HL Deb 27 June 1907 vol 177 cc3-7

Bill read 3a (according to order).


My Lords, I wish to move an Amendment the object of which is to introduce certain safeguards and to protect private enterprise in the matter of electric supply. It may seem rather late in the day to propose Amendments after the Third Reading, but I know that my noble friend the Chairman of Committees always deprecates instructions on going into Committee, therefore it is practically the only opportunity a private Peer has of moving any Amendments upon such a Bill. No doubt the powers asked for in the Bill have been granted in other cases, but the results have been anything but satisfactory. In the case of Woolwich, where they were first granted, the corporation have lost several thousands of pounds, and they have now determined to abandon the business; in the case of Marylebone I am informed that the loss has been over £5,000; and there have been losses in other cases also. Partly no doubt upon these considerations, but partly also from the fact that many have thought these powers undesirable, the provisions which I venture to ask your Lordships to insert were, after consideration, put into the Bermondsey Bill, and have now the effect of law. Last year, after some debate, corresponding words, and in some cases, actually the same words, were introduced into the London County Council (General Powers) Bill. This session, I understand, the Board of Trade have struck the clauses out of another local Bill which asked for the same powers as are in this Bill, and words were inserted similar to those I am now asking the House to adopt. Lastly, in the Aberdeen Bill these exact words have been inserted. So that the principle of the words I am suggesting has been adopted after consideration in several other cases, and I think it would be desirable to introduce them in this Bill, not only on general principles, but because of the desirability of adopting a consistent course in all cases. I cannot see why powers which have been refused to Aberdeen and even to the London County Council should be given in this case. I submit, therefore, that both on the merits of the clauses themselves and also on grounds of consistency these clauses should be introduced in this particular Bill, and I beg to move the first Amendment standing in my name.

Amendment moved— In page 6, line 28, after the word 'removed' to insert the words 'Provided as follows:—(a) It shall not be lawful for the corporation to expend money (except through a contractor) upon the provision of the labour and materials required for the wiring for and fixing of electric light fittings upon the premises of their consumers or prospective consumers, or upon the provision of lamps, fuzes, switches, fittings, lamp holders, and other apparatus and things for lighting purposes; but nothing in this subsection shall prevent the corporation completing the service line between their supply mains and their own apparatus upon the premises of any such consumer. (b) The corporation shall so adjust the rents and charges to be made by them for electric light fittings and for the wiring in connection therewith as to meet any expenditure by them under the powers of this section in connection therewith (including interest upon any moneys borrowed for those purposes and all sums applied either by way of instalments or by way of payments to sinking fund for repayment of moneys so borrowed)' " —(Lord Avebury.)


My Lords, I am not at this moment going to make any comment upon the principle of the Amendments which the noble Lord desires to propose, though I shall perhaps say a word on that point before I sit down. I wish to address myself for the moment to the question of whether this is the proper stage at which these Amendments should be introduced. Your Lordships are aware that there are many stages of a Bill when Amendments may be introduced. This is the last stage of this Bill in this House. It has already passed the House of Commons, come up to your Lordships' House, and now been read a third time. I would submit to the noble Lord that those on whose behalf he is moving these Amendments have had opportunities of inserting them both in the House of Commons and in this House. There is another method I would have suggested to them if I had known they were desirous of taking this course, namely, that they should have sent their Amendments to me, as has been done in similar circumstances by other corporations. I would then have considered them, and possibly I might have induced the promoters to insert them. I venture to say that the Third Reading of a Bill is a very dangerous stage at which to put in Amendments of this kind which are not agreed. A case arose in December last year on the Edinburgh Suburban Tramways Bill, and several noble Lords expressed the opinion that the Third Reading of a Bill was not a proper time to insert Amendments. But there was a vast difference between that case and this. In the Edinburgh case the Amendments were agreed by both parties; therefore I did not take objection to their being inserted. Moreover, the parties had not had those opportunities which were open to the friends of the noble Lord to insert them at earlier stages of the Bill. Under the circumstances I think I must ask your Lordships not to insert these Amendments, because there have been ample opportunities at earlier stages of which those interested have not availed themselves.

As to the merits of the Amendments, the noble Lord is the champion of the cause against municipal trading. I agree to a large extent with the views he entertains, and I think the time has arrived when what we know in the Private Bill Department as "Model Clauses" should be considered in connection with this subject. I propose between this and next session to consider whether some model clauses ought not to be prepared. They would not necessarily be embodied in every Bill, but, at any rate, they would be available and might be adopted by promoters or imposed upon them by your Lordships' House. Under the circumstances I ask your Lordships not to agree to the insertion of the Amendments proposed.


I do not propose to say a single word on the merits of the Amendments proposed by the noble Lord opposite; I shall confine myself entirely to the question raised by the noble Earl in the earlier part of his remarks as to the occasion on which these Amendments are proposed. The noble Earl alluded to what happened last December in the case of the Edinburgh Electric Tramways Bill, which, as he very truly said, was a much stronger ease than the one before us to-day. In that case the Amendments were agreed, and it was also the fact that those who desired to insert them had not had earlier opportunities of. doing so. As I understand, ill this case there is no reason why the Amendments should not have been moved at an earlier stage. In the Edinburgh case the noble Earl objected, but did not press his objection on the ground that the Amendments were agreed. Lord Balfour of Burleigh, also a great authority on the procedure of this House, protested against the way in which the matter was being dealt with, and the protest was supported by my noble friend Lord Ripon, who said that as the noble Earl did not press his objection he would not do so either, but he added— If my noble friend had objected to these Amendments, in the circumstances I certainly should have supported his authority. On that analogy I should certainly support the noble Earl in objecting to the insertion of these Amendments at this stage.


Your Lordships know how difficult it is to follow private Bills, and my attention was not called to this Bill until last Saturday. Even had it been otherwise, I know your Lordships do not like instructions moved on the Second Reading. Therefore, as I am informed, this is the only opportunity a private Peer has of moving Amendments to a private Bill. I have listened with much satisfaction to one part of my noble friend's speech, because he has promised to consider, and I hope introduce, model clauses next session. That is quite satisfactory. I have no interest whatever in this particular Bill; it was on general principles I moved these Amendments, which have been introduced, as I have already stated, in several other Bills. Under the circumstances, I will not put your Lordships to the trouble of a division, but will withdraw the Amendments, having to a great extent secured the object for which I put them on the Paper.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.