HL Deb 20 July 1943 vol 128 cc613-7

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I can assure your Lordships that my intervention at this stage of the Bill will be brief, but before parting from the measure there are two topics to which, with your Lord-ships' permission, I desire to refer. In the first place, I would, if I may, express my grateful acknowledgements to your Lordships for the very cordial reception which this Bill has received at your Lord-ships' hands, and also my thanks for the care and attention which your Lordships have been good enough to bestow upon its provisions, with a view to their improvement. I feel quite certain that I am expressing not only my own views on this matter but, what is more import-ant, the views of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The other topic to which I desire, with your permission, to allude is certain promises which I made in the course of the passage of the Bill to three noble Lords, to whom I offered an assurance that, if they desired it, I should refer to the matters in which they were interested on the Third Reading. The first point was raised by my noble friend Lord Samuel, whose absence we all deplore to-day. It related to Clause 4 of the Bill. The noble Viscount expressed some concern lest, if the Board neglected to include certain water power resources in their development scheme, the Amenity Committee at a later stage might have its powers impaired in dealing with certain alternative schemes. In view of that criticism, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and I re-examined the Bill with care. In the result I was able to give the noble Viscount an assurance by my right honourable friend which I think entirely allayed his apprehensions. I sent him a considered reply, which he was good enough to intimate to me was entirely satisfactory to him. So on that subject I say nothing more.

The second point was put to me by my noble and learned friend Lord Maugham, who asked whether there was any pro-vision in the Bill which would prevent the creation of a nuisance by a constructional scheme. Again my right honourable friend and I examined the Bill in that connexion, and in the result I was able to send my noble and learned friend a reply which I hope he will regard as satisfactory. Your Lordships may permit me just to mention the points which were included in that reply. I assured my noble and learned friend that it would be for the Board, when they were considering constructional schemes, to have regard to all considerations relating to a possible nuisance, and that, as all interests would have to be considered, including any necessary safeguards against nuisance, therefore, so far as Clause 5 of the Bill was concerned, it requires no amendment.

But, in addition to that, I reminded my noble and learned friend, as no doubt he well remembered apart from this re-minder, that the Amenity Committee, in accordance with the terms of the Bill, falls to be consulted at every stage of it —not only during its progress, but before it—and I think the Amenity Committee may well be trusted to keep a keen eye on a topic of this kind. Furthermore, I ventured to point out that any person objecting to a constructional scheme on the ground of a possible nuisance has a full opportunity under the Bill of doing so, and, moreover, will have an opportunity, if an inquiry be held, of giving evidence before the tribunal. And, lastly, I gave my noble and learned friend an assurance, which I was authorized to give him by the Secretary of State, to the effect that when any scheme came before him for confirmation—and all schemes have to come before him for confirmation under the Bill—he would take special care that the scheme included all proper and necessary safe-guards for the protection of amenity and for the avoidance of a nuisance. I hope that my noble and learned friend will regard that assurance and the other observations which I have made as sufficiently safeguarding the situation.

Lastly, my noble friend Lord Sempill moved certain Amendments—they were three in number—on the Report stage, substantially of an enabling character. I well understand that my noble friend is a friend of the Bill, and that the Amendments which he moved were inspired by a genuine desire to improve its provisions; but I did not feel at liberty to accept these Amendments. My noble friend asked me to reconsider the matter, and I have done so in consultation with the Secretary of State, with the result that the Secretary of State has written to my noble friend a considered reply, which I have had the ad-vantage of reading. In addition, my right honourable friend had an interview with the noble Lord on the subject this morning. In the result, I hope my noble friend is satisfied with the assurances contained in the letter and repeated at the interview, and that he will share the opinion which the Secretary of State and I have clearly formed that the Amendments he proposed—with the intention of which we have every sympathy—are entirely unnecessary, having regard to the existing structure of the Bill.

