HC Deb 01 July 1957 vol 572 cc768-9

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

I wish to put a point to the right hon. Gentleman which deals with the South of Scotland Electricity Board. The Committee will recollect that, as a result of the amalgamation of the South Eastern and the South Western Electricity Boards, we had the formation of the South of Scotland Electricity Board in 1955. We discussed it in 1954 and it took effect in 1955.

It will be within the recollection of most hon. Members that the 1947 Electricity Act, as is indicated in the Finance Bill, laid down in Section 40 (3) that the nationalised industries, so far as concerned Profits Tax, should not operate under more favourable conditions than private industry. I take it that both the South Western and the South Eastern Electricity Boards operated under the conditions in that Clause in the 1947 Electricity Act.

7.0 p. m.

Why is it that it is only now that the South of Scotland Electricity Board is coming under that part of the Bill? Why did not this Clause, as seems to me it ought to have done, appear in last year's Finance Bill? That would appear to lead one to the belief that during the period since its inception the South of Scotland Electricity Board has been outwith the operation of the 1947 Act. The point that occurred to me when I saw this Clause in the Bill this year was: why was it not in the Bill last year?

It may be—and I think that this is correct—that there were no profits to show in its operation and, because of that, the Chancellor of the Exchequer a year ago said, "What is the use of bringing the Board within the operation of the Electricity Act if there are no profits with which to deal?" This seems to me rather a weak excuse. It is possible that the Treasury had forgotten altogether about the South of Scotland Electricity Board. Now that its existence has been discovered it has been decided to bring the Board into the Finance Bill. Perhaps the Chancellor or the Financial Secretary will enlighten us on the matter.

Mr. Powell

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) has quite correctly explained the general effect of the Clause. I can assure him that there is no gap left by the Clause after the period when the South of Scotland Electricity Board came into effect, because I am advised—perhaps this is retrospective in another context—that it will have effect from the time of the South of Scotland Electricity Board coming into existence.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.