HL Deb 23 April 1888 vol 325 cc145-7

House in Committee (according to Order).

Clause 2 (Repeal of s. 27 of 45 & 46 Vict. c. 56. Purchase of undertaking by local authority).


moved to omit the words "the goodwill of the business and of," on the ground that they rendered uncertain the elements of value in the property of the Companies to be taken over. He desired, at the same time, that at the expiration of the period during which the Companies' privileges were to endure, their plant and material should be valued as being in situ, and as suitable for the purposes for which they were intended, instead of being taken over at the "old iron" value.

Amendment moved, in page 2, line 3, to leave out ("market"), and leave out ("the goodwill of the business and of").—(The Earl of Camperdown.)


said, that inasmuch as it was understood that the noble and learned Lord opposite intended to propose an Amendment upon this clause, it would be convenient if he would now state the effect of that Amendment.


said, that the effect of his proposed Amendment would be to insure that at the expiration of the Companies' term their plant and material should be taken over at the price it would fetch as being ready for immediate working.


said, he hoped that the word "goodwill" would not be omitted from the Bill. When the measure was before the Select Committee the Committee appeared to be divided into two parties—one in favour of giving the Companies a right to the value of their goodwill, and the other in favour of treating their businesses as those of breaking up concerns.


said, that in justice to the public they should make it clear a time would come when the Companies would no longer be justified in putting fresh capital into their works for the purpose of keeping them in going order, and, in fact, to save themselves would have to starve the business.


said, he confessed that his first view with respect to a matter of this kind was that if compulsory powers for purchase of a going concern were enacted, the full value of the going concern at the time of purchase ought to be given. He did not see that there was any reason why, in the nature of things, the Electric Lighting Companies should be burdened with burdens different from those placed upon other industries. He understood, however, that the Companies themselves on the whole preferred that this word should be left out, and as their Lordships ought not to affect to be wiser than the Companies themselves as to their own interests, ho was content on their representation to vote for its omission. But in doing so he did not wish to bind himself at any future time not to vote for its inclusion, for he could not in the least assent to the view, either, on the one hand, that this industry should be subjected to greater burdens than were imposed upon others, or, on the other, that they were entitled to any special preference.


said, that he agreed with very much that the noble Marquess had said. He had always thought it desirable to provide against unreasonable terms being required if the Local Authorities wished to purchase these undertakings; but he had never seen any reason why special burdens should be imposed upon the undertakers. If the condition were imposed upon them that at the and of any given term they should not receive the full value of their property, they would recoup themselves in some other way, as by making higher charges. The present generation would thus pay more for the electric light in order that some 30 or 40 years hence the next generation should have it for less than they ought to pay. At the same time, he recognized the difficulties of the situation, and if the Bill could not be got through without, he agreed that the word "goodwill" should be struck out of this clause. He would prefer that instead of the term "goodwill" the words "market value" should be substituted. This was all that any reasonable person could expect to obtain.


said, that it was only on the same ground England to the Commission about to be taken by his noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) that he consented to this Amendment.


said, he was quite willing to assent to the Motion. It was essential for the passage of the Bill through "another place" that the word "goodwill" should not be in it. What he dreaded was that unless the purchase of these undertakings was made a fair one—and more than fair, liberal—during the last few years of the term the undertakers would be tempted to do what was called scamp the undertaking. He had consulted the representatives of most of the London and Provincial Electric Lighting Companies, and he had come to the conclusion that the prolongation of the term from 21 years to 42 years, as now proposed, would be sufficient to insure the public against overcharge. On behalf of the Companies he was authorized to accept this Amendment, as they were satisfied that the prolongation of the term would bring capital into the business.

Amendment agreed to.


said, he wished to draw the attention of the noble Lord opposite to the provision that on the purchase of an undertaking the purchaser should get a clear title without the seller having to make one. This would absolve the Local Authority from the necessity of investigating the title to see whether it was free from mortgages. He should like to ask what would become of mortgagees and other creditors?


said, he did not think that any difficulty such as that suggested by the noble Viscount would arise. At the same time he might say that he was not responsible for these words in the clause.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining Clauses agreed to, with Amendments; the Report thereof to be received To-morrow; and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 75.)