§ (The Viscount Bury.)
§ VISCOUNT BURY
, in moving that these two Bills should be referred to a Select Committee, said, that the matter must be dealt with, to a great extent, on expert evidence. The principle to which he attached importance was that the term for the purchase of the undertakings should be extended from 21 years to a much longer period, and the object of the Committee would be to inquire from experts what was the shortest term that could be given for working which would permit of capital being raised for electric light undertakings.
§ Moved, "That the Bills be referred to a Select Committee."—(The Viscount Bury.)
§ LORD HOUGHTON
, in reply, said, that Her Majesty's Government had no complaint to make against either of the noble Lords; on the contrary, they quite admitted that the present position of electric enterprize fully warranted them in bringing in these Bills. Although the Electric Lighting Act of 1882 contained some valuable provisions, nevertheless he did not doubt that the time had arrived for relaxing some of its most stringent clauses. The Board of Trade had, in relation to this matter, to consider three separate interests—those of the inventors, those of the Local Authorities, and those of the public. Her Majesty's Government believed that electric lighting had a very brilliant future before it, provided sufficient security was taken that new and perpetual monopolies were not created. He objected to the Bill of the noble Lord (Lord Rayleigh) on the ground that although it was politely called an Amendment Bill it was really intended to entirely destroy the Act of 1882, and to establish a new series of vested interests. The Government, having taken the best opinions, found it was not necessary to alter the law regarding the right of consumers to choose their own burners. The noble Lord's argument seemed to be that because a bad bargain had been made with the Gas Companies they were bound to go 10 on making such bargains. He appealed with great confidence to their Lordships not to aid the noble Lord in establishing a new monopoly. As to the Bill of the noble Viscount (Viscount Bury), he (Lord Houghton) was bound to say that the Government thought the present Purchase Clause was a fair one, and did not work badly; but the Bill of the noble Viscount would create a more dangerous, because a more insidious, form of monopoly. What Her Majesty's Government were prepared to do in their Bill was to extend the maximum term during which a Provisional Order should remain in force from 21 years to 30 years, and, with the consent of the Local Authority, to 42 years from the date of the concession, the Companies to have three months' notice in order to enable them to arrive at some new arrangement. Her Majesty's Government, however, could not consent to their Bill being referred, with those now under discussion, to a Select Committee. He, therefore, appealed to the noble Viscount to withdraw his Motion for referring these Bills to a Select Committee; or, at all event, to postpone it until he had seen the Government measure, which would be laid before the House in a day or two. In his opinion, this subject could be better discussed in Committee of the Whole House than by a Select Committee.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
asked whether it was intended that the three Bills should be referred to a Select Committee?
§ VISCOUXT BURY
said, that an extended term of 30 years would not be sufficient. If the noble Lord did not intend that the Government Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, and refused to agree to a further extension of the term beyond 30 years, he should go to a division upon his present Motion. If the noble Lord, however, would agree to refer the Government Bill to the same Select Committee to which these Bills were to be sent he would gladly withdraw his Motion.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
said, that when the House had seen the Government Bill it would then be for their Lordships to decide whether the three Bills should be sent to the same Select Committee.
§ Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.