§ The Deputy-Chairman
The first Amendment on this Clause, in the name of the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), is one of a series, and I think we can have the one discussion on them all.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I beg to move, in page 3, line 7, to leave out from "Board," to the end of line to, and to insert:to prepare in consultation with the Electricity Commissioners from time to time schemes (hereinafter referred to as 'development schemes') containing the information 241 hereinafter mentioned. The first of such development schemes shall be prepared by the Board as soon as practicable after their appointment, and shall contain as full information as may be reasonably practicable relating to the works to be constructed, and the operations to be performed by the Board during the first seven years after their appointment. Every development scheme shall so far as practicable state.I am glad that you have suggested the course you have, Mr. Williams, because I had intended to do that, with your permission. These Amendments are an attempt to express in legislative form the proposals I made in the Second Reading Debate. I do not claim that they are perfectly drawn, but I have consulted leading experts in the industry and have had the assistance of a very skilled draftsman, so that they do at any rate represent an honest endeavour and will, I hope, be looked upon by the Committee as such. As this Amendment deals with a wide and highly technical matter, vitally affecting the success of the Board and the future.of the Highlands, I will ask the Committee to show me their indulgence if I occupy a few minutes longer than is customary. Why do I seek to amend these two Clauses? The best way of answering that question is to examine what is wrong with the Clauses as they now stand. Take Clause 4. It deals with so-called development schemes, and under that Clause the duty is put upon the Board to prepare general schemes for the exercise of their duties. What are these general schemes meant to show? According to the Bill, only two things: First of all, the water resources proposed to be utilised and, secondly, the situation of the works to be constructed. That is all this development scheme intends to show.
There is to he no mention whatever in the scheme of the amount of electricity to be generated, the areas and the populations to be served, or whether any schemes included in the general plan are likely to be economic propositions. More strangely still, none of these three last matters is allowed to be referred to in the constructional schemes which are dealt with in Clause 5. Surely these are very important matters even for a general scheme—the amount of electricity to be produced, the areas to be covered, the populations to be served and the general economic structure of the plan.
242 The development scheme, too, must first go to the Electricity Commissioners for their approval before the Secretary of State can even see it. The right hon. Gentleman has often told us that the Commissioners perform a technical function and only look at it from a technical point of view, and I am sure that is what he intends; but we must consider how the courts will interpret it, and the words of the Bill are that the development scheme must first go to the Commissioners and be approved by them before the Secretary of State sees it, much less confirms it. Is not that going to be very awkward sometimes? Suppose a scheme is put up and the Commissioners refuse to approve it. The Scottish Office will never see it, and the right hon. Gentleman will be in the invidious position of waiting upon the Commissioners before he can proceed, or in the equally invidious position of having to adjudicate between the Electricity Commissioners' experts and the Board's experts, and he is not competent to adjudicate upon a matter of that kind. I think that is not a proper position for the Secretary of State to be put in, and I have made a suggestion in the Amendment to cover that point.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Surely it is our experience in administrative work, on town councils and elsewhere, that in decisions we have to make we can call in experts, and the Secretary of State can call in experts to advise him. We know that experts do not agree, and it then depends on the administrator, who is able to balance up the points of view put to him.
That may be, but I did not gather that it was the right hon Gentleman's intention to put himself in the position of an arbitrator. I do not want him to have to arbitrate between the views of the Electricity Commissioners and the Board, and I suggest that we insert the words,The Board shall prepare their scheme in consultation with the Electricity Commissioners,which would make an entirely different situation, for then, the scheme having been drawn up jointly, you would escape the awkward situation of waiting for the approval of the Commissioners before the Secretary of State can see it. I am advised by the very highest authorities, and I think this is a most practical and sensible way of doing it.
243 I note next that the development scheme is never going to be made public. It gets no further than the Secretary of State. Nevertheless, it has to be the basis of all subsequent constructional schemes which Parliament has ultimately to see and approve. Parliament is never going to know even of the existence of the development scheme, much less its contents, yet every constructional scheme that we shall be invited to consider will be based upon this original development scheme, and, if we do not know the broad picture, how can we tell whether any particular scheme is a sound one or not? It seems to me a very serious defect. Though it may not be so in strict law, approval and confirmation of a development scheme framed as proposed in Clause 4 are bound in practice to prejudice subsequently any opposition or criticism of constructional schemes. Parliament will not have an opportunity of seeing the broad picture, and that is precisely the function that we should perform. We are not experts, but we can see a picture broadly and form a broad judgment. That is precisely what I ask for and what we are debarred from doing. I think that, too, is a defect. So much for Clause 4. What about Clause 5?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
No. I am not going on to Clause 5 now. I should like to make it clear that the Amendments I have suggested the Committee might discuss are in page 3, line 7, to leave out from "Board," to the end of line 1o, and to insert:to prepare in consultation with the Electricity Commissioners from time to time schemes (hereinafter referred to as development schemes ') containing the information hereinafter mentioned. The first of such development schemes shall be prepared by the Board as soon as practicable after their appointment, and shall contain as full information as may be reasonably practicable relating to the works to be constructed, and the operations to be performed by the Board during the first seven years after their appointment. Every development scheme shall so far as practicable state,";
In page 3, line 14, at the end to insert:
(c) the other works to be executed for the purpose of giving proper effect to the scheme;
(d) the areas to be served by the scheme;
(e) the main transmission lines to be constructed for the supply of electricity to the Central Electricity Board from the generating stations to be authorised by the scheme;
(f) the provision for the officers and servants of the Board and for persons engaged in or in connection with the construction, maintenance or management of any works authorised by the scheme of housing accommodation and any other buildings serving a beneficial purpose in relation to the requirements of such officers and servants or per sons;
(g) the anticipated quantities of electricity which will be available under the scheme for enabling the Board to execute their functions under section two of this Act;
(h) the estimated capital cost of executing all works necessary for the proper carrying out of the scheme;
(i) the estimated annual receipts and expenditure on revenue account of the Board after the coming into force of the scheme showing in so far as practicable the estimated revenue and expenditure in respect of supplies of electricity to be provided to—
(j) the charges which the Board anticipate will have to be made by them in respect of the several supplies of electricity to be provided by them during the said seven years.
( )A development scheme shall be accompanied by such maps, drawings, plans and particulars as the Secretary of State may require.
( ) The Board shall, so often as they consider it necessary so to do, prepare additional development schemes in accordance with the provisions of this section but shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, prepare any additional development scheme before the expiry of a period of five years from the date on which the last previous development scheme shall come into operation";
In page 3, line 15, to leave out from the first "The," to "to," in line 17, and insert:
Board shall submit every development scheme";
And in page 3, line 18, at the end, to insert:
and shall publish, in such form and in such newspapers as the Secretary of State may require, a notice stating that the scheme has been prepared and submitted for confirmation, and specifying the situation of any works proposed to be undertaken and of any land proposed to be acquired under the scheme. The Board shall also deposit a copy of the scheme, and keep copies available for inspection and sale at the offices of the Board, and at one or more convenient places, and the notice published as aforesaid shall state where copies of the scheme are so deposited for inspection, and shall also specify the time (not being less than twenty-eight days) within which, and the manner in which objection thereto may be made to the Secretary of State.
( ) If on the expiry of the time within which objections may be made to the scheme the Secretary of State on considering the scheme together with any objections made thereto, and in any case in which objections which are not frivolous are made and not withdrawn after holding a public enquiry into the scheme, is of the opinion that it is in the public interest that the Board should be authorised to carry out the scheme he may make an Order confirming the scheme with or without amendments.
( ) Every Order confirming a development scheme shall be laid before each House of Parliament and the scheme shall not come into force unless and until approved, either with or without modification, by a resolution passed by each such House.
( ) As soon as practicable after a development scheme has come into force the Board shall deposit copies of the Order confirming the scheme, as approved by each House of Parliament, at their offices, and the foregoing provisions of this section with respect to the giving of notices of a scheme submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation, and the deposit of copies of such scheme for inspection and sale shall, so far as applicable, apply mutatis mutandis to an Order confirming a development scheme, as so approved by both Houses of Parliament.
§ I do not think we ought to discuss Clause 5 until we come to Clause 5. If the Amendments are accepted now, the hon. Member would not move them in Clause 5.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That may be all right for the hon. Member, but I do not think it would be just to the Committee if I accepted them as ruling out other Members who might wish to discuss the Question, "That Clause 3 stand part of the Bill." If the hon. Member likes to hang his Amendments on to the two Clauses, I have no objection.
