§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.
§ [Major MILNER in the Chair]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to provide, amongst other things, for the establishment of a British Electricity Authority and Area Electricity Boards and for the exercise and performance by that Authority and those Boards and the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board of functions relating to the supply of electricity, it is expedient to authorise—
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ Major Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
I am surprised that we have not heard any explanatory statement of this' Resolution from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I waited to see if the right hon. Gentleman was going to rise when the Question was proposed and as he has not done so, I intervene to put some questions to him which, I hope, he will answer afterwards. I want first to draw the attention of the Committee to paragraph (a) of the Resolution, which begins by authorisingthe payment out of the Consolidated Fund of such sums as may be required to fulfil any guarantee by the Treasury of the principal of and interest on stock issued by the said Authority.This involves a point which I raised on the Money Resolution on the Transport Bill. The principle is the same in both cases, but there is no top limit set' by the Motion now before the House upon the amount of money which we are asked to pay in compensation. We have admitted by the Second Reading of the Bill that compensation is to be paid, and the Parliamentary Secretary asked what was the difference between us. The answer is that we do not know; is it £2,000 million, is it £3,000 million, is it £4,000 million?
§ Major Roberts
That is exactly what I am asking. If I look very carefully through the Explanatory Memorandum 1704 to the Bill, to see whether there is some estimate of the amount of compensation involved, I find that nowhere is this mentioned. In the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act a rough figure was given and the limit was to be settled by arbitration, but here there is no limit at all. The point I want to put to the Financial Secretary is that it has always been the tradition of Parliament to be very careful in the spending of public money. In fact we have always said that we must keep a careful limit upon our expenditure, and the Army returns, for instance, have to appear every year. Here, however. Parliament will be asked—and I shall be asked on behalf of my constituents in Ecclesall—to pass a Resolution which is virtually a blank cheque. I, for one, am not prepared to pass it in this form unless some figure is given representing a limit to the guarantee of the Treasury.
The second point under this heading is the effect of the Treasury guarantee, and I want to put a specific question on this because I feel that it is very important. We are issuing a Treasury' guarantee. These sums will come upon the Government stock market possibly at some date in 1948. Is the Financial Secretary quite happy in putting a Treasury guarantee of this kind upon the market together with those for transport, the doctors, coal and all the others? Is he certain that he will not be creating a position in which everybody will immediately try to sell this stock? Is he certain he can hold out. I do not want to go any further than to say that the right hon. Gentleman may find himself in a very serious position.
I pass to paragraph (c), in which various payments out of moneys provided by Parliament are enumerated. I draw particular attention to items (iii) and (v) since, to my mind, there is a distinction between those and the other items, all of which relate to one specific act of nationalisation. In other words, once the nationalisation has gone through, these items will finish, but (iii) and (v) are continuing expenditure. Item (iii) relates to the remuneration and allowances to members of the arbitration tribunal which, I assume, will go on sitting month after month, year after year, and, item (v) refers to pensions of Electricity Commissioners. What I want to ask is, why this has been put as a charge on the 1705 public. Why should it not be a charge upon the electricity industry? This is a continuing item. I should have thought there would be a distinction between those and the other items, and I should be happier if these matters were put upon the central board. Those are the two questions to which I should like an answer, and the Financial Secretary might have saved time if he had given some explanation earlier.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I did not speak on the Second Reading of the Bill, so I would like to put a question on the matter of compensation, which bears hardly upon some of the aged people of this country. Here in the Money Resolution we are leaving the matter quite open. It may be £1,000 million, £5,000 million, £10,000 million, or £100,000 million. A former leader of the Labour Party used to say "on and on and on, and up and up and up," and this is capable of going on and on and on, and up and up and up, without a stop of any kind. I am prepared to show the Minister how, in the simplest way and the shortest time, an estimate can be made of what should be paid. Give me a couple of accountants and I will do the job.
§ Mr. Gallacher
We have here a Resolution which leaves the matter in such a way that we do not know how much money is going to be involved.
§ Mr. Gallacher
We have to decide whether we are going to pass the Resolution in this form or whether we are going to put down a stipulated sum. I am demanding a stipulated sum, and in order to make the point clear, I will take a case that was in the newspaper the other day. It is the case of an elderly couple, and according to the basis upon which compensation will be paid, their income will drop from £250 a year to about £50 a year. Nobody could stand for that, could they. The only solution is to provide compensation in the form of a life annuity, for these old folk and for all the others and not a penny more for anybody. That will give the old folk 1706 all the security they require, and will give the other fellows all they deserve, and more than they deserve. If the Minister will accept that principle he will be able to put an estimate in the Resolution of the amount of money he is going to spend, and it will not be £5,000 million or even £1,000 million. Instead of "up and up and up" it will be "down and down and down." I propose that the Minister give us an estimate for this Resolution on the basis of life annuities, and not a penny more for anybody. Strip them naked.
§ The Chairman
That would not be in Order. The hon. Member's proposal would not be within the terms of the Money Resolution.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am very sorry if I have been out of Order, but you must admit, Major Milner, that my proposal would be very sensible.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) complains that the Committee is giving carte blancheto the Minister, and that we are going "on and on and on and up and up and up." Roughly speaking, that is what we are doing, but then that is the sign of all the legislation which we are passing now, and I should have thought that that would have been in accordance with the hon. Member's own ideas.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am all in favour of going "on and on and on, and up and up and up." What I am not in favour of is handing over cash to the friends of the hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Boothby
I always thought that the hon. Member was in favour of handing cash to everybody. I think he is quite right in saying that we are giving the Government the power to spend an unspecified amount. We do not know what the amount is. All we know is that it is a very large amount, and I should like the Financial Secretary, when he replies, to tell us where he proposes to get the money from. The Resolution says that it must come from the Consolidated Fund, but a lot is coming from the Consolidated Fund; we do not know how much. All we know for certain is that we are spending £1,000 million a year more than we are getting. Therefore, I ask the Financial Secretary to say whether it is 1707 true that he will have to fall back on the only really prosperous industries in this country—the manufacture of pound notes, and the manufacture of cupronickel coins.
§ Major Cecil Poole (Lichfield)
Is the hon. Member on the side of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher)? Is it his fear that the Government will be too generous in their terms of compensation?
§ Mr. Boothby
No, our great fear is that the Socialist Government are spending much more than they have any right to spend—more, in other words, than we are earning in this country—and the fear that they will have to pay for it in the long run.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)
The hon. and gallant Member for Ecclesall (Major Peter Roberts) got on his feet so quickly that I was prevented from explaining to the Committee at the outset what this Resolution does contain. I would say at once that, in our view, it is a simple and straightforward Resolution. The various heads have been covered, over and over again, in the two days' Debate, which we have just had on the Bill. But I will, as briefly as I can, try to answer the points which have been put to me from the other side of the Committee. The hon. and gallant Member for Ecclesall wanted to know why certain of the expenses which are listed in paragraph (c)—particularly (iii) and (v)—are not recoverable from the Central Authority. The short answer is, that so far as (iii) is concerned, the amounts expended should be recoverable from the authority. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will look at paragraph (d), he will see that provision is made for the payment of any sums, which are recovered, into the Exchequer.
The same argument holds for item (v). It will depend on who is liable to pay the pension. In some cases the pension will come from two sources. So far as the Central Authority is liable, it will have to bear its share of the cost. The hon. and gallant Member also wanted to know if I could give an estimate of the total liability under the heading of compensation. I agree that no amount is mentioned, and that might be regarded as not at all satisfactory. The reason no 1708 amount has been given is because we do not know what the figure will be. Later I will give a guess and indicate what is in our view a fairly close estimate. But it is true, and I have to take the Committee into my confidence here, that we do not yet know what the global sum will be. Therefore it is quite impossible to insert a figure as we would like to do, in the Money Resolution.
—So far as we can judge, and on the best estimates that we can get, it is computed that the amount of compensation payable to boards and companies under the terms proposed in the Bill will be approximately £350,000,000. A closer estimate cannot be given until it is known exactly what holding companies are acquired under Clause 13 (2). But so far as we can estimate under that head, the amount will be in the neighbourhood of £350,000,000. The hon. and gallant Member did not mention local authorities, but I think I ought to refer to them in order to give a true picture and to put the Committee in possession of all the facts. As the hon. and gallant Member and the Committee know, these authorities are brought in under another Clause, and another set of regulations. The terms, of course, will be in respect of their outstanding liability, both on loans and accruing interest year by year. Therefore, so far as we can gather, we have here a nearer estimate than we have for boards and companies. The outstanding loans amount to between £180,000,000 and £200,000,000. Of course, that sum will be payable—perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) will be interested to know—by a series of annuities, if one can so describe them, over a period of years. This will mean accruals of sinking fund and interest during the period the loan is outstanding, for the authority concerned.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) asked where the money is to come from. I think it would be out of Order if I discussed at length where the money is to flow from into the Central Authority's coffers. But we have made it quite plain in the Financial Resolution, that our view is that it will come. Payments under the guarantee will come from the 1709 Consolidated Fund, and from the growing produce thereon.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint)
Will the Financial Secretary answer one question? The other day, he said that it was impossible to split up a transport corporation and repay the stock. Now I would like to have from him an assurance that this is exactly on all fours with a direct Government obligation, and that any reorganisation of this authority will not mean that the Government will hold themselves able to split it up and say that the corporation no longer exists, and that therefore the stock can be paid off and replaced with securities at some other rate of interest.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I do not know, in the first place, whether it would be in Order for me to reply to that. In the second place, I am not sure if I understand the question aright.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
As I understand itthe question is whether any guarantee was given to the holders of the stock.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I know that is what the hon. Gentleman is trying to say. I wish he would say it clearly, because there is a perfectly good, straightforward answer, and that is that, so far as the L.P.T.B. stock and one or two similar classes of stock were concerned, no pledge which was given by the Government, has been broken. The guarantee was in respect of any default by the company in question, and that guarantee—
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman may not go into that question. It is another matter altogether.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I would like to congratulate the Government on this Financial Resolution in one respect, and that, I think it fair to say, a major respect. I think this Resolution is drafted widely so as not to cut out Amendments to the Bill, and I think it is a good thing that such Resolutions should be so drafted. In that respect, this Resolution is a return to the older and better practice. There was some rather bad practice in the course of the war in that respect. I am sorry I cannot 1710 continue the congratulatory note further on the point which the Financial Secretary raised, that is the lucidity of this Resolution. I do not think it is all that clear. I am very glad to know., after his explanation, that it is in Order to guess what is the right sort of sum to be provided for the compensation payments, and that the matter of compensation is to that extent, and I think a slightly greater, extent in Order at this point. I take the greater extent to be in Order from what the Financial Secretary and the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) said about where the money has to come from. The point I wish to put is, that, in respect of the sums which the right hon. Gentleman was allowed to mention, and which, I suppose, therefore, I may mention, the estimates which my advisers give to me are slightly larger than his, but they agree very closely. Where he said £180 million 10 £200 million for the municipalities, I should have supposed that the upper figure was the more likely to be right. I have forgotten how much he put for the companies, but I think it was £350 million—
§ The Chairman
It is true that I allowed an hon. Member to ask the question and the Financial Secretary to make a partial reply, but I cannot allow the Debate to develop into a discussion on the details of this amount. Those are matters which may be decided on the Committee stage of the Bill.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
With every respect, Major Milner, I was not proposing to argue the matter, but I was supposing that as the reference to the amount had been already admitted to be in Order, and also a question of where the money was to come from had been admitted to be in Order, and as there had been extremely little explanation of any of this matter on Second Reading by either of the Ministers in charge of the Bill—and I think everybody will agree with that, and I do not think the Ministers will deny it—I had, therefore, hoped it might be in Order to refer to the particular way proposed of spending a sum of this character. I do not go into details as to the exact sum, and there is very little between me and the Treasury Bench in our guesses about that but I had hoped that it might be in Order to indicate that the method of computation suggested is a peculiarly inflationary one, because it means that upon this occasion, the Treasury is 1711 bound to make a 20 per cent. profit by paying off on the vesting day in scrip in denominational pounds, the number of pounds which was computed on the date of three years previously as the number of pounds which the assets were then worth. There is bound to be a 20 per cent. gain to the Treasury.
