HL Deb 05 March 1908 vol 185 cc818-20

My Lords, I beg to move, "That it is desirable that the London and District Electricity Supply Bill [H.L.]; the London Electric Supply Bill [H.L.]: and the London (Westminster and Kensington) Electric Supply Companies Bill [H.L.] be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament." In asking your Lordships to agree to the appointment of this Joint Committee, I trust you will forgive me if for a moment or two I remind you of the position of the question of the supply of electrical power to London. The story goes back a long way, but I shall only trouble your Lordships with the history of the matter from the year 1905. In that year one important Bill, called the Administrative County of London Bill, was introduced. That Bill was examined by two Committees, one a Committee of your Lordships' House presided over by the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, and the other a Committee of the House of Commons, presided over by Lord Airedale, then Sir James Kitson. In 1906 the London County Council itself promoted a Bill, on the ground that the demand for electrical energy in London and certain surrounding districts comprised in the area of supply was rapidly increasing, that there was every reason to believe: that the demand would continue to increase, and that in the near future the use of electrical energy would be far more general. There was also in that session a Bill promoted by the same parties, as in the previous session called the Administrative County Bill, and some dozen more. The Bill of the London County Council was referred to a Committee in the other House, and the Committee reported that in their opinion the preamble had not been proved and gave their reasons therefor. In 1907 the County Council again introduced a Bill, but before it was considered by either House of Parliament it was materially modified, great portions of it being withdrawn, and the Committee to whom it was referred finally decided that it ought to be rejected. The other Bill, the one promoted by the companies, remained until near the close of the session, when it was withdrawn. The position now is that there is no Bill promoted by the London County Council before Parliament, but there are three Bills the names of which appear on the Notice Paper—namely, the London and District Electricity Supply Bill, the London Electric Supply Bill, and the London (Westminster and Kensington) Electric Supply Companies Bill. The first of these is for the formation of an independent commercial company to supply electrical energy to London, the second is to form a joint committee of most of the existing electric supply companies in London for the purpose of supplying the whole of the area, and the third is for what I may call linking up a smaller number of companies in London and enabling them while maintaining their own installations and their own generating stations, to supply electricity in bulk to each other, and, of course, in detail to consumers. I think that the reasons which prompted the London County Council to promote their Bill in the year 1906 are even greater to-day than they were then. There can be no doubt whatever but that it is high time that a supply of electricity for power purposes should be given to consumers in London, and I venture oven to go so far as to say that it is approaching a scandal that they should not be able to avail themselves of that supply from some source or other. It is for that reason, and in the hope that the matter may now be threshed out before what I venture to think is the most competent tribunal which Parliament can possibly appoint — namely, a Joint Committee of both Houses—that I ask your Lordships to send these Bills to such a Committee. I do not know, of course, what view will be taken of them. I know that strong views are held, on one hand, that the supply of electricity ought to be given by an ordinary commercial company, and, on the other hand, that it ought to be given by a municipality, either the smaller municipalities or the London County Council; but I certainly think the time has arrived when the whole matter ought to be most carefully considered. It may be that the Committee to which these Bills will be referred will decide that the third and the least ambitious of all the schemes— namely, the one which proposes to link up the existing companies, very much in the same way as the water companies in London were linked up very shortly before the Bill was introduced which enabled a public authority to acquire them—is the best; and, if so, that may prove to be the solution of the difficulty. But in any case I think that this is a matter which may very properly be referred to a Joint Committee, and in the hope that this question may be settled in this session of Parliament, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name.

Moved, That it is desirable that the London and District Electricity Supply Bill [H.L.]; the London Electric Supply Bill [H.L.]; and the London (Westminster and Kensington) Electric Supply Companies Bill [H.L.]; be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament.—(The Earl of Onslow.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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