I beg to move, in page line 17, after "electricity," to insert "by water power."
This Amendment is moved to make it perfectly clear that the Board are to be responsible for initiating and undertaking the development of all further means of generation, of hydro-electricity, and are not to have a monopoly in the production of electricity by steam, thermal process or air process or any other process of producing electricity now in operation say in a local authority area.
I am sorry to have to stop the Minister but I must ask him not to go into the question of air power or any other power at this point, because there are Amendments which I wish to safeguard and which deal with those subjects.
Of course, I accept your Ruling, Mr. Williams, but I was trying to explain why we are limiting the Board to water power.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I appreciate the difficulties confronting the Secretary of State but I am not sure whether he is wise to insert this restrictive Amendment. I should have thought it would have been better for the Board to retain general power to administer the production of all forms of electricity in the area, recognising certain exceptions such as the case of an undertaking which is able to produce electricity by steam as a by-product of its ordinary work and at a lower price than could otherwise be offered. Later I shall 206 endeavour to make a number of suggestions to avoid hamstringing the Board in its actions. I should like to feel that the Board stood for all forms of electrical development in. the Highlands.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
On a point of Order. Have we not already decided by Clause r to describe the Board as a Hydro-Electric Board? Surely that rules out the other forms of production. I should like your guidance on that point, Mr. Williams, because the hon. Member is indicating that there are many other suggestions of the kind to be made, with which the time of the Committee may be unnecessarily taken up.
I think the hon. Gentleman who was addressing the Committee has been reminded that there are other Amendments to be considered later. I was listening to his remarks very carefully. If he were to expand them much further he would, undoubtedly, be infringing the subject of those later Amendments and I must warn him of that.
I appreciate that. I was going on to make a further observation. The Board will take the place in the Highlands of the Central Electricity Board and will perform more or less the same duties. The Act of 1926, by which the Central Electricity Board was set up, is quite clear in this regard. Section 5 (I) of that Act states:The Board shall make arrangements with the owners of existing generating stations which by virtue of a scheme become selected stations for the stations being operated in accordance with the provisions of this Act, and for such extensions and alterations thereof as may be required by the scheme, and for such additional extensions and alterations as the Board, with the approval of the Electricity Commissioners, may from time to time direct.207 The Committee will observe that the part of the Bill which we are now considering says that the Board shall be responsible forinitiating and undertaking the development of all further means of generation of electricity.Those words are somewhat similar to the concluding words of the Section of the Act which I have just read, and which mean that the Central Electricity Board has power over all kinds of electricity production. I am doubtful—I put it no higher—of the wisdom of restricting the proposed Board and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has noted the facts to which I have referred and if so what he thinks about the matter.
§ Mr. Stephen
I am somewhat uneasy about the proposed restriction. I do not know whether it would prevent the Board from setting up an installation in some district where it would be more suitable to use a method other than the hydro-electric method.
That could be done only if there were a constructional scheme for such an experiment and it would have to come before Parliament and be authorised.
§ Mr. Stephen
We should do the job properly now, so that it would not be necessary to come to Parliament for further powers. It should not be necessary to put this restriction upon the Board. The communities of the Highlands are in need of electrical power and I can easily conceive that some districts would require a method of generation more suitable to their own conditions than the hydro-electric method. If the Board has to come to Parliament every time it wants to meet such a case it will mean very heavy expense in the promotion of separate schemes. The Bill should make it clear that the business of the Board is to produce electricity by the hydro-electric method but that, in particular circumstances, the Board should have power to initiate installations of a different character on a limited scale, when that would make for the more efficient development.
§ Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)
Will the Minister explain why he wants to restrict the Board to water power? To bring electrical supplies to some of the remote islands will need wind power. Why should 208 not the Board have power to introduce any other method?
The Secretary of State was proceeding to develop the subject of air power but I, having remembered that there are other Amendments dealing with wind power to be taken later, asked him not to deal with wind power, but to keep the discussion strictly to hydro-electric power.
§ Mr. Stephen
If we carry the present Amendment, will not all those subsequent Amendments be ruled out, because we shall have laid down that the one function of the Board is to produce electricity by hydro-electric methods?
We have gone into the matter again and I do not think that those particular Amendments would be ruled out of Order.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
I understand that the intention of the Amendment is to limit the new Board so that it will have a monopoly for producing electricity by water power, but it will not prohibit the Hydro-Electric Board from dealing with other forms of producing electricity. All it does is to prohibit outside organisations from producing electricity by water power. I should be glad to know whether the interpretation I have put upon the Amendment is correct.
May I be allowed to explain the matter a little further? The words of the Bill at present confine the operations of the Board toall further means of generation of electricity.That means that a local authority which had a steam or thermal plant would be unable to develop its installation. Local authorities have asked us whether their hands are to be tied henceforth. It is in order to make it perfectly clear that we do not wish to prevent or try to prevent the further development of the generation of electricity by other means than waterpower that we are inserting these words. But several hon. Members—including I think the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen)—have raised some question as to whether the Board, by the insertion of these words, is handicapped or precluded, 209 from operating a wind power arrangement or thermal station arrangement in some area where hydro-electricity would not be practicable. The answer is "Certainly not," but a constructional scheme would be necessary before those powers could be granted. That is the sole aim and purpose of these words. It is to relieve the apprehensions of the local authorities. We will deal with the point about wind power and thermal station power, I hope, in further Amendments.
If this Amendment is carried, it will mean that anybody, either the Board or some existing authority, can carry out or extend a scheme for the provision of electricity by any means other than by water power but that only the Board can carry out a scheme for provision of electricity by water power?
Subject to later provisions in the Bill. There are exceptions to that, under which private individuals who want to operate very small water power experiments or who get the consent of the Electricity Commission, may continue so to do. I want simply to meet the absolute statement of the right hon. Gentleman by saying that there are certain exceptions, but, speaking, by and large, it is the case that all future large-scale hydro-electric developments in the Highlands will be undertaken by this Board.
§ Mr. Stephen
I appreciate the answer that has been given by the right hon. Gentleman, but looking at these words from the point of view of what the courts might afterwards decide, I am not at all convinced, and I would ask the Lord Advocate to go into this matter again. One does not want, when this scheme is brought into operation, a lot of appeals to the courts by various interests. The statement of the Secretary of State for Scotland on what le means, would satisfy me all right, but, as a lawyer, I am not convinced that these words will not be read by the courts as putting such a restrictive power upon the Board that they will not be able to have anything other than water schemes.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I accept the explanation of my right hon. Friend as regards the local authorities; I am satisfied with his argument, but I confess that I am not satisfied with his argument regarding the Board itself. If the Amend- 210 ment were carried, the Clause would read as follows:Subject to the provisions of this Act the Board shall be responsible for —(a)initiating and undertaking the development of all further means of generation of electricity by water power within the area defined in the Second Schedule …I confess I can see no interpretation of that Clause how other than this—that the Board may undertake all further means of generation of electricity by water power, but not by any other power. I would press the Lord Advocate to consider that. The more I think of it, the more uneasy I become.
§ Sir Arnold Gridley (Stockport)
Might I call the hon. Member's attention to Subsection (2, d) of Clause 2, which puts upon the Board the duty of providing "supplies of electricity in isolated areas in the said district"? It might be quite impracticable to supply such areas from a hydro electric station but it might quite well be feasible and right to put down, say, a small Diesel generating plant.
I think we must leave out that subject at the present time or we may cut out other Amendments. We really should try and keep within the very narrow point of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Mathers
I was included in the number of those who were doubtful about the effect of this Amendment, and I am very glad indeed to have heard the assurance from the Secretary of State, which will no doubt be cofirmed by the Lord Advocate. The only point I rise to put is that I take it there cannot be any restriction here of the use of tidal waters, that this does not necessarily limit the Board to the use of fresh water power, which is the power we have mainly in view in dealing with this Bill.
§ The Lord Advocate (Mr. J. S. C. Reid)
I had no doubt in my own mind, and I have no doubt now, that the form of words which the Committee is asked to adopt will leave it open to the new Board to produce electricity from steam power in circumstances where that is desirable. But it is very desirable that there should be no misunderstanding or misapprehension. Therefore, we will certainly look at the wording to see whether it can be made clearer, but I have no doubt that the words proposed do meet the object we have in mind. I think with regard to 211 tidal power that that is a matter that the Board could certainly look into.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The Lord Advocate
I beg to move, in page 1, line 20, to leave out from the beginning to "it," in page 2, line 1, and to insert "and."
The effect will be to make no alteration in the meaning or effect of the Clause as a whole, but the present form of drafting has caused a certain amount of misapprehension owing to certain topics being mentioned twice. It is therefore thought better to amalgamate the first and second Sub-sections in the interests of clarity, and for that purpose I beg to move this Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Sloan
I beg to move, in page 2, line 2, to leave out "so far as practicable."
We consider that the supplies referred to in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) should be obligatory and not left to the Board to decide as to whether or not they are practicable. For instance, if the Post Office was left to deliver letters where it considered it to be practicable, a considerable proportion of the people of this country would have to find some other method of collecting their mails, but the Post Office has to deliver letters wherever they are addressed. One of the chief difficulties in which this Board will find themselves is the demand for supplies of electricity immediately the Board begins to function. I have always been of the opinion that where a monopoly is granted the people who secure the monopoly should have no choice whatever in the matter. I have always argued on my own electricity board that, having a monopoly for a certain area for the distribution of electricity, we really ought to have no choice whatever in the matter; and it is the duty of the Board to supply at the earliest possible moment the electricity where it is required and demanded. It is because of that that we ask that these words should be eliminated.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I want to support this Amendment, because the whole of this scheme, one has to remember, from its very inception, was always supposed to be impracticable. All my lifetime we have been told that it was not possible to 212 develop the Highlands of Scotland, that it was impracticable, that nothing could be done, that the Highlands of Scotland just had to be a playground for the rich. Now here is a scheme, this hydro-electric scheme, with a view to opening up the Highlands, developing the Highlands, and it is because of that that we moved the Amendment which has been rejected, that is, we wanted this Board to be under the direct control of and responsible to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and, of course, the Secretary of State for Scotland is then responsible to us. We do not want to lose control. Here we are concerned with the position when this Board comes into operation unless, it is animated with the high ideals of opening up the Highlands of Scotland, not with a view to making a profit first. Unless that is the case—and up to date there has never been any Board appointed by any Government in this country yet that was animated with that high ideal of looking after the common people—
§ The Chairman (Major Milner)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but the point is quite a narrow one. I also understand that the question which is now being raised by the hon. Member has already been argued. If so, those arguments ought not to be repeated. We are discussing quite a narrow point, as to whether the words "so far as practicable" shall be kept in the Clause or not.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The argument is that the Board should have the responsibility for supplying electricity, and that the function should not be permissive. Is it not in Order to show that in other cases where such powers have been of a permissive nature they have not been used in the way we desire?
§ The Chairman
Perhaps the hon. Member will continue, and keep to the narrow point as far as possible.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
We are worried about, this matter, because we know the Highlands of Scotland, and we know that, unless the Board is looking after the interests of the folk there, in numerous cases electricity schemes will not be practicable. This is a "get-out" The Government have instituted a procedure for giving the Minister of Labour a "getout," where formerly he would have been pestered by deputations. Scientific "get- 213 outs" are the latest development. The Government have provided an alibi for the Minister of Labour, and now they are going to give this Board an alibi for not supplying electricity, which means light and heat, to "the lone shieling," to the cotter and the shepherd, "mid nature's wildest grandeur." This is the opposite of the Amendment to which you, Major Milner, referred when you said that the ground was not to be covered again. In that case we wanted to put in something for the benefit of the Secretary of State. Now we want to put in something for the benefit of the ordinary people. If I am in Order, I would like to point out that in the other case we wanted to insert the words:The Board shall be responsible to the Secretary of State for Scotland in respect of the general control and through him to Parliament.The Secretary of State turned down that Amendment, because, he said, he already had those powers. He explained that in his own lucid and courteous fashion, and the Amendment was turned down. That Amendment was intended to strengthen the right hon. Gentleman's hands, but the Board have got away with it. Now we say that it is not necessary to put in the words:so far as practicable.It will be a tragedy in many cases if these words remain in the Bill. Man's ingenuity having tapped the sources of nature, and made nature do man's work, we can transport light and heat to the lone Highland houses. It will cost money, but it will make places habitable which now, without those modern conveniences, are not habitable. They were habitable before we had electricity, before we had gas, before we had buses, before we had tramcars and railways; but to-day they are not habitable, because they lack all the wonderful things to which we in this day are heirs. Here is a means of enabling this race in the Highlands, for the first time in our history, to enjoy the amenities of everyday life. But if it is left to a Board that has not definite instructions, the Board will not supply the people in those lonely parts with these necessaries. That is why we want these words deleted.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I find myself, rather surprisingly, on the side of my hon. Friends opposite in regard to this 214 Amendment. We did not conspire together, but we put down the same Amendment.
In any case the fact is that I find myself inclined to support the point of view of my hon. Friends. I can appreciate that the Board, facing its tasks, will find it impossible to supply all the far-away corners of Scotland at once. Therefore, they must say, "We can do at once only what is practicable." So far as these isolated places are concerned, I appreciate the justification for the words—so far as practicable.But to apply them, as they are here applied, to the various Sub-sections of this Clause is quite wrong. Under this Clause it is the duty of the Board to provide supplies of electricity, first, to consumers, secondly, to authorised undertakers, and, thirdly, to large power users. Who are the authorised undertakers? They are the people who are now supplying many thousands of consumers throughout the Highlands. They are now committed to supplying these people with electric light and power. When the Bill becomes law and the new Board takes over, these undertakers will be unable to look any longer to the Central Electricity Board, as they now do, for supplies, and they will be unable themselves to supply generating stations. It will be an impossible position for these undertakers if the Board is bound to supply them only "so far as practicable." The Central Electricity Board, which is now responsible for supplying electricity in the Highlands, has very clear duties laid down. Under Section 10 of the 1926 Act, this is the duty imposed upon the Board.As soon as the Board, as respects any area or part of an area, notify that they are in a position to supply electricity the Board shall subject to the provisions of this Act, be under an obligation to supply either directly of indirectly to any authorised undertakers in that area or part thereof demanding such a supply such an amount of electricity as they require for their undertaking.It is mandatory upon that Board.
Let me read it again. 215As soon as the Board, as respects any area or part of an area, notify that they are in a position to supply electricity.…The Board announce that they are in a position to supply. Having made the announcement, the Board areunder an obligation to supply either directly or indirectly to any authorised undertakers in that area or part thereof demanding such a supply such an amount of electricity as they require.That is mandatory. Here it is not mandatory. Here you have this new condition:so far as practicable.The Lord Advocate will remember that under Section 28 of the Electric Lighting (Clauses) Act, 1899,The maximum power with which any consumer shall be entitled to be supplied shall be of such amount as he may require to be supplied with, not exceeding what may be reasonably anticipated as the maximum consumption of his premises.Remember that Section 28 of the Electric Lighting (Clauses) Act, 1899, is operative under this Bill. It is the law. Under that law the Board will be bound to take into consideration the potential, as well as the present, demands of authorised undertakers. It would create an impossible position to say to those undertakers, "We can supply you with the stuff, but we give no guarantee for the future. Next year it may not be practical to give you as much, or to meet your anticipated additional demands." You cannot do business on those lines. You do not do business on those lines now. The Central Electricity Board is under complete compulsion to supply. I do not see why this Board should be given these wider and slacker powers.
§ Mr. Leslie
In regard to the Central Electricity Board, the words are practically the same in a different form. The Act says that they must apply when they are in a position to do so. Here we simply have the words:so far as practicableThat could apply to the Central Electricity Board as well.
Because this new Board, as my hon. Friend will know, is taking the place, and performing the functions, of the Central Electricity Board. Take the practical situation. This Board gets ready and announces that it has so much electricity available and is ready to supply it. Along come the demands. It has to meet these demands, but under these words it meets them, not only now but in the future, "so far as practicable." That is a reasonable condition to impose with regard to the outlying areas, but it is an impossible condition as regards undertakers. It is one which ought not to be applied and ought not to be in the Bill.
§ The Lord Advocate
May I ask the Committee not to press the Amendment? Really it would be a wrecking Amendment.
§ The Lord Advocate
Nothing is more calculated to prevent the scheme from working than to put on the person responsible for working it the duty of doing something which is impracticable. That is what the Amendment seeks to do. It seeks to say that the new Board must do certain things, whether they are practicable or not, and surely that is the one way to ensure that the Board will get into inextricable difficulties. As to the point made by the hon. Member who proposed the Amendment, that outlying areas should receive electricity, the desire of everyone is that the widest possible distribution should be made, but one has to keep in mind that this Bill could not have been produced except on the footing that the new Board must pay its way. If that is accepted, as it was in the Second Reading Debate, then it necessarily implies that for a considerable time at least there cannot be absolutely universal distribution of electricity, because the Board will not have the money with which to pay for it. Therefore, I meet the proposer's point by saying that, unless we upset the whole foundation of the Bill, namely, that the Board pays its way, we cannot impose this duty on the Board. My hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) appears to want to require the Board to supply electricity to authorised undertakers and others even if they have not got it. I do not understand what he 217 means. I do not think that the point he raises will ever arise. There are priority classes under the next Sub-section, which includes ordinary consumers and undertakers. They get the priority, and any shortage does not fall upon them. Further than that—though it is hardly relevant to go into it now—the adaptations of the 1926 Act in the Schedule ensure that the new Board cannot play fast and loose in the way he seems to anticipate. If he is in difficulty about it, one can go into the matter, but we do not want to have a long citation of Sections of Acts of Parliament at the moment, though I can assure him the Board cannot play fast and loose in this way. I ask the Committee not to seek to put upon the Government the duty of putting in an Amendment which, on the face of it, is taking the power to do something which cannot be done.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
It is obvious that the Lord Advocate does not propose to accept the Amendment which has been put down. I would like to go even further. There is a further Amendment put down by the Secretary of State, in page 2, line 5, to insert(including isolated areas)."It seems to me that that weakens the case, and I think that it should be "as far as reasonably practicable." A thing may be practicable, but at a price. You could give a supply of electricity all over the country, but the whole essence of the Bill, I understood, was to produce electricity at such a price that it would be possible for people in the outlying districts to be able to afford it and also be an inducement to industry to go to the Highlands and therefore bring about an improvement of conditions there. Unless you include "reasonably practicable" and make it conditional, merely to put it as practicable will mean that the Board will be bound to take the wider view and regard it as an instruction to put electricity into isolated areas. You will be in a difficulty. You will not be able to produce electricity cheaply if you have to go into all isolated areas. I am glad that the Government are not accepting the Amendment, and that the words, "so far as practicable" are to be left in the Bill.
§ Mr. Stephen
I wish to draw the attention of the Lord Advocate to the ambiguity of the words "so far as practicable." Who is to judge whether 218 it is practicable or not? As the Clause stands, it does not say whether it is the Board who is going to decide or whether it is the proposed customer. In the case of dispute between the Board and the undertaking or other person, it will be for the courts to decide. A person would take action against the Board because it had failed in its responsibility "so far as practicable" to supply him with electricity. The Board would enter the defence in court that it was not practicable, and the judge would decide that question. I assure the Lord Advocate that I am not trying to hinder the progress of the Bill, but it is just as well that the Bill should not become a fine ground afterwards for increasing the incomes of members of my own profession. I am simply giving the Lord Advocate the benefit of my advice, and I think the wording should be made clear. I believe that what the drafters of the Bill had in mind was that the Board should decide what was practicable.
So far as there is ambiguity, it will be a matter possibly for future litigation. The main question, and what is in the mind of the Mover of the Amendment and of those who agree with him, is the seeking to put a duty upon the Board to supply electricity to every person in any district who asks for a supply. As my hon. Friend said in moving the Amendment, if it is a case of the delivery of letters a person may live on an island where there are very great practical difficulties in the way of delivery. But the duty is put upon the authority to carry the letters to the person concerned, and all talk of difficulties in getting over the stormy waters is disregarded. The person in the small far-away district is just as entitled to the supply of electricity as any other person, and the cost of it should be spread over the different areas. If the Mover of the Amendment decides to go to a Division, I propose to join him in the Division Lobby in order to get a better deal for the people in the Highlands.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
Can the hon. Member say whether every island on the West coast of Scotland has a postal delivery?
§ Mr. Stephen: Yes, Sir. Captain W. T. Shaw (Forfar)
I have a great deal of sympathy with the Amendment. In the Glen Affric scheme we were 219 told that it was a question of profit, but under the present scheme it is to be a public utility company and profit does not come in at all. The distribution of electricity "so far as practicable" in almost every case can only be considered from the profit point of view. I have a great deal of sympathy with those who say that everyone who wants electricity should be able to get it, and I am inclined to go into the Lobby in support of the Amendment. The Board, I suppose, will say whether the thing is practicable or not.
The Board will look upon it, not from a profit point of view, but from the point of view of whether it will cover expenses in providing electricity. We want some body outside the Board to consider this matter. I would like to see a tribunal set up to say what the different charges should be to the different people. Then a person could say whether or not he wanted electricity. He would know what it would cost. I receive letters from people in my constituency saying that the Grampian scheme charges too much. The Grampian scheme is under an Act of Parliament, and the maximum prices which they can charge are fixed. A tribunal should be set up to say what each individual should pay for the electricity. The individual should be able to apply to an impartial tribunal which could say what was a reasonable price to charge for the supply of electricity.
But, as I have said, I have a great deal of sympathy with the Amendment. I want to see as many people brought back to the Highlands as possible. I was interested in what the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) said about the shortage of supply. There cannot be a shortage of supply in the Highlands, because, as I understand it, the Highlands are to have first charge on all electricity that is developed. I do not want to see the electricity taken to Dumbarton, Clydebank, and West Fife and such like places, but I want to see it used in the Highlands. If there is to be any shortage of supply, the Highlands must have first call upon it. Therefore, there will be no likelihood of a shortage of supply as long as the public money that is to be raised is forthcoming.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Like the Lord Advocate, I do not want to propose or to do anything that is impracticable. I want to 220 deal with practicalities. I am satisfied that from the point of view of supply there is no limit to the amount of electricity that can be produced in the Highlands. But when we put forward a proposition for ensuring the widest extension of electricity the case-hardened business man always poses the question, "Will it pay?" When he talks about paying he is talking from the point of view of profit and loss. It never enters his mind to think of the human values and how it will pay from the point of view of the advantages that will come to many people in the more remote parts of the Highlands. Who are the people to decide whether it is practicable or not? Five business men. What are we to get? Electricity for business people, and in order to make it cheaper for them we are to supply electricity to the ordinary inhabitants of the areas concerned [An HON. MEMBER: "They will get the usual scraps"]. We would not be supplying electricity to the ordinary inhabitants at all if by so doing it was not making it cheaper for business people. These business men will be left with the power to decide what is practicable, not what is most advantageous from the point of view of attracting the population back to the remote areas. The Lord Advocate says that he does not want to impose on them a responsibility which they cannot carry out. If only our previous Amendment had been accepted, these people would not have had any responsibility which they could not carry out. The Secretary of State for Scotland and this House would have had the responsibility.
I wish you, Major Milner, could go with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and myself to see some of these beautiful stretches of country and valleys in the Highlands of Scotland. You would say that you had never seen country so beautiful, but suddenly there would come to your mind the fact that something was lacking—people. Those who have been driven from their homes can be attracted back if amenities are provided, and of these amenities a supply of electricity is one of the most important. I ask hon. Members not to regard this matter as a profit and loss question but as a question concerned with the human element and human values. We wish to see the question of what is practical not left to this Board of business men. Theirs must not be the responsibility. Spread the light. 221 Do not ask whether it will pay. Do not discuss it from the profit and loss point of view but from the point of view of the inestimable value to the people of the Highlands and Islands. Give the people light, and they will come back. Make it compulsory for the Board to spread the light in as wide an area as possible. If there is any difficulty, we will be the final arbiters.
§ Major McCallum (Argyll)
As a Highlander and representing a large number of Western Highlanders, I would like to draw the attention of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) to the fact that the question concerning this Amendment was one which I raised on the Second Reading of the Bill, when I showed the anxiety that existed among Highlanders about putting into the Bill this form of words. The Secretary of State for Scotland and the Lord Advocate stated that they realised what we were looking for—the fullest possible extension of this scheme to every remote area. But we realise that it is not practicable to cover every area. Even the Post Office cannot do that. For instance, Loch Shiel crofters come out in their boats to collect their letters from a steamer.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest that the service pays at that point? The Post Office does it, but everybody knows that it does not pay.
§ Major McCallum
I agree that it probably does not pay, but the service is carried out because the whole scheme carries the expense of the smaller areas. We have been assured that as development goes ahead the remote areas will be carried by this scheme. I have spoken about this to many of my own constituents since I. raised the point, and they fully agree with me that there must be, lot a time at any rate, places to which it will not be practicable for several years to carry poles and wires. I know that we must be reasonable in looking forward to the time when all will have electricity.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I would ask the hon. and gallant Member to consider this view. 222 When I was on a committee discussing this Measure in Edinburgh one of the constant criticisms was that there was no provision for making electricity available to the humbler members of the community and those separated by a long distance from the source of the power. I must say that the original Bill which the House did not pass carried better guarantees than this Bill for the supply of electricity to those whom it would be difficult to supply. I ask the Committee to look at this Amendment as a practical business proposition. What will happen here? The Board will not do anything but run electricity to pay. It is the natural thing to want to show the best possible balance-sheet, and we should try to keep them from doing it. Glasgow and other local authorities have to serve areas which do not pay. They are compelled to do so by Statute, and the other contributors have to pay for the loss, but that does not mean that the loss will go on for ever. This Board, if it is to be a success, must take risks in the hope that industries will start later as a result. I hope the Board will undertake that kind of thing, otherwise it will fail.
As the Bill stands, large numbers of people will want electricity, and the Board will not supply it, and we shall have no redress. The Board is all-powerful. There ought to be a remedy other than the law courts for the citizen who feels aggrieved, and his only remedy is some form of public representation. The aggrieved citizen's only remedy now is to approach his Member and have the matter raised, but we only debate Scottish affairs for two days, and in that time there are three or four issues which must always be discussed, such as housing, health and education. We shall hardly ever have this matter discussed, and even if it is, it will be impossible to deal with individual cases. The Secretary of State must find some kind of bridge to give the aggrieved citizen the right of appeal against the conduct of the Board. The Secretary of State and the Lord Advocate may be right in saying that our method is not the best, but they must give the aggrieved person some right of appeal.
§ The Lord Advocate
I think the hon. Member has rather forgotten two points. The first is that the Board is not allowed to make a profit, and therefore has no inducement whatever to hang back from 223 useful schemes in order to show a good balance-sheet.
§ Mr. Buchanan
It would be just as well if we did not reach the stage of being clever with one another. They cannot make a profit, but they can set aside large sums for depreciation.
§ The Lord Advocate
My recollection is that there is a very strict limitation on the amount of money that the Board is entitled to set aside for depreciation and reserve funds. They will soon be filled up, and there is no way of throwing the money away there. The other point, which has more substance, is that the Board must come to the House with schemes within a comparatively short time, and it is then for the House to say whether the terms of those schemes are suitable and whether the bit of country covered is a proper bit to include in it, and any question must then be dealt with. You cannot have the Board being asked at short notice to put up a new line in some quite new area without a great deal of preliminary work in the way of tenders, specifications, plans and goodness knows what. The scheme is the right opportunity to deal with most of the points the hon. Member has raised. There is nothing we can do in this Clause which will make it any easier or more difficult for the House to deal with that when it comes up in due course.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
After having heard the Debate and the explanation of the Lord Advocate, in which he says that this Amendment would wreck the Bill, we will not press it to a Division.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Yes. The Chairman Only the hon. Member who moved the Amendment can ask leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment negatived.224
The Solicitor-General for Scotland
I beg to move, in page 2, line 5, after "District," to insert "(including isolated areas)."
The functions of the Board are divided into five categories — (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e). The first of these categories isto provide supplies of electricity required to meet the demands of ordinary consumers in such parts of the North of Scotland District as are outside the limits of supply of other authorised undertakers.The Amendment will introduce into that category the words "including isolated areas. Paragraph (d) refers specifically to isolated areas, and the effect of the Amendment will be to bring the isolated areas up into category (a) where they will have greater priority than they would if they were left in category (d). Under Clause 2, Sub-Section (3), (a) and (b) are given priority over other duties of the Board, and I move the Amendment so that isolated areas will have the same priority as other consumers in category (a).
§ Major McCallum
This Amendment will cause tremendous satisfaction in the Highland areas. In the Debate on the Second Reading hon. Members had considerable anxiety lest the isolated areas were shut out. In the Bill they were relegated to fourth priority and Highlanders in general will welcome the fact that the Government have now put the ordinary consumer, including the isolated area, into first priority.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
May I ask whether "isolated areas" is a term of art, a technical term, whose meaning is established? If not, what is the connotation it is designed to have?
§ The Lord Advocate
I do not think that it has any technical meaning. It, means areas which are remote and difficult of access. It is true that "isolated" is not strictly accurate because there is no area in the whole of Scotland that is completely isolated and separated from other areas if you take the trouble to go there. The term is intended to include areas which are difficult of access and have to be treated as independent units and are not made part of the general system.
§ Amendment agreed to.225
I beg to move, in page 2, line 5, to leave out "limits ", and to insert "areas".
This is a drafting Amendment in order to make the phraseology conform to the customary phraseology of the general Statutes.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The Lord Advocate
I beg to move; in page 2, line 10, to leave out:except with the consent of the Electricity Commissioners.This and three other similar Amendments which follow might, I suggest, be dealt with together. Under the Bill the new Board is prohibited from supplying to the authorised undertakers in the area of a power company and is prohibited from supplying to large power users in the area of an authorised undertaker unless it gets the consent of the Electricity Commissioners. I need not deal further with the case of the power company, because I believe that there is no case in this area to which paragraph (b) will apply. It is only put in in case such a case should arise. I therefore limit my remarks to (c), to large power users. It can justly be objected to the present drafting of the Bill that the Electricity Commissioners are not given any guidance as to how they should consider a case when they are asked to give their consent. It is proper in the interests of those who have to look ahead that they should be able to see in the Bill the principles on which they will have to present their case. Accordingly, we propose to define in these Amendments the principles on which the Electricity Commissioners could give their consent. The consent is only to be given if the Commissioners are satisfied that the Board can give the supply appreciably more economically than the possible competitor, the authorised undertaker.
The way it will work out in practice is this—and we shall make sure that it does so work by putting the proper regulations in when we come to that point. The large power user who seeks a supply will, no doubt, ask the Board for a quotation. The authorised undertaker in whose area the large power-user seeks to establish his business will be entitled to go to the Board and say How much are you quoting for the generation side of the price? Will you give it me at the same 226 price, so that I may transmit it in due course to the large power-user? "The Board will be bound to offer the current at the same price, at that point, to the authorised undertaker for transmission to the large power-user, and then the question will be, Which can do the transmission cheapest? If the authorised undertaker wishes to undertake the transmission of this large load to the premises of the large power-user he will be entitled to put forward his quotation and he will get that bit of business, if he wants it, unless his quotation is so large that the Board come in and quote appreciably cheaper. That seems to be a full protection to the authorised undertakers, who were rather apprehensive as to their position in view of the original draft of the Bill, and it meets also the public interest, because it ensures that potential customers in the shape of large power-users will get their supply and get it at the lowest practicable cost. Therefore it appears to us that the words proposed meet any apprehensions which have been expressed and also fully meet the public interest.
§ Sir A. Gridley
The suggestion was made by the Lord Advocate that we might usefully, with your assent, Major Milner, consider together various Amendments. One of them is that which has just been moved. Another is the Amendment to insert at the end of line 13, page 2:unless the power company consent or the Electricity Commissioners are satisfied that the Board can give a supply suitable to the needs of the authorised undertakers appreciably more economically than the power company.This, I understand, also deals with an Amendment in the name of the Secretary of State and other Members, including myself, to line 16, to leave outexcept with the consent of the Electricity Commissioners.and also the Amendment in the name of the Secretary of State to insert at the end of line 19:unless those authorised undertakers consent or the Electricity Commissioners are satisfied that Board can give supply suitable to the needs of the large power user appreciably more economically than the authorised undertakersIt would also cover the Amendment in the name of myself and other hon. Members to insert, at the end of line 19:without the consent of such undertakers which shall not be unreasonably withheld.227 It might also usefully be extended, I suggest, if you agree, Major Milner, to cover the Amendment to line 40 of Clause 10, which deals with the regulations, to which brief reference was made by the Lord Advocate, which are to apply in the case of large power users. I think it would shorten these proceedings if we debated all these Amendments together.
§ The Chairman
If the Committee agree, it will be possible for us to debate the Amendments to Clause 2 together, but I do not think the Amendment to Clause 10 is necessarily within the same category. I think we had better wait until we come to that Amendment before discussing it.
§ Sir A. Gridley
Perhaps you will pull me up if I get out of Order, but I did propose to try to cover both the question of large power-users and the supply to authorised undertakers in the same argument.
§ The Chairman
I think it will be better if we leave the Amendment to Clause 10 to be discussed by itself. Subject to that I take it the Committee agree to discuss the other Amendments which have been mentioned.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I accept your ruling, Major Milner, and will endeavour to keep within it. The Amendment which has been moved by the Government is unsatisfactory from my point of view, because it still leaves the Electricity Commissioners, who are removed by one Amendment and restored in a later one, to decide whether the Board can supply a large power-user more economically than an authorised undertaker. In the first place I would point out that this is a new piece of legislation. Parliament has always decided hitherto that, having granted an area of supply to an authorised undertaker, there should be no competition in the same territory by a second authorised undertaker. Here we have an innovation. This Board is to have the right to come into the area of another undertaker possessing statutory powers granted by Parliament and endeavour to get for themselves the right to supply large power-users, those taking 5,000 kilowatts or upwards. I think the Committee ought to reflect before it decides upon such a major departure from the previous policy of Parliament. It does not seem to be necessary, because the Cooper Report 228 itself lays down as one of its recommendations that the general principle should be that supplies to the authorised undertaker should be given by the Board at cost. If the supply is to be given by the new Board at cost how can the Board be in a more favourable position to supply a 5,000 kilowatt consumer on more favourable terms than would be the statutory undertaker to whom it has to provide the supply at cost? For example, a large consumer might be much nearer the generating station, when it is erected, of the Board, or to a transmission line which it may erect some three or four years hence, and a long distance away from any existing station or transmission line of the Grampian Power Co., the statutory undertaker. I seek to provide for that position by an Amendment which I have put down to say that the Grampian Co., or any other authorised undertaker in the same position, shall not have the power unreasonably to refuse consent to this Board being able to supply a large power-user, and that if their consent is unreasonably withheld they can be taken to court. That is a common provision which this House has agreed to in previous Acts of Parliament and I think it is one which the Committee could safely and justifiably accept.
There is another difficulty which might well arise. Arguments in support of the point which I am making were put over and over again on the Second Reading. The point is that this scheme will largely depend for its success upon—indeed, that is its main object—the attraction of new industries to this territory. Assume that it succeeds in this, and that a large industrial undertaking is attracted to this territory by the cheap power available. The industrial undertaking may buy some hundreds, or even thousands, of acres of land and put up a factory that would require, say, 4,800 kilowatts, and on the land which they have bought they might also erect houses for all their employees and their staff and provide them with a hospital, cinema, churches, chapels, in short, all the facilities for a well-looked-after community of workpeople, and take the electricity for the whole of that enclosed, self-contained centre from this Board at one point. The result might be that they would only require 4,800 kilowatts for industrial purposes. The ancillary demand from houses, chapels, hospitals and cinemas will probably bring 229 the figure up to 5,500. The authorised undertakers, whose normal business is to supply electricity for domestic purposes, will be seriously interfered with if new enterprise is attracted to the territory in the way I have described. We all know there have been cases in which large industrial groups have been anxious to provide decent housing accommodation for their people. That kind development may be attracted especially to those parts of Scotland where the scenery is so delightful. The limit of 5,00o kilowatts is, for the reasons I have given, no safeguard whatever.
My principal objection to the Clause, as it is proposed to amend it, is that the Committee will be asked to depart, for no reasons which appear to me to be good, from the Parliamentary powers granted to authorised undertakers in the past. I have tried to make the point that if large power-users are near the station or transmission lines of the Board the existing authorised undertakers should not be allowed to stand in the way of the Board being able to supply. Similarly I do not think the Board should be allowed to contest whether they had the right to supply at some considerable distance away from their own station and transmission lines where the new business is going down near the station and transmission lines of an authorised undertaking. I would ask the Secretary of State to see whether it is possible to drop the Amendments and to adopt the Amendments which I have put on the Paper and for which there are established precedents.
§ The Lord Advocate
I realise that these proposals require justification because they are novel, but the justification is that the situation is also novel and requires special treatment. It is novel for two reasons—at least unusual. In the first place, it is unusual because of the importance of taking every step open to us to attract large power-users to this area. Normally there is no particular public interest for the country as a whole whether the large power-user goes to one district or another. In the case particularly of metallurgical undertakings it has been found by the Cooper Committee, and I think accepted by many other people as a fact, that these undertakings must have hydro-electricity or they will go outside this country altogether. Therefore, we must attract them to this area unless we are to lose 230 them for Britain. Furthermore, very narrow margins in price are very important to large power-users of this kind. Quite a small difference in price may turn the scale whether this potential customer comes to the Highlands of Scotland or goes to some foreign country.
Therefore it is essential to make provision against the possibility that the authorised undertaking may be unwilling or unable to transmit the electricity at a low price from the place where it is generated to the places where it is wanted. If the Board can do it at a low price but the authorised undertaker cannot or will not, then it seems to be in the public interest, in order to get these customers, that the Board should step in and do it. The authorised undertaker is fully protected; if he can and will do it at a low price, he is to get the priority. The Board comes in only if the Board can do it appreciably cheaper. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) will accept that statement as an adequate guarantee for those who are in possession, and who ought, in the interests of the proper distribution of electricity, not to be interfered with without very good cause.
On the other point, as to the amount of demand necessary to make a person a large power-user, I do not find my hon. Friend's picture one which would be very likely to occur. I am doubtful, although I have not had time to look the matter up, whether the large power-user who is not an authorised undertaker is entitled to take electricity direct from the Board and resell it to his employees or shops or cinemas which are supplying the new village. I think that would be outside his powers. Therefore, I do not think that the picture is in the least likely to occur.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made:
§ In page 2, line 12, leave out "limits," and insert "areas."
In line 13, at the end, insert:
unless the power company consent or the Electricity Commissioners are satisfied that the Board can give a supply suitable to the needs of the authorised undertakers appreciably more economically than the power company.
In line 16, leave out:
except with the consent of the Electricity Commissioners.
§ In line 18, leave out "limits,"and insert" areas."231
In line 29, at the end, insert:
unless those authorised undertakers consent or the Electricity Commissioners are satisfied that the Board can give a supply suitable to the needs of the large power user appreciably snore economically than the authorised undertakers."—[Mr. T. Johnston.]
The Solicitor-General for Scotland
I beg to move, in page 2, line 20, to leave out from the beginning to "and," in line 21.
This is consequential on the transfer of the isolated areas into category (a).
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I beg to move, in page 2, line 30, to leave out "measures," and to insertschemes undertaken with the approval of the Secretary of State.In moving the omission of the word "measures" and substituting the words on the Order Paper, I would ask the Committee to observe that this Sub-section would empower the Board to collaborate in the carrying out—and these are the important words:…of any measures for the economic development and social improvement of the North of Scotland District or any part thereof.The first point I want to make is that such powers appear to me to be at complete variance with the recommendations of the Cooper Report, upon which this Bill which we are now considering is supposed to be founded. That Report, if I may remind the Committee, defined three primary objectives, and these primary objectives deal with electricity supply only and nothing more. Sub-section (4) of Clause 2 of the Bill, as it stands, clearly goes very much further than this, and it would allow the Board to collaborate in carrying out any measures—I emphasise "any measures "—without limit, without definition, for economic development. The great risk here as I see it is triat such wide powers, if they were granted and exercised, might well land this hydroelectric Board in costs or losses which might inflate the price or prices which would have to be charged to its consumers. Therefore my object is that the Sub-section should be limited to matters concerning only the supply of electricity.
§ Mr. Colegate (The Wrekin)
I rise to support the Amendment. I think we have 232 already seen from the claims which have been made that there is a considerable danger that the Board might well be pressed, for political reasons, to undertake under this Clause work which it was not really intended it should undertake, and to go into schemes which it would be unwise for it to enter into. It seems to me that in this Bill, as in so much other legislation which comes before us nowadays, it is really important to define clearly the intentions of the House when we are giving these very considerable powers. The Sub-section, as my hon. Friend has explained, really does allow the Board to indulge in any adventure it might be pressed into for political reasons. It might be that with still greater progress of Scottish nationalism they might wish to do all sorts of things, and this Board might prove a very convenient instrument. I think we should be very careful to define its powers, and the words proposed by my hon. Friend are quite unexceptionable. I hope the Secretary of State will be able to assure us that he can accept them.
I would ask the hon. Gentleman not to press this Amendment. If the hon. Gentleman who moved it will read the words in Sub-section (4) again, he will find that the Board is limited to collaborationin the carrying out of any measures for the economic development and social improvement of the North of Scotland District or any part thereofby the limiting words: "…so far as their powers and duties per- mit…" It is obvious that these words define and confine the limits under which they collaborate. There are any number of hypothetical circumstances in which the Board might very usefully collaborate. The Forestry Commission, for example, might initiate some kind of scheme for, say, their own national parks. They might want a hostel for tourists, and it would be highly desirable that the Board should have the power in such circumstances to collaborate with the Forestry Commission in the provision of the necessary electric light. There are any number of other organisations, the National Trust for Scotland and others, which might very usefully and in fact do intend to promote measures for the social amelioration of conditions in the North of Scotland. All that this Clause does is, so far as their 233 powers and duties permit, to authorise the Board to collaborate, not themselves to initiate.
§ Mr. Colegate
Might I interrupt to get this point clear? I do not quite see how the Board can collaborate in the provision, say, of a hostel by giving electric light. That is its statutory duty under the Bill. I am very much afraid my fears are aroused by what the Secretary of State now says. Does it mean that they are going to pay some of the costs of the hostel?
No, but this provision here enables the Board to collaborate, not to initiate anything about hostels, I am sorry if I gave that impression. I do not want to mislead, either intentionally or otherwise. I merely want to say that half the purpose of this Bill to is restore the population to the Highlands, to provide social amenities for the area; and we desire to have some Clause in the Bill providing that this Board shall be something more than merely, as someone said to-day, a cold-hearted hydro-electric organisation. It is a development Board as well. It is the beginning, we hope, of a new era in the Highlands of Scotland, and, as I have already said, so long as the powers of collaboration are strictly limited—as they are, I submit, by the terms of the Bill—to "so far as their powers and duties permit," I do hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow us to have this Clause. I can assure him that it is whole-heartedly welcomed by every local authority and, as far as I know, by every organisation with which I have been in touch which has the amelioration of conditions in the Highlands as one of its objectives.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I would like to support the Secretary of State for Scotland on this question. All of us who are interested in Scotland, and particularly in the Highlands, want to see a Board such as this taking the greatest possible interest in all possible developments that may be going on in other directions and assisting those activities, as far as it can within the range of its powers. The opportunity that is given to it by this Clause of collaborating with all kinds of other organisations will, I am certain, be of the greatest advantage. I am only sorry that a previous Amendment of mine was not called, because I would like to see all the work of collaboration being done in association with 234 and under the direction of the Secretary of State for Scotland. So many of our activities grow up in a haphazard way without any effective central direction. That was demonstrated by a document that has gained world-wide fame, the Beveridge Report. There have been so many haphazard developments in insurance, and the suggestion was made that there should be one Minister to direct them all. Here we have an opportunity that should be taken. I want, in view of the fact that my Amendment was not called, to oppose this Amendment, and to draw attention to the fact that one of the difficulties from which Scotland suffers is that reactionary Englishmen are always trying to put a spanner in the wheels. I advise them to mend their conduct, and if they cannot help in improving the Bill, to keep out.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I have never heard more contradictory arguments than those of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). Earlier to-day he argued very strongly in favour of putting the whole of this business under the control of the Secretary of State for Scotland, so that he should be responsible to this House. Now, when I propose to insert words which provide that schemes shall be undertaken with the approval of the Secretary of State, he opposes that. If he will only decide on which side he will come down, we shall know where he is. There is no difference between the Secretary of State and the Movers of this Amendment so far as the laudable objectives which the right hon. Gentleman explained are concerned. But we are advised by very competent legal advisers that this Clause does not confine the activities of the Board to electricity matters only. If words can be found to make that point clear, all the collaboration that the Board could give would be welcomed. Will the Secretary of State undertake between now and the next stage to reconsider the matter? There is very little difference between us, and I think the matter is one on which he could find accommodation.
I am advised, on the best legal advice we can get, that these words do confine the activities of the Board. I will look into the matter, and if I find that legally the hon. Member's view is correct, I will put it right on the Report 235 stage; but, as I have said, that is not our advice.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I am quite ready to accept that half-promise of the Secretary of State, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
I rise to ask the Committee to reconsider this Clause, because most of what seems to me and to other Members to be undesirable in this Bill is contained in Clause 2. This Clause, among other things, lays down the general powers of the Hydro-Electric Board in relation to the sale of electricity, and must, of course, be read in conjunction with Clause 16, which deals with the relation of the Board to the Central Electricity Board, or the Grid. The full implication of Clause 2 may escape notice; and has, in my opinion, escaped the notice of many of those who, like this House, give a general welcome to the Bill. That implication can be grasped only if you read the Clause in the light of the very lucid explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State and in the after-light of the Cooper Report, on which this Bill is admittedly based. To clear the ground, and to put the matter in untechnical language, under Clause 2 there are four classes of contemplated customers for whom electricity is to be generated: firstly, authorised undertakers; secondly, the Central Electricity Board, the Grid, which is compelled to take the final residue of the power at a stated cost; thirdly, houses, farms, crofts and so on—what I might call the home consumption; and, lastly—this is the crux of the Bill: it is upon this particular nail that I want to hang the hat of all the observations I am going to make—new industrial concerns, which will certainly be supplied at rates much lower than those of the Grid. These will be the heavy industries, the metallurgical and chemical concerns.
What is the reason for the discrimination in cost between the four classes of consumers? Why has not this Clause been put in the form of an omnibus provision for supplying electricity to all consumers at a remunerative rate? The 236 answer is to be found in the Cooper Report, in the speech of the Secretary of State and the remarks of many Members of this House on Second Reading, and, lastly, may I venture to suggest, in the schemes of certain commercial gentlemen in the metallurgical and chemical concerns, which have for many years planned, in and out of season—unsuccessfully up to now—to exploit our natural anxiety, not only in Scotland but in the whole of Britain, about the state of the Scottish Highlands, for purely commercial ends. All these responses and reactions have this idea in common: that the scheme will bring prosperity to Scotland, and that such a prosperity must be an industrial prosperity.
Before I pass on to discuss the implications of this industrial prosperity which is assured under this Clause, let me make one reference to an important general principle which, in my opinion, is vitally relevant to the present issue and to issues of a similar kind in the future. The claim I am going to make has doubtless been made on many occasions in this House, and not least emphatically by those hon. Gentlemen who have blindly, to my mind, given an unqualified welcome to this Bill.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
This is not the time to give an unqualified welcome to the Bill but the time to deal with the position in Clause 2. The hon. Member's speech is rather more a Second or Third Reading speech than one dealing with Clause 2.
§ Professor Gruffydd
With great respect, may I explain that I am trying to voice the very great concern as to the result and reaction of this Bill on the general life of the Highlands of Scotland and to show that this depends entirely on one part of Clause 2?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I do not think that under Clause 2 the hon. Member can deal with the general position of life in Scotland; he can only deal with the actual point of Clause 2. I was merely asking the hon. Member to limit his remarks to Clause 2 rather than make a speech on the meaning of the whole Bill.
§ Professor Gruffydd
I will endeavour to keep to your Ruling. Clause 2, as I have said, makes provision for the Central Electricity Board to buy electricity at a very enhanced rate as compared with the 237 price that local consumers will have to pay. In this case this vast undertaking is to be backed by the nation to the extent of £3,000,000 of its finances and has to provide cheap national electricity. Clause 2, which is only going to give the homesteads and farmsteads of Scotland a grudging and very reluctant provision of electricity, is not going to help the very object which the Cooper Report had in view, namely, the regeneration of the Highlands. May I quote one phrase from the Cooper Report which is very relevant to that part of Clause 2 which deals with the provision of electricity:It has become apparent to us that in certain quarters expectations are entertained as to the possibilities of electrical development in the remoter areas of Scotland, which under no conceivable circumstances can be realised.We have heard to-day assurances that the small consumers, the crofters and farmers and so on, are to benefit by the provisions of the Bill and especially of this Clause. I suggest that what the Cooper Report says still stands, and that the idea that you can serve the Highlands of Scotland except by putting there large industrial concerns is mere fantasy. The framers of this Bill are perpetuating a vicious condition of the modern form of monopoly and capitalism. By apposing which, in this House and in the country, some of those who welcome the Bill have won deservedly high reputations as "bonnie fechters" for their principles. I have no doubt of their ability and honesty to square this lyrical acceptance of the Bill and the conditions in this Clause with their consciences. May I quote what the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) said on the Second Reading of the Bill? He said:We must accept the industrial development of the Highlands of Scotland in order to preserve the Highlands."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1943; col. 196, Vol. 387.]That is a sentence which hardly does justice to the right hon. Gentleman's usual lucidity. What does he mean? Does he mean the scenery, the physical features of the country, or does he mean the community of Highlanders who have always lived there, the people who ought to benefit by the provisions of this Clause?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member is now dealing with a Second Reading speech. This is the Committee stage, and the Question is "That Clause 2 stand 238 part" There are hon. Members who have speeches to make on other parts of the Bill, and we ought to keep away from Second Reading speeches.
§ Professor Gruffydd
I will not pursue that line any further. I only wish, before. sitting down, to explain that I meant to say, that the great objection to what may come from the operation of this Bill is involved in the provisions of this Clause, and since the whole Bill depends on the provision that this Clause makes, any speech such as I have made would be bound to have the appearance of a speech on the Bill in general.
I am not rising in order to follow the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) but to ask the Secretary of State two questions. I have received, in the course of the last few days, communications from the Highland Development League pointing out that they desire to have the Bill in accordance with certain views of their own, and, in particular, mentioning two proposals they have to make with regard to Clause 2, and these seem to be appropriate to be raised on the question of the Clause standing part. The first one was designed to enable persons who wished to create a small supply of electricity for local needs to be allowed to do so and not to be precluded by the terms of the Bill. The Secretary of State has not seen fit to include that Amendment in Clause 2, but, as I understand it, he is meeting that demand at a later stage in the Bill. Perhaps he will be kind enough, while keeping within the terms of your Ruling, Mr. Williams, to specify precisely how he proposes to meet that demand. In the second place, the Highland Development League have suggested that as the Grampian Company do not successfully meet the demands of a certain area in their constituency to any appreciable extent, the Secretary of State might be willing to include in the Bill provision to enable him to take over part of their area. Perhaps before we part with this Clause my right hon. Friend will reply to the two points I have raised.
I met the Highland Development League, and I drew the attention of their delegation to Clause 22 of the Bill, which I cannot refer to in any detail here but which entirely meets the first point made by my right hon. Friend.
239 Clause 22 provides that a private generating station with a rating of 5o kilowatt or under may be established. I cannot meet my right hon. Friend's second point, which I take it was that inside the Grampian Company's chartered area there may be places where people are dissatisfied because they have not yet had supplies of electricity. The Highland Development League wished to know whether it was possible to take over part of the Grampian Company's territory and incorporate it in the provisions of this Bill. I assured them that that was not possible without completely recasting the whole Bill and without adding greatly to our present difficulties. One of the things we have been anxious to do is to avoid giving offence to existing undertakings. There are local authority undertakings as well as the Grampian undertaking, and we have had to assure them that their charter rights, passed by this House, would not be interfered with in the way proposed by the Highland Development League. I think I satisfied the League that our attitude on this matter was wise.
§ Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.