I have, in order to justify my Amendments, to suggest in what respects Clause 5 is defective, and I hope I may be allowed to do that. Under Clause 5 the Board is required from time to time to prepare individual constructional schemes for any or all of a number of purposes. When I first looked at the Bill I thought the purpose would be to develop one scheme. For example, it seemed to me that if the purpose was to develop Glen Affric, there would be one constructional scheme covering the enterprise. When I examined it further, however, I found that a constructional scheme must be presented to the Secretary of State, and ultimately to the House, for a whole lot 246 of different purposes. What are these purposes? First, the execution of works necessary for giving effect td the development scheme; second, the execution of other works in any part of the district for the generation or transmission of electricity, which has apparently nothing to do with the development scheme; third, the construction of main transmission lines outside the district, which may or may not be connected with the development, scheme; and fourth, the provision of houses for the workers. There is a wide variety of projects and there must be individual schemes for each of them. Many of these projects may be important and many may be unimportant. If it were left to the Board to prepare and put into operation schemes affecting these smaller matters I should be happy and should feel that we would get electricity in the Highlands much sooner.
A different procedure, however, is proposed, and I notice that the Scottish Office has already described it as complicated. It is that each scheme, however small or unimportant, has first to go to the Electricity Commissioners for approval. I would invite the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) to the fact that one of the matters for which a scheme has to be prepared is the housing of the workers. An hon. Member who spoke from these Benches instanced the building of a beautiful village for the workers. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs realise that under Clause 5 a scheme for houses has first to go to the Electricity Commissioners in London and be approved by them before it is even seen by the Secretary of State? That is the ridiculous situation with which we are faced. In my Second Reading speech I begged the House to realise what a cumbersome, bureaucratic, red tape business all this was, and I asked for the matter to be simplified. It is only if the Electricity Commissioners approve any of these schemes that they come to the Secretary of State, who is put in the invidious position to which I have referred.
He has then to have the schemes made public, hold inquiries, hear objections and eventually confirm them. Then each scheme comes to this House, no matter how unimportant it is. It may be a scheme merely for running a small transmission line, but it has to come here, and we have to examine it. In the Cooper 247 Report it is stated that there are 70 possible projects that can be developed, and this House is faced with the prospect of 300 or 400 different constructional schemes coming before it. That is a terrifying prospect, and when a scheme is submitted to the House we cannot alter a single comma. Our only duty is to look at it and say "Yes" or "No." I cannot believe that that is democracy working as it ought to do or doing rightly by this House or by the Highlands.
When this scheme was first mooted it was said by those responsible for it that this method of sending each constructional scheme to the House was introduced because the Highland authorities wanted it. It was suggested that they liked and insisted on this method. I was surprised to hear that, and since that time I have found that my surprise was justified. I have now discovered that at least one great Highland authority, the County Council of Sutherland, took the view that this is a bureaucracy ridden Measure which will not be of service to the Highlands. I have here a report of the Sutherland County Council from the "Northern Times" of 12th February. The matter was raised by Provost Murray, who has written much to me about this matter. Dealing with Clause 5, he said that if this Clause of the Bill were to become law it was clear that they would be faced again with the same disastrous results which destroyed the process of cheaper electrical development in the Highlands during the past 20 years. He went on to submit that the fact that the powers of the new Board were severely restricted in comparison with the recommendations of the Cooper Committee was highly significant and disturbing. The Convener of the County said in his speech:My idea is that this Board should have over-riding powers to direct and co-ordinate activities.It is a comfort to me to know that at least one Highland authority takes my view, and I have no doubt that if I were able to approach others, I should find wider support for the criticism I am making.
I want to put another consideration which must be taken seriously. In all the provisions of the Bill nowhere is this Board required to present its financial estimates to the House. We have to accept 248 constructional schemes, but at no time do we get an opportunity of seeing whether the Board is running on sound lines. When the Central Electricity Board was being formed, the Weir Committee formed an estimate, having heard evidence, of the economic position of the Board as it was going to be operated. Figures were prepared by the Chairman of the then Electricity Commission, Sir John Snell, which tended to show that the Board would be economically sound. The Cooper Committee did not do this in connection with the Board proposed under this Bill. It left us in Parliament to form a view whether it would be sound.
