and land for private profit and asking for concessions regarding rating on a large scale. In normal times those would be reasonable conditions. Even now they are reasonable, but to-day we have to give closer examination of the case being put forward than we would give in normal days.
For the last five years I have listened in the country, at elections, at public dinners, and in this House, to Members, and especially Scottish Members, asking that the Government should do everything possible to bring industries to Scotland. We have had very little success so far. The Government have stated that they are not going to enter into a public works policy. I would say this regarding the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has headed the movement for the rejection of the Bill. As lately as July of last year he himself stated in this House that he associated himself with the appeals that have been made to the Government to 556 encourage new industries in any way they can. He follows that by coming to-night and calling perfectly respectable industrialists "the old gang" and every other name with which he could describe them.
§ Captain RAMSAY
Is it not stronger proof than anything that I who am in favour of industries coming to Scotland am in favour of the rejection of this Bill?
§ Mr. MACLAY
Those of us who have continually tried to do everything possible to bring industries to Scotland have asked the Government to give careful consideration to infringing many other principles at stake. It is not quite consistent for a Member to deny a Bill a Second Reading when it is brought up. I am not going to deal with the question of national defence, because the case has been fully made. I have largely considered this Bill as a matter of weighing up advantages and disadvantages, and quite clearly, for Scotland, I can see some prospect of getting industrial work started. The question of having to infringe a principle I am perfectly willing to consider. I think the Committee is perfectly capable of watching that any infringement is such that it will not do the country as a whole harm.
§ Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS
Would it be competent for the Committee to receive advice from coalowners in this country?
§ Mr. MACLAY
I should say it would I doubt whether they can refuse to see them if they wish to give evidence against the Bill. I am advised that the Mines Association are petitioners against the Bill.
§ Mr. MACLAY
I should say yes, certainly, but I cannot speak with authority. The first people to ask are the local people of Inverness, because it is for them to say whether they would like this industry or not. I would like to take the points one by one which the people of Inverness have sent up. The first one is the question of diversion of water taut is going towards Inverness. There may be a case where, by rearrangement of the present plans, something may be done to meet the Inverness point of view, bat in the main the promoters state quite clearly that there 557 is also a proposal to store water in Loch Garry which will have the effect of neutralising the loss of water flowing from Loch Quoich. The regulation of the waters by the reservoirs and darns will improve conditions during the dry weather, despite the absence of water from Loch Quoich. The next point was, "Why did not they take the supply from Lochaber?" and that has been answered satisfactorily.
The next point they raise is the preferential treatment regarding rates, and I think that that question has been very fairly discussed by the Lord Advocate to-night. The promoters of the Scheme do not wish that the ratepayers of Inverness-shire should suffer in any way by the Bill, but the question of rating is surely one for the Committee to decide. It is true that they want to get their terms in regard to rating, but if we are anxious to attract industries, if we cannot risk one or two infringements of a principle that was drawn up in 1854—
§ Sir G. ELLIS
Does the hon. Member think it fair that hydro-electric development should be granted a relief which is not extended to others? Would the hon. Member give the coal-produced electricity in Glasgow the remission that he seeks?
§ Mr. MACLAY
I am supporting the case for this Bill. I am not interested in what is going to be done with other concerns. I am willing to infringe the principle to a certain extent if it will not harm the country as a whole.
§ Sir M. MACDONALD
In view of the possibility that he might not get this rating concession, was the Chancellor of the Exchequer approached and asked for a subsidy?
I cannot answer that. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is very slow to give subsidies. [Interruption.] Since the new defence programme came in he has been very slow. The last point with which I wish to deal is that in 1929 a Bill said to be very similar to this was brought in, but was thrown out. I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman presented the case in its true facts. This is an entirely new principle. The 1929 Bill had no industry attached to it. For that reason I think this Bill should be taken on its own merits, and should not be opposed on the ground 558 that in 1929 a somewhat similar Measure was thrown out. As to the question of coal being used instead of hydro-electric power, we can all see the force of the argument, but the fact remains that the company tell us that if they have to use coal they cannot go on with the project. That may or may not be so, but the Government spokesman has stated that that contention will have to be substantiated, and I am quite ready to stand by that. According to my figures, it is a very large increase in cost to produce this power by water as against the hydroelectric method.
The question of putting this power and industry into a distressed area is another point which has much force and one to which we have to listen. Wherever we look there is no satisfactory water power in the distressed areas, neither have the Government definitely stated that, in view of the general survey of industry, they have objections to the present suggested location of this industry. If anyone could come along and say that this industry could be established in a distressed area and worked as cheaply, I have no doubt that the promoters of the Bill would be very glad if such an area could be found, as they want to produce as cheaply as possible. We have been told that it will mean a great influx of Irish labourers into Scotland, and that they will be thrown on the dole. Surely, the Ministry of Labour can look after that question. That applies to any industry we might want to start in Scotland. The question has been raised, but I would not let it weigh with me at all.
Amenities are fully protected in the Bill. We cannot have it both ways. If we are to industrialise and have more industries in Scotland, we cannot keep the complete amenities. Those who read the Bill will see that there are safeguards taken to ensure that Scotland, of which we are all so fond, is not scarred or made unnecessarily unsightly. The advice of the Committee under the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Committee under the Fine Arts of Scotland would be welcomed by the promoters of the scheme. The question of fishing rights, which, I notice, has been very lightly touched upon on the part of objectors to the Bill, is one with which I can sympathise, but I would not let the question of salmon stop me. There 559 are Clauses in the Bill specially framed in order to try to meet and to protect the salmon and the trout fisheries. My main object in backing the Bill is to do everything possible to bring industries to Scotland, and here is a chance. I admit that it is a question of weighing the advantages and the disadvantages, and I would ask the House at least to let us take one step forward by allowing the Bill to go to a Committee.
§ 10.23 p.m.
Mr. J. J. DAVIDSON
The House will agree that there can be no doubt as to the sincerity of the supporters of the Bill in the desire to obtain some betterment of Scottish conditions. I listened with great attention to the speech of the Lord Advocate, and I believe that all of us will agree that he very definitely pointed out that there are very grave problems and very important matters of public interest and policy contained in the Bill. Any Bills placed before the Members of this House asking the House to depart from agreed public policy and questions of public importance should be very carefully worded indeed. Therefore, I suggest that we have here a very cogent and important reason why this Bill should not be allowed to have a Second Reading and go to Committee. We have heard that there has been considerable lobbying on the Bill. I agree. It must be evident that there is great uneasiness among hon. Members with regard to the effect of this Bill if it is passed. In these circumstances it is very unfair to ask the House of Commons to allow the Bill to go to Committee, which will involve those who are opposed to it in a very heavy expenditure in the near future which they cannot meet. I speak as a native of Inverness. The Inverness Town Council not long ago were called upon to spend thousands of pounds in defending themselves against the provisions of a Bill similar to the present Measure.
We are not discussing this as a question which has been settled beyond dispute by experts. We have had no guidance as to the possibility of having this production by steam. We have had no evidence as to whether this desired undertaking can be conducted by other methods. We are merely asked by the promoters to agree to the Bill; that it should go to Committee where their greater power of wealth will enable them 560 to see that their side of the question receives all the necessary prominence and advertisement it requires. We do not oppose the Bill on the ground that we do not want the industry in Scotland, but because the promoters, a private concern, are asking the local council, the inhabitants of this area, to bear a burden which they should heal themselves. We have heard of the Galloway undertaking. I want to point out that in that great undertaking the local people acted as distributors. They had al agreement with the promoters of the industry which was incorporated in the Act allowing them to be distributors, and giving them very fair terms indeed. But the promoters of this Bill did not feel it incumbent upon them even to attempt to make representations to the Inverness Town Council. Although as a native of Inverness, I do not wholly. approve of this town council, nevertheless it is a town council which has as its main function the protection of the interests of the people of Inverness. Those people have not even been consulted by the promoters of this undertaking.
§ Mr. MACLAY
I do not know whether the hon. Member was in the House earlier when it was skated definitely on this side that the promoters had been in touch with the Inverness Town Council?
I was in the House at the time, but I would point out that this afternoon I asked the Provost of the Inverness Town Council the direct question whether his council had been approached at any time by the promoters of this Bill on the matter, and he very definitely answered "No." This undertaking is one on which the promoters of the Bill are definitely asking the Members of this House to depart from all their methods of procedure and all their principles of the past, so far as the valuation or assessment of these undertakings is concerned. This is very important. We have heard it stated tonight that the Lochaber undertaking only uses one-third of its power. I was assured by one of the representatives of the British Oxygen Company that it could only obtain a three years guarantee from the Lochaber Company. In the absence of any other statement, I accept that, but I want to put it to the House, and particularly to the Lord Advocate, that if this is an important national asset, if this carbide is required in the 561 future, if it is very necessary to assist the Government with regard to any of its plans, why cannot the Government see that the necessary negotiations shall take place between those undertakings in order to arrive at a sensible agreement without placing the burden on the backs of the natives of Inverness County?
If the promoters of this Bill and their supporters in this House believe that this industry is necessary nationally, why cannot they adopt the straightforward attitude of going to the Government and saying that this industry is just as important as any industry in the country, is important to the Air Force and to the heavy industries of the country, and that if it is desired that it should carry on, they ask the Government to assist them by means of a subsidy? That would be the straightforward method. Here we have the House being asked by a private concern to allow it not only its own particular rating, but to allow it to control the local authorities in such a way that it will be able to fix the price of electricity in that particular area. It will take away from the local authority any power in the fixation of electricity prices. The Lord Advocate said that there were grave problems involved in the Bill and that the Scottish Office were not in favour of any special rating facilities being given, or at any rate that on the question of rating they would require certain changes to be made in the Bill. But I have the assurance of the promoters of the Bill that unless they can obtain these concessions on the rating question, the proposition will not be an economic one and they will not be able to go on with the proposed undertaking.
In view of the fact that the natural beauty of the Highlands will be greatly spoiled, despite what hon. Members have said, for what will probably be no useful purpose whatever; in view of the fact that this private concern is asking the House to depart from its established practice and the principles of public policy; in view of the fact that the natives of this county 97 per cent. of whom are opposed to the Bill, are being asked to bear a rating burden which the industry is not prepared to bear—in view of all these facts, I ask the House to treat the Bill as it deserves. If we give this Bill a Second Reading we shall find 562 other concerns coming to this House, knowing that even if the Bill which they submit is badly worded and asks for concessions which are not deserved, it will be argued that despite those defects it should be remitted to a Committee in order that hon. Members should examine it in detail. If we remit this Bill to a Committee we shall be unjust to the town council of Inverness and the residents of the county. We have definite evidence—and I make this point to show that the question involved is not a small one—that the town of Inverness, situated on the banks of the Ness, 66 miles away from the proposed site will be materially affected as to its sewerage by the diversion of water from the river. We have definite evidence that unless the river Ness is allowed, with its periodic spates, to clear away the debris and sewage that accumulates, the health of the people of Inverness will suffer materially. In those circumstances, I ask the House to reject the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 10.39 p.m.
§ Mr. BROAD
I rise to support the Second Reading of the Bill. I am not one of the "old gang" which has been so gracefully referred to in this Debate. I have not a penny in any of these companies, nor have I been associated with any of them. But I am an engineer interested in my trade and industry and the engineering works of this company happen to be in my constituency. I have paid particular attention to the work which is carried on there and I can tell the House that oxy-acetylene processes are now an essential part of our engineering and metal industries. Apparatus, machinery, and plant are being designed for construction by this process, and whole factories are being laid out. By the very nature of its business the production of this oxygen is of a monopolistic character. There are very few who could say of that company that it has been a sharp practising company, although, to judge by some of the remarks made to-night, you would think that the "B.O.", as we call it, was the Loch Ness monster of which we heard a year or so ago. Those processes so essential to our engineering and metal industries are now getting into their stride. When I left my tools on the bench to come to this House in 1932, these pro- 563 cesses were hardly used at all, but they are now being used all the way round. There is another essential besides oxygen.
§ Mr. E. SMITH
Is the hon. Member aware that this method of production is very quickly becoming out of date and is being superseded by a new electrical welding process?
§ Mr. BROAD
That is a very highly debatable point. If anyone knows the nature of the plant, he knows that it is not really transformable from an electrical point of view to do the work of construction where the oxy-acetylene processes come in. Most companies prefer the oxy-acetylene process to the electrical process. I would like to see the electrical people get it, but I am afraid that the oxy-acetylene is the only practical and economic process up to now. There are two elements required in this process—oxygen and calcium carbide. There is no raw material required for producing the oxygen, but on the other side we are dependent for all our supplies upon foreign countries. We produce practically nothing in this country in the way of calcium carbide, and unless we can get supplies, our industries designed for that process are cut down right away, because you cannot easily transform them into the old-fashioned methods of riveting and bolting.
I would like to see the production of calcium carbide associated with our coal industry. I know that anthracite is only produced of the quality required in Wales. I also happen to know, as we all do, that a very big industrial concern in this country, Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited, is very closely associated with the anthracite business, and if there was any reasonable prospect of making the production of calcium carbide by steam-generated electricity, you might be sure that Wales would get it, with the capital behind Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited. With capital only too ready to find an outlet where a profit can be obtained, if they could produce that calcium carbide by using coal instead of water power, they would use it in the district where the anthracite is obtained. We shall not subsidise calcium carbide in this country unless we 564 use the natural resources of the water power in the Highlands.
§ Mr. LEONARD
Wilt my hon. Friend inform the House whether, when he put his name down to this Bill, he agreed that the subsidy should come from the ratepayers of Inverness?
§ Mr. BROAD
I will deal with that point in a minute. I want to follow my own line for a moment. If there were any possibility of this industry as a whole or the control of this water power being under national ownership and control, I should be more bitterly opposed than anybody to putting it in the hands of a private company, but that is not likely for a long time. There is no more objection to this concern from the point of view of national ownership than to the schemes of any other company that comes to this House for statutory powers.
§ Mr. HARDIE
What is the hon. Member's reply to this question? If you gave the same derating to the money invested in steam coal electrical production, what would be the price per unit; and what is the price per unit to-day at which the water power electricity can be produced?
§ Mr. BROAD
I have neither the data at my disposal nor the expert habit of mind to enable me to deal with that question. I will leave it to be argued by the experts in front of the responsible Committee, sitting in a judicial capacity, which is better able to judge than I or the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie). The whole system of rating is absolutely wrong in this country because it is based on the houses of the people rather than on the incomes of the people. The consequence is that, the lower a man's salary the bigger his family, the more housing accommodation he has to provide, and the more he has to pay in rates. The rating system cannot he allowed to stand in the way. While a great railway company like the London and North Eastern is working without paying a penny in rates, the workman has to pay his rates.
There is the question of the amenities of the district. We might have shown our concern for amenities years ago when we were developing our coal industry. We then spoilt every part of our country. I have seen some of the biggest power dams in the world and I know that they 565 can be made things of beauty and an addition to the scenery. I have never seen a coal mine that was anything but an eyesore. I should like to take people from Glasgow and put them in the Highlands under conditions where they did not have the smoke and gloom and festering sores of the early industrial development. If we were to take these industries into the clean, cool air north of the Caledonian Canal, it would he better than leaving them in the festering areas of Glasgow. These objections in regard to amenities come from the people of leisure who do not like the amenities of their particular districts disturbed. We ought to regard this country as a treasure house of the people rather than a pleasure ground of the leisured class. We need have no fear about this aspect of the question if the Committee that will be set up does its duty properly.
§ Mr. LEONARD
The question which I asked my hon. Friend was, whether, when he put his name to the Bill, he agreed that the ratepayers of Inverness should pay money to this large concern?
§ Mr. BROAD
When I put my name to the Bill I agreed to the general principle. I thought that it would be a fine thing to have this industry in that part of Scotland and to give the people in that area a chance of seeing their youngsters settle down in their own district. I cannot claim to be familiar with that part of Britain. I cannot afford non-stop trains to the north, and so I cannot speak as an authority. But if I want to see something of the characteristics of the Scottish people I have no need to go away from London. I ask my hon. Friends on this side—it will be seen that I am in a den of lions—to consider this seriously. Most of them made up their minds how they were going to vote before they heard anything, because I heard a great deal from some who ought to know their own country of how a large number of crofters and small cultivators were going to have their land submerged, and that this was going to create more unemployment than employment. We have heard from the Advocate-General, who speaks with some authority—
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
On a point of Order. I really do not think that the Scottish Members of this House are entitled to allow any hon. Member, even if he comes 566 from England, to describe the Lord Advocate as the Advocate-General.
§ Mr. BROAD
I am sorry. The Lord Advocate spoke after having had the advantage of inquiry by the various Departments, and he said that the most whose living might be interfered with was somewhere about 10 or 12. If you are going to give an opportunity of work to 300 or 500 in the initial stage that more than compensates. I do not feel that I am in any way deserting my principles in having put my name on the back of this Bill, and I intend to vote for the Second Reading so that the Bill may receive full consideration in the proper place.
§ 10.54 p.m.
§ Mr. ASSHETON
I am quite certain that all hon. Members are most anxious to see new industries established, whether in Scotland or elsewhere. I have listened with great interest to-night to the speeches made on both sides. Although I am not a Scottish Member I am deeply interested in certain aspects of this Bill which seem to me to be contrary to the public interest. The authorities in Parliament who decide whether these matters should be proceeded with by private Bill or Provisional Order, have decided that because greater principles are involved this may be debated on the Floor of the House. What are those great principles? In the first place there is the rating question, which has already been much discussed, and which I have not time to go into; but let the House not forget that the promoters of the Bill are asking for a concession which amounts to £20,000 a year. In the brief which they prepared and sent round to hon. Members they say:Unless a concession is made for works of this nature the rates payable in respect of these works would increase the cost of the power unit beyond an economic basis.In other words, the industry can only be carried on by this method if there is a subsidy from the ratepayers of Inverness. The second point of principle, which is of much greater importance, is that title promoters are asking for compulsory powers to expropriate the property of private owners in the interests not of a public utility concern but of a company trading for private profit, and I say that this House has never in the past given such powers to a private company. There are people who are not well able to defend 567 their interests in Committee. The Lord Advocate has referred to the fact that many of the opponents of this Bill are large corporations. I would remind the House that the parishes of Glengarry and Glenmoriston cannot afford to brief counsel upstairs to put their case.
Then it has been alleged that in the public interest it is necessary that this carbide factory should be established somewhere. I maintain that there is no necessity whatever for it to be established in this particular place. It would be much better to establish it where coal can be used in preference to water for producing electricity. But if it be said that this is the ideal place I say that the Lochaber Power Company is in a position to give sufficient power to this company for the manufacture of its carbide. That has been disputed, but I should like to refer to the evidence given recently by Mr. Murray Morrison, of the Lochaber Power Company, before the rating appeal committee, in which he said that the company were only using one-third of their authorised and possible power and saw no prospect of using the remainder. If this company has to be brought into existence, if it is in the
§ national interest, I suggest that it can be established without doing all the damage which under this Bill would be done to those who have interests in Inverness-shire. We are asked both by the Inverness County Council and i he Inverness Town Council to bear in mind the damage it would do to their interest. We realise also the damage it would do to the interests of these poor crofters and those whose homes will be submerged—
§ Sir W. ALEXANDER
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. ASSHETON
Finally, I would say that here is a case of principle brought before us for our decision—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I believe that the House is willing to come to a decision.
Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 63; Noes, 199.569
|Division No. 107.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir VI. J. (Armagh)||Everard, W. L.||M'Connell, Sir J.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Findlay. Sir E.||McKle, J. H.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Muff, G.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Nail, Sir J.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Guy, J. C. M.||Radford, E. A.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Hamilton, Sir G. C.||Remer, J. R.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Rowlands, G.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Harbord, A.||Bunciman, Rt. Hen. W.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Harvey, G.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Broad, P. A.||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Hulbert, N. J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Hunter, T.||Touche, G. C.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Train, Sir J.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Leckie, J. A.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Levy, T.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Liddall, W. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Lindsay, K. M.||Sir William Alexander and Mr.|
|Ersklne Hill, A. G.||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G.||Maclay.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Banfield, J. W.||Cape, T.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Batey, J.||Cary, R. A.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Castlereagh, Viscount|
|Albery, I. J.||Benson, G.||Cluse, W. S.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Bird, Sir R. B.||Cobb, Sir C. S.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Boulton, W. W.||Cocks, F. S.|
|Assheton, R.||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk N.)|
|Astor, Visc'tess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Brockiebank, C. E. R.||Courthope Col. Sir G. L.|
|Astor. Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Cross, R. H.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Crossley, A. C.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. K. C. (Newbury)||Daggar, G.|
|Baltour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Bull, B. B.||Davidson, J. J. (Haryhill)|
|Balniel, Lord||Burke, W. A.||Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Rowson, G.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Dabble, W.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Scott, Lord William|
|Duggan, H. J.||Kimball, L.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Kirkpatrick, W. M.||Shaw, Major p. S. (Wavertree)|
|Dunne, P. R. R.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Shinwell, E.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Latham, Sir P.||Short, A.|
|Ede, J. C.||Lawson, J. J.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Loach, W.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Lee, F.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Leonard, W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Leslie, J. R.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Elliston, G. S.||Loder, Captain Hon. J. de V.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Logan, D. G.||Spender-Clay, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Spens, W. P.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Lyons, A. M.||Storey, S.|
|Foot, D. M.||McEntee, V. La T.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Frankel, D.||McEwen, Capt. H. J. F.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Furness, S. N.||McGhee, H. G.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Gallacher, W.||MacLaren, A.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Garro-Jones, G. M.||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Georqe, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Magnay, T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Gibbins, J.||Mander, G. le M.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Glyn. Major Sir R. G. C.||Manningham-Buller, sir M.||Thurtle, E.|
|Gower, Sir B. V.||Marklew, E.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Graham, O. M. (Hamilton)||Mathers, G.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Vlant, S. P.|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Messer, F.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Walker, J.|
|Groves, T. E.||Milner, Major J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Montague, F.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Munro, P.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Hardie, G. D.||Naylor, T. E.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Owen, Major G.||White, H. Graham|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Paling, W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Palmer, G. E. H.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Patrick, C. M.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Petherick, M.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Hicks, E. G.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Holdsworth, H.||Plugge, L. F.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Holland, A.||Potts, J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Hollins, A.||Pritt, D. N.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Quibell, J. D.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Hopkinson, A.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Jagger, J.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Rickards, G. W. (Sklpton)|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Riley, B.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Ritson, J.||Captain Ramsay and Sir Murdoch|
|Jones, L, (Swansea, W.)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Macdonald.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to: Second Reading put off for six months.