HL Deb 25 July 1927 vol 68 cc809-17

Read 3a, with the Amendments.

Clause 29:

Bulk Supplies.

29. The Company on the one hand and any local authority company body or person authorized to supply electricity within the area of supply for the time being of the Company or within any area adjoining the area of supply for the time being of the Company on the other hand may enter into and carry into effect agreements for the supply of electricity in bulk by or to the Company to or by such authority company body or person and the provisions of the respective Acts and orders under which such authority company body or person may be empowered to supply electricity shall so far as applicable have effect within the area of supply of such authority company body or person for the purposes of a supply to be afforded under this section:

Provided that except with the approval of the Electricity Commissioners (which approval the Commissioners are hereby authorized to give) no agreement shall be entered into under this section:—

  1. (a) with any authority company body or person not authorized to supply electricity within the area of supply for the time being of the Company; or
  2. (b) with any authority company body or person authorized to supply electricity within the area of supply for the time being of the Company if the agreement is for the supply of electricity in bulk to the Company for a period exceeding seven years.

LORD O'HAGAN moved to omit Clause 29. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am speaking on behalf of the County Council of Essex, and I find my position somewhat difficult owing to the fact that the Amendment to this clause put down on the Paper by Lord Askwith has been withdrawn. Your Lordships will observe, however, that Lord Askwith is now to move the insertion of another clause, the substance of which is so closely related to the clause which I propose should be deleted that I am afraid it will be very difficult to confine myself to this clause without referring to what may be further Amendments. In those circumstances I hope your Lordships will allow me a little latitude.

The position of the Essex County Council is that, whereas under the general law it was obviously the intention of Parliament to give to the Electricity Commissioners discretion in the matter of arrangements for supply between various undertakings, the effect of the Amendment suggested will be to change to a large extent the general principles of previous Acts of Parliament dealing with the question of the supply of electricity. The East Anglian Electricity Company deal with the Counties of Norfolk and Suffolk and parts of the County of Essex. The effect of the proposed Amendment will be to make it impossible for that company to supply people in the northern part of Essex except with the consent of the County of London Electricity Supply Company. The County Council of Essex desire that the interests of their ratepayers should not be prejudiced, as they think they would be prejudiced by that Amendment, the effect of which would be to give to the Metropolitan County Company, who have a, station in the southern part of the County, a monopoly of supply in the County of Essex.

In these circumstances I ask your Lordships to delete Clause 29. The effect of doing that would be to leave the company under the provisions of the general law, and to put the ratepayers of the northern part of the County of Essex, whose interests the County Council think are prejudiced or may be prejudiced, in as stable a, position as possible in regard to this matter. Perhaps I should add that the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Askwith materially affects this point, because it restores the Bill to the condition in which it was before. It is right to recall that a very similar clause was deleted by the Committee upstairs. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 29.—(Lord O'Hagan.)

LORD ASKWITH had given Notice to move, after Clause 29, to insert the following new clause:—

For protection of County of London Electric Supply Company, Limited.

". If the Bill promoted by the County of London Electric Supply Company, Limited (in this section referred to as 'the County Company') in the present session of Parliament under the title of the County of London Electric Supply Company Bill shall become an Act (in this section referred to as 'the County Company's Act') the following provisions shall have effect (that is to say):— (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act—

  1. (a) The Company shall not under the powers of this Act supply electricity in bulk or otherwise; and
  2. (b) electricity supplied by the Company, under the powers of this Act whether in bulk or otherwise shall not be used
within or for use within any part of the county of Essex except with the consent in writing of the County Company: Provided that nothing in this section shall prevent the Company affording at any point outside the county of Essex a supply of electricity to the owners or lessees of a railway, tramway, or canal undertaking for the purpose of haulage or traction or for lighting vehicles or vessels used on any part of the railway, tramway or canal:

(2) The provisions of this section shall cease to have effect in any part of the county of Essex in which the powers of the County Company under the County Company's Act have ceased to be exerciseable by virtue of an order made by the Minister under the provisions of subsection (3) of the section of the County Company's Act to which the marginal note is 'Company to submit to Commissioners proposals for supply':

