§ (1) Subject to the provisions of this section, it shall be the duty of the Generating Board to provide in England and Wales, and it shall be the duty of the Scottish Electricity Boards to provide in their respective Districts, a supply of electricity to meet the requirements for haulage or traction of railway undertakers.
§ (2) A supply of electricity to railway undertakers may be provided—
- (a) in England or Wales by the South of Scotland Board with the approval of the Generating Board;
- (b) in the South of Scotland District by the Generating Board with the approval of the South of Scotland Board; or
- (c) in the District of either of the Scottish Electricity Boards by the other of them, with the approval of the Board in whose District the supply is provided.
§ (3) An Area Board shall no, except with the approval of the Generating Board, supply electricity to railway undertakers for purposes of haulage or traction.
§ (4) Nothing in the last preceding subsection shall be construed as authorising an Area Board to supply electricity to railway undertakers in the area of another Area Board. or in the District of a Scottish Electricity Board, except with the agreement of that Board or an authorisation given by the Electricity Council or the Secretary of State (in accordance with the provisions of subsections (4) and (5) of section one of the principal Act), as well as the approval of the Generating Board -as required by the last preceding subsection.
(5) The terms and conditions on which electricity is supplied by an Electricity Board to any railway undertakers for the purposes of haulage or traction shall be such as may be agreed between the Board and the undertakers or. in default of such agreement, as may be determined by the appropriate Ministers:
Provided that any terms and conditions so agreed or determined shall be such as, in the opinion of the Board, or of the appropriate Ministers, as the case may be. will not cause a financial loss to result to the Board from the provision of the supply.
§ (6) Where the terms and conditions on which electricity is supplied by an Electricity Board to any railway undertakers for purposes of haulage or traction are determined by the appropriate Ministers, that determination—
- (a)shall not extend to the terms and conditions on which any electricity so supplied may be used by the undertakers for other purposes, and
- (b) shall not he taken to preclude the Board and the undertakers from subsequently varying the terms and conditions so determined by agreement between them
§ (7) An Electricity Board may enter into an agreement with any railway undertakers, to whom the Board are to supply electricity for purposes of haulage or traction. whereby any of that electricity may be used by the undertakers for other purposes, on such terms and conditions as may be specified in the agreement.
§ (8) Without prejudice to any other enactment providing for the protection of telegraphic lines belonging to or used by the Postmaster General, any electricity supplied under this section to any railway undertakers shall be used in such manner as not to cause. or to be likely to cause, any interference (whether by induction or otherwise) with any such telegraphic line, or with telegraphic communication by means of any such line.
§ (9) In this section "the appropriate Ministers", in relation to Electricity Boards in England and Wales. means the Minister and the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation acting jointly. and, in relation to Scottish Electricity Boards, means the Secretary of State and the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation acting jointly, and "telegraphic line" has the same meaning as in the Telegraph Act. 1878.—[Mr. Maudling]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The Paymaster-General (Mr. Reginald Maudling)
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)
On a point of order. May I point out, Mr. Speaker, that it was impossible until 13. 55 hours today to get the bound copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee stage of this Bill? This has put hon. Members on both sides of the House to great inconvenience, and I should like to draw it especially to your attention, Mr. Speaker, so that there shall not be a repetition and that on the Report stage of Bills in future hon. Members may have available to them a bound copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Maudling
Perhaps I should explain why the Clause appears for the first time on Report and did not appear in Committee. One normally tries to avoid introducing on Report new issues which have not been considered in Committee, but I think it will be regarded as excusable on this occasion that we did not 405 do so. In fact, the Clause makes very little substantial difference to the present system, but it was not possible to introduce it earlier because discussions were taking place between the interested parties—the electricity authorities and the railway authorities —and these were not concluded in time for us to table the Clause for the Committee.
The Clause deals with the provision of electric power for haulage and traction on the railways, a problem which at present is dealt with by Section 49 of the principal Act. There are two reasons for changing the existing statutory provisions. The first is that Section 49 needs some amendment to bring its provisions into line with the changed constitution of the electricity industry as a whole. The amendments to Section 49 are consequential upon the effects which the Bill has on the organisation of the industry.
