§ Amendments reported (according to Order).
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
moved to amend Clause 5—5.—(1) Any local authority company or person authorised to supply electricity in any area may with the consent of the Board of Trade supply at any point within that area electricity for the purposes of haulage or traction on any railway tramway or canal situate partly within and partly without that area and for the purposes of lighting vehicles and vessels used on any such railway tramway or canal but the Board of Trade shall not in any case give any such consent until notice of the application for the consent has been given by advertisement or otherwise in such manner as the Board of Trade may direct and an opportunity has been given to any person who appears to the Board to be affected of stating any objections he may have thereto.(2) The Board of Trade may by Provisional Order authorise any such local authority company or person to so supply electricity to be used for purposes incidental to the working or lighting of the railway tramway or canal other than the purposes aforesaid,by inserting, at the beginning of the clause, the words, "The Board of Trade may by Provisional Order authorise." The noble Earl said: Your Lordships will recollect that when this measure was under discussion in Committee I drew attention to the provision in Clause 5, and expressed some surprise that while it should be necessary to obtain a Provisional Order to authorise undertakers to supply electricity for purposes incidental to the working or lighting of a railway, tramway, or canal, it should not be deemed necessary to obtain a Provisional Order—that is to say, to get the sanction of Parliament—for the purpose of enabling local authorities to supply electricity to, say, a railway company. I am 839 aware that a railway company, before it can use electricity for the purposes of traction, must apply for the consent of the Board of Trade, and presumably that consent would be obtained within a very short time. But the clause as it stands now is open, in my opinion, to this objection. A railway line running through a great extent of territory would pass through the area of a number of local authorities, companies, and, perhaps, private individuals, who would be able to supply electricity if they could obtain powers from the Board of Trade; and I venture to think it is somewhat dangerous to entrust a Government Department with the absolute power of allowing a small local authority or a small company to put up a vast generating station such as would be necessary for the purpose of supplying electricity to the whole of a railway. I cannot help thinking that in cases of that kind the check which is imposed by the requirement to come to Parliament for a Provisional Order would be a wise precaution in the event of such a thing being attempted. It might, of course, be quite right. The London and North Western Railway Company might desire to utilise the enormous generating station at Willesden for the supply of electricity; but I do not think it would be right that a small undertaking on the main line of a company should be allowed to supply the great amount of electricity which would be necessary for a railway unless it had previously obtained the sanction of Parliament. For that purpose I suggest to your Lordships that these powers should only be exercised on a Provisional Order obtained from the Board of Trade and subject to the control of Parliament.
Amendment moved—In page 3, line 35, at the beginning of the clause, to insert the words 'The Board of Trade may by Provisional Order authorise'"—(The Earl of Onslow.)
* LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
My Lords, this is one of the points on which the Board of Trade have been in consultation with the noble Earl, and we had hoped it was a point on which we had been able to meet him, more particularly as we agreed to the insertion, on the last stage of the Bill, of the words which appear at the end of the subsection and which lay down that in the event of the Board of Trade making such an order notice must be 840 given to all the persons interested so as to afford them an opportunity of objecting. I am sorry that those words have not satisfied all the objections which the noble Earl feels to this Clause. The reason for having in this subsection a simple order of the Board of Trade and having a Provisional Order in the other one is this, that in the second case you are going to authorise an undertaker to supply electricity for lighting purposes within the territory of another undertaker, and we think that that ought not to be done without coming to Parliament by Provisional Order. In the other case we only ask for power to use this electricity which will be taken within the district from a point somewhere outside that district for the purpose of running the line or canal. There is a difference between the two things, because, in the second case, though this electricity may be used in the territory of another undertaker it would be for a purpose for which that undertaker has no authority to supply electricity. That can only be done on the authority of the Board of Trade. We think it is better to leave this to a simple order of the Board of Trade, because we wish to make it as easy as possible for these people to get this order. We wish to avoid expense and trouble and the great delay necessary in getting a Provisional Order. We think that the thing can be very much better done in that way. We are fortified in that feeling by the fact that the Railways (Electric Power) Act of 1903 gives the Board of Trade power by simple order to authorise a railway company to use electricity for the purposes of their line; and as the authority can be given by a simple order to the person who is going to use the electricity, it would seem much more convenient that it should also be done by simple order in the case of giving the authority to the people who are going to supply it. On these grounds I must ask the House not to agree to this Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I do not know what course my noble friend the Lord Chairman desires to take upon this Amendment, but undoubtedly the case is not a perfectly simple one. The noble Lord opposite is quite justified in saying that there is a great public object in avoiding delay and expense in promoting these undertakings; but, on the other hand, I feel strongly the force of my noble friend's objection that the power of 841 entering upon the supply of electricity on the enormous scale that might conceivably ensue is a power of such dimensions that it ought not to be capable of being granted except on the authority of Parliament itself. The danger which my noble friend has in view, I gather from his speech, is lest these small local authorities should launch into all sorts of extravagant speculation in the matter of supplying electricity, which is really trading and not a service for the benefit of their own ratepayers. It is a speculative trading matter with which local authorities ought to have nothing to do. Those are the two points of view from which we may regard this Amendment. If I might make a suggestion, it would be this. Personally I should be satisfied if the noble Lord opposite were to give an undertaking, on behalf of the Board of Trade, that they would watch very narrowly the operation of this power and would take care that no such danger ensued as that which my noble friend fears. If such an undertaking were given by the noble Lord, I am quite sure it would be obeyed and followed out; and if, in the early stages of the administration of this Bill, those precedents were set, I do not think they would be departed from in future years. Therefore what we have to protect is the operation of this provision during the next few years, and that would be covered by a solemn assurance given on behalf of the Board of Trade by the noble Lord opposite.
* LORD HAMILT0N OF DALZELL
With the permission of the House, I will answer the appeal made to me by the noble Marquess. In the first place, I do not think there is any great danger of a small local authority engaging in the supply of electricity to a very large railway company, and for two reasons. First, I do not think the Board of Trade would be the least likely to sanction such a proceeding; and, second, there is also the safeguard of the Local Government Board. The local authority could not borrow the money to get the plant for this undertaking without the sanction of the Local Government Board, and your Lordships will see, I think, that it is not at all likely that the Local Government Board would sanction such a proceeding as the noble Earl has indicated. Although I have no authority to give any assurance on this matter, I think I may make the mind of the noble Marquess easy. I am 842 quite sure the Board of Trade would not sanction small local authorities embarking on enormous schemes of this kind, and I think this is a matter in which the House may safely trust the two Government Departments concerned to look after the interests of the ratepayers.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I have not very great confidence in some Government Departments and I have much greater confidence in Parliament. I have, however, some measure of confidence in the action of the officials of the Board of Trade, and I feel that if a matter of this kind can be left safely to any Department it can be left to the officials of the Board of Trade. In those circumstances I do not propose to ask your Lordships to divide on this Amendment,
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
* LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
My Lords, I move to add, at the end of Clause 5, this new subsection—(3) A company local authority or body receiving a supply of electricity under this section shall not use the electricity in such manner as to cause or to be likely to cause any interference with Government observatories or laboratories but this subsection shall not apply to any such company local authority or body who by any Act of Parliament or Order confirmed by or having the effect of an Act of Parliament containing provisions for the protection of such observatories or laboratories are authorised to use electricity for the purposes for which a supply is authorised to be given under this section.This is an Amendment which I move on behalf of the Commissioners of Works, and its object is to safeguard certain observatories and scientific institutions. It is on the same lines as an Amendment that was inserted in the London Electricity Bills last year.
Amendment moved—In page 4, line 10, after the word 'aforesaid', to insert the following new subsection: '(3) A company local authority or body receiving a supply of electricity under this section shall not use the electricity in such manner as to cause or to be likely to cause any interference with Government observatories or laboratories, but this subsection shall not apply to any such company local authority or body who by any Act of Parliament or Order confirmed by or having the effect of an Act of Parliament containing provisions for the protection of such observatories or laboratories are authorised to use electricity for the purposes for which a supply is authorised to be given under this section.'"—(Lord Hamilton of Dalzell.)
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
moved to amend subsection (1) of Clause 13—(1) If an auditor appointed by the Board of Trade to audit the accounts of any undertakers who are not a local authority reports to the Board that the undertakers have declined or neglected to comply with any of his recommendations or requirements the Board may if they think fit after giving the undertakers an opportunity of being heard make an order directing the undertakers to comply with such recommendations and requirement with or without modifications as may be specified in the order subject to an appeal to the Railway and Canal Commissioners or any two of them who shall finally decide the matter and confirm annul or amend the order as they may think fit,by inserting, after the word "requirements" where it first appeared in the subsection, the words "in so far as they relate to matters affecting the interests of the authority empowered to purchase the undertaking or of the consumers."
The noble Earl said: It will be in the recollection of your Lordships that some discussion took place upon this clause in Committee as to whether the audit of the auditors appointed to audit the accounts of private companies was such as was satisfactory to the public, and whether the system of audit ought not to be extended equally to municipal authorities. I will say nothing on the latter point for the moment, because an Amendment further down on the Paper in the name of Lord Avebury deals with that question. I understand that the object of this clause is to secure that the accounts of companies shall be kept in such a manner that the undertaking which becomes purchaseable after the lapse of a certain number of years by the local authority shall not be so manipulated in the accounts as to enhance the cost as against the local authority when the time comes for purchase; and, secondly, that the accounts shall be so kept that a proper amount is placed to depreciation so that the sliding scale on which the electricity is supplied shall be such that the public gets the full advantage which Parliament intended. I think that if your Lordships limit the clause to those two points—and that is the object of my Amendment—Lord Avebury will see that, to a great extent, at any rate, an Amendment proposing to extend this clause to municipal authorities will be inapplicable, because in the case of municipal authorities there is, of course, no question of the purchase of the undertaking, nor is there any question of sliding scale affecting dividends.
In page 7, line 32, after the word 'requirements,' to insert the words 'in so far as they relate to matters affecting the interests of the authority empowered to purchase the undertaking or of the consumers.'"—(The Earl of Onslow.)
* LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
The object of this clause as it appears in the Bill is as the noble Earl has stated; and as representations have been made to the Board of Trade that the words as they stand might be read to give power to the auditors to interfere in the commercial aspect of the undertaking, we accept the Amendment.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD AVEBURY
moved to insert, after subsection (1) of Clause 13, the following new subsection—(2) This section shall also apply in the case of any auditor or auditors appointed under the provisions of the Public Health Act 1875 or the Municipal Corporations Act 1882 or by the Local Government Board to audit the accounts of any undertakers who are a local authority, and where the undertakers being a local authority have declined or neglected to comply with any of his or their recommendations or requirements and for such purpose this section shall have effect as if the Local Government Board was substituted for the Board of Trade.The noble Lord said: As I stated the reasons for my Amendment a few days ago, I should not be justified in detaining your Lordships for more than a moment now. I quite agree that the words which have just been introduced on the Motion of Lord Onslow do to some extent, but not by any means entirely meet the objection which those for whom I am acting feel to the clause as it stands. The noble Lord who spoke for His Majesty's Government stated, when we were discussing this matter a few days ago in Committee, that my proposal was a very drastic alteration of the law and hardly germane to the Bill. I need hardly point out that it is a drastic Amendment which is being proposed by His Majesty's Government, and all that my Amendment does is to apply to local authorities the same wholesome provisions that it is proposed to apply to companies. If it is not germane to the Bill in the one case, I submit that it is not germane in the other. It is more necessary to have an effective audit in the case of municipalities than in the case of companies. If a private company is mismanaged and the accounts not fairly kept it is the share 845 holders who lose their money; but if a municipal authority mismanages its affairs and does not keep its accounts properly it is the public who suffer. There is a strong impression that the accounts of local authorities are by no means all that could be desired. I admit that a great many of them are thoroughly well kept, but there are exceptions; and that fact came out very strongly in the evidence taken before the Joint Committee. It is said that this is necessary in the one case because municipalities may buy up some of these companies; but we know that there are some cases in which municipalities have found that they could not carry on electrical works at a profit and have resold them to companies. I think that in future we shall see as many instances of local authorities selling their electrical undertakings to private companies as we shall see of private companies selling to local authorities. At any rate, I hope, in the general interests of the public, that that may be the case. A satisfactory system of audit is most desirable. I submit that what is fair in the one case is fair in the other, and if you are going to insist on these strenuous rules with regard to private companies you ought to apply them to municipalities.
Amendment moved—In page 7, line 39, after the word 'fit' to insert the following new subsection: '(2) This section shall also apply in the case of any auditor or auditors appointed under the provisions of the Public Health Act 1875 or the Municipal Corporations Act 1882 or by the Local Government Board to audit the accounts of any undertakers who are a local authority and where the undertakers being a local authority have declined or neglected to comply with any of his or their recommendations or requirements and for such purpose this section shall have effect as if the Local Government Board was substituted for the Board of Trade.'"—(Lord Avebury.)
LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH
My Lords, I hope the House will support the Amendment that has been moved by Lord Avebury, and I should like to endorse everything that has fallen from him, especially the remark he made at the conclusion of his speech that what is fair for one side should also be fair for the other. I had the advantage of serving on the Joint Committee which examined into the question of municipal audit, and if there was one thing more clear than another in that inquiry it was that in very many cases—I do not say invariably but in 846 very many cases—municipal audits are really very unsatisfactory. The system, as I understand, is that the accounts are audited by auditors elected by the municipality itself. The whole point of an audit of any sort is that it should be conducted by an independent party, and if the accounts of a local authority are audited by a servant of the municipality, who, in many cases, is tempted to "audit to order," if I may say so, it cannot be so satisfactory to the public concerned. Not only do I put that forward as a strong argument, but I submit that if you are going to establish this new form of audit for one party you should certainly adopt it for the other.
* LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
My Lords, I opposed this new subsection the other day when it was proposed by the noble Lord, and I must again oppose it to-day. I ask your Lordships to remember for a moment what the object of the clause as it appears in the Bill is. It is inserted in order to strengthen the hands of the Board of Trade auditors. Those auditors are appointed by the Board of Trade because the Board have two duties in particular placed upon them in regard to the undertakings of electric light companies. Those are the duties, to which the Chairman of Committees alluded just now, with regard to the safeguarding of the local authority which may ultimately wish to exercise its power of purchase, and also with regard to the fact that the Department may at any time be called upon to readjust the maximum price which may be charged for electricity. Those reasons do not exist in the case of electric undertakings which are the property of local authorities. In those cases there is, of course, an audit of the accounts, but it is part of the general audit of the accounts of the local authority. It is carried out, as your Lordships have been told, in the case of all local authorities, except municipalities, by the district auditors appointed by the Local Government Board, and in other cases by two auditors, one of whom is appointed by the mayor and the other by the ratepayers. The powers of the Local Government Board auditors are very strong indeed. The Local Government Board do not ask that those powers should be strengthened, and, in fact, the passing of this Amendment would not strengthen their hands at all, because their powers are greater than are 847 proposed in the noble Lord's Amendment; so that I think for them there is no necessity for the Amendment.
With regard to the other auditors, those appointed by the municipality, I know that many Members of this House think that that system might be improved. I think my noble friend the Leader of the House indicated last week that it was his opinion that that system might be improved. I do not wish to say anything about that at present beyond this, that I do not think it is right—I do not wish to use the word "drastic" again, as the noble Lord objected to it—I do not think it is right to put a change of that kind into a Bill of this nature, and, if it were done, it would not be very effective because it would apply only to a small portion of the accounts of these municipalities, and if there were any irregularities taking place it would be very easy to conceal them in the other accounts over which these auditors would have no power. Therefore I do not think this Amendment would have any effect. Moreover, these auditors are not appointed by, and are not responsible to the Local Government Board, and it is, very doubtful whether this clause would really strengthen their hands at all.
I would make an appeal to the noble Lord. This is an unfortunate little Bill, and it is considerably overdue. It is based on a Report of a Committee which sat eleven years ago, and I suppose that ever since the Report of the Committee this Bill has been lying at the Board of Trade and struggling to become law. It has made several attempts. It made one notable attempt in 1904, when the noble Lord who then represented the Board of Trade here actually got it through this House, but that did not happen until within two days of the close of the session. I suppose the other House, which is not quite so accommodating as your Lordships are in these matters, did not think two days sufficient to give consideration to the Bill. At all events, it did not become law, and it went back to its pigeon hole in the Department where it remained until this year. We have introduced it early this session and hope, with ordinary luck, to get it through; but I need not remind the noble Lord that if he saddles it with a highly contentious question of this kind, which has nothing to do with it, he will seriously impair its chance of becoming 848 law and will be doing great injury to people engaged in the supply of electricity in this country.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I certainly have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Lord who has moved this Amendment. I do think that the auditing of municipal accounts needs completely overhauling. I think, however, that the interest which I know the noble Lord has more particularly in view at this moment—namely, the prevention of municipal trading—would be better secured by a proper audit of municipal accounts and a better one than is obtainable under the present system. But I doubt whether this Bill, which only touches a fraction of the accounts of a municipal authority, is really the proper opportunity to raise the question. It would be better to deal with the subject in a separate Bill, when your Lordships could give consideration to the matter in its broadest aspect. If the Amendment were carried it would be almost ridiculous, because it would be confined, by the words to which your Lordships have just agreed, to two matters which do not concern municipalities at all. Therefore I join in the appeal which has been made that the noble Lord should not jeopardise the progress of the Bill by pressing his Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, my feeling is very much that of my noble friend Lord Onslow. When the Lord Chairman proposed his Amendment I anticipated that my noble friend behind me (Lord Avebury) would have risen and explained that his Amendment was alternative to my noble friend's, because, although they do not absolutely cover the same ground, they interfere a great deal with one another. As amended the operation of the section is very much more limited than it was as the Bill appeared on your Lordships' Table this afternoon. The earlier subsection, upon which this subsection depends, is now confined to matters concerning the purchase of undertakings and the interests of consumers. I am afraid, therefore, that Lord Avebury's Amendment would no longer do what he hoped it would do, and, in those circumstances, I cannot help joining in the appeal that my noble friend should not press the Amendment.
§ LORD AVEBURY
It is quite true that if this Amendment were carried we should 849 not get a thorough and complete audit of municipal accounts but we should get an audit as applied to their electric undertakings. That is a matter of very great importance, and would be a step in the right direction. My noble friend suggested that I should bring in a Bill dealing with municipal audit. It is one thing for a private member to get a Bill through Parliament and another to get a clause inserted in a Bill which has behind it the weight of the Government. But, after what has been said, I will not put the House to the trouble of a Division.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD AVEBURY
moved to amend Clause 16, subsection (1), which provided that—Where the undertakers are a local authority they may provide let for hire and fix repair and remove but shall not manufacture lamps meters electric lines fuzes switches fittings lamp holders motors and other fittings for lighting and motive power,by inserting, after the word "may," the words "through a contractor but not otherwise." The noble Lord said: This Amendment in reality raises the question of municipal trading. It has been suggested that there might be cases in which there was no contractor. I have endeavoured to deal with cases of that kind by the subsequent Amendment. It was in the model clause for some time that this work should only be done through a contractor; but the then Chairman of Committees thought there might be cases in which there was no contractor who could undertake the work and therefore the words have been dropped out of the model clause. I submit that there can be no inconvenience to the public if the House accepts my Amendment. If there is no contractor it will be open to the local authority to carry out the work. It has been suggested to me that the word "contractor" is not quite clear, and if the House is good enough to accept this Amendment I will put down a further Amendment for the Third Reading stage defining a contractor so as to meet any doubts on that point. I submit that if your Lordships do not accept my Amendment you will be in reality dealing another blow at that private enterprise to which the prosperity of the country owes so much.
Amendment moved— 850In page 8, line 26, after the word 'may,' to insert the words `through a contractor but not otherwise.'"—(Lord Avebury.)
* THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I think your Lordships have to consider, in the first place, the interests of the consumers of electricity. It is extremely convenient to be able to hire fittings from the persons who supply either the electricity or the gas, and I do not think your Lordships would willingly put anything in the way of that very convenient practice. The noble Lord has stated that there may be some doubt as to the exact meaning of the word "contractor," and he is, I understand, ready to bring up words which will widen the interpretation, so that "contractor" may, in practice, cover any man who is capable of undertaking the work of putting in these fittings and supplying the wires. Your Lordships will observe that municipal authorities are already by the clause specially precluded from manufacturing either fittings or wires, and therefore to a large extent the object sought to be attained by the Amendment is already provided for in the Bill. What the noble Lord proposes now is to still further limit local authorities by saying that they shall not fix these fittings or put in the wires in a house except through a contractor. I admit that there is much to be said on the score of the undesirability of allowing municipal authorities to enter too freely into competition with private firms. I have had some experience of this matter, because for some years I was a member of the London County Council, which possessed what it called a works department—a department which carried out the work required by the London County Council without the intervention of a contractor. It was always said that if the council did not have a works department they would have a ring of contractors, and it would be impossible to protect the public against exorbitant charges. What have been the facts? The works department of the council has been done away with. The work is now done by contractors, and a comparison of the estimates made by the officials of the council as to what works in their opinion ought to cost with the actual contract price at which the contractors are prepared to do the work has shown, I believe in every case, a considerable reduction on the official estimates. I think that is the best answer to any argument that an Amendment of this kind is likely to 851 lead to a ring of contractors. Therefore if the noble Lord will consider between this and the Third Reading words which will define a "contractor" so as to enable the small man who is working on his own account to come in and do this work on behalf of the municipality, I, for one, shall offer no opposition to the Amendment.
§ * LORD FABER
My Lords, I rise to support the Amendment on two grounds—first, because I am generally opposed to municipal trading; and, secondly, because I think that in this case there are special circumstances that require the consideration of your Lordships. As I understand Clause 16, it gives the local authority power, not to make electrical fittings and appurtenances, but to become merchants in such things as electric wires, lamps, stoves, and so on. The Amendment is to the effect that a local authority shall not become merchants in these things if there is a merchant in the local area already. I have always thought it dangerous that local authorities should become traders, because, of course, they have not the incentive that a private trader has to look after the concern. The private trader trades with his own money, but the official of a local authority trades with the ratepayers' money and therefore does not care so much whether the matter in which he is engaged is a success or not. Again, a local authority may very easily come into competition with its own ratepayer who is in that particular trade. That is not at all advisable. Another feature in this particular case which deserves the attention of your Lordships is that local authorities have a statutory obligation to inspect electric light wirings and fittings. I do not think it would be reasonable to ask the local authority to inspect fittings they had themselves put into a house. The Woolwich local authority became merchants in electrical fittings with a lamentable result. They lost £25,000 straight off; they continued to lose at the rate of £15,000 a year, and the result was that the business was closed. West Ham were also unfortunate. They increased their stock of merchantable articles in connection with this trade from £3,000 to £25,000. As time went on the stock became obsolete and ought to have been written off, but that has not been done. Therefore that is a bad case, too. I do not think the principle of municipal trading is a good 852 one, and if the noble Lord goes to a Division I shall support the Amendment.
My Lords, I cannot allow the statement of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees as to what happened on the London County Council to pass without comment. I sat on that body for eighteen years and knew as much about the works department as probably the noble Earl. The noble Earl stated that it had been proved that the abolition of the works department had been a good policy because several works had been carried out by contractors under the estimate of the council's officials. I would remind him that the works department constantly did work under the estimate of the council's officials. It is very early for the noble Earl to declare that the new policy has resulted in a saving and, that there will be no rings of contractors. How does the noble Earl know that there will be no rings of contractors? It is not likely that they will be form rings at present, but directly they think the thing is safe and that there is no fear of any resurrection of the works department there will be rings. We formed the works department because we had evidence that there were rings of contractors, and we thought that the only way to fight them was to ourselves do work which we could reasonably do. The noble Earl is not correct when he says that the works department carried out all the work required by the council without the intervention of a contractor. We very often employed contractors, and only went to the works department when we thought we could do the work better that way.
LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH
My Lords, it seems to me that this Amendment is of such great importance as to warrant its being passed. The Lord Chairman mentioned that it was extremely convenient to be able to hire fittings from the local authority in the event of the local authority supplying the electricity. That may be, but that convenience is a mere flea-bite compared with the importance to the inhabitants of securing that these works are carried on in an economical and proper manner. Where municipalities carry on this trading they have not the same incentive to see that the work is properly done. For these and other obvious reasons I hope your Lordships will accept the Amendment.
* LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
The object which the Board of Trade had in putting this clause in the Bill was to bring the general law into conformity with what has been the almost invariable practice of Parliament in individual cases. In drawing up this clause we followed as closely as possible the words of the model clauses of your Lordships' House. I will let your Lordships into a little secret. I have already said that this Bill has been for a long time on the stocks at the Board of Trade, and I confess that when these words appeared in the model Bill they also appeared in this Bill, and when they were struck out they were also deleted from this Bill last year. As we have followed the lead of the noble Earl in this matter and only desire to bring the general law into conformity with the model clause, we will accept the advice he has given to the House.
On question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD AVEBURY
I do not think I need trouble your Lordships with the reasons for my next Amendment, because I dealt with them in moving the previous one. The new paragraphs which I move to insert deal with cases in which there may be no contractor immediately available, and I therefore hope the noble Lord will accept them.
Amendment moved—In page 9, line 11, after the word year,' to insert the following new paragraphs:(d) Nothing in this section shall in cases where within three months after the undertakers have obtained any loan necessary for the purpose of the undertaking there is or are no firm or firms carrying on the business of electrical contractors within the area of supply prevent the undertakers themselves from exercising the powers given by this section without the employment of a contractor.(e) If the undertakers fail to comply with the provisoes (a), (b), and (c) of this section they shall, on conviction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts be liable to a fine not exceeding ten pounds and to a further fine not exceeding five pounds for each day on which the offence is continued after conviction therefore.'"—(Lord Avebury.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Perhaps I may be allowed to say a word with regard to the observations of my noble friend who represents the Board of Trade. It is quite true that the model clause regarding this matter has varied this year and last year, but the reason was that it was found that if a clause exactly similar to the one in the 854 Bill as it has been amended by the Amendment of the noble Lord were put into a Bill promoted by a local authority cases might arise in which there was no contractor who could do the work, and therefore the work could not be done at all. I think that the Bill as amended and as proposed to be now further amended really covers both these points.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I think the noble Lord is to be congratulated on having carried his Amendment to this clause. He will, of course, bring up words defining a "contractor" at the next stage?
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
The only other Amendment stands in my name. It is a different Amendment, though it touches the same point as the one which I moved in Committee. In deference to the view of the Board of Trade I give up any idea of suggesting that they had power to allow electric plant to be laid across a bridge which carries a railway. The Board of Trade say they have no such power. I accept that, and will say nothing more on that point. On the other point, where a road is carried over a railway at the expense of the railway company, it seems to me that the Board of Trade must accept my Amendment. On the former occasion their argument was that as a county bridge was to overcome a natural obstacle it was right that the county should have protection, but that a railway bridge did not stand in the same position because it was constructed to overcome an obstacle for which the railway company was responsible. But the Amendment inserted in Committee on the motion of Lord Clifford of Chudleigh entirely carries away that argument. If the Bill had remained in the state in which it was introduced there would have been some force in the contention of the Board of Trade, but, as the result of the adoption of Lord Clifford's Amendment, the position is now this. Although, just like the county council, the railway company own part of the main road, subject, of course, to the right of traffic, they are not to have the same privilege as the county council is to have under the same circumstances. There cannot be the slightest logical reason, 855 after Lord Clifford's Amendment, for placing railway companies in a different position from county councils. In common fairness they ought to have the same privileges.
Amendment moved—In page 11, line 22, after the word 'out' to insert the words Wherever a main road is carried over a railway by a bridge maintained by the railway company all the rights powers privileges and exemptions conferred upon county councils and the benefit of all obligations imposed upon the undertakers by this section shall for the purposes of rebuilding altering widening or repairing such bridge be extended to the railway company and may be exercised and enjoyed by them as fully as if the railway company were a county council and the bridge were a bridge repairable by such council.'"—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
* LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
This is certainly a logical extension of the principle to which your Lordships agreed at the last stage. But I objected, on behalf of the Board of Trade, to that proceeding, and I must object still more strongly in this case, because on top of the objections which we had to giving this immunity in the case of county roads, there is also the objection which I urged against railway companies to which the noble Lord has already alluded. I cannot allow that railway companies' bridges are on the same footing as county council bridges. As I say, we cannot accept this Amendment, but as we have already had a Division on almost the same subject I do not propose, at this late hour, to put the House to the trouble of dividing.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Consequential Amendment agreed to.
Bill to be read 3a on Tuesday next, and to be printed as amended. (No. 51.)