(3) Nothing in this section shall prejudice or affect the exercise by the Central Electricity Board of any powers which that Board could have exercised under the provisions of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1926, if this section had not been enacted."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have to oppose the deletion of this clause and, like my noble friend, I must to a certain extent take the two Amendments—mine and his—together. There has been presented, pari passu with this Bill, the County of London Electricity Bill, which has been going through unopposed. That Bill gives the County of London authority, which has spent millions in the development of its power station at Barking and in bulk supply, a monopoly, as it were, subject to a certain Order in Council for the Braintree district, of dealing with the County of Essex. That Bill will, I think, come up unopposed for a Third Reading this week. This East Anglian Electricity Bill, promoted by a company which has no generating station, is now brought forward and, if Clause 29 were deleted, they would have power to come into the County of Essex, to take the richer places from the County of London Electricity authority and to leave them either to develop, if they could, the agricultural districts of Essex without sufficient remuneration or to develop those districts with great loss to themselves. The general manager of the company has said that they were casting their bread upon the waters and were trying to do as much as they could for the County of Essex. This Bill suddenly meets with opposition, I suppose under the instructions of the Essex County Council, on the ground that it is feared that certain districts upon the borders of Essex and Suffolk might be left out by the Commissioners. This is a paper objection, and I am not sure but that my noble friend Lord Kintore, who was Chairman of the Committee, will endorse what I say and agree that the Committee did not quite appreciate the importance of this matter.

The proposal that I wish to make is, not to delete Clause 29, but to introduce a new clause which is the same as that which the Committee deleted, with an important addition designed to make it clear that the whole matter is under the authority of the Central Control Board and that the Board can see that these outlying districts are properly provided for in any scheme for the whole County of Essex. We have endeavoured at several meetings to deal with this very belated objection, and I ask your Lordships to throw it out. I will characterise it as a paper objection. I think that in view of these facts, that this bulk scheme is due, that the County of Essex can stop the whole thing and go elsewhere, that the Central Control Board will have control over the scheme when it is produced and that, unless this amended clause is accepted, there will be no power with the County of London authority to supply East Anglia and other places where they have no generating station, my Amendment should be accepted.

How can they have this power until they have their scheme properly defined? This has been the method properly pursued since the Electricity Bill was passed. A scheme has to be drawn up acceptable to the Central Control Board and, when they know what their power is, then they can bring out their scheme; but it is most important that their rights should be clearly defined so that a scheme may be possible, and that, when the scheme has been produced, it should be duly protected and that there should not be a piecemeal and sporadic supply. I do not know why the County of Essex should come in and prevent the East Anglian company, from whom I see no opposition, from having their supply sent from Barking, if they wish it, to any of the districts in Norfolk and Suffolk. It suggests a rather selfish policy on the part of the County of Essex, whom the County of London Electric Supply Company are out to assist, and therefore I strongly urge upon your Lordships that this belated objection should not be listened to and that the Amendment that I have put down should be accepted.


My Lords, on behalf of the promoters of this Bill, I should like to say that our object is merely to reconcile the diverse interests of other people. Your Lordships should know that, when this Bill was first brought forward, it included in its scope a great part of the County of Essex. In response to representations of the County of London Electric Supply Company the promoters deleted the area of Essex from the scope of their Bill, and it was our wish to see that this was carried out, not only in spirit but in effect, and we therefore provided under Clause 29, which is, I understand, a very common form of clause in Bills of this kind, that we should have power to come in just as we should have done if the County of Essex had been left in, and we suggested that some clause should be put in to protect them. We feel that either of the Amendments that have been put forward by the noble Lords, Lord O'Hagan and Lord Ask-with, would meet the case, and we are perfectly prepared to accept either of them, though we recognise that the Amendment of Lord Askwith would appear on the face of it to demand the reversal of a decision of your Lordships. If, therefore, your Lordships should wish to pass the Amendment standing in the name of Lord O'Hagan, the promoters would certainly not oppose it.


My Lords, I desire in a sentence to support Lord Askwith's Amendment. I had the honour to be Chairman of the Committee which considered this Bill and I know that it was due to a misunderstanding that the County of Essex was not at the time excluded from the territory assigned to the East Anglian Company. I feel that we were not sufficiently apprised of or alive to the fact that quite at the beginning of the Session, when the County of London Company also promoted a Bill, an agreement, or at any rate a clear understanding, had been amicably arrived at between that Company and the Essex Company that Essex should remain the undisputed territory to be served by the County of London Company, that Company being well able to give a supply from its extensive and well-equipped station at Barking, leaving the Counties of Norfolk and Suffolk to the East Anglan Company. Had the existence of that agreement been really brought home to us, I can say with certainty that Clause 30 would have remained in the Bill with provisos added to it, similar in effect to those now proposed by Lord Askwith. I am glad, however, that there remains yet time to put the matter right and to save the Bill by this House adopting Lord Askwith's Amendment, to which I hope your Lordships will agree.


