HL Deb 15 March 1932 vol 83 cc866-8

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I should not have troubled the House with the consideration of this Bill if I had not been assured that it had the approval of the Board of Trade and of His Majesty's Government. It is true that it is not in the Government programme, but I am assured that they will support it, and if it is passed by your Lordships' House assist, if there is any opportunity, in passing it through the House of Commons. I hope I shall not have to take up very much time in explaining it. The object of the Bill is to enable gas companies to co-operate with each other or with other companies doing similar work, and the most important feature of it is that it will enable them to dispose of their by-products more easily, more advantageously and more economically than they can under the Statutes under which they now work.

Under the Gas Statutes by which they are governed to-day smaller companies, although they are enjoined to put their by-products to the best possible use, are compelled to work them up on their own scheduled land and are not able to do so anywhere else. The provisions in these Acts were not perhaps very far-sighted. They did not foresee the advantages of co-operation in the future. The object of this Bill is to enable any company, by taking shares in the operations of another company, to allow, say, their coke or their tar to be marketed by some other company already engaged in that business, or to enable two or three companies to combine together either in producing or in marketing their residuals. It is obvious that it would be a great convenience if there are three or four small companies not far apart, one of which wants to undertake one piece of work of this sort and another another, and so on, that their interests should be combined by taking shares, which is, I think, the most practical method of working together. The amount they can invest in another company is limited to one-tenth and there is a proviso on the second page of the Bill which means that it in no way interferes with any powers other undertakers may have which may be, perhaps, more advantageous than those the gas companies get.

We hear a great deal in these days about rationalisation. It is a convenient word which may mean a great deal or nothing, and when any one wants to talk about other people's business and explain what should be done, one generally says it ought to be rationalised. It used to be called correlation. What I personally believe it means is that arrangements to prevent over-lapping are brought about in an industry and I think this is a very good example of rationalisation. There are other forms we have known—forms which are sometimes imposed from without and are not always, in the opinion of some of us, successful; but this is a form of rationalisation suggested by those doing the business themselves, who understand the conditions under which they work and how those conditions could be improved. I hope, therefore, your Lordships will agree in thinking that the measure deserves our support, that we ought to enable companies to free themselves from obsolete restrictions, and that. the Bill should be to the advantage of both consumer and producer. I therefore beg to move the Second Reading.

Moved, That this Bill be now read 2a. —(Viscount Bridgeman.)


My Lords, is not this a Private Bill which will have to go upstairs?


I think not.


I think that question ought to be looked into. I have always understood that a Bill which dealt with private rights and not with the rights of the country as a whole was a Private Bill and had to go upstairs.


My Lords, after the very full statement of my noble friend it will not be necessary for me to detain you long, but I rise to intervene for a few moments on behalf of His Majesty's Government to say that they welcome the Bill and consider that, although it is doubtful whether the extended powers obtained by certain undertakers should be given to gas undertakers in general, it appears necessary that if the industry—pace Lord Banbury—rationalises itself, it should have the powers sought in the present Bill. I therefore hope your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading to-day and that it may be passed into law.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.