If this Bill passes in its present form, Parliament will side-track this issue entirely. The Grampian Company, when they presented their case to this House and to a Select Committee, produced all their estimates; of their costs, and I do not see why this new Board should not do likewise. This Board is in a very much more difficult situation than was the Grampian Company, on account of its financial structure, to which I referred at the beginning of this Debate. It must meet the interest on its stock; it must meet certain other charges. It is in a very difficult, a very doubtful, financial position; doubtful and difficult for three reasons. First, it cannot increase its revenue from the Central Electricity Board; it cannot increase its revenue from authorised undertakers, because that is laid down under Section 13 of the Electricity Supply Act, 1926; and it presumably cannot alter the charges it makes to big companies or consumers, because large companies will only come to Scotland if they get a cheap tariff and are given a long undertaking regarding that tariff. It cannot get more money in, because it cannot conceivably raise prices to consumers.
Therefore, it may well happen that in times of stress—and they are bound to come—the Board will get into some financial embarrassment. What then? I have said the Board cannot raise its charges. There is only one thing left for it to do, and that is to cut some of its costs. What costs? The only costs which it can cut are its capital costs, its interest costs. If it does cut its interest charges, who stands the racket? The Treasury stands the racket, the taxpayer stands the racket. It is they who will have to bear this great 249 new burden, and, that being so, surely this House, which represents the taxpayers, ought to be convinced before it sets this Board going that the financial structure is sound, or, alternatively, that the plans it has envisaged, the whole plans, for the development of the Highlands are worthy of this, in fact, subsidy which the House is offering. Nowhere in the. Bill are these financial facts.produced.
The Amendments endeavour, first of all, to provide that the Electricity Commissioners should co-operate with the Board in drawing up its schemes. I am satisfied that that would be helpful. Further, the Amendments provide that the Board should work on a seven-year programme. In my Second Reading speech I suggested a five-year programme, but I have been advised by those who know that that is too short a time and that it should be a seven-year programme, given to the House with all the facts, and that when that programme has been passed the Board should then get on with its work. I have suggested that the scheme, when presented to us, should show, among other things, the areas to be served—surely very important; the transmission lines to be run; that provision should be made for the officers and servants of the Board; that the anticipated quantities of electricity should be indicated—surely we should know how much is going to be produced by this great scheme; show also the estimated annual receipts and expenditure—we ought to know that; and, above all, we should know the charges the Board is going to make. What good will this Bill be to the North of Scotland if the charges are exorbitant? It is vital that we should know, and nowhere are we told. I have suggested, further, that the Board, having got its seven-year plan, should work upon the principle of five-year plans—that is the meaning of the Sub-section towards the end of one of the Amendments. The Amendments also go on to suggest that when schemes come before the House we should be given the opportunity to pass an affirmative resolution, so that we may amend the scheme if we feel so disposed.
I apologise sincerely to the Committee for having taken some time over explaining these Amendments, but it is a matter of very great importance, to which I have devoted a great deal of care. I beg the 250 Committee seriously to consider these proposals. I want the Board to be given the greatest possible freedom. It should be a public Board, acting for the public as a whole. I agree that a private company could not, and in the circumstances should not, exploit this great monopoly. But as the Home Secretary has so often said, a public board can only be successful if you give: it its head, give it freedom. I want this Board to be given all the advantage of private enterprise, the enterprise of individuals. I want it to be free. I want a seven-year programme, with subsequent five-year plans, giving the House a full picture of the Board's scheme, and I think the House should properly address itself to that scheme.
§ The Lord Advocate
I think it may be helpful if at this stage I try to contrast the picture which has been painted in somewhat vivid colours by my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) with the proposals in the Bill. The first and main objection which I have to the Amendment is that it will cause wholly unnecessary delay. As explained by my right hon. Friend on Second Reading, one of the main purposes of the Bill is that the great amount of work which this Bill will produce shall be ready and available as soon as may be after the end of the war. That is one of the reasons why the development scheme has to be of a somewhat sketchy character. The alternative scheme which my hon. Friend suggests would, I am advised, take about a couple of years to prepare. It goes into enormous detail with regard to all the work to be done over a period of seven years. One knows the difficulty of preparing any detailed scheme during the war, and there would not be the slightest chance of the new scheme suggested by my hon. Friend being ready in time. Moreover, the data which my hon. Friend wants to put into the scheme entail foresight on the part of the Board with regard post-war conditions which is quite impracticable. How is anybody going to estimate what the receipts will be in what may be quite different conditions seven years after the end of the war? It almost appears as if my right hon. Friend thought we were going back to 1939 conditions without any difficulty, going to carry on in conditions of complete stability in which everybody could quite easily see seven years ahead.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I must ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman not to get hon. Members to go back to conditions in 1939 and matters of that sort.
§ The Lord Advocate
I do not want to do any more than say that in my view, at least, to estimate, with the detail which my hon. Friend wants, what is to happen throughout a period of seven years after the termination of the war is impracticable. I turn, therefore, to the six main points made by my hon. Friend in criticism of the Bill's provisions. The first was that it was awkward that they had to go to the Electricity Commissioners before a scheme was submitted to the Secretary of State. I think he forgets that the Electricity Commissioners are subject to the general supervision of the Minister of Fuel and Power, and that if they are so dilatory as he thinks they may be, means can easily be found to see that they carry out their proper responsibilities.
§ The Lord Advocate
If there is a difference of judgment and my hon. Friend wants consultation, it seems to me that consultation between two people who cannot see eye to eye is likely to be even more dilatory than the procedure to which he objects. Secondly, he takes the objection that the development scheme is not to be made public. Well, it is to be made public. It is true that that is not in the Bill, but it has been the intention that it should be made public. There is an Amendment on the Paper raising that point.
§ The Lord Advocate
It is the intention. Thirdly, I understood the hon. Member to say that approval of the development scheme in some way hampered proper and impartial consideration of constructional schemes. I am able to find no substance for that objection in the Bill. The constructional scheme need not necessarily cover exactly the same ground as' any part of the development scheme. It is 252 perfectly open to anyone to take any objection to the constructional scheme without reference to the development scheme at all. The next point which I understood the hon. Member to take up was that it was necessary to have several constructional schemes for one development. That is not so. The constructional scheme is—if he will look at line 38, in page 3—to cover any or all of a number of purposes. Of course, any far-seeing Board, when bringing forward a constructional scheme for civil engineering works for new electricity, will also put in the power stations, the houses, the transmission lines and all the other ancillary parts that are necessary to make a completed whole. It would be grave lack of foresight on the part of the Board if they required more than one constructional scheme for the same undertaking.
What then is the meaning of the words in lineor of other works in any part of the North of Scotland "?
§ The Lord Advocate
The words "or of other works" are to ensure that the Board in preparing the constructional scheme is not tied to those works which are mentioned in the development scheme. Clause 5 reads:With a view to the execution of works necessary for giving effect to the development scheme or of other works"—that is to say, works different from those required by the development scheme.
The next point of the hon. Member's was that certain local authorities do not approve of the present form of the Bill. All I can say with regard to that is that the County Councils Association unanimously approved. Whether some of the authorities changed their minds or were not present at the Association meeting, I do not know. Further, it is suggested that there is no proper provision for the Board disclosing its financial affairs. If my hon. Friend will look at Clauses 15 and 23, I think he will find very full provision is made there. No doubt if he thinks this should be fuller, he will tell us when we come to those Clauses in what respect he thinks that should be done. Finally, I think my hon. Friend raised the point of what will happen if the Board, for some reason, do not get in such revenue as they require. With proper foresight that should not happen, but if it did happen, I cannot see how the adop- 253 ton of this Amendment would produce money which will not be produced under the Bill as it stands. This Amendment has nothing to do with charges, and I cannot see how it will produce more money. Therefore I cannot see that the argument bears upon the present question. I do not want to take up more time, and I submit that the Amendment has not been justified.
Sir A. Belt
I quite appreciate many of the answers given by the Lord Advocate to the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), but I still feel that the conditions laid down in Clause 5 are terribly vague. Very little has to be stated with regard to any particular development scheme. In view of the enormous potential that can be developed under the hydro-electric scheme, it should be made obligatory that more information should be given as to any proposed development. I was reminded by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the possibilities in Scotland for electricity are of the order of 450,000 kilowatts, which is a very large figure indeed, but after all, if I may be allowed to compare it with Switzerland, which I think most people would consider—
Sir A. Belt
I wanted only to say that the figure of 450,000 kilowatts, which to some people might not mean a great deal, is only one-tenth of the whole of that required for Switzerland, which is highly developed and where everything, including railways, is operated by electricity. I do not think that the Electricity Commissioners are so ignorant of their business that they are likely to put forward any proposals either for excess development or under-development at any given time. There is such a possibility of vast development schemes being put forward which might be far more than the Highlands would require for many years to come. There is a good deal to be said for my hon. Friend's point of view that the Board should definitely take a view over a set period of years and that we should know what electrical development would be available in Scotland over a given period. That would be of the greatest advantage to any industry which proposed to establish itself there. As it is, a development scheme has to state what water powers are proposed to be utilised—not to what 254 extent they are proposed to be utilised—and where they are to be. I quite appreciate, as I have had an opportunity of reading the Amendment, that there may be a good many objections to some of the points, but I think that the Lord Advocate dismissed rather too lightly the argument which asked that a development scheme should be more clearly specified.
