§ 1.50 a.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. J. Henderson Stewart)
I beg to move,That the Draft Civil Defence (South of Scotland Electricity Board) Regulations, 1956, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23rd February, be approved.These Regulations enable the Secretary of State for Scotland to do three things. The first is to give instructions to the South of Scotland Electricity Board about the measures that should be taken to safeguard and to maintain its undertaking in the event of hostile attack. The second is to call for reports from the Board. The third is to pay grant towards the expenses incurred by the Board on such measures as, with the approval of the Treasury, the Secretary of State may approve. The Regulations are on the same lines as the Civil Defence (North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board) Regulations, 1954, which the House approved on 23rd March of that year.
As the House knows, the Secretary of State assumed responsibility for electricity in the South of Scotland last year, and the Regulations give him the same power in relation to the South of Scotland Board as he now enjoys in relation to the Hydro-Electric Board, and, incidentally, the same powers as the Minister of Fuel and Power has in relation to the Central Electricity Authority and the area boards in England and Wales.
I shall be glad to answer any questions, but I think that I have said enough to commend the Regulations to the House.
§ 1.52 a.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
I have gathered from what the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has said that these Regulations are rendered necessary because of the passing of the Electricity Re-organisation (Scotland) Act, 1954, under which the responsibility for the generation and distribution of electricity in the South of Scotland was transferred from the Minister of Fuel and Power to the Secretary of State for Scotland. It would seem that for the past twelve months or so the electricity Minister for the purpose of Civil Defence Regulations has continued to be the Minister 1205 of Fuel and Power. I should be glad if the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, although I think I can scarcely be wrong, because he has explained that these Regulations are similar to the Regulations for the North of Scotland Electricity Board.
Could the hon. Gentleman answer one or two other questions also? Paragraph 2 increases from one half the grant that may be made to the public utility undertakings under Section 39 of the Civil Defence Act, 1939, to a new figure of 52¾ per cent. It is rather an odd percentage. I am not complaining about the slight increase in the percentage grant to these public authorities, but could we be told where the power comes from to increase the grant which is set out in an Act of Parliament as being not more than one half? Could we also know by what calculation the figure of 52¾ per cent. was reached?
As I turned over the page to paragraph 3, and looked at the list of Sections and subsections of the 1939 Act which are brought into force in relation to notices, reports or other action under these Regulations. I found it rather confusing as I checked the list. It did not seem to me necessary to bring in most of them. For instance, Section 76 deals with rules as to form of reports, which seems to be inappropriate.
Section 77 deals with penalties for false statements, which also seems to be unnecessary, because those are dealt with already in the Regulations. Section 78 deals with criminal liability of directors, officers, etc., and also seems to be unnecessary, but perhaps I am wrong.
I should also like to know if bringing into force Section 78 of the 1939 Act really provides that any failure to comply with any directions given under these Regulations may involve an individual officer of the South of Scotland Board in proceedings, in like manner as any failure would involve proceedings against the Board.
Section 79 is also mentioned as being brought into force and seems to me to have no relevance whatever to these Regulations, but I may be wrong, and so I should be glad if the hon. Gentleman can tell me what relevance it has, and whether Section 80 has any relevance either.
1206 I can understand that Section 91 (28) has relevance, but some of the others seem to be irrelevant, and so I should be obliged for an explanation of these inclusions.
§ 1.57 a.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I will try quickly to answer those questions. The Minister of Fuel and Power handed over all responsibility for the South of Scotland Board at the time of the passing of the Act, and it was thought at that time that the terms of the Act gave to the Secretary of State the power to do what is wanted in these Regulations. The lawyers have recently advised us that that was not technically so. That is why the change has to be made.
As to Regulation 2, I think that the hon. Gentleman will know that while the Minister of Fuel and Power was responsible for the Southern Board the figure used was 52¾ per cent. That was also the figure used for the Hydro-Electric Board. All we have done is to carry on that already established percentage.
§ Mr. Fraser
What confuses me is where this Regulation departs from the provisions of Section 39 of the 1939 Act. I checked that Section, which says that the Minister cannot grant more than half of the expenditure. The Regulation which we are now asked to approve says that the half will be changed to 52¾ per cent.
§ Mr. Stewart
The change was made in 1954, I think, and was done with the approval of the House. How the figure arises is rather a complicated piece of taxation mathematics. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the figure has been in operation for a considerable time.
As to the last point, the hon. Gentleman properly asked what these various Sections had to do with the matter. Regulation 3 applies various Sections of the Civil Defence Act, 1939, to action taken under the Regulations. Sections 79 and 91 of that Act allow entry on and inspection of premises where due functioning measures are taken. That is obviously necessary.
Section 62 (1) and (3) allows in certain circumstances the use of land for due functioning purposes notwithstanding restrictive covenants. Obviously that is necessary. Section 76 allows the form of reports to be prescribed. Section 77 provides penalties for false statements. 1207 Section 80 provides for the service of documents.
I can assure the House that all these matters have been carefully considered with the Board, and we are satisfied that they are necessary.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Draft Civil Defence (South of Scotland Electricity Board) Regulations, 1956, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23rd February, be approved.