HC Deb 05 February 1941 vol 368 cc1018-23

Amendment made:

In page 23, line 8, after "occupied," insert "mainly or exclusively."

In line 11, leave out "shall be made."—(Sir K. Wood.)

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage (Louth)

On a point of Order. There are several other Amendments following the next Amendment which deal with different points. Are they to be taken individually?

The Chairman

I think some of these are different, and we shall have to take them separately. No doubt we shall have an answer by the Chancellor, or somebody on his behalf, to this first Amendment, and I hope it will be unnecessary to spend any appreciable amount of time on other Amendments of this kind.

Sir Francis Fremantle (St. Albans)

I beg to move, in page 23, line 18, to leave out: "light railway, tramway, trolley-vehicle."

I take it that the various Amendments on this one subject will be discussed on the first Amendment. I have been asked to move this series of Amendments on behalf of the Conjoint Conference of Public Utility Associations, representatives of gas and electricity companies and water interests. My hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) represents the Metropolitan Water Board. The object of these Amendments is fairly clear. It is to take out of this Bill, with one exception, these public utility undertakings and reserve them for a later Measure which is promised in the Memorandum attached to this Bill, in which it says: These will be the subject of further legislation which, after consultation with the undertakings concerned, will shortly be brought before Parliament and in which provision will be made for the payment of contribution on the basis of compensation. The Conference of Public Utility Associations feel it would be best to have a future Measure on public utility associations in one complete whole instead of part of it being dealt with in this Bill and part of it being dealt with at a later stage. My Amendments deal with the public utility undertakings included in the Conjoint Conference. I understand that one of my hon. Friends will move an Amendment on behalf of other undertakings not included in the conference, but which I dare say take a similar line. There is one provision which obviously could not be deleted from the Clause, and that concerns the question of immediate compensation for damage. With that exception, it would seem better to leave out the other matters. Particularly is that the case as regards public utility undertakings being assessed for contributory value. In Clause 14, contributory value is defined as being either the assessment under Schedule A—and public utility undertakings are not assessed under Schedule A—or the net annual valuation under the Rating and Valuation Acts. For that purpose, there is an assessment on the basis of receipts and profits, which obviously would not enable the public utility undertakings to come under the Bill. I think I have said enough regarding this Amendment. I know that my right hon. Friend has been in close touch with the conference in order to try to get an agreement, and I am sure that what is intended on both sides is to get the most workable Measure.

Captain Crookshank

My hon. Friend's purpose in moving this Amendment is to exclude certain public utility undertakings from the Clause, but if this were done, it would have a very odd effect, for some things would be quite haphazardly left out and some things would be left in. For instance, railways would be left in, but light railways, tramways and trolley vehicles would be taken out; gas, electricity and hydraulic power would be taken but, and canals, inland navigation and lighthouses would be left in. The result would be that the different categories would be treated differently. That is a very bad idea. Surely, all public utility undertakings ought to be dealt with in the same way. I do not see why in this connection gas should be treated differently from the equally valuable undertakings of canals and inland navigation. It is highly important that this Clause should be in the Bill, because otherwise no cost-of-works payments could be made ahead of the determination of Parliament about contributions and compensation generally. These public utility undertakings want a safeguard now, because they are liable to great damage.

Sir F. Fremantle

According to the Memorandum, that is already provided for in the Bill that is to come before Parliament.

Captain Crookshank

It is in this Bill, which is the important thing now. There is no logic in my hon. Friend's suggestion, and I hope the Committee will not accept the Amendment.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)

Perhaps this is the proper place to ask a question. I do not find slaughterhouses mentioned, and I do not know whether refuse destructors are included. Then there is the whole question of roads. I do not know what is proposed in these cases. Perhaps we might have an answer.

Sir K. Wood

There is a new Clause about highways on the Order Paper.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

I should like to put the case of the drainage authorities.

The Chairman

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has an Amendment on the Order Paper dealing with that subject. If he deals with it on this Amendment, he can only raise the differentiation between those concerns which have already been dealt with and drainage authorities. If he does so now, he must understand that I shall not call his Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

I think it would be better to deal with it now. These associations are in favour of the preservation of Sub-section (4) paragraph (b), which allows for compensation. In a way they are local authorities, but they are not under the Ministry of Health but under the Ministry of Agriculture. There has always been a certain amount of difficulty about that. Perhaps I may give an instance where it would be found difficult under this Clause. There is the question of sea walls. Some of the catchment boards are responsible for the repair of some hundreds of miles of sea walls. They are not owners or occupiers. I mention that as one case to show that special consideration would be necessary. We have found in the past, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was Minister of Health, that he was very kind to us when we were in difficulties. Owing to the special circumstances of the catchment boards and their responsibilities, we hope they will be taken into consultation in any Amendment to this Bill which may be proposed. I have mentioned one difficulty we can foresee, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into the point between now and the Report stage.

Mr. Bracewell Smith (Dulwich)

I do not know whether this would be the proper time to ask a question on the Clause generally. There may be public utility undertakings controlling hotels in a town. There may be the case in one town of a hotel being controlled by the railway which is exempt from any insurance premium, whereas a privately owned hotel would have to pay the insurance premium. In the latter case it seems to me that they would be carrying on business under very different conditions. I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether public-utility-controlled hotels are to be exempted from the payment of insurance premium.

Captain Crookshank

That is a special point. I do not know what the position of railways would be here, but we will look into the point which the hon. Member has raised. As regards drainage authorities, the effect of the hon. and gallant Member's Amendment would be to take them out of public utility undertakers. Perhaps that is what he wants. They would not be assessed for Schedule A or rates, and they would not become contributory property in the definition, but would still be liable to receive compensation either for cost-of-works or value payment. I cannot believe that the Committee would want to leave authorities in that preferential position, particularly in view of the fact that in the nature of the case they are liable to suffer damage. I am sure he really does not mean to say on behalf of drainage authorities that they should pay no contribution and get all the benefits.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

I am sure my right hon. and gallant Friend will realise that the only way to draw attention to the matter was to ask for the removal of these words.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made: In page 23, line 20 after "harbour," insert "quay."—[Sir K. Wood.]

Mr. Silkin

I beg to move, in page 23, line 31, at the end, to insert: (4) If any part of a sewerage or sewage-disposal undertaking referred to in Sub-section (3) of this Section is not a contributory property, such part shall nevertheless be deemed to be a contributory property for the purposes of this Section. This Amendment is designed to remove an anomaly. As the Clause stands, sewerage undertakings which are contributory properties would come under the Clause, but underground sewers are not assessed under Schedule A and are not contributory undertakings and therefore do not come within the Clause. Without the Amendment, therefore, you would have the extraordinary position that one part of a sewerage undertaking would come within the Clause and another would not. I am sure that is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman wants to avoid.

Sir K. Wood

Perhaps the hon. Member would allow me to examine the matter and deal with it later.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In page 24, line 9, at the end, insert "quay."—[Sir K. Wood.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 31 ordered to stand part of the Bill.