The second reason for introducing these provisions is that Section 49 of the principal Act declared that the Ministers responsible should lay down regulations determining the terms and conditions under which power is supplied by the nationalised electricity authorities to the railways. In practice, it has been found impossible to draw up suitable regulations for the reason, I am advised, that if the regulations were detailed enough to have practical effect they might be ultra vires whereas if they were broad enough to be intra vires they would do little more than say that the Minister approved the agreement reached between the parties themselves.
We are now approaching the problem in a slightly different fashion. Perhaps I can explain the purpose of the new Clause fairly briefly. It provides that the Generating Board and the Scottish Electricity Boards should, in the first place, supply electricity to the railway undertakers in their own areas.
Subsection (1) provides that the Generating Board in England and Wales and the Scottish Electricity Boards in their areas of Scotland are responsible for supplying electricity to the railway undertakers. Subsection (2) provides that by agreement between them the supply of electricity can cross over the Border, which is obviously common sense; the Generating Board can supply electricity for traction to railways in Scotland in agreement with the Scottish Boards and vice versa.
406 Subsections (3) and (4) provide that in certain circumstances the area boards shall be able to provide this power to a railways undertaker. This power on the part, of area boards is circumscribed in two ways. In the first place, they cannot do it without the express approval of the Generating Board; in this case it is not merely consultation but it requires the approval of the Generating Board. Secondly, no area board may overlap its own area other than by agreement with the other authority concerned or, as provided in subsection (4), with an authorisation given by the Electricity Council or the Secretary of State.
Subsection (5) is perhaps the main operative section. In place of regulations laid down under the principal Act it provides that the terms and conditions on which electricity shall be supplied to the railways shall be agreed between the two parties concerned and only in default of agreement shall the appropriate Ministers —who are defined in subsection (9)—give a determination. It also lays down, as was laid down in the principal Act in 1947, that any such terms and conditions, whether agreed or determined, shall be such as shall not cause a financial loss to result to the board. In other words, boards shall not be called upon either by agreement or by determination to provide an electricity supply to the railway undertakings at a loss.
Subsection (6) says that where the Minister makes a determination this shall not apply to the terms and conditions upon which electricity supplied to the railways is used for purposes other than haulage and traction. Subsection (7) empowers the electricity boards to enter into an agreement with railway undertakers on the terms and conditions on which electricity supplied by an electricity board may be used by the railway undertakers for purposes other than haulage and traction.
Subsection (8) substantially repeats the provisions of Section 49 of the 1947 Act protecting the equipment of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General from being interfered with by activities of railways undertakers with their electricity supply. Subsection (9) defines the appropriate Minister, which in this case means the Minister and the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation acting jointly and 407 in the case of Scotland means the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation acting jointly.
That is the purpose of the new Clause. It is rather long and complicated, but its effect is relatively simple and I hope that it will commend itself to the House. The two basic purposes are, first, to bring the provisions of Section 49 of the principal Act into line with the changes in the constitution of the industry which the Bill makes effective; and, secondly, to provide terms upon which electricity supplied for the purposes of railway haulage and traction shall be subject not to Ministerial regulation but to agreement between the parties concerned and to a Ministerial determination only in the absence of agreement between them.
§ Mr. Hobson
I find myself more or less in agreement with the new Clause, with one possible exception about subsection (6. a), to which I shall come in a few moments. The Clause is obviously the result of a promise given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power in Committee, when he said that he would study the comments of my right hon. Friends on the fact that, as the Bill stood in Committee, it would have been possible, under the new powers of the area boards to generate electricity, for the area boards themselves to supply electricity to the British Transport Commission for haulage purposes. We pointed out that that was very unsatisfactory, for reasons with which I do not wish to weary the House, because they were amply given in Committee.
The Clause seeks to alter that position, because, when the small power stations are built—if they are, which is problematical—the area boards will not be able to supply electrical energy to the railways without the consent of the Generating Board. That is a welcome step and I can see no objection to it. I welcome the fact that the Minister himself will have the final power to arbitrate between the Generating Board and the Transport Commission in any dispute which may arise.
Various criticisms have to be made about subsection (6, a). I cannot see why the Transport Commission, which will buy in bulk millions of kilowatts, because of the new electrification programmes for the main lines, should not 408 be able to put in appropriate transformers for the works at Crewe, Derby. or Darlington. Why should not the same tariff apply? Why has there to be a special agreement? Why should the Commission have to go to the trouble of having separate agreements, presumably with the area boards, for electricity supplies for its workshops? That seems to be entirely wrong. It is carping, it is mean, it is niggardly. What is the point?
Once a bulk tariff has been agreed between the Generating Board and the Transport Commission, I should have thought that it would not have been found necessary to have separate agreements with the various area boards. That will give the Board power to make profit on two separate occasions. I am sure that the Board will welcome that, but I do not see why we should saddle a public utility, or, indeed, a private firm if it has to buy in bulk, as the Commission has, with separate agreements so that the Board can make two sets of profit. I hope that the Paymaster-General will have something to say about subsection (6, a), which seems to be entirely wrong.
It is also wrong according to practice and precedent. Let us see what happens at present and let us take the example of London Transport. I have a little experience of London Transport's generating stations. London Transport has three stations generating electricity for London Transport underground railways and it also supplies electricity for the workshops at Neasden and elsewhere. It does not lose by having to buy electricity from the London Electricity Board to power workshops. That arrangement is not being forced upon London Transport. Why are the Government seeking to insert this provision? Insufficient thought has been given to this matter, because it logically follows that the main line railways cannot be forced to have conditions worse than those granted to London Transport. However, with that reservation, I support the new Clause.
§ Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)
I rise only to ask for some information about the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. The Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Act, 1943, setting up the Hydro-Electric Board, gave it a special position and 409 ordered it to give certain priorities to local inhabitants of the North of Scotland and to do things other than supply electricity, in short, to help to develop the North of Scotland. As last year was very dry, the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board had to buy an enormous amount of current from the South. If it is to have the duty, which subsection (1) of the new Clause imposes, of providing a supply of electricity for the railways, in addition to its priority duties, will the safeguards in the 1943 Act be enough?
It is, of course, true that none of these supply arrangements can be agreed without agreement between the Board and the railway undertaking, with the additional agreement of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I suppose that the safeguard is the agreement of the Secretary of State. There is not a Scottish Minister on the Front Bench at present. but in spite of that, I ask the Paymaster-General to speak up for Scotland and to assure me, as representing one of the constituencies served by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, that that priority in the 1943 Act for the benefit of local inhabitants will come before any duty under subsection (1) of the new Clause.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
Subsection (8) of the Clause says:… any electricity supplied under this section to any railway undertakers shall be used in such manner as not to cause, or to be likely to cause, any interference (whether by induction or otherwise) with any such telegraphic line, or with telegraphic communication by means of any such line.That subsection is obviously for the protection of the Postmaster-General. Is the Paymaster-General aware that these electricity lines can also cause an enormous amount of interference with television reception? In my constituency there have been many complaints of that sort which have been proved and the area board has gone to considerable trouble to put the matter right. I do not know whether it is feasible to include in the new Clause some such protection for the public.
§ Mr. Maudling
By leave of the House, the point raised by the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) goes far beyond the purposes of the Clause, which deals solely with 410 the supply of electric power to the railways. It was, no doubt, a very interesting point, but it did not come within the scope of the Clause
I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) that the Clause makes no difference to the duties or privileges of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, or other Scottish boards. It merely follows the principles of Section 49 of the main Act as amended by the Electricity Reorganisation (Scotland) Act, 1954. The duty still remains to provide electricity for railway haulage purposes in the area and the boards are entitled to bargain with their neighbours to buy electricity, if they wish to do so.
I was a little surprised that the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. C. R. Hobson) should have raised the point about subsection (6, a), because in this matter we are completely following the Act of 1947, which provided, and, I think, rightly, that when there are special provisions for the supply of electricity to the railways for haulage purposes that special provision should not extend to other purposes. I see no reason why it should. I do not see why for other purposes the railways should not get their electricity by agreement with the supplies in the same way as any other consumer of electricity does.
§ Mr. Hobson
Other suppliers would not have to get two separate sets of agreements for the same works and the right hon. Gentleman should not insist on separate agreements for the railways.
§ Mr. Maudling
There is no need to have separate agreements. That is exactly the point. The Clause says that this shall be done primarily by agreement between the electricity and the railway people. That part of the 1947 Act from which we are departing says that regulations shall be made by the Minister to deal with electricity supply for haulage or traction and that electricity for other purposes shall be supplied by agreement.
We are saying that there shall be agreement between the two parties about all electricity supply and only when there is disagreement shall the Minister come into it. When that happens, which, I hope, will not be very often, any Ministerial settlement of the dispute shall apply solely to the electricity supplied to the 411 railways for traction and haulage, and for other electricity the parties shall, as now, reach agreement in the normal course, as do other consumers.
§ Mr. Arthur Palmer (Cleveland)
I think I can say that, generally speaking, hon. Members on this side of the House welcome the Clause. It seems to be the only way of getting over the difficulty caused by the fact that Regulations have not been made, as was required under the principal Act, either by the present Government or by the previous Administration. It may be that at certain stages it was not possible to make them, or the matter may have been overlooked. Something of that kind must have happened.
The right hon. Gentleman is rather optimistic to suppose that disagreements will not arise as between the boards and the railway undertakings. We are now facing a tremendous programme of railway electrification, quite rightly, and the electricity boards, the Generating Board and, conceivably, under certain circumstances, area boards will be asked to supply electricity in large quantities to transport undertakings. I can hardly imagine that disagreements as to the exact terms, conditions and prices will not arise from time to time.
That raises an interesting issue. The Clause says that in the event of a disagreement between electricity undertakings and railway undertakings it is to be left to the appropriate Ministers to determine the issue. The Ministers concerned are the Minister of Power and the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation.
§ Mr. Palmer
Oh, yes, I beg my hon. Friend's pardon—and the Secretary of State for Scotland.
It is noticeable that in the event of the Ministers or the Government making the determination there is a provisothat any terms and conditions so agreed or determined shall be such as, in the opinion of the Board, or of the appropriate Ministers, as the case may be, will not cause a financial loss to result to the Board from the provision of the supply.There is no suggestion that it should show a profit to the electricity board. In such circumstances the electricity board is obliged to supply the railway under- 412 takings in such a way that there will be no financial loss to the board. I suggest that it is not quite so open an arrangement—perhaps unavoidably so—as the earlier one, under which regulations which were subject to scrutiny had to be made, because it is just possible that it might suit a Government to provide, in a rather under-cover way, a subsidy to the railway undertakings from the boards.
It is laid down that the arrangements shall be such that there shall be no financial loss to the board, and if the reference is to an electricity board I wonder whether that is a possibility. If I am wrong in that suspicion, no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will explain the matter to us.
§ Sir F. Soskice
It may be unusual, but I have not heard that the Chair is adversely disposed to me at the moment.
I want to ask a question about the drafting of sub-section (6), arising out of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. C. R. Hobson), because I do not think that the intention is very clear. Subsection (6) relates to the caseWhere the terms and conditions on which electricity is supplied by an Electricity Board to any railway undertakers for purposes of haulage or traction are determined by the appropriate Ministers…That is to say, it relates to the case where the Ministers have made a determination relating to the conditions upon which electricity is to be supplied for the purposes of haulage or traction. It contemplates that the Ministers shall determine what are to be the conditions upon which, for those specific purposes, namely, haulage and traction, electricity is to be supplied to a railway undertaker.
Paragraph (a) provides that in that case, that is to say, where there has been a determination of conditions relating to the user for haulage or traction, the determination is not to extend to something else. It is not to extend to the conditions upon which electricity is to be used for other purposes.
413 I cannot understand the apparent dichotomy. The Clause starts by saying that where there has been a determination as to the conditions upon which electricity is to he used for haulage or traction—and, therefore, upon the assumption that the determination goes no further than dealing with the user for haulage or traction—it is not to extend to other purposes. Ex hypothesi, if it extends only to haulage or traction purposes it will not extend to other purposes.
I submit, in all seriousness, in spite of the protests which I am sorry to have occasioned, that there is some ambiguity in the drafting. We do not want ambiguity to remain in this useful Clause. It is difficult to determine what is meant. I have looked at Section 49 of the 1947 Act, but that Section is in quite different terms and does not give rise to this ambiguity. I do not know what the Government mean by this paragraph. What is the point of saying that when the Ministers have determined the conditions relating to one user, that determination is not to relate to the user for some other purpose? If it relates to only one user, in the very nature of things it does not extend to something else.
I am quite sure that some very useful purpose is wrapped up in the very ambiguous language, and I am sure that the House would be glad to know what purpose it is intended to fulfil. It would be still more useful if it were discernible, and if the Minister can reveal its purpose to us i shall be grateful. I gave him the opportunity of receiving some spiritual sustenance from his advisers, and it looked as though that sustenance was being fed to him. If he can explain some of this ambiguous and tergiversational language to us, we may be ready to accept the Clause because, subject to that defect, I think that my hon. Friends feel that the Clause would be a useful addition to the Bill.
§ Mr. Maudling
If I may speak again, by leave of the House, I think that the provisions of the 1947 Act, which was a Measure introduced by hon. Members opposite, was very sound in regard to this matter. Hon. Members opposite seem to be somewhat critical of us for attempting to follow those provisions. The hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) criticised the phrase:will not cause a financial loss.414 That is exactly parallel to the phrase "avoid financial loss" in section 49 (2) of the 1947 Act, which, I believe, was introduced by way of an Amendment moved by the then Conservative Opposition.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I should like to reinforce what I have said. I have studied Section 49, and if the Minister had been about to refer to the difficulty which perplexes me, I would point out that I could not find a solution in the language of that Act, which does not seem to me to be parallel.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Maudling
No, Sir. I was dealing at that moment with the point put by the hon. Member for Cleveland about financial losses. This is an exact copy of the 1947 Act provision which was introduced by the Conservative Opposition at the time, and accepted by the then Government, to prevent the subsidisation of the railways by the electricity boards. It is being continued, and, I think, rightly so.
I can best explain the point raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in this way. Clearly. electricity supplies to the railway companies may be used either for haulage and traction or for other purposes such as lighting hotels, or to provide heating, or something like that. One would normally think that for whatever purpose the electricity was used, the companies would pay on the same basis.
§ Mr. Maudling
That normally would be the thing, but in the case of the railways a different principle was introduced by the 1947 Act which distinguished between electricity supplied for the purposes of haulage or traction and electricity supplied for other purposes, because subsection (2) deals with haulage or traction purposes and lays down that there shall be regulations made by the Minister.
Subsection (3) states:Where electricity is supplied by an electricity board to any railway undertakers for the purposes of haulage or traction, the board may enter into an agreement with the railway undertakers for the use of that supply, on such terms and conditions as may be agreed "—there is no word of regulations, they can be agreed—for any other purposes for which electricity may he required by the railway undertakers,415 Therefore, we have in the Act of 1947 the position that electricity is being supplied by the electricity boards to the railway companies; and in so far as it is supplied for the purposes of haulage and traction, the price and the terms and conditions are subject to Ministerial regulation under subsection (2). But in so far as it is used for other purposes, it falls under subsection (3) and, there, the terms and conditions are subject to agreement and not to Ministerial interference.
In our new Clause we are maintaining the same distinction but we substitute "agreement" in the first place and "Ministerial determination" in the second, for the provision for regulations made in subsection (2), and the provision in subsection (3) that where the electricity supplied is used for other purposes, the terms and conditions on which it is obtained should be a matter of agreement and not a matter of regulation at all, as it would have been under the 1947 Act.
I think that we are clearly following the principle and distinction made in Section 49 of the principal Act. I hope that I have succeeded in persuading hon. Gentleman opposite that this is a sensible and useful Clause.
§ Question put and agreed to
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill