§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion, moved by the Chairman of Committees on Wednesday, July 7, That the order made on the 25th day of March last, "That no Private Bill brought, from the House of Commons shall be read a second time after Tuesday, the 29th of June next," be dispensed with, and that the Bill be now read 2ª.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE)
My Lords, as your Lordships will remember, this debate was adjourned upon an important point raised by my noble friend behind me, Lord Banbury of Southam. He has been good enough to discuss this matter with the promoters and myself and I am aware now that he desires to move an Amendment to the Bill. The course I would suggest to him and to your Lordships as being in my opinion the most convenient is that your Lordships should now allow this Motion to be passed, the Special Order to be dispensed with and the Bill read a second time. It is an unopposed Bill. It will then go to the Committee on Unopposed Bills and I suggest to my noble friend that he can give notice of his Amendment and take the discussion on it on the Third Reading stage. I think that will be the most convenient course and I hope it will commend itself to my noble friend.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, I shall be very pleased to fall in with the suggestion made by my noble friend the Lord Chairman and I should like to say now that I propose to move an Amendment on Third Reading. I understand from the Lord Chairman that that is the usual course. This is really a very serious matter and I hope your Lordships will allow me to say a few words upon it. When I objected, rather more than a week ago, to the Sessional Order being suspended I pointed out that the Swindon Corporation had sent down to the local newspaper offices and had removed the fuses, thus preventing the local newspaper from being published, and that was done on the order of the local strike committee. I saw the members of the Swindon Corporation afterwards and they informed me that they had been told that all their men would come out on strike unless they were prepared to prevent the newspaper being published and three or four large manufacturers from carrying on their business.
It would appear that the order to fall in with the request of the strike committee was carried out by the chairman of the committee, or by the committee which deals with electricity, and was not endorsed by the whole Corporation. The Corporation informed me that within a few days—I think it was five days—they reinstated the fuses because they were then in a position to fill the places of the men who struck. The newspaper, however, takes a different line. On behalf of the newspaper it is stated—I am reading from a letter dated July 15, which has been sent to me:—The supplies were restored five days later not because by then men had been found to take the place of the strikers (up to that point there had been nothing more tangible than a strike threat at the electricity works), but because the Government insisted on the power being restored.Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen, who, on behalf of the Government, applied pressure on the Mayor and Town Clerk to this end, personally called upon me at these offices to assure himself that our electric power had been restored, and told me that naval pensioners would, if necessary, see that the supply was maintained.The writer goes on to say that only one man was actually required to augment 59 the ordinary labour available and adds:Many members of the Electricity and Tramways Committee were already themselves on strike as affecting their occupations; as such, they were interested in closing down other industries that all work might be brought to a standstill; at least one member of the Committee was also a prominent member of the central strike committee.In this particular Bill there are fifteen clauses dealing with electricity and the Corporation assure me that they propose to extend their supply and to spend £300,000 on the extension. I think it will be necessary if, in the future, Corporations are to have the power of supplying electricity—I say this of all Corporations and not particularly of Swindon—that some clause should be inserted in an Act of Parliament which would prevent any member who happened to be on strike going to the electricity committee and forcing them to deprive consumers of that which they have a right to obtain. I therefore propose on the Third Reading to move this clause:The Corporation shall be liable for all damage or loss that may be sustained by a consumer with whom an agreement to supply current is in force, arising from the Corporation having failed or neglected, without reasonable excuse, or having unlawfully refused to supply current to the consumer. The Corporation shall further be liable in any such case to a penalty not exceeding £50 per day for each day during which the default continues, and such penalty shall be surcharged on the members of the Corporation jointly and severally.I propose those last words so as to make the people who commit the fault themselves liable out of their own pockets, and not their unfortunate constituents. I thought I ought to inform your Lordships of the reasons which induced me to take the steps I have taken and the further steps I propose to take.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and Bill read 2ª accordingly.