The only other thing I wish to say is this. It would be a mistake to exaggerate the expectations with which we look for-ward to the Bill and its working. Nevertheless, it must be regarded as a landmark in Scottish history, and in particular it must be regarded as a distinct step for-ward in a very difficult line of country. It only forms a part of schemes which are in my right honourable friend's mind and in the minds of his Council of State for the regeneration of the Highlands. This is an instalment and, so regarding it, I ask your Lordships to give the Bill your approval. I now beg formally to move that it be read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Alness.)


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends on this side, I should like to express our sincere and most grateful thanks to the noble Lord. I should like to do more than that and to say how fortunate the Secretary of State and his Department have been in having so conciliatory and able an exponent of the Bill. On behalf of my noble friends I desire to express our sincere appreciation of the ready way in which the noble Lord has met the considerations which have been put to him both in the House and else-where, and also our appreciation of what he and his colleague, the Secretary of State, have done to meet the various points brought to their notice. We are sincerely grateful and, if I may say so, it is a conspicuous and noteworthy example of how to deal with an intricate measure. Finally, I should like to pay tribute to the work which has been done by the Secretary of State for Scotland in preparing this Bill. I well remember, now more than twenty years ago, as Minister of Re-construction, being presented with various proposals with regard to the water power of the Highlands, all of which, I am sorry to say, came to nothing. That has been the fate of a good many other proposals in this connexion, as we all know, and it is a great achievement on the part of the Secretary of State that by infinite patience, long care, and multitudes of consultations he has got what is practically an agreed Bill. It is a notable contribution to the improvement of this area which has been too long and too sadly neglected.


My Lords, as you know, my noble friend Lord Samuel, who took a great interest in this Bill, is absent owing to illness. I may say oh behalf of all who sit on these Benches how much we, too, appreciate the courtesy and consideration shown by Lord Alness in piloting this Bill through the House; and especially we thank him for the way in which he has satisfied the most important point which Lord Samuel raised. We wish the Bill every success, and again thank the noble Lord for his courtesy.


My Lords, I rise only to thank my noble friend for his consideration in meeting the important point I suggested and to say that I am quite satisfied with the answer.


My Lords, there is just one point about which I should like to ask my noble friend. This Bill is really based to a great extent on the recommendations of the Cooper Report, and there is one matter with regard to that which I notice. The Cooper Report recommended that the power plants should pay no local rates. I do not notice anything in the Bill to that effect, and I should be very glad if this could be made clear, as it is very important to those who propose using the power that the cost of it should be as low as possible. I hope my noble friend will be able to say some-thing in regard to the power plants not having to pay local rates. I, too, should like to express my appreciation of the very courteous and kindly way the noble Lord has dealt with all the questions with which he has been bombarded by your Lordships. I thank him sincerely, and wish the Bill every success.


My Lords, I should like to express appreciation of the noble Lord's reference to the Amendments which I moved. He has considered these in a most sympathetic and understanding manner, and I am very satisfied indeed with the letter I received this morning from the Secretary of State for Scotland dealing with this matter.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I may be allowed to reply to the question put by Lord Teviot. It is quite true that the Cooper Committee recommended exemption from rating so far as power plants are concerned. That recommendation was, needless to say, very carefully considered by my right honourable friend. The subject of rating and valuation in Scotland is an extremely thorny one and, on reflection, my right honourable friend came to the conclusion that to include rating proposals in this measure would be to overburden it and possibly impede, or even imperil, its course. With his usual sagacity my right honourable friend, however, did not let the matter rest there. When the Bill was read a second time in another place he announced that he had set up a special Eating Committee for Scotland, one of whose terms of reference was the rating recommendations contained in the Cooper Report. Accordingly these recommendations have by no means fallen aside. They will be within the ambit of the jurisdiction of this Committee. I am sure that the House will, on reflection, agree that my right honourable friend has chosen the wiser course in excluding rating proposals from this Bill, and in having the whole subject fully explored, with direct reference to the proposals made by the Cooper Committee. I hope that reply may be satisfactory to my noble friend. For the rest, I express my deep gratitude to the House for all the kind and generous words which have been used.

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.