§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Alness.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ General powers and duties of the Board.
§ 2.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act the Board shall be responsible for initiating and undertaking the development of all further means of generation of electricity by water power within the area defined in the Second Schedule to this Act (hereinafter referred to as "the North of Scotland District") and it shall be the duty of the Board so far as practicable—
- (a) to provide supplies of electricity required to meet the demands of ordinary consumers in such parts of the North of Scotland District (including isolated areas) as are outside the areas of supply of other authorized undertakers;
- (b) to provide supplies of electricity required to meet the demands of authorized undertakers operating within the said District:
§ Provided that the Board shall not supply electricity directly to authorized undertakers within the area of supply of a power company, unless the power company consent or the Electricity Commissioners are satisfied that the Board can give a supply suitable to the needs of the authorized undertakers appreciably more economically than the power company;
§ (3) The Board shall, so far as their powers and duties permit, collaborate in the carrying out of any measures for the economic development and social improvement of the North of Scotland District or any part thereof.323
Lord BROCKET moved to insert in subsection (1), after paragraph (a):
(b) to facilitate the supply of electricity to consumers in any such isolated area by the loan or grant of money to any company or person agreeing with the Board to construct enlarge or improve works in that area for generating electricity by water power and for distributing the electricity so generated.
The noble Lord said: In moving the Amendment which stands in my name, I feel it may be as well if your Lordships will permit me for a moment to quote a short passage from the Cooper Report on Hydro-Electric Development in Scotland. On page 23 this Report reads as follows:
Without a reasonably dense and concentrated population of consumers in urban areas with which adjoining rural areas can be associated for the purposes of electrical supply, a cheap general supply of electricity in such rural areas is impossible owing to the heavy expense associated with the distribution network; and the smaller and more dispersed the population the more impracticable it is to provide except at prohibitive cost a general supply. It is often possible to deal with unproductive areas by spreading the cost of supply over more remunerative areas and so 'taking the fat with the lean.' But we are satisfied that over a very considerable part of the Highlands 'the lean' predominates so extensively over 'the fat,' that a cheap general supply is unattainable on an economic basis.
That is the expression of opinion in the Cooper Report, and I put forward this Amendment because I feel that, particularly in isolated parts of the Highlands, individual landowners or individual small companies or persons can probably supply electricity more easily at less cost and at much cheaper rates than this great monopoly that is going to be set up.
§ I am not a Scot myself, and I am not really trying to get a little bit of that £30,000,000 guarantee for private landowners, but it seems to me that private landowners who already have small plants could extend their plants with the aid of grants from the Electricity Commission in rather the same way that private landowners are now able to improve their cottages under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, 1926, more advantageously than the Commission could do it. I do not know what the noble Lord who will reply will have to say about this, but I do feel that it is necessary to put forward this point of view. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord who replies will be able to give me either a satisfactory reply or an assurance that this may be dealt with on Report stage. I beg to move.324
Page 1, line 25, at end, insert the said paragraph.—(Lord Brocket.)
I am sorry that I cannot accept the Amendment which my noble friend Lord Brocket has just moved; and I would ask him to bear in mind one or two considerations which I venture to mention. In the first place, he will remember that it is the statutory duty of the Board to provide supplies of electricity required to meet the demands of ordinary consumers in such parts of the Highlands of the North of Scotland District, including isolated areas, as are outside the area of supply of the other authorized undertakers. That is a statutory duty laid upon the Board. The Board can, as I see it, discharge that duty in an alternative manner. They can either give the supply from their own hydro-electric works or they may provide a small local generating station in the case of an isolated community. But I think there is every reason to believe that the Board, with the experience and knowledge and technical skill which they will possess, will discharge this function of giving supplies to an isolated neighbourhood more economically and more efficiently than would be done under the proposals which my noble friend has put on the Paper.
I would also ask him to remember that the Board are required by the Bill to make ends meet, and in so far therefore as they finance local people in isolated areas by giving them grants or by making them loans on uneconomic terms, that would have to be made good out of the profits which the Board anticipate to make by the sale of electricity to the Electricity Board. Therefore to that extent the Board's capacity to develop electric undertakings in isolated areas would be hampered and impaired and that, I think, would be disastrous rather than beneficial to the North of Scotland area. For those reasons I fear I cannot accept the Amendment, nor did I understand from listening to my noble friend's quotation that Lord Cooper in his Report suggested that such a concrete scheme as this should be made part of the Bill.
§ Lord BROCKET
Having heard the noble Lord's explanation I am afraid I am not entirely convinced, but I hope he is right in what he says. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.325
§ The DUKE of SUTHERLAND had an Amendment on the Paper, to paragraph (b) of subsection (1), to leave out "operating" and insert" in respect of their operations." The noble Duke said: I do not wish to move this Amendment. I have had the opportunity of having a conference with the Secretary of State for Scotland to-day on the points that arose and I am quite satisfied. I think that the difficulty anticipated will not arise and that those people who are particularly interested in the matter will be satisfied, too. In those circumstances, I do not move the Amendment.
§ Lord O'HAGAN moved, in subsection (3), after "duties," to insert" under this section." The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment, and I hope a subsequent Amendment, I should like to say that there is no feeling of antagonism in my mind. In fact, I had the advantage for ten days in Edinburgh a little time ago of sitting on the Glen Alfric Inquiry in regard to a Bill put forward for hydro-electric development. Anybody who like myself has been able to listen for some ten days to the arguments in favour, I will not say of the particular machinery of that Bill, but of the need for some development of hydro-electric power in Scotland, would certainly not be antagonistic towards this experimental Bill on the part of His Majesty's Government.
With regard to the Amendment in my name on this clause I would like to say that it is in effect a very simple one. The whole intention of it is merely to make quite clear what is the actual function of the Board and to incorporate in this part of the clause those few words of my Amendment that will bring into this part of the clause what is really implicit in the clause as a whole. I would remind the noble Lord in charge of the Bill that the Secretary of State, if I may quote him to-day, said:
I merely want to say that half the purpose of this Bill is to restore the population of the Highlands, to provide social amenities for the area, and we desire to have some clause in the Bill providing that this shall be something more than a merely cold-hearted hydroelectric organization.
I venture to suggest that it is important in this subsection to remove any possibility of misunderstanding. The embodiment of the words of my Amendment at this
point would make it quite clear that the function of the Board would be that laid down in the Bill and not extend to other matters. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 28, after ("duties") insert ("under this section").—(Lord O'Hagan.)
I fear that I cannot accept this Amendment. It appears to me that the Bill as it stands is perfectly clear and unambiguous on the point to which the noble Lord has referred. The intention of the Amendment appears to be to limit the extent to which the Board can collaborate in schemes for the economic development and social improvement of the North of Scotland area. It seems to be suggested by my noble friend that the clause is not clear on that point and that it might be conceived that the clause gave the Board more and wider powers than is intended by the Bill to be conferred upon them. I think that is not the position. The Board's powers in this particular respect are subject to the provisions of the Bill, and all schemes made and confirmed under it, and they are confined to the generation, the distribution and the provision of supplies of electricity. There can be no doubt of that, having regard to the other provisions of the Bill. For example, if it is proposed by a person or a body of persons to set up an economic development or a social improvement and electricity is required to make that improvement even better, then it will be the duty of the Board to collaborate with the person or the body of persons by giving the supply of electricity which is required, in so far as their powers and duties permit. But further than that, under the express terms of this Bill, the Board are not permitted or intended to go. My humble view is that the Amendment which is proposed is entirely unnecessary, as the matter is clear under the clause as it stands, and certainly clearer when one has regard to the provisions of the Bill as a whole.
After what the noble Lord has said, I would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. My only reason in moving it was to accentuate what the noble Lord has just said.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.327
§ Clause 3:
§ Powers of Board for discharge of their functions.
3. The Board may—
(a) make such surveys and collect such information as they may consider necessary to ascertain the water power resources in the North of Scotland District or in any part thereof and for that purpose the Board or any person authorized by them may, after giving not less than seven days' notice and subject to payment of reasonable compensation for any damage caused thereby, enter upon any land and there do such things as may be necessary for the purposes aforesaid;
§ Lord SALTOUN moved, in paragraph (a), to leave out "seven" and insert" fourteen." The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is not so much to substitute fourteen days for seven as to ensure that proper time is given and that proprietors of land and occupiers of land have every opportunity to meet surveyors and other people who have to enter upon land to make plans or carry out works under this scheme. When I Hold the Secretary of State I was going to move this Amendment, he said that in another place they would be very impatient of anything which added to the length of time in making the necessary surveys and starting preliminary work. But the substitution of fourteen days for seven days does not, by any means, necessarily add to the length of time, and indeed may probably shorten the time, because everybody nowadays is so busy and has so many important engagements that it is not always possible at seven days' notice, no matter how urgent the matter may be, to meet the surveyor and go over the ground with him. My object is that nobody should be compelled to attend if it is impossible for him to do so within that time, and I want to make sure that owners and occupiers do have a fair chance to meet the surveyor on the ground.
§ That is very important and during wartime it is more important than at any other time. For instance, I know a case where the whole surface of an aerodrome had to be remade after it had been practically completed, simply because in the preliminary survey the proprietor of the ground had not been consulted and had not gone over the ground with the surveyor. The result was that the people making the aerodrome had not the necessary knowledge to enable them to carry 328 out the work properly. They simply went blindly ahead and made a mess of it. It is often thought that land is just a nice surface of either plough land or grass. That is all people know about it. There is a great deal more to it than that. Everybody knows, for instance, how frightfully complicated drainage can be. I could take your Lordships to two spots not far from my house and lay bets as to whether the drains run north, south, east or west and make money every time. There is growing up in the country a practice—and I am sorry to say that very often public departments arc to blame—of carrying out surveys not only without giving sufficient notice but without giving any notice at all. I know of one case where that happened and a local housing scheme was held up, to the intense irritation of the housing committee, because the survey and valuation had been made without consulting the proprietor. The surveyor and valuer did not know essential facts in consequence.
§ That had nothing to do with drains, but I know of another case where, through lack of knowledge of what lay under the ground, a contractor, during the war, turned the whole of the drainage from a camp into the water supply pipes of a farm so that every feeding trough on the farm became contaminated. Your Lordships can imagine the distress and loss entailed on the farmer. When I went to try to do something for the farmer I was told: "We never dream of consulting the fanner. We consult the agricultural executive committee." When I said, "But surely you do not expect them to know the drainage," the reply was, "Yes, of course we do. "That practice must be put an end to, otherwise people will be suffering considerable loss. For that reason, although I am not laying much stress on the period of fourteen days, I do ask for an alteration in practice.
Page 2, line 37, leave out ("seven"), and insert ("fourteen").—(Lord Saltoun.)
I should like to support this Amendment on rather different grounds from those mentioned by my noble friend. To-day there are difficulties caused by postal delays and there is trouble in getting about the country because of the lack of petrol. In my part of Scotland letters sometimes take two days to go a distance of six miles. In 329 my opinion seven days is too short a time under those conditions for serving notices regarding these important matters. I think the Amendment is a reasonable one from the point of view of the time that should elapse to enable notices to be properly served upon those concerned.
While I regret that I cannot accept the Amendment which my noble friend has moved, and while indeed I appreciate that he does not expect or desire me to accept it in terms, I find myself in considerable agreement with the observations which he made, and I hope I may be able to offer him such assurances as may enable him to withdraw the proposal which he has made. The intention of the Amendment is to lengthen the period of time after which a survey of the land can be made from seven days to fourteen days. The object of my noble friend, I apprehend, is to ensure that ample time is given to owners and occupiers either to collaborate with the Board or to be present at the time when the visit is paid by the Board's representative. My noble friend suggests, and if I may say so rightly suggests, that if the owner or occupier is present on such an occasion, or is represented, he will be able to supply information which will avoid unnecessary boring and probing operations and which will minimize the damage done to the land. That is highly desirable, and it is therefore clear that there are practical advantages in having the owner or his representative present.
I have no doubt the Board will share that view. Arrangements for survey, speaking generally, are made by exchange of letters or communications between the parties, and, while a minimum period of notice has to be laid down, the Board will, without doubt, carry out their operations of survey with entire good will and harmony if possible on both sides, and at a time when it is mutually convenient for the Board's representative and the owner or occupier to be present. That will be entirely in the Board's interest, because unless that is done then there are possibilities of friction during the future progress of the constructional scheme. While all that is so, and while all I can say in answer to my noble friend is that I hope that will be the course of events—and I have no reason to doubt that it will—at the same time it is desirable that there should be 330 no undue delays in connexion with the working of the Board's activities. As the Board are unlikely to act in a manner prejudicial to their own interests, the period of notice appears to me entirely sufficient.
The period of seven days will run from the time when the notice is delivered to the person to whom it is addressed or from the time when, in the ordinary course, it would be so delivered. I cannot think that any serious hardship such as the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, has instanced, is likely to be caused. I did not know that postal delays in his part of Scotland were so great as he mentioned. They are considerable in some places I know, but I do not think that they are so great even in war-time—and this is much to the credit of the Post Office, be it said—as to render this clause by any means unjust or even inconvenient in its operation. Having given my noble friend the assurance which, I think, was what he asked for rather than the insertion of a definite provision in the Bill, I hope that he will see his way to withdraw his Amendment.
After what the noble Lord, Lord Alness, has said, and knowing the great difficulties which beset the Secretary of State, his Department and other Departments, I do not wish to press my Amendment. I said that what I want to get is a change in practice. I have dealt with the Grampian Company and I have always found them extremely reasonable. I am perfectly certain that the Hydro-Electric Board will be the same. I should like the noble Lord to do something which will draw the attention of the Board to this passage so that they will know what is undertaken on their behalf. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4:
§ Development scheme.
§ 4.—(1) It shall be the duty of the Board as soon as may be after their appointment to prepare a general scheme for the exercise of their powers and duties (hereinafter referred to as the "development scheme") showing, so far as practicable,—
- (a)the water power resources proposed to be utilized; and
- (b)the situation of the works (including generating stations and main transmission lines) proposed to be constructed for the purpose of utilizing those resources.
§ (2)The development scheme shall be submitted to the Electricity Commissioners for their approval, and if the scheme is so approved, the Board shall submit it to the Secretary of State for confirmation.
§ (3)If the scheme is not confirmed by the Secretary of State it shall be the duty of the Board to prepare a fresh scheme in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section.
§ (4)As soon as may be after the confirmation of the development scheme, the Board shall deposit a copy of the scheme, and keep it avail able for inspection, at the offices of the Board and at one or more convenient places within the locality to which the scheme relates, and shall publish in such form, and in such news papers as the Secretary of State may require, a notice stating that the scheme has been so confirmed, and the offices and places at which copies of the scheme are so deposited for inspection.
LORD ALNESS moved, in subsection (1), to leave out all words after ''practicable" and insert "the water power resources which the Board propose to examine with a view to their possible use for the purpose of generating electricity." The noble Lord said: This, I venture to think, is an Amendment to the Bill which is of some importance. If the Amendment receives effect, Clause 4(1) will read as follows:
It shall be the duty of the Board as soon as may be after their appointment to prepare a general scheme for the exercise of their powers and duties (hereinafter referred to as the 'development scheme') showing so far as practicable the water power resources which the Board propose to examine with a view to their possible use for the purpose of generating electricity.
During the debate on the Second Reading, as your Lordships may remember, fears were expressed as to the possibility of Clause 4(1) in its present form resulting in the submission and approval of a development scheme in terms so definite and so precise that the hands of the Board and of the Secretary of State for Scotland would be tied when the subsequent constructional scheme came before them for consideration. In particular, I think I am right in saying, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said something to this effect: that it was felt that if a particular project were submitted and approved as part of the development scheme representations against it which might be made by the Amenity Committee at the constructional scheme stage could not be considered on their merits either by the Board or by the Secretary of State, and accordingly it was suggested that intervention at that stage by the Amenity Committee was desirable.
§ It has never been the intention of the Government that the development schemes should be regarded as other than a general programme indicating in broad outline the projects which it is the intention of the Board to consider with a view to the submission of constructional schemes providing for their execution. As an expression of this intention, I am free to admit that the present wording of the subsection is probably too precise, and the Amendment, which I now have the honour of proposing, will make the subsection conform more closely to the intention which we have always entertained. It will be evident on the face of the subsection that the development scheme does not commit the Board nor the Secretary of State to any particular project, but merely outlines water power resources which, at a later stage, the Board propose to examine with a view to their possible use in the generation of electricity. If, as a result of that later consideration, the Board decide to go on, then the project will take the form of a constructional scheme, and, as your Lordships will remember, under Clause 9 (3) of the Bill, the Board must—it is an imperative direction—not only during but before the preparation of a constructional scheme consult the Amenity Committee and the Fisheries Committee. It is thus evident that the views of those two Committees will be available to the Board at the critical stage both on the scheme as a whole and in regard to details of it.
§ It is also open to the Board to consult the Amenity and the Fisheries Committees at any time, if they so desire. It is quite evident that, under the Bill as amended, there is no comment which those Committees could possibly at the development scheme stage make, unless a suggestion possibly that a particular project should not be considered at all. That is a recommendation which it will be equally open to the Committee to make when it comes to the constructional stage of the proceedings. In a word the development scheme will, if the Bill is amended as now proposed, be nothing more than an outline of electrical possibilities which it is the intention of the Board subsequently to examine. It will not raise any amenity considerations which could be usefully considered at that stage, and in those circumstances I hope that the noble Lords who expressed the apprehensions to which I have referred will admit them to have 333 been removed. I happen to know, though I did not have the privilege of being present, that the Secretary of State has had the advantage of meeting with noble Lords who interested themselves in this clause and of discussing it very fully with them. I know too that he exchanged letters with them, and took an infinite amount of trouble in order to meet the difficulties which have been felt and expressed. I venture to hope that my right honourable friend has been successful in doing so, and that, having regard to the Government Amendment which is now on the Paper, noble Lords will not think it necessary to insist on the view which was pressed on the Second Reading of the Bill.
Page 3, line 9, leave out from ("practicable") to the end of the subsection and insert ("the water power resources which the Board propose to examine with a view to their possible use for the purpose of generating electricity.")—(Lord Alness.)
THE EARL OF ELGIN AND KIN-CARDINE
As I took some part in the Second Reading debate on this subject, I should like to express my thanks to the noble Lord for having met to a large degree the point which we raised. That point was that under the clause as drafted the Board had the duty of reviewing the situation, producing a scheme and getting the assent of the Electricity Commissioners, and then, if they approved the scheme, submitting it to the Secretary of State for his confirmation. Up to that point the only consideration given to such a scheme was, as the Bill was drafted, as to whether or not it was a good electrical scheme; and we did feel considerable anxiety about that. As the noble Lord has said in bringing forward this Amendment, the development scheme has now changed, and has become merely a review of the possibilities which the Board will be charged with examining. This Amendment must be looked at in conjunction with Clause 9. The noble Lord has put down an Amendment to Clause 9 which, if accepted, will bring before the Board their responsibility, throughout the whole of their operations, for maintaining the natural assets of Scotland. To my mind that is very important, and I hope that the noble Lord will convey to his and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State 334 for Scotland our appreciation of the way in which he has met this situation.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
It is very gratifying to hear from the noble Earl who has just spoken, and who has such great local knowledge of these problems, that this Amendment appears entirely satisfactory. Those of us on this side of the Committee who are interested in this Bill are convinced that, when amended in this form, it will afford the maximum protection to the beauty spots of the Highlands, which is what everyone, I think, desires. The essential change is that the choice of a site for works connected with the generation of electricity, and the choice of the exact location of pylons, cables and other means of transmitting electricity, will be deferred from the development to the constructional stage. As the noble Earl has just pointed out, under the provisions of the Bill the Amenity Committee must be consulted by the Board before and during the constructional stage. It will therefore have ample opportunity of presenting its views to the Board, and if necessary to the Secretary of State, on the vital issue of whether electrical development shall or shall not take place in a certain glen. The issue of using or not using Glen Affric might be one which would be raised in those circumstances. I should like to join with the noble Earl in thanking the noble Lord opposite and the Secretary of State for meeting what I think was the principal criticism raised during the Second Reading of the Bill and for satisfying well-disposed critics in this extremely handsome manner.
§ Viscount SAMUEL
I share the view just expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and also by the noble Earl, Lord Elgin, speaking as one of the Scottish Peers, that the Government have substantially met what was the chief point of objection raised on the Second Reading stage of the Bill. I confess that when I read this Bill I was shocked to see that it proposed in this clause that the situation of works, including generating stations and main transmission lines, was to be settled in the first stage, and that only after that stage had been concluded, and after a development scheme had been approved by the Secretary of State and had been published, was the Amenity Committee to be allowed to have any voice in the matter. That could not have 335 been agreed to, and, if the Government had not put down this Amendment, which meets the point, I am sure that there would have been to-day a very lively discussion of a highly controversial nature. I have reason to believe that the Fiery Cross would have been sent round the glens, and all the chieftains would have been here to-day, fully armed—so far, at least, as the available sleeping-car accommodation would allow.
I am very grateful to the Secretary of State and to his colleagues in the Government for the great care which they have taken to consider this matter, and for the friendly reception which they gave to our points in private conference as well as in correspondence. I am a little uneasy, however, about one point regarding the Amendment which the Government propose. The words are "the water power resources which the Board propose to examine with a view to their possible use for the purpose of generating electricity," and therefore the development scheme will include whatever water resources the Board have in mind as being possible for use. If the Board considered that a certain glen was indispensable for their general scheme, they might include that glen in their development scheme plan,and not include any possible competing glen which the friends of amenity might wish to press. If they were to do that, then the other glen would be outside the scheme altogether.
Another Amendment that is proposed by the Government, to Clause 5, specifies that the constructional scheme should apply to the generation of electricity from any of the water power resources specified in the development scheme, so that if any particular stream were outside the development scheme, as not being one which the Board proposed to consider, it could not come in later in a constructional scheme. I am sure that that is not a procedure to which the Government would agree; in fact, I definitely understood that they would strongly deprecate any sharp practice of that kind; but I should like the Government to give me a public assurance on that point—that the Board would not be permitted to include in their development scheme plan only those resources which they propose themselves to use, to the exclusion of possible alternatives which not they but other people might wish to press. The matter is finally 336 in the hands of the Secretary of State, because he has to confirm the development scheme, as approved by the Electricity Commissioners, before it becomes valid; and perhaps the Government will say, what I know is in their mind, that they would not approve a scheme which they knew was of that exclusive character, and which would prevent possible alternatives from being considered when the matter came to the constructional stage.
Another Amendment is to be proposed which meets a point which I raised in the Second Reading debate. I suggested that the reference to regard being had to the beauty of the scenery should come earlier in the Bill, and not only in Clause 9, where it is a question of constructional schemes. I suggested privately that it might come in as a new clause earlier in the Bill. The Government thought that there were objections to that, and the objections seem to me to be valid; but they have now put down an Amendment to Clause 9 which would in effect apply the provision as to regard being had to the beauty of the scenery to the development scheme as well as to all other matters in which action is to be taken by the Board under this Bill. I would take this opportunity of expressing my thanks for that concession also because it applied to a provision which I had intended to put either in this Clause 4 or an earlier clause of the Bill.
In regard to the criticism which the noble Viscount has made, I should like to confer with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State about it before giving a considered answer, but I can assure my noble friend that I will make a statement on the subject at the next stage of the Bill.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Lord BROCKET had on the Paper an Amendment in subsection (2), after "scheme," where that word first occurs, to insert "shall be submitted to the Amenity Committee and to the Fisheries Committee appointed under the provisions of this Act for their respective recommendations and thereafter." The noble Lord said: Since I put down this Amendment the Amendment which has just been passed has become part of the Bill, and as I heard the noble Lord, Lord Alness— and I hope I heard him aright—he says now that the development scheme is, 337 nothing more than an outline of electrical possibilities which the Board will subsequently examine.
§ Lord BROCKET
As I understand it, the development scheme has really been rather altered in scope. Previously, the Board were going to consider the water power resources proposed to be utilized and the situation of the works, etc., and noble Lords on Second Reading, and myself in putting down this Amendment, definitely considered that the Amenity Committee and the Fisheries Committee should be brought in at that stage. The statement of the noble Lord that the development scheme is nothing more than an outline of electrical possibilities which the Board will subsequently examine is very much more definite than the wording which the noble Lord has moved and which has passed your Lordships' House, because that is a very wide and indefinite view to take of the development scheme. But in view of the fact that if the Amenity Committee and the Fisheries Committee were called in at that stage they would really have nothing definite to discuss with the Board, I do not see that any useful purpose would be served by my pressing this Amendment now.
§ Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 5:
§ Constructional Schemes.
5.—(1) with a view to—
(a) the execution of works necessary for giving effect to the development scheme, or of other works in any part of the North of Scotland District for the generation or transmission of electricity; or
(5) Every order made by the Secretary of State confirming a constructional scheme shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after it is made together with a copy of the scheme as confirmed, and if either House of Parliament within the next forty days after such an order as aforesaid is laid before it resolves that the order be annulled, the order shall thereupon be of no effect without prejudice, however, to the making of a new order.
In reckoning the said forty days no account shall be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than Tour days.
§ Lord ALNESS moved, in paragraph (a) of subsection (1), to leave out "giving effect to" and insert "the generation of electricity from any of the water resources 338 specified in." The noble Lord said: This is a purely drafting Amendment. It is consequential on the Amendment which I last moved. The development scheme, as has just been said, is merely a statement of water power resources which the Board propose to consider, and it is not accurate therefore to speak of works '' giving effect to." Accordingly, I am proposing to delete these words and to insert the words on the Paper.
Page 3, line 30, leave out ("giving effect to") and insert ("the generation of electricity from any of the water power resources specified in").—(Lord Alness.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
The noble Duke, the Duke of Sutherland, was not able to remain in your Lordships' House, and he asked me to apologize on his behalf and to intimate that he did not propose to move the Amendment which stands in his name on the Paper, to add a paragraph to the clause "for the protection of local authorities." I was also interested in that matter and had the advantage, with the noble Duke, of a conference this afternoon with the Secretary of State for Scotland. In view of the very satisfactory nature of that conference it is proposed not to move this Amendment.
§ Lord O'HAGAN had given Notice of two Amendments to subsection (5)— namely, after "before," to insert "each House of"; and to omit all words after ''confirmed'' in order to insert ''but shall not come into operation unless and until it has been approved either with or without modification by a Resolution passed by each such House and when so approved shall have effect as if enacted in this Act." The noble Lord said: The intention of these Amendments is, of course, to substitute an affirmative Resolution for the approval of a constructional scheme by both Houses of Parliament in place of the negative power of annulment as indicated in the Bill. The effect of my Amendment indeed is to give Parliament the usual powers to modify the scheme. As I think Lord Alness will agree, this Amendment is really based on very authoritative precedents. He will know far better than myself the terms of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, which affects this matter, and in particular I would call the attention of the House to Sections 7 and 26 of that Act.339
§ It is under this latter section that an exact precedent of what I am asking for is given. It relates that Special Orders of the Electricity Commissioners require confirmation by Parliament in a confirming act. It will readily be appreciated that by this legislation Parliament ensures that important orders should be presented to the House for approval. There can be no doubt that constructional schemes under this clause of the Bill will be of vast importance and will affect many private interests. This Bill gives the final decision to the Electricity Commission, subject only to the rejection by the Secretary of State of schemes which, under the general law, could only be made as Special Orders and would require confirmation by Parliament.
§ In this connexion I think I should point out that by this Bill there is all but complete delegation of powers to the Commissioners if the Board be established and that very wide powers are vested in them. It is true that while the Secretary of State is the Minister responsible to Parliament I am not very clear that his Department has had any great experience of the administration of electricity, and I would suggest that in effect he will probably be entirely guided by the Commissioners, and that, as this Bill stands, those Commissioners will be freed from supervision by the Ministry. I think also it is necessary to point out that under this Bill the Commissioners would have conferred on them powers, and in most cases without any appeal, far beyond those which Parliament in General Acts has conferred upon the Electricity Commissioners. In fact, the provisions of this Bill in these respects completely upset the scheme as already settled by Parliament.
§ In another place great disquiet was evinced with regard to this matter. This legislation which your Lordships are being asked to pass is not war legislation, it is post-war legislation. It will affect the conditions and the development of that important part of Scotland, bringing any constructional schemes into very close touch with the very life of the people and affect a great number of the population; in fact, it directly affects the whole future development of the Highlands. I venture to say that when we are considering legislation of this nature, dealing not with the war situation but really with post-war conditions, that which may be justifiable 340 in the case of orders given by the Government under war conditions should not properly apply to legislation of the nature of this Bill. In a matter of this importance, which is, after all, experimental in its nature and so great in its implications and far-reaching in its intentions, the safeguarding of adequate Parliamentary control is of real importance. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 36, after ("before") insert ("each House of").—(Lord O'Hagan.)
I hope the noble Lord on reconsideration will not press this Amendment. The purpose of it is, as he truly stated, to substitute an affirmative Resolution for a negative Resolution in Parliament in connexion with a constructional scheme which is confirmed under Clause 5. I beg the noble Lord to recall that under that clause, before a constructional scheme can be confirmed by the Secretary of State, it must in the first place be published. Notice must be served on all interested persons, and in certain circumstances there must be a public inquiry as well. Accordingly it would appear that ample information will thus be given to any persons who are interested in the scheme. They would be fully acquainted with the provisions which it contains, and, if such persons are dissatisfied with its contents, then they can take the necessary steps to bring the matter before either of the Houses of Parliament. It does not seem to me necessary to provide that there should be a confirmed scheme which has been specifically approved by both Houses in order to meet this situation. The period of forty days which the Bill provides shall elapse before the scheme can be fully and finally adjusted gives ample opportunity to all interested in it, and in particular to any who may be opposed to it, to make their voices heard on a constitutional matter.
My noble friend has referred to one precedent for an affirmative Resolution apparently in the same line of country as this. I could refer him to at least twenty-five or thirty Acts of Parliament with which I have been provided, where, under similar circumstances to those existing here, the Resolution was of a negative character. It is true that there are instances of both kinds to be found in the Statute Book, but in this case, having regard to the latitude of time provided 341 after a scheme comes here, and having regard to the anxious and careful safeguards at every stage that its contents shall be made public to all who are interested, the Amendment is unnecessary and I hope that it may not be pressed.
I cannot pretend to be gratified by the reception of this Amendment by the noble Lord. It is perfectly true, as he has said, that there are many cases in which this negative Resolution is put into Bills instead of the course I suggest in this Amendment. Whether that be so or not, in a Bill of this vast importance, affecting such a very large section of the country and so many interests, it is most desirable that this House should do what it can to ensure Parliamentary control within the very small degree afforded by the proposals under the Bill.
§ Lord RUSHCLIFFE
I have not participated in the discussion before, though I have taken very great interest in this Bill. I must confess I am supremely disappointed by the action of Lord Alness in rejecting this Amendment. In a Bill of this kind, which may have more far-reaching consequences than is probably at present realized, it is absolutely essential that Parliament should keep the fullest control over what is going on. It seems to me that this House, and Parliament as a whole, would to some extent be abrogating its responsibilities unless it keeps that control. My noble friend Lord Alness and I have both had long experience of the House of Commons and some experience of this House, and he knows that in practice there is all the difference in the world between the necessity for a confirming Resolution of both Houses when something is supposed to be done to annul an order on the Table. I can hardly remember a case where an order laid on the Table has been annulled. It is the rarest possible thing. If this House really means what it says, if it desires to keep control over the very far-reaching consequences which may flow from this Bill, I say it is abrogating its responsibilities unless it supports this Amendment which compels an affirmative Resolution, I hope my noble friend will, if necessary, divide, and I shall certainly support him if he does.
After what has been said, and the appreciation with which 342 what was said seems to have been greeted, I should like to say that I shall reconsider this matter, and intimate on the Report stage what my conclusions are.
I shall certainly be quite prepared in these circumstances, with the leave of the Committee, to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 6 and 7 agreed to.
§ Clause 8 [Acquisition of land]:
§ Lord BROCKET, who had given Notice of an Amendment to leave out subsection (4), said: Clause 8 (4) of the Bill enables the Board to take over land irrespective of whether there are any covenants on that land such as there might be in a case where the landowner had given it to the National Trust and the public had enjoyment of it. I have discussed my Amendment with the Secretary of State for Scotland, and he has explained to me that it might be quite possible for landowners or even companies who do not like the procedure under this Bill to give to the National Trust small pieces of land, thus making action under this Bill impossible. As I realize that Parliament is the ultimate arbiter in all these things, and that if anything of that kind took place it would mean that the Government of the day would have to bring in a further amending Bill, I have decided, having considered the matter very fully and in view of the difficulties mentioned by the Secretary of State, not to move my Amendment.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ Clause 9:
§ Amenity Committee and Fisheries Committee.
§ 9.—(1) In preparing a constructional scheme and in the construction operation and maintenance of any works thereby authorized the Board shall have regard to the desirability of preserving the beauty of the scenery of the area in which any such works are or are proposed to be situated and of avoiding as far as possible injury to fisheries and to the stock of fish in any waters.
§ (4) If the Board are not prepared to accept any recommendation made to them under the last foregoing subsection the Secretary of State 343 after considering any representations made to him thereon may, if the recommendation relates to a scheme which has been submitted to him for confirmation but has not yet been confirmed, refuse to confirm the scheme and may, in the case of any other recommendation (not being a recommendation involving the execution by the Board of any works authorized by a confirmed scheme otherwise than in the manner set forth in that scheme), require the Board to give effect to it and the Board shall thereupon be bound to carry out the requirement.
LORD ALNESS had given Notice of two Amendments to subsection (1), with the object of making the subsection read as follows:
In the exercise of their functions the Board shall have regard to the desirability of preserving the beauty of the scenery and of avoiding as far as possible injury to fisheries and to the stock of fish in any waters.
§ The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is tolerably clear—namely, that the Board should at all times have regard to the desirability of preserving amenity and avoiding injury to fisheries. Clause 9 (1) as it stands requires them to do so only in the case of constructional schemes and the works which constructional schemes involve. It is undoubtedly in connexion with these schemes and works that amenity and fishery interests will be chiefly affected, but it has never been the intention that the Board should pay no regard to amenity considerations at other times. This Amendment will put that matter, I hope, beyond all reasonable doubt, and I beg to move.
Page 7, line 9, leave out from ("In") to the first ("the") in line 11, and insert ("the exercise of their functions").—(Lord Alness.)
