HL Deb 07 July 1908 vol 191 cc1421-4


Order of the day for the Second Reading read..


My Lords, this is a Bill which requires a few words of explanation. Its object is to enable the Board of Trade to make rules as to procedure for obtaining and granting Provisional Orders. This power of granting Provisional Orders has been exercised by the Board of Trade for a number of years. The Board was first given power to make Provisional Orders in regard to piers and harbours in the year 1861, and with regard to tramways and to the supply of gas and water in 1870, and the latest powers were given under the Supply of Electricity Act in 1882.

This Bill does not enlarge the powers with regard to the scope of these Provisional Orders; it merely enables the Board to make rules as to the procedure to be adopted. Its object is to remove certain difficulties which have arisen from the fact that the older Acts of Parliament lay down the exact procedure which is to be adopted. That is not the case in the newer Act—the Electric Lighting Act—as I will explain in a moment. This fact has caused a considerable amount of inconvenience. As an example of this inconvenience I may quote the case of the date on which the draft Provisional Orders have to be deposited. That is fixed at 23rd December. I believe that a similar date was originally fixed by the Standing Orders in the case of Private Bills before Parliament, but that date was found to be most inconvenient, and Parliament altered the Standing Order accordingly. The Board of Trade, however, have no power to alter a thing of that kind without coming to Parliament in each instance and it is with the object of conferring such a power that this Bill is introduced.

Several other inconveniences arise, and I may quote one in the fact that under the Piers and Harbours Act a period of fourteen days must elapse after the deposit or advertisement of the Order before the confirming Bill can be introduced. In the case of gas, water, and tramways this period is only seven days. Of course, it is inconvenient that these periods should be different, and in the case of electric power and electric light Bills, no such interval is found to be necessary at all. I will give one more instance. Great expense is caused by a provision in regard to gas, water, and tramway Provisional Orders to the effect that the Provisional Order has to be published in extenso in the local newspaper, whereas with regard to other Orders, it has been found sufficient to insert a notice stating that the Order has been made and where copies of it may be obtained. The Board of Trade have had strong representations made to them that the cost of Provisional Orders has very often deterred the owners of non-statutory gas companies, for instance, from coming to Parliament and having their undertaking put upon a proper legal footing.

The Electric Lighting Act of 1882 confers powers on the Board of Trade for making rules and regulations with regard to the application for Provisional Orders, to the payments to be made in respect of them, to the publication of notices and advertisements, and to the manner of making objections and holding local inquiries. It is proposed by this Bill to extend a similar power to the Board of Trade in respect of the other matters with regard to which they are empowered to make Provisional Orders. These rules will have to be laid before Parliament and will have statutory force, and, of course, they may be amended by a similar procedure—that is to say, by Amendments being laid before Parliament. I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Lord Hamilton of Dalzell.)


My Lords, I am sure that after the very clear statement made by the noble Lord there will be no desire in any part of the House to interpose any obstacles or delays. The only observation that occurs to me in reference to the matter is this, that it is obvious that this Bill makes the Board of Trade supreme with regard to the important matters referred to it by Act of Parliament. I do not at all say that the Board of Trade are thinking for a moment of abusing their powers, but it is a very serious thing to transfer from Parliament, with all its facilities for examination, revision and inquiry, these powers to one of the Government Departments. It is an important matter to hand over to the Board supreme power in consenting to the making of tramways, for we know that a railway company may be ruined through a tramway being run along near it so as to intercept and tap, and, it may be, destroy its traffic. I do not know whether that would be a matter which the Board of Trade would be taking power by this Bill to deal with. I am quite sure that they have not the slightest intention of doing anything that is not absolutely right and proper, and I merely mention it as an illustration of the powers that may be exercised under the Bill. I am sure that the objects of the measure are to simplify procedure and save expense, and I hope the noble Lord will allow a few days to elapse before taking the next stage, in order that those who are interested may have an opportunity of examining closely the changes the Bill proposes to effect.


I will certainly put the next stage of the Bill down for a few days hence, so as to allow the interval for which the noble and learned Lord has asked. I think, however, that he has exaggerated the possible effects of the measure. It deals with rules of procedure as to the lodging of notices, etc., and it has not the far-reaching scope which the noble and learned Lord seems to think.

On Question, Bill read 2a(according to order), and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.