§ The Chairman
I must point out that all those questions will be discussed on the Committee stage of the Bill. It is quite impossible for anyone to give an estimate on matters which are at large in the Financial Resolution, and have to be decided on the Committee stage of the Bill. There are financial provisions in Part III of the Bill, and those are matters which the Committee may or may not alter. It will depend upon how the Bill comes out of the Committee stage on what matters the sums provided for in general are to be expended.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
On a point of Order. You have just given an important Ruling, Major Milner, on the question of the Committee's-being allowed to extend the width of the Money Resolution, so far as I understand it—
§ The Chairman
I did not say a word about the Committee being allowed to extend the Financial Resolution. It is not within my power to do so. The Committee cannot go beyond the terms of the Resolution on the Order Paper which has the King's Recommendation.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am sorry, Major Milner. I am not trying to push up to and beyond the limits of Order; I am trying to make a difficult argument on what, I think, is not a very lucid Resolution, in spite of the Financial Secretary. I assure you I was not trying to discuss the merits of these estimates. I see that that might not be in Order. But the Financial Secretary has been permitted to say that xmillions of pounds are to be expended in a particular way. I say that that is a peculiarly inflationary method. It is a method which tempts the Treasury to go on doing it again and again. They must be tempted to take this increment of 20 per cent., or more. They themselves are making a profit out of inflation which has happened in three years, and, therefore, I think that we ought to have some case put to us why a non-inflationary Treasury, represented here by the 1712 Financial Secretary, has approved of this method.
The second question which I wish to put is this. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury rather strangely—I daresay quite properly, but rather strangely—may I have his attention: it is difficult to speak otherwise—the Financial Secretary devoted all his remarks to the authorisation of payment out of the Consolidated Fund for compensation. But now this Resolution authorises the payment out of the Consolidated Fund for other purposes of £700,000,000. That is a very large sum, and I think, before we come, as we may, I suppose, to the Amendment upon the Paper, it is not unreasonable to ask why so much money as that is wanted for the expansion of a business which, he has told us, he means to acquire for a sum of £550,000,000. The whole electricity industry of this country is going to cost the Government only £550,000,000; but they must now, today—not in the course of the future, but now, in the course of this short discussion—be given authority for £700,000,000, for more than the whole amount of the thing as it stands. It does seem to me, whether or not the Amendment be moved later on, that this ought to be explained and expounded to the Committee at this stage.
§ Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)
Would the hon. Gentleman explain to a patient listener, skilled in economics, although, possibly, not in the Cambridge version, how it can be inflationary for the Treasury to pay too little?
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)
The point I wish to address to the Government is this. I want to be clear on the meaning of the paragraph which the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary says is so plain, namely, paragraph (a), which seems to me quite needlessly complex. I want to know whether I have understood it correctly. As I understand paragraph (a), it authorises the payment of £700 million, with two additions. The additions, which make the matter very complex, are introduced, the one in line 11, by the words:otherwise than for the purpose of paying compensation …and the second in line 13, by the words:excluding amounts outstanding.1713 If I am right, and if what is authorised under paragraph (a) is £700 million, plus these two additions, would it not be simpler to say" £700 million apart from (a), stock issued for the purposes of paying compensation, and (b), the amounts outstanding in respect of moneys borrowed for redemption"? If this is the meaning, I suggest that that would be a simpler wording. It seems to me to be introducing an extraordinary complication to bring in two parallel exceptions, introducing one by the words "otherwise than for the purpose of," and the other by the words "excluding amounts outstanding in respect of." I should be glad if the Financial Secretary would say whether I have correctly understood the paragraph, and, if so, why this extraordinary complexity of verbiage has been used.
§ Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)
I wish to raise only one point, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch). I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Treasury guarantee, which this Resolution proposes to authorise, may be regarded as having any more reliability than the Treasury guarantee of the stocks of one of the undertakings which is to be acquired. I am referring to the debenture stock of the North Metropolitan Power Station Company Limited, for which the Treasury guaranteed that 5 per cent. would be paid until 1957, which the stockholders are not now going to get. I want the right hon. Gentleman to say whether the guarantee, which this Resolution proposes to authorise, can be regarded as merely equivalent to the guarantee which was given in respect of this other stock.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
The question put by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) has been answered more than once. Furthermore, when I was in the middle of trying to answer it again, in reply to an hon. Member opposite, we were both called to Order.
§ Sir J. Mellor
In my respectful submission, the right hon. Gentleman was out of Order in making reference to the L.P.T.B. stock. That is on quite a different footing. I am referring of the North Metropolitan Power Station Company, which is one of the undertakings to be acquired. Therefore, if the former matter 1714 was out of Order, I respectfully submit that this matter is in Order.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
The hon. Member will know that he put a Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer last Thursday, and that I, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, gave him the answer. I donot know how many times I have to answer this particular point from this Box.
§ Sir J. Mellor
I am now asking about the guarantee given by this Resolution, which is a different question, and I should be grateful for an answer.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) asked me to explain paragraph (a) of this Resolution, and what lines 11 and 13 meant. I think it is perfectly straightforward. It does two things. It provides for guarantees by the Consolidated Fund for two main purposes. One is for compensation—that is the issue of stock by the Central Authority for payment of compensation where we do not limit the amount, because, as I have explained to the Committee, we are not quite sure what the amount should be. The second is for capital expenditure by the new central board and the area boards. Paragraph (b) does the same thing for the North of Scotland Board. In paragraph (a), the only two main purposes for which money can be raised and stock issued are capital expenditure—there is an Amendment on the Order Paper about the figure of £700 million, which the Committee will not want me to go into now—and compensation.
The phrase to which the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) called attention is quite plain. It means that if money has been borrowed temporarily for the redemption of stock, that money should not be counted twice. The words are inserted for that reason. I have been told by my advisers that the phrasing is in common form. I cannot tell the Committee or the hon. Gentleman more than that.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ The Chairman
Does the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) propose to move the Amendment in his name on the Order Paper?
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)
On a point of Order, Major Milner. I understood that the Debate was to elicit in- 1715 formation about the first part of paragraph (a) to which the Financial Secretary has replied. I assumed that as this was a specific point, you would call first on hon. Members who wished to deal with some general points on the Motion, and then we could have a discussion in this particular point.
§ The Chairman
There is an Amendment on the Order Paper, and we have had the general Debate in which a good deal has been said on the subject. matter of the Amendment. I assume that the right hon. Gentleman intends to move his Amendment as, clearly, we cannot have more than one Debate on the same question.
§ Mr. Hudson
I beg to move, in line 13, to leave out "seven," and to insert "four."
The Financial Secretary, in his speech, has referred to the fact that the provision in paragraph (a) covered two specific points. One was the money necessary to pay for compensation, an unspecified sum, and the other was a specific sum of £700 million required for the capital expenditure of the new boards. In the course of the Second Reading Debate, a passing reference was made to this question. Now we are faced in this Money Resolution with the specific request to provide a sum of £700 million.
I am moving to reduce that sum to £400 million, for two purposes. We want to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of explaining to the Committee why he requires so large a sum. The Financial Secretary has already said that the cost of compensation to the companies will be £350 million, to the local authorities £200 million—a total of £550 million—and I am informed that it may be assumed that the whole of the capital outlay involved at present in the electricity industry is of the order of £800 million. Whichever figure is selected, £550 million or £800 million, it is clear that the Government are asking for provision for virtually double the sum.
We on this side feel that the Committee is entitled to know why the Minister thinks that such a very large sum is necessary. We should like to know, in detail, how that estimate is arrived at. We should like to know what are the technical details and technical arrangements on which that sum is based. We should like to know, 1716 for instance, what the Minister envisages will be the number of new generating stations which are likely to be required, and which are likely, having regard to the national resources available, to be provided during next year. Further, we wish to know how it is that such a large figure is required for the development of distribution. On none of these points have we had any adequate information up to date. In order to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of supplementing what he said on Second Reading on these points, I have moved this Amendment.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power dealt with this matter when he opened the Second Reading Debate. There is little I can add to what he said. He indicated that it is expected that during the next five years a considerable sum of money will have to be paid for generating stations. I have here an estimate of the Central Electricity Board which, during the next five years, planned to spend about £250 million. On past experience, so I am informed, for every million capital expenditure on generation two millions are spent on distribution. If Members will work out that simple sum, they will see that, as my right hon. Friend said, it is expected that £200 million will be spent on new power stations, and that about £400 million will have to be spent on distribution by the area boards and the Central Authority, making a total of £600 million.
It has been thought wise—and I hope the Committee will agree with this—to add £100 million for the standardisation of voltage, equipment and development, especially in the rural areas. All of us have suffered from the cuts which have taken place during the last month, and the Committee should remember that a great deal of leeway has to be made up. It is estimated by those competent to judge that during the next five years this need will be met and that something like £200 million will have to be spent on generating power stations. That, in turn, will mean a great deal of expenditure in the direction which I have mentioned. That being so, we see at once how the £700 million is made up for England and Scotland. As the Committee knows, a further £100 million is in the Resolution to cover the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board, making £800 million in all. These facts have been carefully investi- 1717 gated, but we do not know what the trend of costs will be. Though this money is being put in the Resolution, it does not mean that it will all be spent, but this new authority should, we believe, have elbow room to expand and so give to this country what it has wanted and needed for many years—a real electricity service which will help every section of the community, industry and people alike.
§ Mr. Osborne (Louth)
Financial Resolutions are something of which a "new boy" generally fights shy, but I know that if I am not in Order, you, Major Milner, will quickly bring me back to Order. The Financial Secretary did mention the amount of compensation. What we have not heard, is the way in which he proposes to raise that money.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member now appears to be dealing with the question of compensation, whereas the question before the Committee is the sum of £700 million required for capital expenditure. The hon. Member must keep to the matter which is before the Committee.
§ Mr. Osborne
I am much obliged to you, Major Milner, for correcting me, and now may I take up the other point? [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, try another point."] I will and I will keep on trying until hon. Members opposite are tired. I object to the larger sum, and I support the smaller sum on these grounds—that one day that money will have to be raised in the ordinary way in the money market. Already the City of London is choked with nationalisation stock, and in two or three years' time, when nationalisation has failed, nobody will want to hold such stock. I can see under those conditions the 2½per cent. long-dated stock being down to 70 to the ruin of the banks and trade unions which hold them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other night at Newcastle that he had sufficient power to ward off any financial crisis. The more we give the Government the right to borrow, the higher and higher is the amount of money going to be and the greater the burden on his shoulders, which, in turn, will increase the magnitude of his task. One day I fear that these stocks which are being created for nationalisation compensation and other purposes will be almost unsaleable. Therefore, I think that the Committee would be wiser to insist on the smaller figure than on the larger one.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Scottish Universities)
I think that we require to scrutinise these figures a little more closely, especially in view of the explanation given by the Financial Secretary. As I understand it, he is asking for money to double the electrical equipment in this country. This is more than double and this is to cover 10 per cent. of the area, as 90 per cent. is already covered and 30 per cent. of housage, because 70 per cent. is already covered. These are enormous figures. I leave out of account the fact that the amount for the Scottish Board is to be raised from £30 million, to £100 million. I frankly do not believe it is possible to spend the money in the time.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but, if they do not want the money, they will not raise it. This Resolution enables that amount to be raised if it is required.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
As a former Financial Secretary I had the honour of occupying the seat which the right hon. Gentleman now occupies, and, believe me, a great violence is being done to Treasury tradition and sound accounting if you put in an amount and then say "It does not matter; if it is not needed it will not be spent." The purpose of the House of Commons is to control the Executive by means of votes of money. That is what we are doing, and that is the only way in which the House of Commons can assert its authority over the Executive. This is an attempt to ask the House of Commons to abrogate its main purpose. It is very lax budgeting of money and it is very lax budgeting of material, because material is going to be a limiting factor unless there is inflation of a runaway character, quite beyond anything that has been anticipated. It is to say we shall require double the amount of money that has equipped 70 per cent. of the housage and go per cent. of the area. That is runaway inflation if you like.
I do not believe that the accounts have been correctly brought forward, and I do not think it is a right and duty of the House of Commons to vote on this sum for the purpose of maintaining not by control of the Executive of the day, this side or that side of the House, but by the whole House of Commons. The 1719 Chairman of the Committee is the officer of the House who sits as guardian of the rights of the House over money. We get the Speaker out of the Chair, so that he will not tell the King that possibly we have been refusing him money; and then we really get down to the question of the accurate budgeting. That is why we have a Financial Secretary of the Treasury, and that is what he is paid for. It is not good enough for the Financial Secretary to come and say "Give me as much money as the whole of the rest of the industry has been able to spend in the whole of the time electricity has been in existence, since Evelyn rubbed a piece of amber with a piece of silk, and produced a spark in the reign of Charles II."
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I know the right hon. and gallant Gentleman once occupied the position I now have the honour to occupy, but I think he is forgetting that this will enable the Central Authority, not the Government, to raise the money.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
But this is the money of the House of Commons; if we part with it, we part with control. He who holds the purse, holds power. That was rubbed into me when I was Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and it is indeed an axiom and a cardinal point of the British Constitution. It is not good enough to say that if we give him this money, he will give it to somebody else. That is all the more reason for not letting him have the amount. I still say, and I am in no way desiring to delay or hold up the business of the House, that to ask for these enormous sums on these shadowy and sketchy estimates, is to ask for something which the Financial Secretary has no right to ask and the House of Commons has no right to give, and we will divide upon it without any hesitation.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Shinwell)
The Opposition have a perfect right to ask for information on this important matter, but let us try to ascertain the facts and see the matter in its proper perspective. First of all, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is aware the private companies themselves gave an assurance to the National Farmers' Union which, in effect, meant they intended to spend £150 million in the next few years. That is a very large sum, and that was the assurance given by the private under- 1720 takings. Well, but then, as everybody is aware, the private undertakings are a minority in the electricity supply industry. We have the huge municipal undertakings which have an elaborate programme, so that we can see at once that the combined programme of the private and municipal undertakings would amount to a very large sum indeed. The Central Electricity Board, which is responsible for generating electricity on the grid, has prepared this programme to which my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary has just referred. It is a vast programme, amounting to £256 millions in the next five years or so. But it has to be remembered that that is for generating purposes alone. As everybody associated with the electricity supply industry is aware, the expenditure of power stations on the gigantic plant which is required in these stations is very great and, moreover, it becomes more expensive every day. That is a fact which cannot be ignored. If we are to accept the estimate of the Central Electricity Board—and we must rely on the facts given us by those who are experts—if we are to accept this estimate of £256 million for additional generating capacity during the next five years then, equally, we must have cognisance of the vast sums required for the distribution network, without which the generating plant is incomplete. As we are advised from the findings made, which are well known to the department over which I preside, it requires twice the amount, approximately, to provide a distribution net as it does in the case of generating capacity. If one remembers that, then clearly gigantic sums are involved.
Some hon. Members have asked if it will be possible to spend this amount. We have been told of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. I would state that it has been found impossible to proceed with the programme, even in that limited area, on the amount which has been specified, and we have had to go forward and ask for this additional sum. If we find ourselves confronted with physical difficulties which prevent the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, and, indeed, the rest of the country, from proceeding with these generating schemes—to meet not necessarily nationalisation projects, but the ordinary requirements of the country in respect of electricity supply—then we require these sums. As I pointed out on the Second Reading of the Bill, all this depends on the physical 1721 resources. The Central Board, and the area boards must have elbow room, and, provided that the physical resources are available, then we must proceed with the expansion programme.
I should like to make it quite clear that there is nothing abnormal about this. Irrespective of any nationalisation scheme of the character with which we are concerned to-night, expansion would have had to be proceeded with; all we are doing is to follow the normal procedure in expansion. I really do not think that there is any quarrel between us. Before we talked of nationalisation of the electricity industry, right hon. and hon. Members opposite wanted expansion of electricity supply, and, therefore, it seems that this would be necessary. Several hon. Members opposite have said that it is fully agreed that expansion had to take place. I would just like to add this on the subject of the Financial Resolution, that I always gathered, and it has always been my experience in the House, that hon. Members on all sides objected to a Financial Resolution which was narrowly drawn, because it inhibited discussion in the Committee stage of the Bill. I myself have participated in protests on various occasions relating to this matter. But here is a Financial Resolution very widely drawn. Therefore there is no inhibition of discussion in the Committee stage, and, no doubt, any question fundamental to electricity supplies can be raised in the larger arena of discussion which will then be available.
§ Mr. John Foster (Northwich)
No Member of this Committee, Major Milner, would quarrel with the statement that this is an important scheme of electrification. But what they would quarrel with is, the estimate of the amount involved. The estimate of the Minister and the Financial Secretary has been founded mainly on the figure, £256,000,000, which has been given as the estimate of the Central Electricity Board of what they were going to spend for generation, and this extra amount has been justified by an entirely arbitrary formula. I say "arbitrary," because it is not applied to the same conditions. The reason that the cost of the distribution was in the ratio of two to one—and I accept that figure for the moment given by the Minister and the Financial Secretary—was that while that expansion was going on, more houses were being connected, and there was a 1722 vista of more connections to be made. A large proportion of the expenditure was because the distribution network, as the Minister calls it, was being put into what may be called virgin soil. But now the bulk of the country is connected, and the main distribution work is done. An increase in the generation of power will not mean a proportionate increase in the distribution network. This is the fallacy, if I may say so, of the Minister and the Financial Secretary.
The only other point I would like to bring to the attention of the Committee is, that the Minister has been sweetly reasonable about the wideness of the Financial Resolution. He has already been congratulated upon that by the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). But it will not be possible, I believe, to discuss in Committee upstairs Whether this sum of £700 million can be reduced or not. This is the only occasion when this subject can be discussed. I do not think it, lies in the Minister's mouth to say, "I have granted you a wide Resolution. Therefore, you cannot discuss this." I think that in a Committee of the whole House, and not in the Committee upstairs, I should draw attention to this point. The Committee is entitled to discuss an important question like this.
There is another thing I should like to mention. It is that the real reason why this large sum is taken is the one which my right hon. Friend stated a few minutes ago, namely, that inflation is coming. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has said that he did not know what prices would be in the future. They were always rising, and he regretted that it was so. I regret very much that a Socialist Government have so little confidence in their power to stop inflation, that they have to make allowance for it in the sum devoted to the cost of producing this extra generation and distribution of electricity. I am afraid that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is behind this—again in a financial fog. He is like the Eddystone Lighthouse, a lot of fog and very little light.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)
We are discussing an Amendment to reduce this sum of £700 million to £400 million. It seems to me that the Minister himself has produced the strongest argument for such a 1723 reduction, because he claimed that the companies and the municipalities will require that sum of money in expenditure for expansion during the future; but he is making a major error of confusion, because he is assuming that it must be new money. He is overlooking three other sources from which both municipalities and companies would find the money for such expansion. There are, as I say, three sources. The first is undistributed profits, the second is reserves, and the third is a large part of the depreciation. If, as he claimed, he is making hi9 calculation on the supposition that because £700 million is required, it all has to be found out of new money, then from his own words is deducible the fact that he has overestimated the requirement of new money. That is all we are saying on this side of the Committee, that he has grossly overestimated this. We also contend that it is not in any way a narrowing of the Resolution. We thank him for the broad terms of this Resolution. All we are seeking to do is to reduce that figure from £700 million to £400 million, and thereby to save money to the taxpayers.
§ Mr. Mikardo (Reading)
I will take only two minutes to inquire on what basis hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite work out their arithmetic. During the course of the Debate, we have had three pieces of arithmetic offered from the Benches opposite, only one of which seemed to me to hold together at all. In the first place, I cannot see on what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) bases his argument that the proposal we are here discussing is a proposal to double the capital of the industry. If we seek to find what is the present capital of the industry, if we begin by taking the figure given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson)—I am sure no hon. Member opposite will quarrel with his authority in the electricity industry—then the present value is £800 million. To this there needs to be added—as any accountant would add, as a part of the capital value—existing commitments of £256 million, which makes the present capital value of the industry £1,056 million. To this it is proposed to add a further £444 million, namely, the difference between 1724 £256 million and £700 million. According to my arithmetic—but of course, I did not go to any university—that makes an increase of 42 per cent.
The second piece of queer arithmetic which we had came from the hon. Member for Northwich (Mr. J. Foster), who argued that we were still sticking in this amount of money to the ratio of two to one of distribution to generating costs, but if he will look at the figures, he will see that, if we take off the £100 million specifically devoted to the Scottish project, which leaves £650 million, the ratio of the amounts allowed for distribution to generation is the figure of £344 million to £256 million, which is not two to one, but 1.3 to one; so that, in point of fact, my right hon. Friend has met the objection of the hon. Gentleman and brought the two to one figure to 1.3 to one. The third piece of arithmetic, however, was quite unexceptionable. As the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) pointed out, with complete accuracy, the difference between £700 million and £400 million is £300 million.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) on his arithmetic. I feel sure that his figures were as clear to every other hon. Member as they were to me. I do not wish to be really controversial tonight but I should like to comment on the speeches made by the Minister of Fuel and Power and the Financial Secretary. I am being driven by every speech from the Front Bench into a greater determination to vote for the reduced sum. In the first place, the Minister just now gave one of the greatest of justifications for limiting the money, and that was, that we are spending this money in a time of rapidly rising, prices. That being the case, surely we do not want to put such a sum of money at the disposal of this Board as would encourage them in any extravagance; and, purely from the point of view of the taxpayers, the Minister Has, by his arguments, compelled a vote against him.
The Financial Secretary used the words "elbow room." Can anyone remember, or can anyone find a case in which the Treasury has come to this Committee of the House of Commons and said the reason why we must expend money, and give an almost indefinite sum, is to give someone elbow room? I cannot imagine 1725 any more mad or imbecile reason for asking the taxpayers for this sum of money—simply to give elbow room. I can only say as regards the finances of this country, that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, become, day by day, more like a celebrated figure in "Alice in Wonderland."
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am sorry that my expository powers were not sufficient to convince everybody that a method of compensation which, while inflation is going on, might tempt the Treasury to inflation, is unsound. But on this point with which we are now dealing, I really cannot suppose anybody wants it explained that what we are doing is highly inflationary. The Minister talks about needing elbow room—elbow room for a sort of daddy-long-legs seen through a convex glass. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury tells us that prices are rising, and that we cannot tell how far they will rise. Then how did they fix this sum? Why this sum, and no other? The Financial Secretary or the Minister must know, and J think they owe it to the Committee to tell us one of two things, either the cost
§ of putting up generating stations now, as compared with 1938 and as compared with, say, 1950—because unless they have some such estimate their figures are per fectly meaningless—or, if they cannot tell us this, to let us have the thing the other way round. All this is based upon generating capacity which, they say, the Central Electricity Board tell them to be necessary. Very well then, what was that generating capacity? For how many kilowatts or horsepower, or however they like to reckon it, is this £700,000,000 to be expected to buy extra generation? If we know that, we can relate that to the pound now, and to the pound as it was, and to the pound as we guess it is going to be; and to 700,000,000 of such pounds. But unless we know that, the whole thing is at large: they are doubling, squaring and trebling the number in a sealed envelope. And unless they tell us, the Committee ought to resist this Resolution.
§ Question put, "That 'seven' stand part of the Question."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 287; Noes, 122.1729
|Division No. 70]||AYES||[11.38 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Coldrick, W.||Follick, M.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Collick, P.||Foot, M. M.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Collindridge, F.||Forman, J. C.|
|Allen, A: C. (Bosworth)||Collins, V. J.||Foster, W. (Wigan)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Colman, Miss G. M.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Comyns, Dr. L.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Cook, T. F.||Gaitskell, H. T. N.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Cooper, Wing-Comdr, G.||Gallacher, W.|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Gibbins, J.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Crawley, A.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Crossman, R. H. S||Gilzean, A.|
|Baird, J.||Daines, P.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)|
|Balfour, A.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H||Goodrich, H. E.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)|
|Barton, C.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Battley, J. R.||Davies, Harold (Look)||Grierson, E.|
|Bechervaise, A E.||Davies, Hadyn (St. Panoras, S.W.)||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Belcher, J. W.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)|
|Bellinger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Deer, G.||Gunter, R. J.|
|Benson, G.||Delargy, Captain H. J.||Guy, W. H.|
|Bing, G. H.C.||Diamond, J.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Dobbie, W.||Hall, W. G.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Dodds, N. N.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Donovan, T.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Boardman, H.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hardman, D. R.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Hardy, E. A.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Durbin, E. F. M.||Harrison, J.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exeh'ge)||Dye, S.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Bramall, Major E. A.||Edelman, M.||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Holman, P.|
|Buchanan, G.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)|
|Burke, W. A.||Evans, John (Ogmoro)||House, G.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Hoy, J.|
|Byers, Frank||Ewart, R.||Hubbard, T.|
|Carmichaol, James||Fairhurst, F.||Hudson, J.' H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Farthing, W. J.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Field, Capt. W. J.||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)|
|Cocks, F. S||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)|
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Morley, R.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.|
|Irving, W. J.||Mort, D. L.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Janner, B.||Moyle, A.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Jay, D. P. T.||Murray, J. D||Snow, Capt J. W.|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Nally, W.||Solley, L. J.|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Nicholls, H R. (Stratford)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Stamford, W.|
|Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Keenan, W||O'Brien, T.||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Kenyon, C.||Oliver, G. H.||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Key, C. W.||Orbach, M.||Symonds, A. L.|
|King, E. M.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Pargiter, G. A.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Kinley, J.||Parker, J.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Parkin, B. T.||Thomas, I. O (Wrekin)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Lang, G.||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Thurtle, E.|
|Lavers, S.||Pearson, A||Tiffany, S.|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Titterington, M. F.|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||Tolley, L.|
|Leonard, W.||Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Lever, N. H.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Levy, B. W.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Usborne, Henry|
|Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Price, M. Philips||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Proctor, W. T.||Wadsworth, G.|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Walkden, E.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Randall, H. E.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Logan, D. G.||Ranger, J.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Longdan, F.||Rankin, J.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Lyne, A. W.||Rees-Williams, D. R.||Watson, W. M.|
|McAllister, G.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Weitzman, D.|
|MoGhee, H. G.||Rhodes, H.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Mack, J. D.||Richards, R.||West, D. G.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Robens, A.||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.|
|McKinlay, A. S.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Wilkes, L.|
|McLeavy, F.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Willey, D. G. (Cleveland)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Rogers, G. H. R.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Williamson, T|
|Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Royle, C.||Willis, E|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Sargood, R.||Wills, Mrs. E. A|
|Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Scollan, T.||Wilson, J. H.|
|Mathers, G.||Scott-Elliot, W.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Shackleton, Wing.-Cdr. E. A. A||Woodburn, A.|
|Medland, H. M.||Sharp, Granville||Woods, G S|
|Mellish, R. J.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Wyatt, W.|
|Middleton, Mrs. L||Shinwell, Rt Hon. E.||Yates, V. F.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Shurmer, P.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Millington, Wing-Comdr, E. R.||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Mitchison, Maj. G. R||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Zilliacus K.|
|Monslow, W.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Moody, A. S.||Simmons, C. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B||Skeffington, A. M.||Mr. Michael Stewart and|
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Duthie, W. S.||Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Lambert, Hon. G|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H|
|Birch, Nigel||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T|
|Boothby, R.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Linstead, H. N.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Gage, C.||MeCallum, Maj. D.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Grant, Lady||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Gridley, Sir A.||Maclay, Hon. J. S.|
|Carson, E.||Grimston, R. V.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)|
|Challen, C.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.|
|Channon, H.||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Haughton, S G.||Marlowe, A A. H.|
|Cole, T. L.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Marsden, Capt. A.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Maude, J. C.|
|Crowder, Capt. John E.||Hollis, M. C.||Medlicott, F.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Hope, Lord J.||Mellor, Sir J.|
|De la Bère, R.||Howard, Hon. A.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Digby, S. W.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Morrison, Maj. J, G. (Salisbury)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hurd, A.||Mullan, Lt. C. H.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Neven-Spence, Sir B.|
|Drewe, C.||Jarvis, Sir J.||Nicholson, G.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Jennings, R.||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Noble, Comdr. A. H. P||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland||Turton, R. H.|
|Nutting, Anthony||Ropner, Col. L.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Sanderson, Sir F.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Osborne, C.||Shephard, S. (Newark)||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Pickthorn, K.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||Whealley, Colonel M. J.|
|Pitman, I. J.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Raikes, H. V.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Ramsay, Mai, S.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Rayner, Brig. R.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Roberts, H. (Handsworth)||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.||Commander Agnew and Major Conant.|
|Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)||Touche, G. C.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Mr. John Foster
I want to go back to the point which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) put to the Financial Secretary. I think in the interests of good drafting, paragraph (a)could have been more simply worded. I think, with great respect to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, that is proved by the fact that the Financial Secretary, when he explained it, explained it wrongly. If he looks in HANSARD tomorrow at what he said he will see that he said the paragraph (a)did two things. It provided £700 million for the development of industry and it also provided an unspecified amount for compensation. He then added that there was a "common form" of phrasing to cope with money which had been temporarily borrowed. As a matter of fact, it is more than that. If the Financial Secretary examines the wording of paragraph (a)he will find that it is also to pay for any amounts outstanding in respect of stock that has been issued, as well as money temporarily borrowed. I think he corrected himself, but he did say money temporarily borrowed.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I dealt with that. As a matter of fact, it is the other way round. I knew that it covered both, but I raid, by way of example, that it covered redemption of stock. What I did not say was that it covered temporary borrowing. One cannot do everything in one speech.
§ Mr. Foster
With great respect, the only thing that the Financial Secretary did say was that it covered temporary borrowing. I submit that the paragraph would have been more simply drafted if it had said that it authorised the payment of £700 million plus compensation, plus money to redeem or refund stock or money borrowed temporarily. There 1730 have been discussions in the past as to what a Money Resolution means, and the fact that the Financial Secretary says he said one thing when, in fact, he said another shows the confusion which arises. I think we should all be grateful if Money Resolutions in future were more precisely drawn.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
We have no intention of dividing the Committee against the Money Resolution, because we are in favour of a reasonable expenditure of money on electrical extension. We were making our protest against what the Financial Secretary called giving elbow room, which is the last thing that should be given to the Executive by the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Pitman
There is one point submitted by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) which the Financial Secretary either did not understand or else in regard to which he was not being fair. In any case he slid off the issue completely. My hon. Friend was referring to line 7, and if the Financial Secretary will look at the Resolution he will see that it says:…any guarantee by the Treasury of the principal of and interest on stock. …He was not primarily referring to the North Metropolitan Power Company. What he did ask was, how valid was that guarantee in line 7? Is the Financial Secretary prepared without any prevarication, to say that the Government intend really to stand by that guarantee, because the stockholders of the North Metropolitan Power Company, at least, consider that a Government guarantee has not been met? It is not a question of whether they are right or wrong, or what the Financial Secretary says; it is the question of the new guarantee and the new stockholders. It is essential in their interests that there should be a clear statement that the Government mean 1731 what the public think they ought to mean. My hon. Friend asked the Financial Secretary to give that guarantee and the Committee is entitled to know that the word "guarantee" does mean what it is accepted by this Committee as meaning.
§ Sir J. Mellor
Now that the question has been asked by three hon. Members from this side of the House, are we not entitled to an answer from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury?
§ Resolution to be reported Tomorrow.
§ Committee to sit again Tomorrow.