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
As I mentioned in my previous observations I welcome very much this proposal and I only wish now to add that my noble friend Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, who spoke on the Second Reading and who is not able to be here to-day, has written to me to say that he attaches importance to a slight expansion of the words "beauty of the scenery." It is not only beauty of the scenery which might be imperilled but also objects of interest. I think he mentioned in his speech in the Second Reading that the ruins of Doon Castle was imperilled by possible works there. He speaks of it as "our Scottish Philæ". While not putting down an Amendment 344 on the subject I do not ask the Government at this moment to give a reply. I would merely draw their attention to this point and ask them whether on the Report stage the noble and learned Lord in charge of the Bill in this House would say whether the Government could think fit to add a few words suitably drafted in order to cover the point of my noble friend.
I shall be happy to give that undertaking to my noble friend. Perhaps I may be allowed to add that I also have had the privilege of receiving a letter from Lord Hamilton of Dalzell in which he says the Amendment in Clause 4 of the Bill which the Government has put down removes the only objection to the Bill which he saw. But I shall be happy to consider the matter before the next stage of the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN AND KINCARDINE, who had an Amendment down to move, in subsection (1), to substitute "all schemes" for "a constructional scheme", said: As I have an Amendment on the same point as we are discussing I should like to say that I accept the Government's Amendment as meeting the point that I have in view. It was intended to bring into a different perspective the responsibility of the Board which I think is now achieved in the Amendment proposed by Lord Alness. That Amendment brings out in a straightforward way the duty of the Board in all their undertakings to observe the natural assets of Scotland and in those I include not only the scenery and the fishing but also what it is the Bill's main purpose to do—namely, provide the necessary facilities for light and power in the remote cottages and glens. It is because it puts this responsibility in a different aspect and perspective that I welcome the Amendment of Lord Alness.
§ I would like in passing to say that I hope the Government will not introduce more obstacles to progress such as might follow from an acceptance of the Amendment recently suggested by Lord O'Hagan. There is a duty and an urgency to get on with the work and for that reason it is undesirable to introduce unnecessary safeguards or dilemmas. I am certainly as democratic as any of your Lordships and I think that the procedure 345 outlined now in these two clauses does give Parliament and the Board the proper perspective for the work.
§ LORD BROCKET
In supporting the Amendment moved by Lord Alness in which the words "in the exercise of their functions" take the place of the words "preparing a constructional scheme, etc." might I ask the noble Lord if that would enable the Board to consult, if they think necessary, the Amenity or the Fisheries Committee even in the early stages? If I read it aright they could consult either the Amenity or the Fisheries Committee even when engaged on the rather nebulous pursuit which now appears in Clause 4.
I should think the answer to that question would be in the affirmative. I think the Board are empowered to consult those two Committees at any time they think fit.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
May I ask the noble Lord if there is anything to prevent in a constructional scheme the creation of a nuisance? I have seen in Acts of this kind a proviso saying: "Provided nothing herein contained shall authorize the commission of a nuisance." I am only suggesting with respect that the noble Lord might consider that before the next stage.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
I understand that the noble Earl, Lord Elgin, does not move his Amendment. I will therefore put the Amendment of Lord Alness.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 7, line 12, leave out from ("scenery") to ("and") in line 13.—(Lord Alness.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH moved, in subsectión (4), to leave out "(not being a recommendation involving the execution by the Board of any works authorized by a confirmed scheme otherwise than in the manner set forth in that scheme)" and insert "which would prevent the carrying out of the constructional scheme or the use of the works authorized thereby." 346 The noble Earl said: Lord Balfour of Burleigh regrets he cannot be in his place to move this Amendment and he has asked me to move it on his behalf. I think the simplest way of explaining the object of the Amendment would be to give your Lordships a concrete example of what we think might happen if the wording of the clause in the Bill stands as it is to-day. Let us assume that there is a confirmed scheme under which, say, a fish pass has been constructed on the recommendation of the Fisheries Committee. Time sometimes changes the bed or the course of a river and it may well happen that that pass requires an alteration or indeed it may happen that another pass might be required in a different position. The Fisheries Committee are aware of that and they go to the Board and say "Will you make this alteration?" The Board say, "No, we will not." Then the Fisheries Committee go to the Secretary of State for Scotland and say "This is really very important, cannot you arrange for this alteration to be made?" Under the Bill the Secretary of State for Scotland has to say "I have no power because it is a confirmed scheme." It is therefore difficult to make a change and that is the reason why this Amendment is proposed.
§ The Government may not like the wording of the Amendment in substitution of the original text of the Bill, but I would remind the noble Lord in charge of the Bill that in another place the Minister did admit that this particular point was ambiguous and a definite promise was made to see whether it could not be cleared up at a later stage. I hope this will be looked into again and will be reconsidered on the Report stage. If I am told that will be so I shall be willing to withdraw this form of words.
Page 7, line 37, leave out from the first ("recommendation") to ("require") in line 40, and insert ("which would prevent the carrying out of the constructional scheme or the use of the works authorized thereby").—(The Earl of Perth.)
I am very much obliged to the noble Earl for his courtesy. I had the advantage of a conference with him on this subject this afternoon at which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State was present, and in the result I have been advised that, taking the con- 347 crete case which the noble Earl has cited of a fish ladder in a river where the river bed has changed, under the wording of the Bill as it stands the Secretary of State for Scotland could intervene in the matter without in any way acting in breach of what the Bill now provides. As to what my noble friend has said regarding the attitude of the Lord Advocate in another place, I am assured that what the Lord Advocate then said was that he would look into the matter again. I am assured that he has done so, and that he is satisfied that under the terms of the clause as it stands—for the reason I assume which I have just stated, although I have not had the advantage of seeing him personally—such a case as my noble friend has in mind is clearly covered by the existing terminology of the Bill.
THE EARL OF PERTH
In view of the assurances given by the noble and learned Lord, I feel justified, on behalf of my noble friend, in withdrawing the Amendment he has proposed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 10 [Charges of Board and general fund]:
LORD BROCKET moved to insert at the end of subsection (1):
Provided that the Board in determining the price to be charged for a supply of electrcity shall endeavour to ensure that the price charged for a supply to ordinary consumers in rural areas shall not be higher than the price charged for a supply to ordinary consumers in like circumstances in urban areas in the North of Scotland District and the conditions prescribed in Section 27 (1) (b) of the Schedule to the Electric Lighting Clauses Act 1899 shall not apply to such a supply in rural areas.
The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment I am particularly thinking of the supplies of electricity to outlying farms, outlying cottages and small villages far away from the main urban areas which may be supplied under this Bill. I should like to read four lines from the paragraph which I read earlier this afternoon, from the Cooper Report. Those four lines read as follows:
It has specially to be borne in mind that the main obstacle to the provision of cheap supplies in such areas is not the cost of generation but the cost of transmission and distribution, and that even if the power were generated free, the difficulties would still be grave.
Many of us who have remote places in the Highlands, feel that this Bill, although it will no doubt help the bigger districts and industries in towns such as Fort William and elsewhere, will not help the little houses in the glens and shepherds cottages in far away places.
§ I have put this Amendment down so that electricity can be supplied all over the Highlands at what amounts to a flat rate. I have heard people say that electricity should be supplied in the same way that letters are delivered by the Post Office. You pay 2½d., or 2½d. in peacetime, or perhaps 1d. in the future, where-ever you are, wherever the letter is posted and wherever, in due course, it is delivered. I hope that if the Government cannot accept the Amendment they will at any rate give me a very full assurance that it is their intention, under the Bill, to supply electricity as cheaply to these places as it will be supplied in the bigger towns. When dealing with ordinary electricity companies in England—and I have had fair experience of this—I have always been told that the cost must be higher in the case of my property because they have to bring the electricity a long way, and they have asked me as landowner to stand a considerable cost for bringing the electricity either underground or on pylons.
§ Hopes have been raised in the Highlands that people will get cheaper electricity under this Bill, but I do not feel that these hopes are likely to be realized unless this Board can go out of their way —much more than any private company has ever gone out of its way—to take electricity to these out-of-the-way places irrespective of the cost of transmission lines and pylons. If the Government cannot see their way to accept the Amendment I do hope they will give me as full an assurance as they possibly can, that in future there shall be, as far as possible, a flat rate for electricity in the Highlands and all over this part of Scotland, and that the Board will not refuse to bring electricity to these out-of-the-way places because of the first capital cost.
Page 8, line 18, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Brocket.)
I am sorry I cannot accept this Amendment in the terms proposed. It is quite clear, under Clause 10, 349 that the Board will be a non-profit-earning concern, and that their charges will be governed by scales which will be settled by the Secretary of State. It seems to me that it would be quite impossible to prejudge at this stage the question whether the regulations should comprise a flat rate for urban and rural districts, but I give my noble friend this assurance—that it is the intention that rural consumers should benefit from the profits which it is expected will be earned from the sale of electricity to the grid. They will then, taken as a whole, be supplied at less than cost price. I hope that assurance may satisfy my noble friend, and that he will not press this Amendment.
§ LORD BROCKET
I quite understand that that assurance is as solid and as wide as it is possible for the noble and learned Lord to give at the present time, but before withdrawing my Amendment I want once again to express the hope that the fears of many people in out-of-the-way districts that they will not get electric current at a reasonable price will not be realized. I beg leave to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 10 agreed to.
§ Clause 11 agreed to.
§ Clause 12 [Power of Board to borrow]:
§ LORD BROCKET
The Amendment in my name to this clause is consequential to the Amendment which I moved to Clause 2, which was not accepted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Alness, and therefore I do not propose to move it.
§ Clause 12 agreed to.
§ Clauses 13 to 21 agreed to.
§ Clause 22:
§ Control of new private generating stations.
§ 22. After the passing of this Act it shall not be lawful, except with the consent of the Electricity Commissioners, for any body or person to establish in the North of Scotland District a new private generating station operated by water power and having plant with a rating exceeding fifty kilowatts or to extend any existing private generating station so operated in the said District by the installation of plant with a rating exceeding fifty kilowatts.
§ LORD BROCKET moved, at the end of the clause, to insert: "and the Commissioners shall not refuse their consent unless they are satisfied that the use of the new or extended private generating 350 station will substantially affect the demand for the supply of electricity by the Board." The noble Lord said: I have put down this Amendment because although assurances were given in another place that the Commissioners shall not refuse their consent unreasonably, I feel that it is much better, for the sake of the future, that something should be embodied in this Bill. I believe it to be likely, with the present Secretary of State and the present Government in office, that the Commissioners will not refuse consent, but this Bill will have a very long life when it becomes an Act and it may be that many years from now, when the present Ministers have all retired from their posts, the Commissioners may not go forward in the way we should like. Therefore I feel it is very essential that there should be some provision made in the Bill.
§ I have talked with the Secretary of State and also with the noble and learned Lord and they do not entirely like the wording of my Amendment. We have discussed another wording which would be agreeable to me, and if the noble and learned Lord can give me an assurance that he will move an Amendment so worded on Report stage I will ask leave to withdraw my present Amendment.
Page 15, line 20, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Brocket.)
I think I can give my noble friend the assurance which he asks. I will consider the terms of the Amendment and, if they are not entirely satistory, I will endeavour to find better words before the Report stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 22 agreed to.
§ Clauses 23 and 24 agreed to.
§ Clause 25 [Power to conduct experiments]:
I wish to say on behalf of my noble friend Lord Teviot that he is very sorry that he has had to leave the House, but he did not propose to move any of the Amendments standing in his name, including the Amendment to omit this clause.
§ Clause 25 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Schedules agreed to.