§ Amendments reported (according to order).
Moved, Before Clause 1, to insert the following Clause:—
Notwithstanding anything in the Electric Lighting Act 1882 no Provisional Order authorizing the supply of electricity by any undertakers within the district of any Local Authority shall be granted by the Board of Trade except with the consent of such Local Authority, unless the Board of Trade in any case in which the consent of such Local Authority is refused are of opinion that, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, such consent ought to be dispensed with, and in such case they shall make a special report stating the grounds upon which they have dispensed with such consent."—(The Lord Houghton.)
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, that several Bills dealing with electric lighting had been referred to a Select Committee some time ago. The Committee heard a great deal of evidence not only from Local Authorities in various towns throughout the country, but from many other persons interested in electric lighting. The opinion at which the majority 1834 of the Committee arrived was that although it was fair that at the end of a certain number of years Local Authorities should be allowed to purchase electric lighting plant, yet that it would not be fair to give them an undue preference. In consequence of that decision this clause, which formed part of an Electric Lighting Bill before the Committee, was, after discussion, deliberately rejected by a majority of the Committee. The noble Lord now said that he had since received communications from the Members of that Committee to the effect that they viewed with indifference the restoration of this clause in the Bill. This clause conferred on Local Authorities in various districts a power which had not even been granted to them by the obsolete Act of 1882. By that Act Local Authorities were given a power of prohibition of licences; but they had no power of prohibition in the Electric Lighting Act of 1882 for Provisional Orders. This clause, however, conferred on Local Authorities the power of voting Provisional Orders. After hearing all the evidence the Committee deliberately rejected the clause on the ground that it was giving Local Authorities undue power created now for the first time, and which did not exist in the Act of 1882. But now the noble Lord came down, in the last hours of a dying Parliament, and tried to insert this clause rejected by the Committee. He submitted that such a proceeding was not fair. If anything was to be gained by such tactics he could imagine the noble Lord making a fight for the clause; but there was really nothing to be gained by this attempt to reinstate the clause. The fact was that the noble Lord wished to have something on record in favour of the Local Authorities, which had not yet been recorded by their Lordships. He protested against the attempt, and opposed the insertion of the clause.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
said, he wished to correct the noble Viscount in two particulars. The first was that it was not quite correct to say that the Committee rejected the clause. The Committee divided evenly upon it; five voted in favour of the clause, and five against it, and by the Rules of their Lordships' House the decision was that the "Noes" had it.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
said, he wished to inform the House that in the Committee the numbers were even on the division, and that one Member of the Committee was absent. He advised their Lordships to accept the clause, because he could assure them that the Committee conducted its labours with the greatest possible care, and considered both sides of the question in the most impartial manner. The clause did not actually alter the existing law in any sense which gave the Local Authorities any power; it simply recognized the existence of the Local Authorities, and said that their consent was to be given in the case of Provisional Orders, and that if they refused that consent in an unreasonable manner the Board of Trade should have the opportunity of overruling it. He supported the clause because it did not give any new power to the Local Authorities, and because it was a very reasonable one to insert in the Bill.
§ On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 24; Not-Contents 37: Majority 13.