§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Earl of Clarendon's Amendment to the Motion of the Viscount Peel (moved on Tuesday, December 8), That the Special Order which was presented on the 15th day of July last be approved—namely, to leave out all the words after "That" and to insert "having regard to the decision of a Select Committee of this House upon the Horley and District Gas Company (Electricity Supply) Bill [H.L.] the Special Order be not approved."
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, you will see on the Paper Notice of an Amendment to my noble friend's Motion in regard to the Special Order, in the following terms:—"That the debate be further adjourned until the Special Orders Committee have reported whether any further Parliamentary inquiry is desirable before the House proceeds to a decision on the Amendment, and, if so, what form that inquiry should take, and that the Order be recommitted to the Special Orders Committee for the purpose." Your Lordships will remember that we were in some difficulty about this Motion when it came to be debated, because there was considerable doubt in the minds of many noble Lords as to the exact position of the facts. There were, for example, two points upon which there was doubt. One was whether those who had been responsible for the promotion of the Bill, which was thrown out in the House of Commons, had had a full opportunity of stating their side of the case. The other was as to how far the Special Order now before your Lordships had upon the face of it an obligation to give the public a bulk supply.
Those two matters appeared to be in some doubt, and when your Lordships consulted the Report which had come from the Special Orders Committee there was no full guidance upon the face of it 1436 to show the House what course that Committee advised. Nothing was said except that there were special reasons why this body had not petitioned. That was noted; but the Committee did not go on to say what inference should be drawn from that omission, or what were the good reasons for it. When some of us—I was one—made ourselves responsible for recommending to the House the adoption of this new procedure of a Special Orders Committee, it was with the direct view of removing from the floor of the House the discussion of the propriety of proceeding upon the ordinary basis or taking special steps and confining it to a Select Committee. We thought that leaving matters to be discussed on the floor of the House led to various consequences which were not in the public interest. We therefore hoped that the Special Orders Committee would undertake all that work for the House, at any rate primarily, and would make a recommendation to the House so that we might have some guidance as to the course we ought to pursue.
I think it is in strict conformity with the principle which animated so many of us that we should ask the Special Orders Committee to reconsider this particular Special Order, in order that we may gain that guidance which in their Report seems to be lacking. I think they would be able to settle all those questions of fact. They might be able, perhaps, to put them right or, in the alternative, they might recommend some other course to the House. I have carefully abstained in everything I have said this afternoon from indicating in the least in which direction their decision should be. I think if we are to refer it to them we ought to keep our minds absolutely open as to whether the Special Order should be agreed to forthwith, or whether some other course ought to be taken. I believe—though, of course, he will have the opportunity of saying so—that the Lord Chairman agrees to the course which I am now recommending to your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the debate be further adjourned until the Special Orders Committee have reported whether any further Parliamentary inquiry is desirable before the House proceeds to a decision on the Amendment, and, if so, what form that inquiry should take, and that the Order be recommitted to the Special 1437 Orders Committee for the purpose.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I do not rise to offer any opposition to what the noble Marquess has proposed, but I desire to point out this. The question is not one of detail; it is a great question of principle, a principle which has been laid down by the Government itself. That principle is that electricity is most cheaply and effectively given from a bulk supply proceeding from a great generating station. That is the principle on which the Electricity Commissioners have throughout proceeded and in proposing this Order they no doubt have had London, probably the Barking station, in their minds. We have the counter proposition that a small place with a gas supply should undertake the service of Horley. I should think that that was a question of principle for the Government to determine. I do not myself think that it is a question for a Select Committee, opening up again the policy which the Government have very distinctly laid down on a number of other occasions. However, as there is some feeling on the subject, and as the noble Marquess wishes that there should be a further Report from the Committee, good and well.
All I wish to say is that, speaking for myself, though not opposing that Motion, I am in no way going back on the principle which is the principle of the Government. If the Electricity Commissioners tell us: "Yes, we considered this; we want to give a bulk supply to Horley and to give it from London," then for one, think they are taking the course which is the only course that is in accordance with that principle. But as there is a desire that there should be some further opportunity given to the Electricity Commissioners to state what their reasons have been, I shall not offer any opposition to the proposition of the noble Marquess.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF DONOUOHMORE)
My Lords, as regards the principle I do not believe there will be any difference between the noble and learned Viscount opposite and myself, but if I were now to pause to argue how far this principle is before the House or not, I am afraid I should be a great deal more controversial in repeating some of the statements that were made last week. I would prefer, 1438 therefore, for the moment, not to take the fly that has been, though perhaps not intentionally, thrown over me by the noble and learned Viscount. The Leader of the House has said that he understood that I agreed to the course that he has proposed. I not only agree but I cordially welcome it.
I think that this is a matter upon which the Special Orders Committee could greatly assist your Lordships. I do not think we could have done it before, because under the system that we are trying to work under the Standing Orders this Special Orders Committee have not a great deal to do when an Order is unopposed. This order practically was unopposed before us because the parties, as was explained last week, preferred to make their opposition here in the House to making it heard before the Committee No Petition was deposited that came before us when we considered it ill Committee. But I think, by the special reference which is given us in this Motion to-day, a gap is Riled in this particular case, and I think the Committee could very usefully do their best to go into the matter in that way. I am anxious that as little time as 'possible should be lost. It may be to the convenience of all if I say that, if your Lordships pass this Motion, I propose that the Committee should meet at eleven o'clock on Thursday next and that the parties shall, of course, be represented by their agents. I shall be very disappointed if we are not able to report to the House in the afternoon, or at any rate as soon as possible.
§ LORD GAINFORD
My Lords, I merely rise to say that the electrical authority for whom I spoke last week take no exception at all to this procedure. Their only desire is to have it stated publicly that they take exactly the same view as the Gas Company, and that in the event of the Order not being passed by your Lordships this Session, if the matter is postponed to another Session, residents in the Horley district feel so strongly against the Gas Company having a monopoly that they will feel it incumbent upon them to do their utmost, not merely to prevent the Gas Company from passing an Order into law but to promote either a Bill or an Order to supply the electricity themselves.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.