HL Deb 07 February 1935 vol 95 cc859-63

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[Lord STANMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Arrangements between Central Electricity Board and authorised undertakers.

1.—(1) Notwithstanding anything in the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1926, the Central Electricity Board shall have power and shall be deemed always to have had power under that, Act by agreement with any authorised undertakers who are the owners of or control a generating station which is not a selected station to enter into arrangements with them for regulating the manner, in which and the purposes for which the station is to be operated and maintained or for securing that the station shall cease to be used as a generating station, and where arrangements are so entered into as aforesaid, the arrangements may provide—

  1. (a) for the supply of electricity—
    1. (i) to the Board by the undertakers;
    2. (ii) to the undertakers by the Board;
  2. (b) for the making of payments, of such amounts as may he agreed, to the Board by undertakers, and to the undertakers by the Broad, in respect of the matters provided for by the arrangements;
  3. (c) for any purpose incidental to the purposes aforesaid:

Provided that after the passing of this Act the Board shall not enter into any such arrangements except with the consent of the Electricity Commissioners, and the Commissioners shall not give their consent unless—

  1. (a) they are satisfied that the arrangements will not result in a financial loss to the Board; and
  2. (b) after giving to any authorised undertakers who are under contract to supply electricity to, or to take a supply of electricity from, the owners of the generating station in question, an opportunity of making representations with respect to the matter, they are satisfied that the arrangements will not result in any substantial prejudice to any such authorised undertakers.

LORD MOUNT TEMPLE moved, in the proviso in subsection (1), after "Electricity Commissioners," to insert "and for such period as the Commissioners may approve." The noble Lord said: Since I placed on the Paper the series of Amendments which appear in my name consultations have taken place between the Government and the Central Electricity Board and those interested in the industry, with a view to seeing whether some agreed compromise could not be reached, and I am happy to inform your Lordships that it will not be necessary for me, as I apprehend, to move more than the first Amendment as a token Amendment, because the agreement which has been arrived at will obviate the necessity of moving these Amendments. I think I had better simply formally move the first Amendment and then await the answer which the noble Earl, Lord Munster, will give. If it is as satisfactory as I hope it will be, I shall then ask leave to withdraw that Amendment and shall not move any of the others. I beg to move

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 15, after ("Commissioners") insert ("and for such period as the Commissioners may approve").—(Lord Mount Temple.)


I am obliged to my noble friend for giving me an opportunity to make a general statement on the position which has arisen upon this Bill. The Amendments which stand on the Paper fall into two groups. The first are detailed Amendments relating to the provisions of the Bill, all of which, together with those standing in the name of Lord Gainford, have appeared in substance at one or other stage of this Bill in another place or the Bill of last Session, and the majority of which were withdrawn or have already been rejected by your Lordships, and also in another place for reasons which, if necessary, I shall again be prepared to give. In the second group are certain new clauses which seek to make specific alterations of the provisions of the 1926 Act. In the view of the Government these clauses are outside the scope of this Bill, and in any case could not be accepted.

I understand, however, that since the noble Lord tabled these Amendments the Incorporated Association of Electric Power Companies, on whose behalf they have been prepared, have sought an interview with the Central Electricity Board, and the Board have reason to believe that the Association are now satisfied that all their legitimate objections are sufficiently met by the Amendments which have already been accepted by the Government and by the assurance previously given by the Board to the National Consultative Committee, set up under Section 3 of the 1926 Act, that they would discuss with them the procedure to be adopted for ensuring full co-operation between the Board and the owners of selected stations in the negotiations for a railway traction supply. At the same interview the Association stressed their anxiety to obtain the Amendments to the 1926 Act represented by the new clauses in the second group.


Will the noble Earl say to which group he refers?


I referred to them right at the beginning. It is the group by which it is sought to amend the 1926 Act. But perhaps I had better finish my statement. It was stated in the Committee stage in the House of Commons that the Board realised the nature of the problem sought to be dealt with by these Amendments and were endeavouring to find a solution. That statement the Board agree to be correct. In fact, for over twelve months the problem has been under discussion between them and one of their district consultative committees; and, further, the findings of that committee have been referred to the National Consultative Committee for their consideration. At the interview the Board informed the Power Companies' Association of these facts and that in their view the problem could not be solved on the lines suggested by the Association, but that they were actively and without delay pursuing the investigation into it which their National Consultative Committee, representative of the whole industry, municipal undertakings as well as power companies, had at their request already undertaken. By that means the Board hoped that all the interests concerned could agree to a solution of the difficulty. I am obliged, as I said, to my noble friend for letting me make this statement, and I presume as a result of it my noble friend Lord Mount Temple and my noble friend Lord Gainford will not on this occasion desire to move the Amendments which stand in their names.


May I say that as this arrangement has been made by the Incorporated Association of Electric Power Companies with the Central Electricity Board I am not proposing to move my Amendments. While, of course, I should have preferred personally that statutory effect should be given to the substance of my Amendments, having regard to this arrangement which has been made behind the scenes I am quite satisfied to leave it at that and to rely on the undertakings working out satisfactorily. Therefore, although I came down to the House prepared to support the Amendments of the noble Lord who has moved this Amendment, and to move my own Amendments, I do not propose now to move, and I think the noble Lord would be well advised not to press his Amendment.


May I thank the noble Earl very sincerely for his clear and conciliatory statement? It is quite obvious that those for whom I have the honour to speak have not got all they would like to get—naturally not—but the Government have advanced substantially towards a solution of the injustice which I think those for whom I speak would suffer if the declaration had not been made. In two respects the noble Earl has made a distinct advance on behalf of the Government. In respect of the new clauses it appears from what he has said that the Central Electricity Board and the Government do realise the real grievances of the industry. I am glad that they are going to deal with them in the way the noble Earl has outlined. On the important question of railway electrification the promise to consult with all the selected stations will largely remove the fear which has existed, and I think rightly existed, that the Central Electricity Board wanted to cut the distributors out of the business.

Without putting that in legal phraseology in an Act of Parliament, I think the declaration made by the noble Earl on behalf of the Government will, in effect and in practice, safeguard the interests of the distributors. I would add this, that I think the negotiations which have been conducted on behalf of the Government by the Board and on behalf of the industry by various associations, show that a great deal more can be done by talking things over quietly and sensibly than by fighting things out on the floor of your Lordships' House. I am very glad that the negotiations have been so successful, and in view of that I would ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.