My Lords, I only want to say one word on behalf of the Ministry of Transport. I am not really quite sure whether we are dealing with one or two Amendments. We have been discussing two, but I presume they are alternative Amendments. From the point of view of the Ministry of Transport I do not wish to offer any objection to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and for this very simple reason, that if this clause is kept in it really cuts right across the general policy of the Electricity (Supply) Acts of 1909, 1919 and 1926, because under those Acts a company can always go before the Electricity Commissioners and ask for leave to supply a person who requires electricity outside the borders of its area—in this case Essex—and it is suggested that it might be more convenient if a man living just on the borders of Essex and close to Suffolk were supplied from East Anglia—not possibly at a greater expense, though I do not wish to prejudge the question, than he would be from Essex. The whole matter is free to be considered by the Electricity Commissioners and therefore it seems unnecessary—at any rate that is the view of the Ministry of Transport—to travel outside the general principles embodied in the Electricity Acts.


My Lords, I found no difficulty in advising on this question until the speech of my noble friend Viscount Peel. As your Lordships have gathered the promoters of the Bill are not in this quarrel at all. The promoters, I gather, do not object to either of the alternative Amendments. Their anxiety is to get their Bill. I have taken part in two very long sittings in which I have had all the parties unofficially before me in my room and I have admired their very good temper, but at the same time, amid the activity with which they have discussed matters between them, the promoters have never been able to make a suggestion to which both parties would agree. That is the position your Lordships are in this afternoon. I am sorry to hear what Lord Peel said—namely, that he would view with pleasure the omission of Clause 29—because, although we have heard the objection of the Ministry, I hope their point of view is an exaggerated one. Recognising the fact that Lord Kintore, who presided over the Committee which omitted the original clause, is satisfied with this Amendment standing in Lord Askwith's name, which restores Clause 30 in another form, with additions, I thought that that was a course which would be convenient for your Lordships to take, remembering that there are two or three days in which the matter can yet be discussed in another place.

What your Lordships are doing will be substantial enough to cause that reconsideration to take place. At the same time I hope I shall not be thought disrespectful if I characterise the whole thing as a storm in a teacup. Both parties have been fighting very honestly but very strongly, envisaging eventualities which I do not believe can possibly arise. The main thing which first impressed me after seeing the proposals and plans was that the County of London Company was making a very large expenditure on lines in the County of Essex, which I hope will very soon be very happily supplied, thus making the language of the proposals in either of these clauses or Amendments unnecessary. I would therefore try to bring the matter down to the ground of public convenience, and on that ground I think it would be most convenient from a legislative point of view if Lord O'Hagan would withdraw his Amendment and allow Lord Askwith's Amendment to be passed. In that sense I appeal to my noble friend, who represents the Ministry of Transport—while not suggesting that he is not right—that he should be magnanimous and not insist upon the full extent of his case at this moment.


I should first of all like to say that this was not a belated opposition, our petition having been made when the Bill was in the House of Commons. With regard to the suggestion made by the Chairman of Committees, after what has passed I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I do not think I have anything more to say, except to move that this new clause be inserted. It is a necessary correlative of Clause 29, which gave power to these two companies to come to an agreement with regard to territory on the borders, which would allow either one or the other to supply electricity on such terms as were agreed to as reasonable, subject to the control of the Commissioners. That would allow the electrical development of Essex to go on without the squabbles which would otherwise certainly have arisen.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 23, after Clause 29, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Askwith.)


My Lords, I think your Lordships have a good deal of occasion to complain of the way in which we have been treated in the matter of this Bill. First of all it seems that the cases of the parties and their relative claims were not adequately represented to the Committee, and therefore we have had the Chairman coming before us and telling us that the Committee is wrong. In these circumstances, what we wanted was clear and definite guidance from the Government, and from the Lord Chairman. The Government has one view and the Lord Chairman has a rather different view, and now, by a sort of compromise, arrived at in discussion, the noble Lords who have moved Amendments have got more or less together. I think the only course we can take is the course proposed to us. For my own part I have great sympathy with the desire to bring Essex into the unifying control which proceeds from London. At the same time I should like to know more about this matter. I shall certainly not oppose this Amendment.


My Lords, I think it is incumbent upon me to say, after what has fallen from the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, that the proposal of this Amendment does not at all meet the wishes of the Essex County Council, so far as they are concerned.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, there are two small Amendments, practically drafting Amendments, to the Bill. I move that the additional Amendments be agreed to.

On Question, further Amendments agreed to,

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.