HL Deb 30 November 1926 vol 65 cc1004-8

Amendments of Schedule to the Electric Lighting (Clauses) Act, 1899.

S. 20. … After the words "electric signalling communication," wherever they occur, there shall be inserted the words "or electrical control of railways."

LORD ASKWITH moved, before the reference to Section 20, to insert "Section 13. In subsection (1) the proviso shall be omitted." The noble Lord said: That provision to omit the proviso was in the original draft of the Bill as introduced in another place, and it was only on the Report stage that it was said certain municipal authorities objected. The words are: Provided that where the local authority are not themselves the undertakers, no such box or apparatus shall be placed above ground, except with the consent of the authority, body, or person, by whom the street is repairable. The effect is that in every case where local authorities have been themselves the undertakers they have made extensive use of these boxes above ground.

The electric tramway companies have that power and exercise it, and no trouble has followed, but there have been a great many cases all over the country—not so much in London—where in the most arbitrary manner refusals have been returned to applications for leave to place these boxes above ground. Having regard to the unreasonable exercise of the veto it is time it was removed altogether and all these different companies put upon the same footing.

Amendment moved— Page 43, line 39, at end insert ("S.13. In subsection (1) the proviso shall be omitted")— (Lord Askwith.)


I have considerable sympathy with the Amendment because it is true that in certain cases local authorities have abused their powers, but taking the country throughout the local authorities are not the undertakers, and as custodians of the highways it is better for them to have power to refuse boxes, especially in places like London, than for them to be deprived of this power. I understand the local authorities have had this power to refuse unsightly boxes since 1889, and it will be most inconvenient and lead to a lot of delay if questions of this sort have to be referred to the Electricity Commissioners. As I have said, it is only in a few places that municipal authorities have abused their authority, and throughout most of the country they are not doing it. They have the right of doing what is fair and proper and of preventing obstructions from the setting up of these things in the streets.

I hope the Government will not accept my noble friend's Amendment. I have been asked by the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, which represents all parties and all the boroughs in London, to oppose this Amendment, because they are very jealous of the powers of controlling the highway being taken away from them, and because I believe it will cause a great deal of delay and trouble.


I suggest to my noble friend that it would be unwise to prevent the local authorities exercising their veto or giving leave regarding these boxes. I should have thought it was a matter well within the province of the local authorities and one they might well be trusted to exercise with discretion. I hope my noble friend will leave the matter as it is.


Might I point out that these local authorities put their boxes up where they like for similar purposes and that tramway companies who have nothing to do with local authorities also put them up where they like? But there is this safeguard to the local authorities—that they can appeal to two authorities: either to the Electricity Commissioners or to the Minister and can secure redress if anything unreasonable is done in connection with those boxes. No evils have occurred and no difficulties have been created for the local authorities in the case of the tramways and we press this Amendment merely to prevent the local authorities taking an arbitrary right to prevent the interest of other people having a reasonable opportunity. I hope that the noble Viscount will again consider the point before the Report stage if he cannot accept the Amendment to-night.


My noble friend appeals to me. I really cannot make any promise regarding the Report stage, but I certainly will enquire into the point.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD ASKWITH moved, before the reference to Section 20, to insert "S. 14. In paragraph (1) (a) after the words 'one month' there shall be inserted 'or in the case of service lines, seven days.'" The noble Lord said: This Amendment is to correct a difference in the periods of notice. The section of the Clauses Act referred to provides that one month's notice has to be given to road authorities for all "works" in any roads. Certain local authorities have recently insisted upon a month's notice for service lines, but most have always accepted either three or seven days' notice. Section 25 of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, amended Section 26 of the 1882 Act in respect to notices to the Postmaster-General to seven days for service lines, but strangely did not amend Section 14 of the Clauses Acts which makes the month's notice necessary for the Postmaster-General as well as for the local authorities. My Amendment would make the term the same in all cases.

Amendment moved— Page 43, line 39, at end insert the said new words.—(Lord Askwith.)


I am informed that the notice to break up roads is a month under the existing Acts, though some local authorities are ready to waive that length of time in certain cases. The Postmaster-General also has to have a month's notice, and I understand that he objects very strongly to any alteration in the notice. I do not think I can assent to such a considerable reduction of the notice as it is opposed by many of these authorities.


I do not know whether the noble Viscount is aware that under one Act the Postmaster-General must have a month's notice and under another Act seven days' notice.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

LORD ASKWITH moved, at the end of the Schedule, to insert "otherwise than by track circuits." The noble Lord said: I am told that this is a very important matter and that as worded the proposed provision goes too far. Unless these words are inserted existing lines might be easily interfered with by the very delicate and sensitive effects upon track circuits. They might have to be protected in a manner which is most unreasonable because the effect of these currents upon them is very difficult to detect.

Amendment moved— Page 43, line 43, at end insert ("otherwise than by track circuits").—(Lord Askwith.)


I understand that railway companies do in fact use track circuits for signalling purposes, and that the effect of this Amendment would be to take away the protection which the railways already have. I hope my noble friend will not press it.


I really must ask the noble Viscount to reconsider it before Report, as it is rather late now.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Fifth Schedule agreed to.

Sixth Schedule: