§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion, moved by Viscount Peel on Wednesday, June 24, That the Order made by the Electricity Commissioners under the Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1882 to 1922, and confirmed by the Minister of Transport under the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, constituting the London and Home Counties Electricity District, and establishing and incorporating the London and Home Counties Joint Electricity Authority, which was presented on the 21st day of May 1925, be approved.
THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved, as an amendment, to leave out "be approved" and to insert—
be referred to a Select Committee to con-skier and report:—
§ That the Lords following, with the Chairman of Committees, be named of the Select Committee:—
- V. Peel.
- L. Stanmore,
- L. Muir Mackenzie,
- L. Emmott,
- L. Danesfort."
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, when your Lordships had this matter under discussion a few days ago the Government agreed to an adjournment in order that they might, if possible, meet the difficulty which this particular Order presented. I may say that the difficulty is not confined to this particular Order, but because of the great importance of this Order it appears in rather an aggravated form. Your Lordships a pc aware—you were reminded on the last occasion—that there has been a Report already of a Select Committee of this House recommending that these affirmative Orders should be subject to a certain check as a matter of ordinary everyday procedure. I believe I am responsible for originally suggesting this course to the House, and I received support from every quarter. I think all Parties in the House supported it. In the Select Committee itself there was a unanimous opinion, no single member of the Committee dissenting for a moment, that some checking procedure ought to be established.
§ The difficulty is this. As things stand these affirmative Orders go through practically unchecked. On the other hand, we must not invent a procedure which seriously hampers the proper passage of matters of this importance. That would be contrary to the interests of the country: and while it would not be in order for me to discuss the Report of the Select Committee now, your Lordships will observe, if you read it, that the Committee have tried to steer a course between these two extremes. The Report is on the Table of the House, but the Standing Orders, which are to be founded upon it, have not yet been passed, and, consequently, this particular Order of great importance has been presented to the House during an interim period, when the new procedure has been recommended but the House has not discussed it. I thought myself, and I think the Government agree, that it would hardly be fair to the House to ask it to put through this important Order without any check when there was upon record the unanimous Report of the Select Committee that these affirmative Orders ought to receive certain consideration. Consequently, it has been my object to make a sort of interim arrangement, which is represented in the Amendment i am now moving, under which some sort of check 866 analogous to what the Committee suggest in their Report should apply in this particular case.
§ This is a good example of why some such chock is necessary. There are upon the Paper Amendments standing in the names of the Earl of Strafford, the Earl of Bessborough and Lord Monk Bretton, and any one who Las any experience will know that it would be extremely difficult to discuss these Amendments with any profit on the floor of the House. They are obviously things which should be discussed in Committee. But it is important all the same that there should be no undue delay in passing this Order. I have been informed of its great importance, and I am sure that the Committee, to which I propose to refer it if your Lordships assent to the Mot on, will bear that in mind. A member of the Government is proposed as a member of the Committee and I am certain he will take care to represent to the Committee the importance of there being no undue delay.
§ On the face of the reference your Lordships will see that the first thing the Committee is to inquire into is whether the matter has been sufficiently dealt with by a Departmental inquiry or inquiries. In matters of this kind there are Departmental inquiries, which are of great use, and where, matters have been sufficiently inquired into by a Department it relieves the House of a great deal of anxiety. That stands on the face of it as one of the first things the Committee will have to inquire into. I hope, therefore, your Lordships will allow me to insert this Amendment into the Motion of the noble Viscount. It will, I think, meet the legitimate criticisms of various members of the House and enable this particular affirmative Order, and all affirmative Orders in the future, to be passed only after that due consideration which the public have the right to demand, as they rely upon the two Houses of Parliament to see that no injustice is done.
Leave out ("be approved") and to insert ("be referred to a Select Committee to consider and report"):—
THE EARL OF STRAFFORD
May I ask the noble Marquess if an opportunity will be given to those who object to the Order in its present form to appear before the Committee and state their case?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
That, of course, is for your Lordships to decide. Might I add to that which I said to my noble friend opposite, that the matter will be in the hands of the Committee? If they think there is no reason why the parties should be heard, and that the matter has really been decided, no doubt they will so report to your Lordships. I thought for the moment that my noble friend was referring to the Amendments which are upon the Paper. I can assure him that all his own views will be carefully considered.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords. I should like to be allowed to say that I welcome very much that part of the remarks of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House in which he said that he did not propose, in moving this Amendment, that the machinery which it is proposed to set up should be hampered, and his further remark that he hoped that this Select Committee which he proposes to set up will act without undue delay. I think that one has to bear in mind that this Order which 868 appears upon the Paper is the result of an Act which was passed six years ago, the last legislation on the subject being dated three years ago, and therefore it seems to me that it would be unfortunate, if the policy of those Acts is to be carried out, if this machinery were not set up without unnecessary delay. After all, it cannot be expected to be the subject of additional confidence to an important industry like the electrical supply industry that it should be left for a very long period in a state of hesitation and doubt as to the lines upon which it is in future to proceed, and I should like therefore to appeal to the noble Marquess to use his great influence to see that this Committee, if set up, will move quickly and deal promptly with this matter. I should like to suggest that it will act before the end of the Session.
LORD MONK BRETTON
My Lords, I should like, if I may be allowed, to associate myself with that which has fallen from the noble Earl. I do not want to repeat what has already been said. The noble Marquess is aware of the urgency of this matter, an urgency which is being felt by all the local authorities in London as well as in the country. I suppose that it is not possible, under the third part of the Amendment of the noble Marquess, to deal with the Amendments upon the Paper summarily. I had almost hoped that it might be. But I would ask the Committee to remember that the Act of 1919 promised a cheap and abundant supply of electricity to Londoners, and that now, after three or four years of negotiation, we have nearly arrived at that result. If this Committee can enable a joint electricity authority to be established before people depart for the summer holidays it will be a great advantage, at any rate, to the population of London.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to: Motion, as amended, agreed to, and ordered accordingly.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past seven o'clock.