§ The Lord Advocate
We are in the dilemma that if we are to have a really full development scheme, it will take a long time to prepare under war circumstances, and that we want to have the first constructional scheme ready at an early date. We are very much afraid that if we make the development scheme more elaborate than it is at present, we shall hang up the progress of producing electricity.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
What is the good of the development scheme at all? Is it of any value to the Government?
§ The Lord Advocate
It is worth two things. I do not put great stress upon the development scheme. Quite frankly, it is not at all an essential feature of the Bill, but it has some advantages. It makes clear that the Board has exercised a preliminary survey of the whole territory before settling which bit of the territory is first to be developed by a constructional scheme. The Board would no doubt do that without anything in the Bill to direct them to do it, but it is as well to have it here, and if we publish a development scheme, it does give an authoritative picture—though I agree only a picture in broad outline, but nevertheless an authoritative picture—of the possibilities of future developments, and I think that might be useful. But I do not put it so high as to say that the development scheme is going to contribute very much to the success of this project.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The next Amendment I propose to call is that standing in the name of Mr. Erskine-Hill.
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill (Edinburgh, North)
May I, with your permission, Mr. Williams, before formally moving the Amendment that stands in my name and in the names of my hon. Friends, explain to the Committee that I am a director of the Scottish Power Company, which owns the Grampian Electricity Co. referred to in the Bill, and that that 255 company has a direct interest in the Bill? This does not refer to my Amendment at all, which is in the interests, I think, of everybody with an interest in this question.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Might I ask the hon. and learned Member whether the interest his company has is in favour of the Bill or against it?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I do not think there is any need for the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that his interest is either for or against the Bill. I think that what it is right that an hon. Member who has an interest in the Bill should do is, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has done, to say whether he has an interest, and then we assume that in the House he will act as ordinary Members of Parliament will, and do his best in the interests of the Bill.
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill
I beg to move, in page 3, line 21, at the end, to add:(4) As soon as may be after the confirmation of the development scheme, the Board shall deposit a copy of the scheme, and keep it available for inspection, at the offices of the Board and at one or more convenient places within the locality to which the scheme relates, and shall publish in such form, and in such newspapers as the Secretary of State may require, a notice stating that the scheme has been so confirmed, and the offices and places at which copies of the scheme are so deposited for inspection.As the Committee will see, this Amendment relates to the development scheme, that is, the strategy, the plan, for the development of hydro-electric power in the North of Scotland. It seems to me that the Committee will agree that in a matter of that importance there ought to be the utmost publication, so that anyone who is interested in it may learn of the scheme and learn as many details as they can about this scheme as quickly as possible. That applies to any kind of interest, whether that of a potential consumer, whether that of a local inhabitant or whether that of an authorised undertaking. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had it in mind to see that there was some form of publication, but my one point, and I think it is an important one, is that within the Bill itself it should be laid down that there should. be adequate publication. That is the object of my Amendment.
We propose to accept this Amendment. This is the Amendment which my right hon. and learned Friend referred to in the discussion on the previous Amendment. We do not put it too highly that there will be very much detailed information in this development scheme, but we appreciate the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill) that there is a very general public purpose to be secured in having the fact made public and published and available, that the development scheme has been approved of and where it can be seen.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Will the Secretary of State consider between now and the next stage of the Bill adding words to indicate that Parliament also will have a copy of this presented to it? We would see it by reading our papers, but we ought to have it officially.
Perhaps the hon. Member will not expect a pledge of that kind from me at the moment. We are very anxious not to overload this Bill with red tape. I do not say that his proposal means that, but we are exceedingly anxious to get certain construction schemes ready for the conclusion of the war, and we therefore want to do nothing which will unnecessarily clog or delay the machinery of this Bill. I will gladly look at the point he has raised.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Before the Secretary of State accepts this Amendment, I would ask him whether there is not some danger here that when this Board advertises, as is suggested in this Amendment, that it wants to acquire some land, that because this Board wishes to acquire it the landlord quite naturally, as they will always do, will put a fancy price on this land. It has always been our experience on the Glasgow Corporation that when we are going to acquire land, even for housing our own native folk, it has to be done on the quiet, because the necessity of the people is exploited. Is there riot just the same danger here? If you accept this Amendment, as I read it, you are only advertising to the boys who are in control in the Highlands, the landowners, and they can put on a fancy price because the land is absolutely necessary for the completion of the scheme.
The fears and apprehensions which the hon. Member has expressed may or may not be justified. Possibly they are in some instances. But may I put this to him, that the same rise in land values or prices might take place even if there was no development scheme at all? If a constructional scheme came to this House, it would be known to all and sundry, far and wide, and sortie rise in land values might possibly take place. We shall have to take other steps to stop any exploitation in that regard.
§ Mr. David Adams
Might I ask whether, in view of the fact that when the development scheme is completed it is to be published and deposited for inspection in certain places, we in the House could be equally privileged and have a copy laid in the Library?
I have already promised the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) to look into the precise form in which this might be done, but publicity certainly ought to be secured.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
This is a serious Amendment. If they get away with this, you will have to get words to safeguard the interests of the common folk, because the landlords in the Highlands will have no scruple in exploiting every scheme if they get to know beforehand who is going to purchase this land. It might, be only a few acres that are specially required, and they would put on a special price.
As I have said, we quite appreciate that point, but it cannot be met by stopping publication of the development scheme. So long as there was a construction scheme, so long as any Measure came before Parliament at all at a later stage, the same fears and apprehensions might be justified. As I have assured the hon. Member, we shall require to take other steps to stop exploitation of that kind.
The hon. Iviember for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) is raising the question of price at which compulsory acquisition might take place.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause. as amended, stand part of the Bill."258
§ Sir R. W. Smith
In Sub-section (I, a) there is a reference to "the water-power resources proposed to be utilised." We understand, therefore, that there are certain water-power resources which are not to be used. That, in any case, is the assumption which one would make. Suppose there are water-power resources which the Board are not going to use under their scheme. Are those resources to be wasted? There may be a paper mill or some other small works in the vicinity which would be prepared to put up a water-power generating station, and if the power is not to be used under the Board's scheme, is there any reason why it should not be used by private individuals?
§ The Lord Advocate
I cannot think that the Board would leave out of their development schemes any water-power resources that could be utilised at reasonable construction costs unless for special reasons, but if they do leave out any such water-power resources, then it is certainly open to any private person who wishes to use those resources for a private generating station, to go to the Electricity Commissioners and ask for permission to do so, and I cannot imagine the Commissioners refusing, except on the ground that the Board's scheme would be prejudiced.
I should like to ask for an assurance. The Lord Advocate rejected the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), and the appeal which I made for greater detail in connection with the development scheme, on the ground that it was essential to produce the development scheme at the earliest possible date, in order that the work should be started after the war. I understand the power of that argument, but I wonder whether it would not be possible to suggest to the Board that at least as far as future schemes are concerned more detail might be given.
§ The Lord Advocate
The idea in the Bill is that there shall be one development scheme once and for all, but there is power in Clause 7 to amend the scheme if that proves to be desirable. Certainly my hon. Friend's suggestion will be conveyed to the Board that in due course it might be desirable to amend by amplification the initial scheme, but I do not think we can say, at this stage, whether or not that will prove to be desirable.
There is an Amendment on the Paper dealing with water power in connection with local authorities, and I should like some information on that point. In my constituency there is considerable interest among local authorities about what use is to be made of water in their districts, and I should like an assurance that great care will be taken to see that water for domestic and public purposes will be safeguarded for the use of local authorities.
§ The Lord Advocate
My hon. and gallant Friend will remember that the Secretary of State is the Minister of Health in Scotland and must bear in his mind his responsibility with regard to water for public health purposes when he is confirming or rejecting a scheme. I think we may take it that no Secretary of State would confirm any scheme which took essential water away from a local authority.
§ The Lord Advocate
Naturally, water for essential health purposes is more essential than water for electricity. I think everyone would realise that.
§ Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed.