§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It is a Bill which I can properly describe as of the utmost moment to the people of Scotland. It may be convenient for your Lordships that I should divide the observations which I propose to make—and they will not be protracted—under five headings. First of all, the background of the Bill; secondly, its origin; thirdly, its purpose; fourthly, its contents; and fifthly, its history. These, with the possible exception of the fourth, can be dealt with with great brevity.
First of all, when we survey the background of the Bill, there are three ugly facts which, so to speak, stick out a mile. The first is that water power, which is one of the major commercial assets, particularly of the North of Scotland, has been, and still is, the subject of colossal waste from year to year, and that, too, at a time when, your Lordships will agree, all our resources, of whatever sort or kind, should be scrupulously conserved and harnessed to the national advantage. The second fact is that, when you survey the area which is covered by this measure, you find there a dwindling population, steadily declining from year to year in the past and in the present. Indeed, it is not too much to say that the Highlands Scotland to-day are being drained of their best blood. The third fact is that the Parliamentary strand, so to speak, is littered with the wreckage of measures which were promoted with the intention of improving the situation—measures, however, which, differing from 944 this one, were promoted by private enterprise. In the result, what happened? In the result bitter controversy ensued, and a mephitic atmosphere was created, in which misunderstanding, animosity and prejudice abounded. Therefore so far as those things are concerned they remain a legacy which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State inherited.
Now, coming to the origin of the Bill, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, being confronted by this situation, and after consulting his Council of State, of which I have the honour to be a member, and the Board of Trade, appointed a strong and impartial Committee, presided over by Lord Cooper. The terms of reference were these:To considerMany of your Lordships may remember Lord Cooper when he was Lord Advocate at Westminster a short time ago, and I will say this, that his Committee has produced, within a very remarkably short space of time, a most comprehensive and valuable Report and a unanimous Report—which is a very important fact.
- (a) the practicability and desirability of further developments in the use of water power resources in Scotland for the generation of electricity, and
- (b) by what type of authority or body such developments, if any, should be undertaken, and under what conditions, having due regard to the general interests of the local population and to considerations of amenity, and to report."
That Report, if I may be allowed to say so, appears to me to be a masterly and an epoch-making document produced after hearing extensive evidence. But there was no delay, and the Report was in my right honourable friend's hands within a measurable space of time. I am not going to delay your Lordships by recounting the recommendations of the Cooper Committee, because the Report is available to each of your Lordships, and I have no doubt that many of your Lordships have read and considered the recommendations which were made. For my present purpose it is sufficient to say that the recommendations of the Cooper Committee have been substantially adopted in this Bill, with one exception. That exception refers to the proposals which the Cooper Committee made with regard to rating and valuation. These proposals raised very important, very complex, very contentious considerations. My right honourable friend the Secretary of 945 State, however, by no means eluded these proposals. On the contrary, on the Second Reading of the Bill which is now under your Lordships' consideration he announced in another place that he proposed to set up a Valuation and Rating Committee with comprehensive terms of reference, the first beingto review with reference to post-war requirements, the law and practice in Scotland in relation to the valuation and rating of hydroelectric undertakings, with special reference to the recommendation of the Committee on hydro-electric development presided over by Lord Cooper.I venture to think, if I may express a personal opinion, that my right honourable friend was well advised in the avenue of approach which he made to this problem.
I now come to the object of the Bill which, leaving minor considerations out of account, can be very briefly stated. The purpose is this: to provide, by the establishment of a public service corporation (1) for the generation of electricity from water power in the North of Scotland area; (2) for the distribution of electricity by the Board in that area; (3) for the sale of electricity to certain enumerated bodies; and, lastly, for the transfer of the powers of the Central Electricity Board in the North of Scotland area to the new Board set up by this Bill.
With that preamble, my Lords, I venture to turn to the contents of the Bill in which, of course, your Lordships are mainly interested. Clause 1 of the Bill and the First Schedule together provide for the setting up of the Board to which I have referred and for the administrative machinery connected with it. The Board will consist of five members, four of whom, including the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman (and the Vice-Chairman is to be the full-time chief executive officer of the Board) are to be appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Fuel and Power acting jointly. The fifth member of the Board will be appointed by the Central Electricity Board. The powers and duties of the new Board in relation to the generation, distribution and sale of electricity, are set out in Clause 2 of the Bill. The Board are required to give priority of supply to ordinary consumers in the North of Scotland area, including those in what are described as isolated areas—a valu- 946 able phrase I think in the circumstances—in the North of Scotland district, outside the limits of supply of existing undertakers. They are further to supply electricity to various undertakers in the district, to large power users (which term is defined in the definition clause) and to the Central Electricity Board. The Board are also required, so far as their powers and their duties permit, to collaborate in the carrying out of any measure for the economic development and social improvement of the district over which they have jurisdiction. In Clause 3 the Board are given the general powers necessary to enable them to carry out their functions.
Then I come to Clauses 4, 5 and 6, which I venture to describe as the kernel of the measure, because in these clauses provision is made for the preparation by the Board, and for approval and confirmation by the Electricity Commissioners and the Secretary of State respectively, of three types of scheme—(a) development schemes, (b) constructional schemes, and (c) distribution schemes. The development scheme is, in effect, as I see it set out in the Bill, a general programme of the Board's contemplated work, the result of their initial survey of the area over which they preside. What I want to emphasize to the House with regard to the development scheme is that it is a paper scheme, which may or may not come into operation; that a part of it may come into operation while another part may not. At any rate what is perfectly clear is that under the development scheme not a sod of earth can be cut unless and until the development scheme fructifies in a constructional scheme, in which event it is imperative that the Board should consult, before the preparation and during the preparation of a constructional scheme, the Amenity Committee.
What I want to make quite clear is that this development scheme contains a number of adumbrated schemes, some of which, as I have already said, may come into operation, others of which may not. As regards those which will not come into operation, it seems to me that it would be unwise to enjoin the Board to consult the Amenity Committee at that stage. With regard to those that will come into operation, then they come along as constructional schemes with the directions which 947 I am going to enumerate. A constructional scheme authorizes the execution of works for the generation or transmission of electricity. There you come up against hard facts—against digging, against building, and with regard to this your Lordships will hear in a moment what the Bill provides. Meantime, let me add that the distribution scheme deals with the supply of electricity by the Board to ordinary consumers.
In the case of constructional and distribution schemes, anxious provision is made for the advertisement of the scheme after the approval of the Electricity Commissioners and before confirmation by the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Bill provides opportunity for lodging objections to the scheme and for the holding by the Secretary of State, if he so thinks fit in certain circumstances, of a public inquiry. The Secretary of State may by order approve the scheme without amendment, or with such amendments as the Board with the approval of the Electricity Commissioners may submit, and the order confirming a constructional scheme, then falls, after all this preliminary and careful procedure, to be laid before both Houses of Parliament, who will be at liberty, if they think proper, to annul the whole scheme. I cannot imagine a more exhaustive set of checks and safeguards than those which I have briefly endeavoured to reproduce from the Bill before your Lordships. Clause 7 provides for the amendment or revocation of schemes, and Clause 8 empowers the Board to acquire land necessary for the purpose of carrying a confirmed scheme into effect.
Next I come to Clause 9, to which I think your Lordships attach, and, if I may say so, rightly attach, a great deal of importance. It provides for the constitution of an Amenity Committee and a Fisheries Committee. Clause 9 requires the Board to have regard in preparing a constructional scheme, and in the construction, operation and maintenance of work, to the desirabilty of preserving the beauty of the scenery, and of avoiding injury to fisheries. It is proposed to establish an Amenity Committee and a Fisheries Committee which the Board must consult before the preparation of a constructional scheme, and may consult at any other time, and which may at any time make recommendations to the Board. Accord- 948 ingly, before entering upon preparations for a constructional scheme, the Board must consult the Amenity Committee; during it they must consult the Amenity Committee; they may do so at any other time, and the Amenity Committee may make recommendations if they think fit. The Board must also consult the Amenity Committee before consenting to the display of any advertisements. The Board must intimate to the Secretary of State any recommendation which is made by the Amenity Committee or the Fisheries Committee and indicate whether they propose to accept it. If the Board are not prepared to accept a recommendation relating to an unconfirmed scheme, confirmation of the scheme may be withheld by the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State may require the Board to comply with any other recommendation which does not involve the execution of works otherwise than in the manner set out in a confirmed scheme.
I now come to Clauses 10 to 15 which I will deal with quite shortly. They embrace the provisions with regard to finance. Clause 10 provides that the charges to be made by the Board for electricity are to be fixed in accordance with regulations to be made by the Secretary of State, after consultation with the Electricity Committees, at such a level—and this is important, my Lords—that over a term of years to be approved by the Commissioners the Board's income will balance their expenditure chargeable to revenue. Clause 11 regulates the manner in which the Board may apply their income on capital and revenue accounts. Clause 12 gives the Board authority to borrow with the consent of the Electricity Commissioners, and Clause 13 confers power upon them to issue stock. Borrowing and the issue of stock are subject to regulations which are to be made by the Secretary of State with the approval of the Treasury. Clause 14 empowers the Treasury to guarantee in such manner and—this is an important point—on such conditions as they may think fit, the payment of the interest and principal, or of either the interest or the principal, of any loan proposed to be raised by the Board up to a maximum of £30,000,000. The repayment with interest of any sums paid by the Treasury under this guarantee forms a prior charge on the whole undertaking and its revenues; and the Treasury must lay before Parliament annually a statement of 949 any guarantees which are given during the preceding year and of any payments or repayments made in relation to them.
The rest of the Bill I can treat very shortly. Clause 16 deals with the relations of the Board with the Central Electricity Board. Either Board may sell electricity to the other, and the Central Electricity Board are bound to purchase from the North of Scotland Board such an amount of electricity in any year as the latter Board may offer before the beginning of the year. In order to ensure continuity of supply and stability, the amount of this offer may not be reduced, except after three years notice. The price to be paid by the Central Electricity Board for such electricity—this, I am afraid, is rather a technical matter—is to be calculated by reference to the cost of production at the steam generating station which, after certain adjustments have been made, is the most economical station under the control of the Central Electricity Board. Provision is also made for determining any question arising between the two Boards in relation to the determination of that price. Clause 17 provides for collaboration between the two Boards and the establishment of a Joint Technical Committee. Clause 18 enables the North of Scotland Board to acquire existing undertakings by agreement, subject to compliance with a procedure which is designed to protect the existing options of these undertakings. Clause 19 provides for the joint use by the Board and any other authorized undertakers of main transmission lines belonging to either party. Clause 20 provides that any benefit accruing, directly or indirectly, to authorized undertakers from the purchase of electricity from the Board at a price lower than that at which they could themselves have provided it, shall be applied by way of discount or otherwise for the benefit of their consumers.
Then follow one or two miscellaneous provisions. Clause 21 and the Fifth Schedule make provision for the adaptation of the Electricity (Supply) Acts in their application to the Board and in the North of Scotland district. Of these adaptations the most important is the transfer to the new Board, in respect of the North of Scotland district, of the functions meantime exercisable elsewhere by the Central Electricity Board. Clause 22 prohibits the establishment in the North of Scotland district, except with the consent of the Electricity 950 Commissioners, of any new private hydroelectric generation station or of any addition to an existing private hydro-electric generating station, with an installed capacity of more than 50 kilowatts, and Clause 26 provides that where consent is given under Clause 22 or otherwise to the construction or extension of a generating station, nothing in the Bill shall prevent the carrying out of the necessary ancillary works. The remaining clauses relate to minor and consequential matters.
I appreciate the patience with which your Lordships have been good enough to listen to my explanation of a somewhat complicated measure, but reduced to its simplest terms I venture to express the hope, without being unduly eristic, that your Lordships will regard these provisions as sound, sensible and reasonable, well conceived and well carried out. A mischief undoubtedly exists, as your Lordships will agree, and the question for your Lordships' House is whether this Bill provides suitable means for dealing adequately with that mischief.
I now come, in the last place, to deal with the history of the Bill since its introduction. Outside the Houses of Parliament, in Scotland generally, the Bill has been well received. There has been a good deal of criticism of details, but very little of the underlying principles of the measure. The Bill has had a good Press in Scotland, South and North, and, generally speaking, a cordial welcome. In another place the Bill was favourably received, and, after a full debate on the Second Reading, the only Amendment which in any way challenged the principle upon which the Bill was based was withdrawn, and the Bill was unanimously read a second time. Then followed the Committee stage, which occupied two days, and during that time the Bill was subjected to the most meticulous examination. I am informed that out of the numerous Amendments on the Order Paper only two were carried to a Division, and that each of them received support from fewer than twenty members. A very significant fact, speaking if I may say so, as one with some little knowledge of Scotland, is that there was not a single Amendment on the Order Paper put down on behalf of a local authority in Scotland. The Third Reading was passed unanimously. When I say all these things I am leading up to this. The 951 result, if I may say so, was a personal triumph for the Secretary of State for Scotland, who, by his reasonableness, industry and skill in meeting beforehand all those who conceived they had objections to the measure, has succeeded in placating nearly all opposition, and has succeeded in passing the measure with a greater amount of unanimity and good will, in another place, than was accorded to any major measure which I can remember in a somewhat lengthy public life.
The Bill, accordingly, comes before your Lordships' House with good credentials. But I should be the first to admit your Lordships' right and duty, if I may say so, to examine the measure afresh and to form an independent judgment as to whether you agree or not with the views expressed in another place and in Scotland. If I may be pardoned for making a personal allusion, I would like to say that I feel a special pride, as a Highlander, in being allowed to sponsor this Bill in your Lordships' House. I am far from suggesting that it is a perfect measure, or that the results of it will be to bring about a paradise instead of a wilderness in the North of Scotland. At the same time, as the Secretary of State said in another place, it is an "instalment" of the reforms which we hope to bring about, and which, we trust, will make the Highlands more worthy of their soldier and sailor sons. The Secretary of State has said that this Bill, if it goes through substantially in its present shape, will provide employment for ten years for every gallant man in the 51st Division when he comes back to Scotland at the end of the war. However that may be, I venture to commend the Bill to your Lordships' House for your sympathetic, and, if I may say so, cordial consideration. And now I beg to move the Second Reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2.—(Lord Alness.)
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, one reason why I welcome this Bill is that it has provided occasion for a comeback by the noble Lord, Lord Alness, whom we have sadly missed from our discussions, and whose interventions, I think, we appreciate all the more because we have to wait so long to hear them. I am sure that I speak for others as well as myself when I say that the Government 952 were very wise in entrusting this measure to the noble Lord, Lord Alness, on account of his really remarkable gift for clear and un-technical exposition of a very technical subject. I am sure that the noble Lord need have no doubt that there will be general support in this House for a Bill that promises a new lease of life to the Highlands. For many decades now the Northern half of Scotland has displayed the distressing symptoms of a moribund community. In many respects it has resembled our so-called "Special Areas" in the lean years before the war, but without their fortunate capacity for automatic readjustment in time of good trade. Almost untouched by the industrial revolution of the last century, and without either the capital or the natural resources to make themselves into flourishing primary producers, the Highlanders have long fought a losing battle against increasing poverty and want. Their numbers have been reduced, I believe, by something like 250,000, in the last seventy years, and this decline in population has been heaviest among the children and young people, the citizens of the future, and lightest among the middle-aged and old. Nothing, I feel convinced, can stop the drift of the young and able-bodied Scotsmen away from the glens in search of work and better conditions further South but the intervention of Parliament to stimulate large-scale enterprise that will bring employment and certain amenities to their doorsteps.
For many years, as the noble Lord reminded us, Parliament has eluded this grave responsibility, mainly, I think, because of the admittedly immense difficulty of reconciling the many different interests affected by big industrial projects. In the last fourteen years no fewer than six schemes have been turned down by the House of Commons, with the result, of course, that the condition of the Highlanders has continued to go from bad to worse. The Cooper Committee, to which the noble Lord opposite rightly has attached very great weight, said of the rejection of the Caledonian Power Bill that "it can only be regarded as a tragic mistake; not only for Scotland but for Great Britain." It is indeed true that the power reserves of the Highlands are a national as well as a local asset. For an industrial country like ours, competing for markets in an increasingly industrialized world, a supply of cheap and 953 abundant power is a prime necessity. The estimated output of electrical energy from harnessing these waters is both plentiful—I believe it is 4,000,000 units per annum, an almost astronomical figure as compared with that of other electricity-producing undertakings—and cheap—cheaper, according again to the Cooper Committee, than the most economical coal-driven power-station, even if the rising price of coal and the prevailing low rate of interest be completely discounted. The exploitation of this vast area after the war will undoubtedly be a stimulus to our export trade, and it will also encourage the production for the domestic market of metal alloys and chemicals—or at least, we hope that that will be one of results—which are dependent for production in this country upon a bountiful supply of cheap power.
It looks at last as if it will no longer be said of Parliament—and I have, alas! heard it said in many quarters in the past—that it refused to do anything itself for tie Highlands, and prevented anyone else from giving a helping hand. The Bill before us is naturally and inevitably a compromise between the conflicting interests of local authorities, power companies, industrialists, amenity and fishing interests and so on. While it is probable that no one is entirely satisfied by its proposals, I think that the Secretary of State has done remarkably well to obtain sufficient agreement to get it through all its stages in another place, and I should like to join with the noble Lord opposite in the tribute which he paid to the Secretary of State, who deserves much praise for his indefatigable pertinacity and for the skill and good humour with which he has disarmed his most formidable antagonists. We should also be grateful for the forbearance of important sectional interests, any of which, by pressing its claims to the last iota, could have nullified that measure of common consent without which legislation would have continued to be impracticable.
The unanimous recommendation of the Cooper Committee that this development should be entrusted to a non-profit-making public corporation, responsible to Parliament through the Secretary of State, has been rightly adopted as the business foundation of the present scheme. It is now, I think, generally accepted that great monopolies or quasi-monopolies and great 954 public utilities, providing necessities for, any large section of the population, should be organized and directed by public boards rather than by private companies. The public board is a typical example of our native genius for practical invention, and may well contribute as much to the prosperity of this country in the present century and after the war as did the steam engine, the internal combustion engine and the joint stock company in the days that made us the world's workshop.
If anyone were to accuse the Secretary of State of Party bias—I do not think this accusation has been made, but it is conceivable—he could well reply that the Labour Party's record of Socialist achievement is beaten hollow by that of the Conservatives. The Liberals, it is true, were responsible for the Port of London Authority, but the Conservatives can claim the Forestry Commission, the B.B.C. and the Central Electricity Board, which were all the products of undiluted or predominantly Conservative Governments. Even the London Passenger Transport Board had a somewhat hybrid parentage. Though certainly conceived as the child of Mr. Herbert Morrison, it was later adopted by his Liberal successor in office, and finally established in life by a Bill piloted through all its Stages in another place by a Conservative Minister of Transport. The modern technique—because it is primarily a technique—of public control by Boards or Commissions appointed by Parliament, but free from political interference in the day-to-day management of their affairs, is surely an invention of which all Parties can be equally proud. There is every reason to suppose that the Board set up under this Bill will discharge its duties with as much efficiency and public spirit as similar bodies have shown in the past.
I think that the noble Lord opposite was rightly very moderate in his claims for what might be achieved if this Bill reaches the Statute Book. What will be achieved will probably be less than some enthusiasts believe, but the Bill will certainly do more than some of its gloomy critics would allow. It would be grossly unfair to the long-suffering Highlanders to paint too bright a picture of their future. Whatever benefits this development may bring, they will not reach the Highlands overnight. It will take many years to prepare and execute the separate 955 Schemes—I think that their potential number may be as large as seventy—envisaged by the Bill, to attract and establish the appropriate light industries, and to carry the distributive network to the isolated districts of the Highlands. Nevertheless, as time passes an increasing number of farmers, crofters, lumberjacks and fishermen will enjoy for the first time the blessings of electricity in the home, and will be able to face as never before the long darkness of the winter months.
But even more welcome than these essential amenities will be the fresh opportunities of well-paid employment offered by the installation of hydroelectric plant in the Highlands. It has been estimated that the construction of dams and reservoirs and power-stations will directly employ something like 10,000 men over a long period, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that the resulting ancillary development of roads, road transport and housing estates will occupy even more. There is also the prospect which this Bill holds out of light industries being attracted to the Highlands by the bait of cheap and plentiful power. The tourist traffic—such an important feature in the prosperity of Scotland—is likely to increase with improved communications and easier access to isolated districts. Experience abroad, which I think is very interesting in this connexion, goes to show that hydro-electric development in mountainous regions has opened them to a larger number of holiday-makers and foreign visitors. The growth of electrochemical and electro-metallurgical industry in the countryside not only is desirable as a means of providing work but would be in accordance with the Barlow Committee's recommendation for the diffusion of industry more evenly over the country, so as to avoid in future the concentration of our largest business concerns in a few over-populated cities. The land would not suffer from this encroachment; on the contrary, agriculture would soon benefit from the proximity of a large and flourishing market.
Anxiety has not unnaturally been expressed lest the advent of industry should damage in any degree the finest mountain scenery in the British Isles, but we are fortunately not faced by a bleak choice between disfiguring the Highlands and disbanding the Highlanders. Providing that 956 certain reasonable precautions are observed, there is no reason at all why the Highlands should not preserve their beauty and the Highlanders their homes. It is encouraging that other countries with superb mountain scenery, such as Switzerland, Norway and Northern Italy, have managed to develop large scale hydro-electric plants without spoiling the natural beauty of their surroundings. There are two factors, I think, that should be borne constantly in mind if we hope to emulate their example. The first is that industrial development need not be an eyesore. An imaginative architect—and many modern architects have the quality of imagination—can construct factories, power stations, even gasometers, with rare excellences of design, colour and surface texture. I live myself almost within sight of Battersea Power Station, and to me its austere grandeur is a constant reminder of what might have been and what may still be. The second thing that I think should not be forgotten is the almost limitless possibilities of camouflage. If a building is likely to ruin a fine view or to jar upon a rural scene, it can usually be made to blend with its environment so that, from a distance at least, it is completely merged in its own background.
This Bill has already made generous provision for the consideration of amenity questions. The noble Lord opposite, knowing the deep interest that members of this House take in this problem, has very rightly emphasized this aspect of the Bill. I think the expert Amenity Committee which it is proposed to set up under the Bill has really extraordinary and unique powers. It must not only be consulted by the Board before any construction scheme can begin, but if its recommendations are turned down, it can then appeal over the heads of the Board to the Secretary of State. As a last resort there is always the appeal to Parliament itself, which as trustee for the public can reject any scheme that it deems harmful to the enjoyment or the qualities of lake and mountain scenery. I am inclined to think that these safeguards should suffice to ensure that there will be no wanton or unnecessary interference with the natural beauty of the Highlands. At the same time, I wish to enter this reservation, that my mind is open to anything that may be said in the course of debate. There are many noble Lords in this House who 957 have had long experience of conditions in Scotland, and I am perfectly certain that the Government will not be alone in wishing to listen to their criticisms with the utmost respect. I am sure that this Bill as a whole will recommend itself to the House, and I should like to join with the noble Lord opposite in hoping that it may receive a cordial welcome.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Airless, has introduced a Bill which is of great importance in a speech of admirable lucidity. It is one on which the House would wish to be guided by its Scottish members. As one who has always held the view that Scotland should be allowed to manage her own local affairs, I should feel very chary in intervening and expressing any view upon a measure of this character taken as a whole. At the same time every member of this House knows well the lamentable history of the population decline in the Scottish Highlands, and would gladly welcome, and help through this Imperial Parliament, any proposal coming from Scotland, which would serve as a remedy for the evils which so long existed. All of us Who have travelled about the Empire, as so many of your Lordships have clone, must have been impressed by the many positions of responsibility and leadership held Everywhere by the sons of Scotland, and they hold them on account of qualities of character, integrity, industry, and practical capacity which warrant the leadership which they have attained, for the advantage of the countries which they serve. And, as we all know, and most of all in these days, as soldiers Scotsmen, and particularly the Highlanders, are unsurpassed in the world.
But the Highlands furnish a poor soil for the breeding of any considerable population. Your Lordships will remember, I am sure with affection, the late Lord Craigmyle—Mr. Thomas Shaw—and will perhaps recall that in one of his books he describes how some financial magnate who had taken a shooting in Scotland was walking over one of the moors and, looking clown over the little crofts scattered about the dale, said to his ghillie, "What in God's name can you grow here?" and the ghillie replied, "In the name of God we grow educated men." But the trouble is that they are too few, and the population is still declining. Anything, therefore, which can 958 increase the industrial development of the Highlands and, as a means to that end, supply adequate and cheap power, would be generally welcomed. I am particularly glad that the Bill provides for a public service Board. The noble Earl who has just sat down has gone a little into the political history of these public concerns; and I am happy to think that the Liberal Party for very many years past has advocated public utility corporations of this character as the right mechanism for managing natural monopolies, in days when the Labour Party were still attached to the principle of universal nationalization and our Conservative friends were wedded to private enterprise working for profit. That is merely by the way.
But there is another factor which enters into our discussions of this Bill which affects the whole of these islands. As I said, I do not venture to speak upon the industrial side of the general proposals of the Bill, nor on the questions in dispute that arise with regard to the provision of current to the small consumers. But I am sure that noble Lords who come from Scotland do not resent those who do not speaking in this House on the factor of amenities. In our crowded, hurried, over-industrialized society it is of vital importance that the great areas of natural beauty which still remain should not be spoilt as places of recreation and rest and refreshment, and those of us who have visited the National Parks across the Atlantic—such places as I visited, one of them more than 50 years ago—the Yellowstone Part, or Banff, or any of the others, will realize the enormous value that they are to the population that have the enjoyment of them. This is of very vital concern to the population of the southern parts of this island, and I am sure that, just as the Scottish people have an interest in the industrial, financial and strategic strength of England, so they will recognize that the English from the southern part of the island have an exceedingly real and vital interest in the preservation of that great part of Scotland which is of unique beauty, that vast stretch of mountain and valley and river and lake which constitutes the Highlands. And not only the people south of the Tweed, but also the inhabitants of our Dominions and Colonies overseas. They have for the Mother Country a great affection and loyalty, due not only to the traditions which they 959 share, not only to their respect for the ideas for which Britain stands in the world, not only to her share in promoting human progress and liberty, but also to the charm and beauty of this land itself.
The noble Earl who has just spoken said that industrial development need not be an eyesore. It need not, but it certainly very often is, and that is the danger we must carefully safeguard against. This is a matter that not only affects the whole population of every part of this island and other parts of the British Empire, but also the peoples of America and other lands who come here to enjoy what this country has to offer them in periods of recreation. I do not think we have yet realized the immense increase in international travel which is likely to follow in post-war years owing to the advent of the aeroplane. The leaders of the aircraft production industry contemplate, and state so publicly, that quite soon there will be fleets of air liners crossing the Atlantic, each carrying perhaps 100 or even 200 passengers and making the journey in ten or twelve hours for a fare of £8 or £10. When that comes about, whether it is immediate in the next few years or in ten or twenty years, there may be as great a change in international transit following upon the advent of the aeroplane supplementing the steamship as followed when the steamship superseded the sailing ship. We may have international travellers numbered not in thousands, but perhaps in hundreds of thousands. This will be a matter of very great importance to this country, and it will also have an important economic bearing in which all parts of the United Kingdom will be interested. Our balance of trade and our general exchange position will have been greatly affected by this war through the dissipation of our foreign investments, but if we are to replace the income from that source a very large part—measured by many millions a year—may be represented by the wealth brought to this country by tourism. That would be an important economic factor in our international position. I do not suggest that this country should become merely a museum or playground annexe of the United States, but I submit that this is a minor, though not unimportant, consideration.
960 Therefore, I submit to your Lordships this Bill raises two questions—one the industrial and financial question, and the other the amenity question. The amenity question is in itself also a financial and economic question, for if the beauty of the Highlands is destroyed and people come to regard them as a byword of Philistine desecration of natural beauty and cease to go there, then undoubtedly the Highlands would suffer great detriment of a financial character. From the standpoint of population, instead of a Bill such as this tending to increase the population, it would in these circumstances deprive of their livelihood a large class of people who cater for this traffic and would prevent the growth of a new population to cater for the vastly increased tourist traffic which may well be foreseen. The Secretary of State, in introducing this Bill, has recognized the importance of this factor, and I should like to pay tribute to the vigour and initiative with which he is setting about his business in this and many other respects, and the activity with which he is carrying out numbers of useful social and economic reforms in Scotland. In this regard the clauses of the Bill are not satisfactory. I would urge upon your Lordships that important amendment is necessary in order to make them so.
Let me draw your Lordships' attention to the actual procedure proposed in the Bill. If you turn to Clause 4 (1), which is to my mind the clause which is at fault, you will see it reads 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—That is when the situation of the works is being decided. That development scheme has to be approved by the Electricity Commission, and when it has been so approved, the Board submits it to the Secretary of State for confirmation. When the Secretary of State confirms it, that is an authorized development scheme under this Bill. After the scheme has been made it is published, and until then the public may have no knowledge of what has been happening behind the scenes.
- (a) the water power resources proposed to be utilized; and
- (b) the situation of the works (including generating stations and main transmission lines) proposed lo be constructed for the purpose of utilizing those resources."
961 After the scheme has been made, confirmed, and published, then come in the provisions of Clause 9, arid not until then. Clause 9 says:(1) In preparing a constructional scheme"—and there may be as many as seventy of them—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 in which any such works are, or are proposed be, situated.'That comes in in Clause 9 for a construction scheme, but not a word is said of having regard to the desirability of preserving the beauty of the scenery when the location of the works is being decided—not a word. Furthermore, there comes in then the Amenity Committee, and the Bill says that the Board shall, before and during the preparation of a constructional scheme, and may at any other time, consult the Amenity Committee; but the Amenity Committee knows nothing about the development scheme. There is nothing here to say that before deciding on the development scheme the Amenity Committee shall be consulted. It is only then that these various provisions come into operation, and it is only then that Parliament, if it so wishes, afterwards can intervene.
As to the ultimate control of Parliament I confess I do not place very great reliance upon it. The question where a particular power station shall be, whether in this place, in a valley, or a quarter of a mile further down, whether it is sufficiently screened, or whether it should be in another valley—after that has been discussed by the various authorities and decided in Scotland, I cannot see either the House of Commons or the House of Lords passing a special resolution to say that the whole scheme shall he vetoed. It practically never happens, although Parliament is supposed to have ultimate control of a great many schemes, that the schemes are ever vetoed once they have got to the floor of the House. It is the other stages which are of importance, and particularly the first stage.
The first stage is the one of chief importance. My point is this. When a construction scheme has been prepared and is going through its stages, suppose there is a strong agitation against a par- 962 ticular power station being erected in a particular spot causing disfigurement of the countryside, and public opinion is aroused, and the Amenity Committee takes action. The Amenity Committee will be told: "You have no locus standi". The Committee will say: "But surely the Secretary of State is required to have regard to the desirability of preserving the beauty of the scenery." The answer would be: "No, not in deciding where the station is to be. Parliament has deliberately decided that that should come in only at the second stage and not at the first stage and the point you are raising now has already been decided. The Electricity Commissioners have sanctioned it, the Secretary of State has approved it, and it is not for you now to propose an alteration." But the Committee might say: "We did not know that this was contemplated. No notices were published." To which they would be given a reply once more: "Parliament decided that no notices need be published for a development scheme till after it has been decided as between the Board, the Electricity Commissioners and the Secretary of State."
If I am wrong in any of these contentions I should be most grateful if the noble and learned Lord, when he replies, will show me where I am wrong. If it is the case that the Amenity Committee can take action before the development scheme is decided, I shall be very glad to know it, and if it is so why not state it in the Bill? If it is the case that the Secretary of State is to have regard to the beauty of the scenery when determining where the stations are to be situated, why should not that be put into the Bill as well? Why should that appear only in Clause 9 and not in relation to Clause 4? What I am afraid of is that when these matters come to the test and when the controversy does arise the Public Utility Board that is to be set up will say: "Well, we have found it necessary to put it just there because to put it in the other place that you suggest would add to per cent. to our capital cost, and we have to do our duty by the consumers. We have to show we are just as efficient and economical as a private enterprise, and we will not undertake this 10 per cent. extra cost." The Committee may say: "But the loss of 10 per cent. to you means a loss of 90 per cent. in the beauty of the countryside." They would then be told: "We are not concerned 963 with that. We have the approval of the Secretary of State. The station is to be there, and you have nothing further to say in the matter." The Committee might then say: "We shall appeal to the Ministry of Planning and see if he will help us," to which the reply will be: "Certainly, by all means appeal to the Ministry of Planning." And in Scotland the Minister of Planning is the Secretary of State who has already decided the matter in a different capacity!
I would therefore like to ask these three specific questions of the Government. First, when will the Amenity Committee be appointed? Will it even be in exisence while the development scheme for the whole of Scotland is being prepared? Secondly, in Clause 9, subsection (3), these words are used: "The Board shall, before and during the preparation of a constructional scheme." Does the word "before" mean that the Amenity Committee may intervene before the development scheme has been sanctioned? Thirdly, I would ask would they afterwards be precluded from raising the question of the position of stations if those stations have already been specified in a development scheme approved by the Secretary of State? That is the only point I wish to bring before your Lordships' House. I do so with all earnestness and I trust it will receive very careful and full consideration, for what we are doing in this House to-day on this Bill is not merely for to-day, or for tomorrow, but it will have its effects a generation hence, and a century hence, and for all future time. Just as we blame Ministers and Parliaments of earliest days because they were vandals and Philistines and did not take sufficient care for preserving our national heritage of beauty, so in times to come we, as legislators and the Secretary of State as the initiator of this legislation, may have our names censured by posterity.
LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
My Lords, I would like to join the two speakers who have preceded me in expressing my thanks to the noble Lord who has introduced this Bill for his exceedingly lucid and clear statement. I would also like to say that I think this is in the main a very good Bill. There is no doubt that the general proposals will effect a great improvement in the 964 present method of organizing the utilization of water power in the North of Scotland. In fact I think the reform is a very good one, and I cannot understand why it should be confined to that particular district. I will in a few moments mention to your Lordships two cases in which I think the existing system worked very badly in regard to the protection of amenity. Both occurred in Scotland and both would have been outside the scope of this Bill. Again I ask why should this Bill be confined to the North of Scotland? Why not apply the principle to the whole of this Island?
Obviously the organized development of the water power of this country can be much better done by a body set up in an ordered manner than by the haphazard methods which are at present in vogue. I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I go a little more fully into what the present system is. What happens is that someone, very often an enterprising firm of constructional engineers, produces a scheme for harnessing the water power in a particular district. A company is then formed to finance the passage of the Bill through Parliament and the construction of works. Certainly the Bills with which I have been acquainted have contained a provision under which the Secretary of State first authorized the setting up of an Amenity Committee as is to be done under this Bill, and as I once had the honour of acting as Chairman of one of these Amenity Committees on a water power scheme of considerable magnitude in Galloway and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to tell you what my experience was.
I found at once that the powers of an Amenity Committee were so limited as to be almost futile. The exact situation of every building, of every pipeline, of every dam, was laid down in black and white in plans which formed part of the Act of Parliament, and it was impossible to remove any of these things outside the very narrow limits of deviation which are allowed by law. We were able, I think, to effect a few minor improvements by getting unnecessary ornamentation taken off buildings, and thanks to a very able architect who served on the Committee, we got a more agreeable fenestration. But all the time one felt that it was rather a futile job, and one thought how much 965 more useful one might have been if one had been consulted a little earlier.
The really important question, as the noble Viscount has pointed out, is not the shape of any building or work, but where it is going to be put, and another important question is whether or not the public advantage which will follow on the execution of the works is so great as to justify the damage which must inevitably be done to the beauty of the scenery. The classic case of the balancing of these two conflicting considerations is to be found in the erection of the Assouan Dam which your Lordships will remember involved the submerging of the Temple of Philæ. There is no doubt that the building of a dam and the regulating of the flow of the River Nile was amply justified, but any of your Lordships who have visited Assouan cannot have failed to observe, as I did, that if the darn had been constructed a very few hundred yards upstream Philæ need not have been lost at all. I do not know who had to decide the question, but it is the most important question and the question which comes first. As the noble Viscount has pointed out, it is on questions of that sort that the Advisory Committee which is to be set up under the Bill, should be given an opportunity of saying what it has to say.
I would like to give your Lordships two other examples, where, in one case, great damage was done and in the other, it was to some extent avoided. The first one is in connexion with the Galloway water power scheme. The raising of the level of Loch Doon was part of that scheme and that would have involved the submerging of the ruins of Doon Castle situated on an island in the loch. In that case the Commission for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments in Scotland stepped in at a very late stage of the construction of the works and had the castle taken down and re-erected on shore at a point above the new high water level. The point I want to make is that the Amenity Committee could not have raised a finger to save that castle.
The other example I would like to bring to your Lordships' notice concerns my own native county of Lanark. As many of your Lordships Must be aware, that county has lost much of its former beauty owing to the industrialization of a large part of its area. Until recently we had 966 three great treasures to which thousands of people flocked every year in the same way as we are told people are likely to flock after the war to revel in the beauties of the Highlands. Those were the falls of the Clyde, three great cascades in deep rocky gorges which really were magnificent. A Bill was introduced into Parliament to harness the water of the falls, and as far as I have been able to make out the important question of whether it should be done at all was never properly considered. I know something of the inner history of the matter, and what happened was this. A landowner alongside one of the falls proposed a scheme for using the water power. This brought into the field a big electric power company which already had its generating station producing electricity by steam further down the valley. I have learnt since that they brought forward their rival scheme very unwillingly, because they were quite satisfied with what they had and only wanted to avoid having a rival in the field. But the thing was done, and the falls were ruined. Except in time of spate there is only a trickle of water over them, and I need not tell your Lordships that sensible people do not go sightseeing in very wet weather.
The noble Viscount has dealt with the necessity of the earlier employment of the Amenity Committee under this Bill, and I would like to endorse every word he has said. By the time the Amenity Committee will come into the picture, the exact situation of every work, every generating station and main transmission line, will be laid down and a scheme to include a certain area will have been definitely and finally adopted. Therefore the new Amenity Committee will be in exactly the same position as the smaller committees which have been appointed in regard to individual schemes which I have attempted to o describe to your Lordships. I hope very much that we may receive an assurance that this Amenity Committee, the new Amenity Committee, which will be composed of gentlemen appointed by the Secretary of State—who will, therefore, presumably, have confidence in him—will be able to give him the benefit of their advice before he has to make his decisions, and not after.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
My Lords, I am so glad to have been able 967 to listen to-day to one of my countrymen dealing with this very important Bill. I would like to congratulate the noble and learned Lord who moved the Second Reading with all the great skill which we know that he possesses. I was glad that he emphasized the sad state of our Highlands as regards population. This has extended right away from the Dark Ages, and the falling away of the population has been continuous for, certainly, the last two generations. The noble Lord indicated that he hoped this Bill would do something towards repopulating our Highland areas. I hope so too. But in listening to his, speech upon the Bill I did not hear him say that, by means of it, cheap current and cheap power were to be given to our rural areas, to our farms, to the very districts which so much need that low priced electrical current which is provided in America and in Germany. Why we cannot provide it in this country I have never been able to understand.
If our aim is to do more than merely to give lip service to the desire to see our population moving from the industrial areas to the rural areas, we should realize that one of the means of accomplishing this is to give facilities for a better life in the rural areas. And one of the principal things which we ought to give is cheap electrical power. We ought to make it available not only in the farms but in the villages also and everywhere else in the areas. I fail to see why we cannot, when we give powers to these various companies or to a large Government Board to generate electrical power in our mountains and glens, compel them to have a flat rate, just as the Post Office has a flat rate for the service which it gives to the people no matter what distances a letter or parcel may have to be conveyed. It may be said that to give this cheap current to the rural areas would cost more money to the Board or company. But you could level out the cost by taking properly into account the heavy consumption in the industrial areas, and even though it might mean a slight rise in the charge there it would give what is so much needed—cheap current in the rural areas. I would beg the noble Lord, if he can, to say something to indicate that it is the desire of the Government to do so. We in Scotland have long memories, and we have had experience 968 in the past of hydro-electric power development. We have heard stories told of the wonderful things that were going to be given us if certain powers were granted by Parliament. But I am afraid that in the past, in this matter of cheap electrical power for the rural areas, we in Scotland have been "sold a pup" and the promises which have been made have never been implemented.
I hope that when this Bill becomes a working Act the Secretary of State for Scotland will see that the necessary schemes and programmes will provide the requisite breaking stations on the main lines, and give the necessary cheap current for which we are asking. I am not at all sure that this Bill will give this enormous area—stretching from the Shetlands right down to the borders of Stirling and Dumbarton, and cutting right across parts of Angus—current inside the area, so much as merely bring about the conveyance of current through that area to the Electrical Commissioners and elsewhere. Clause 2 of the Bill says:… it shall be the duty of the Board so far as practicable—What do those words mean—so far as practicable to provide supplies to meet the demands of ordinary consumers? Have the Board got to provide such supplies or do they imagine that they are not going to be able to provide them? Are the sales of current to the Electricity Commissioners going to be in such vast quantities that there will never be much current to let off in the various areas through which it is conveyed? I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us on that point. Another matter with which I wish to deal is this. So far as I can see this Bill does not lay down that the lines of distribution shall be so drawn in any scheme that they do not in fact by-pass a lot of the small places which need the current. I think that the actual drawing-up of the distribution lines should be very well watched in order to ensure that they provide for the giving off of the current required in the small areas.
- (a) to provide supplies of electricity required to meet the demands of ordinary consumers. …"
A further point I wish to make relates to compensation. In the past, in the taking over of land and the payment of compensation—I am referring now to schemes relating to Dumfriesshire and Central 969 Perthshire—the compensation given for the breaking up of farms was not satisfactory. It is quite true that compensation was given for fields which were inundated. But in every instance that compensation was in respect of a field regarded only as a field. In dealing with the various farms which will be affected by this scheme you have all the buildings to consider, buildings that were erected and used for the whole expanse of the farm lands part of which may now have to be taken away. Secondly, regard must be paid to the effect of the breaking up of the system of rotation of crops, which is a matter to which the ordinary farmer has to pay great attention. When certain fields are taken away the remaining ones may not be sufficient to permit of the old form of farming being carried on. That is something in respect of which compensation ought to be given. In the past, I am afraid, it has led to difficulties, and, sometimes, to unfair treatment. There have been two cases in my own experience where I thought the treatment was very harsh. Fields were taken away from a farm unit and, although the actual compensation per acre was thought to be satisfactory, the remainder of the farm lost very much in value owing to the taking away of that land. I hope that that point will be considered.
Another point regarding which I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he can help us arises in regard to Clause 22, which gives a monopoly to this Board in the particular area in which they operate, and prevents any other person from having a private generating plant with a rating exceeding 50 kilowatts. I know that 50 kilowatts will probably be all that is required for a house, or for a house and a streading, but there may be further developments in our Northern area which could be carried out by damming a burn and having a private installation, and it is only by competition that a reasonable price can be obtained from some of these large companies. I think that this monopoly which Parliament is asked to grant should be looked at carefully, therefore, before it finally becomes law.
We have been told again and again that the Board must do certain things. It seems that they must give all this volume of current to the Electricity Commissioners, and they must give three years' notice before being allowed to reduce the amount of current sold to the Electricity 970 Commissioners. I think there is very great danger in that provision, because it may give an excuse to them to say that they are very sorry, but they cannot give a supply of electricity to the various areas through which their lines pass. I welcome this Bill. With proper safeguards in the directions which I have indicated, I think it will be a good thing for Scotland, and I congratulate the Secretary of State for Scotland on having had the courage to go ahead with so large and so fine a scheme.
THE EARL OF ELGIN AND KINCARDINE
My Lords, I think that to have a proper, appreciation of this Bill I must ask you to go back to a debate which took place in this House on July 13, 1939, in which we discussed at some length the conditions which then existed in the Highlands, and the Report on the Highlands and Islands of Scotland of the Scottish Economic Committee, which was then in the hands of the Government, and which contained recommendations for dealing with the position. I should like to repeat one sentence which I used on that occasion, and which I think focuses the question:The schools are emptying, the young men and young women are leaving, the crofts are being deserted and neglected, the production of the land is decreasing, and occupation on the sea and livelihood from it is collapsing.The reply of the Government spokesman on that occasion was most unsatisfactory. He gave us no satisfaction at all, but told us to wait until the Secretary of State a few days later gave an answer in another place. That answer, when it came, proved to be an offer of £30,000 a year for ten years to do something towards rebuilding roads, piers and harbours.
This Bill is conceived in quite a different spirit, and I should like to add my testimony to what has been said by other noble Lords to the very valuable services of the Secretary of State for Scotland in focusing this matter and dealing with the whole question in broad outline. The Bill authorizes a comprehensive and bold survey of the national assets of this part of Scotland, and the use of those assets for the benefit of the population. It has a danger attached to it, in that if these assets are utilized, then, unless proper advice is obtained, the assets as they exist may be thrown away; we may lose our beautiful scenery and the attraction of the 971 Highlands, and we may not get the benefit from the water power. This scheme, however, is based not only on the Report of Lord Cooper's Committee, as has been suggested, but on previous reports, and here I would refer particularly to the survey which I mentioned a few moments ago. It is a comprehensive survey, and is designed to secure that use is made of the assets of the country.
I have not the same anxiety as the noble Lord who has just spoken, who feared that the power produced would be taken out of the part of the country where it was developed into an area further south, although I live in that area further south. I think that if we read Clause 2 of the Bill with any intelligence we shall see that priority must be given to the area from which the power is derived. Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of Clause 2 (1) refer to dwellers in that particular area, and what more can an Act of Parliament do than give this order of priority? It remains for those who have to put the Bill into force after it has become an Act to see that they observe the priority there laid down. I have not, therefore, the anxiety that the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, expressed, that the power derived from the North-Western Area will be taken south and used to supplement the supply of the Central Electricity Board.
As regards the uses to which the power can be put within the district, I think that we have had during the past two years illustrations of the desire to establish industries within that area, but these industries have "shied off" for various reasons—partly because Parliament refused to assent to various Bills, but partly because industries might find it difficult to market what they produced. There has therefore been a disinclination to develop industries there; but that the wish to do so has not been entirely absent is proved by the repeated Bills which have come before Parliament, of which I will mention only that relating to the Caledonian Power Scheme. As has already been said in this debate, it is a thousand pities that we did not consent to the establishment of the industry proposed under that scheme, in view of what has happened since.
But the chief reason for which I feel I can whole-heartedly support the introduction of this Bill is that it brings to the population of these areas the oppor- 972 tunity of enjoying those amenities, those additions to ordinary life, which are enjoyed by people in other parts of Scotland and England by the provision of cheap power and light for their dwellings. Here again I think, during recent weeks even, we have had an illustration of what is needed. This morning, in speaking to someone whose name I will not mention in this debate, I received an answer to a question on the subject which was an expression of doubt as to whether those who live in these cottages, the shepherds, the ghillies and so on, really want electric light and all the other facilities which follow upon cheap power. As I say, within recent weeks we have had a striking example of what the people of Scotland want in the way of housing. The Scottish Women's Rural Institute, a very large body in Scotland, and a very active body, instituted an inquiry on the subject and sent out a large questionnaire, with a great many questions asking each unit to find out from each member of that institute what that woman wanted as regards her house—a very formidable task. Fifty thousand replies were sent in. These were sorted and tabulated. As a result they were submitted to an intelligent qualified architect, who has devised out of those replies as to what the housewife wants a most extraordinarily fine cottage—and one of the requirements is undoubtedly electric light. I say "one of the requirements," because there are a great many more; and on that topic I would just like to say in passing that I hope your Lordships will not think that when you have passed this Bill you have given all that is required to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. There is a great deal more required—roads, railway and other transport facilities, and many other amenities. This is only, as the Secretary of State has I think said, and as the noble Lord in introducing the Bill said, an instalment, and we must appreciate it as that. But I would like to say that I heartily support this Bill as an instalment.
I would merely utter a caution. In getting cheap electricity and in giving a wide scope to the engineer, we must be careful that he does not destroy the amenities of Scotland. Both the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, have dwelt on this point, and I think the 973 noble Lord, Lord Alness, also referred to it, but from a different aspect. He said that there were countless checks that were available. That was not exactly the note which Lord Samuel struck, although nearly the same note, except that I thin he was not quite satisfied that the check was effective. But I should like to put it, if I may, in rather a different light, in a positive light rather than a negative one. I do not want the Amenity Committee simply to come in and have an opportunity of saying "No." I should like the Amenity Committee to come in and give a positive help—" Here is the way to conduct the thing." And that is, I think, exactly the same point which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, was stressing, and it is an important point. Let them come in at the first available moment, and certainly before the imprimatur of the Secretary of State is given, and say, "Here in general outline is what we approve." I hope therefore the noble Lord will convey to the Secretary of State for Scotland the strong view expressed here of the importance of the positive assistance which the Amenity Committee can give, if it is so entitled by the terms of the Act. That is the caveat which would venture to put.
I conclude, if I may, by once again saying how much we in Scotland appreciate the work of the Secretary of State in this matter, how much we appreciate the way he has tried to meet people representing different interests, and how much he has done by his personal efforts to make the Bill not only workable, but acceptable to the community. I hope that in giving a Second Reading to this Bill your Lordships will do so wholeheartedly, at the same time remembering that there are other services to be thought of. One of them is water supply. Water is required not only for the production of cheap electricity, but for other purposes—for industry, and not least for drinking. And if we abstract it all for the purposes of cheap electricity we may be depriving the very locality we wish to benefit of the water wanted for other essential needs, for the amenities of life.
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
My Lords, I do not intend to keep your Lordships more than a very few moments, because I feel it is not necessary, this matter having been so fully discussed already. But it is only right and proper that in rising 974 to support this Bill I should register one or two points, and mainly the fact, strange though it may seem, coming from this side of the House, that I am one of those who do not feel that this Bill goes far enough. But before dealing with this, I would like to add my humble tribute to those already paid to the work of the Secretary of State for Scotland, not only to his work in regard to this Bill but to the work he has done throughout Scotland. If I may put it in more vulgar terms, no one has got a move on more quickly in a short time than he has.
In rising to support this Bill I do so because I believe it provides one of the first reconstructional steps that will have to be taken everywhere to check the drift into the towns, and the complete disappearance of the rural population into what must be looked upon as the narrow life eked out in the contracted outlook of a town. I wonder sometimes whether it is fully realized to-day what a vital part a rehabilitated countryside will play in the future, and what a lot of purchasing power has slipped away since the contraction of that internal market some time ago. If we could but re-establish these markets it would go some way towards helping to replace the markets which have been lost in the Dominions and elsewhere through economic factors, and perhaps quite rightly, owing to the fact that they now manufacture those goods themselves which in former days we used to export to them.
This is only a first step, we hope, in trying to prevent the population leaving the rural districts, and to that extent it will play a part in the rehabilitation of prosperity in the rural areas. For that, of course, we must be only too grateful. Here I am bound to admit that my gratitude is tempered with a little disappointment because I, and I believe others in Scotland, had hopes of something on a more far-reaching scale than this Bill. We had a greater expectation of power all over the countryside. As the noble Earl, Lord Elgin, has said, there are many things besides the production of electric power for industry. There is power for agriculture, forestry, fishery, tourist traffic, cheap transport, and many other things. These are all bound up with the prosperity of the country, and I have a feeling that two of them—cheap electric power and cheap transport—should be 975 supplied by means of a flat rate. You have one of the greatest examples of that system in the War Damage Insurance Act, under which the people living in more fortunate areas pay the same rate as those living in areas likely to be "blitzed." I feel that these things which I have mentioned are in the realm of needs and are not just wants, and because they are needs there is an urgency for these needs to be satisfied.
We cannot afford to wait. People will not continue to be content with the conditions in the rural parts to-day. We have been through two major wars. Our men will come back, and this time our women will come back too, with very much enlarged outlooks. They will have seen many things, and their eyes will have been opened. They will not be content to live under the conditions they have known up till now. Though this cannot be dealt with to-day, though this Bill is only one step, the matter should be dealt with in a very much larger way at the earliest possible moment. We must realize, and make the country realize, that we cannot dally over this—we must hurry. I realize the difficulties of the Secretary of State in this matter, and recognize the fact that private supply companies have played, and are playing, a very useful part in the generation and distribution of electricity, but I am a little perturbed lest the inclusion of these companies for long will slow up the process. We cannot afford to wait too long, social conditions being what they are. The Government have promised agricultural security, but what is the good of that without proper working conditions to carry on agriculture?
I believe that what will happen is that in certain areas which are at present supplied by private companies, would-be consumers will be unable to get electricity on account of the fact that they will be unable to afford, after this war, to pay the charges which the private companies have to impose. It is quite obvious that a private company cannot afford to wait for a return, and accordingly you will have areas—I may be wrong, I hope I am—which will be unable to get this benefit which we are trying to give them. These companies have to sell electricity. They have got to go to the people of this country and say, "Here is a farm that has got 976 it, go and look. Here is an electric cooker," and so on. You cannot do that properly by private supply companies. There is only one way it can be done, and that is for the State to do it. That is really the chief point I wanted to make.
One other point that has not been mentioned is the cost of distribution plant in this country. It seems to me we have always stood for an extremely high standard in this respect. Your Lordships, if you want to sell a telegraph pole from among your trees, know how hard it is to pass the standard. It is the same all the way through. I suggest that this avenue might be explored to the full. Other countries do not do it. They transmit some of their power under far worse weather conditions than we have with much less satisfactory equipment. Go to Italy, go to Canada, go to other countries, and you will find that that is so. I earnestly suggest that His Majesty's Government should explore this avenue, which may lead to a reduction of the cost of distribution. Having said that, and having registered the few points I wish to make, I admit that a slice of cake is better than no cake. Though I should like to have seen the Bill going a great deal further, I give it my hearty support as a manifestation of mercy, though, as we say in Scotland, it is "a wee bit wee."
My Lords, I do not remember a Scottish Bill introduced in your Lordships' House which has been received with such whole-hearted cordiality from every side. There is one reason for this cordiality which forms a precedent for the future, and which will be a very useful precedent. Ever since the British Government tried to pacify the Highlands in 1746, and in order to break the power of the Chiefs drove off the clansmen's cattle or slaughtered them, a tide of emigration has set in from the Highlands to other countries which has never stopped. When Southern visitors come up to these devastated areas for the purpose of sport, I have often thought money could be bought too dearly. It is very easy, as we know, for Governments to call men to destruction, but it is never easy for Governments to say "Come again, ye children of men." Now the Secretary of State in this Bill hopes to reverse the tide of two hundred years of history, and he has established a precedent.
977 Instead of going out to break the power of the Chiefs, he has started this Bill in your Lordships' House by calling a meeting of the Scottish Peers who, I suppose, represent the old Chiefs, and has discussed with them all the points of the Bill and explained his hopes. In doing so he has set a precedent which I hope will be followed by every Secretary of State in the future, most of all by himself. He has done far more than facilitate the passage of this Bill. He has shown that in his own mind he feels that all Scotsmen—all Johnstons, Bruces, Scotts, Ogilvies, of whatever name—are of one blood and share their family pride, whether they are Peers or ploughmen. In this way he ensures that we can all go forward, not only disinterestedly working for the good of our country, but knowing that that is recognized by all Parties. I felt I could not allow this Bill to be brought into your Lordships' House without marking my sense of that precedent. I believe that however much the Secretary of State may be remembered as the endorser of this measure and as the founder of the hydroelectric scheme, he will be remembered far longer as the Secretary of State who enlisted all Scotsmen in his scheme and first of all showed that he felt the need for it.
§ LORD BROCKET
My Lords, your Lordships will not have personal recollections of the various Bills which were brought before the House of Commons before the war, but we had various Caledonian Power Bills, the Glen Alfric Bill and other Bills before your Committees. The Secretary of State, as the noble Lord who spoke last has just said, has used such prowess at getting over the opposition to this Bill that it is almost an agreed measure, with one or two small exceptions. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, mentioned the subject of amenity and if I, a very junior member of this House, may say so, made a very powerful speech on that subject. The question of amenity was really what-defeated the other Bills that came before the House of Commons. Some people objected to these Bills being promoted by private interests, but I think it was the question of amenity which really defeated them.
Now it is a very remarkable fact that whereas those Bills dealt with only a small part of the Highlands, this Bill deals with the whole of the Highlands. I think the 978 number of seventy schemes is mentioned, so that really this Bill may, if it is not handled aright, do far more to ruin the Highlands from the point of view of amenity than any of the previous Bills which came before the House of Commons and were rejected. I therefore would like to support as strongly as I possibly can the plea which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, made that the Amenity Committee should be brought into the machinery of the Bill at an early stage. It is no good whatever bringing in the Amenity Committee when it is too late. It is quite obvious what does happen to glens when they are hydro-electricized. As the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, mentioned, it is no good just taking a few castellations off the power house when it is a question of saving the Temple at Assouan. Therefore I do hope that when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Alness, replies, he will be able to give us a satisfactory answer on that point.
There is another point that I wish to make. I understand this Bill is an instalment for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Highlands. I do hope the public and those who live in the Highlands, as I do as an ordinary Englishman for part of the year, will not expect too much. The real problems of the Highlands are agriculture, forestry, fishing—both river and sea fishing. There is also the tourist industry, which depends, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has said, upon the preservation of the scenery amenities. Furthermore, the communications must be improved by road, rail and sea. Taking first of all this question of agriculture, if every glen had a hydro-electric scheme put in it a great deal of the best wintering for sheep and cattle would be submerged. That must be definitely understood.
Moreover, there is no doubt that from the fishery point of view these schemes must be very deleterious to the ascent of rivers by salmon or sea trout. It is very obvious to those who think about it, but it is very often not stated, that before the salmon and the sea trout can ascend the rivers they have to get out of their ova in the spawning grounds at the top of the rivers and have to go down the rivers into the sea. I would like to put to the noble Lord and to the Secretary of State this proposition: that when a river is going to be converted into a 979 hydro-electric scheme the experts should get together and see how, if at all, the salmon and the sea trout smolts can be enabled to go down to the sea and not get caught up, as I am told they do, in the turbines on their way down. I think that very great harm will probably be done to the fishing industry if this Bill goes forward to the extent of anything like seventy schemes. I would therefore like to suggest for the consideration of the noble Lord, Lord Alness, and the Secretary of State, that if it is agreed in due course either by amendment or otherwise that the Amenity Committee should be consulted under Clause 4, the Fisheries Committee, which is linked with the Amenity Committee in Clause 9, should also be consulted at that stage, because it is quite enough for the Board to say to the Fisheries Committee: "We are going to have a hydro-electric scheme for instance for the River Beauly," for the Fisheries Committee to realize what that implies. It is quite unnecessary for them to know where the power houses are going to be. I hope the Secretary of State will give sympathetic consideration to that point.
There are one or two more points of a practical nature. I do not intend to detain your Lordships very long or stand between you and the noble Lord, Lord Alness, but I cannot help giving my experiences regarding the transmission lines which will come under these hydro-electric schemes. In some property which I have in England, there are very large and very ugly transmission lines going over it. I want to get electricity from them for my farms and my tenants and the cottages, but whenever I ask the company to supply me with electricity they say the voltage is so high it cannot be broken down and we cannot have electricity. We have the ugliness of these vast pylons—and they are exceedingly ugly in this case, although it is in England and not in Scotland, where I think they might be even more out of place than they are on my property in England—but we have none of the amenities of electricity. I therefore hope some agreement will be come to whereby the people on farms and in cottages in the Highlands will be able to get electricity.
That brings me to Clause 22 where I see that an ordinary individual or a 980 private company can put up a hydroelectric scheme of a rating up to 50 kilowatts. I am not an expert on electricity, but I am told that 50 kilowatts would supply a fair-sized house and perhaps the garage and steading. In a case which I cannot help thinking about because it is my own case, I already on the West coast have a small turbine installation which supplies my farm and house. After the war, if it is possible to do it, I would very much like to extend that scheme to the whole of the village and to the saw-mill and farms. I hope the noble Lord who replies to the debate will be able to assure me that if I put forward a scheme to the Electricity Commissioners under Clause 22 they will not unreasonably withhold their consent to it. I cannot imagine that any of their pylons will come within perhaps twenty miles of my place, and I feel that by an extension of my little scheme under private enterprise I can probably supply the tenants and farms much more cheaply than they could be supplied by bringing pylons perhaps twenty miles. I hope indeed that small individual people who put forward schemes will be regarded sympathetically by the Electricity Commission. I do not know whether the clause will be improved by allowing more than 50 kilowatts, or whether some other Amendment could be made. Whereas we now have a very sympathetic Secretary of State, we may not always have one so sympathetic, and I would like to see something in the Bill which would enable ordinary landowners to go on with their schemes.
This is a Bill to set up a monopoly and as the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison of Montrose, said, monopolies have got to be very carefully looked at. It may well be that the existence of small private schemes in the Highlands would show what can be done by private enterprise in the hydro-electric field and might be the means of keeping the prices of the monopoly down. This Bill must be looked on as an experiment, and I would like to see the Secretary of State set up a much wider Commission, which might be called the Highland Commission, which would go into not only hydroelectric questions but matters affecting agriculture, fishing, the tourist industry and even sport. Sport may not be popularly regarded at present, but it does bring to the Highlands a great deal of money from south of the border. I would like 981 to see a Highland Commission set up to report, but as the Secretary of State himself has such great knowledge of the problems of Scotland, perhaps we might call him a commission in himself. I hope he will read my few humble words on this subject, because I want him to regard this Bill only as an instalment, and not look upon the £30,000,000 guarantee under the Bill as an end of the help which the Highlands and Islands of Scotland need.
§ LORD LOVAT
My Lords, the Scottish Peers have put such a strong batting side into the field that it is with considerable embarrassment I rise to say a few words. I wish to take the opportunity of giving my whole-hearted support to the Bill, and as a very junior member of your Lordships' House and a younger man, perhaps I might be allowed to put in a word for the returning soldiers at the end of the war. I hope that the Secretary of State meant what he said when he remarked that the Highland Division would come back to a Scotland which was glad to have them home. In the past there have been many cases in the Highlands where industrial development has made use of Irish navvies, particularly Glasgow imported Irish, who have not left a very favourable impression. I hope the Secretary of State will see to it that our young men are given a chance in connexion with the hydroelectric expansion for which we all hope. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, mentioned Battersea Power Station as being not altogether an unattractive structure and said he was quite prepared to view it from his house. I cannot associate myself with that idea. To me any constructional monster has the morbid attraction of the bearded lady of the circus.
THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, the general principles of the Bill before your Lordships have received a very warm welcome from those who have spoken and I should like also to pay a tribute to the value of the Bill which I hope will alleviate the lot of many people in my native country. Nevertheless there are one or two points in regard to which I think the experience of your Lordships can be of help, particularly in relation to Clauses 4 and 9 which, if I remember rightly, the noble and learned Lord described as the kernel of the Bill. I should like to 982 support as strongly as I can the plea put forward so eloquently by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and other noble Lords, that the Amenities and Fisheries Committees should be consulted at the earliest stage—namely, the stage of the development scheme. I gather that the argument put forward by the noble and learned Lord was that some of the development schemes might never reach the constructional stage, and therefore to consult these Committees would really be a waste of time and not worth while. But as I read the Bill, the development scheme is the organic proposal. Surely if the organic proposal is to be confirmed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, it would seem desirable and indeed reasonable that before any such confirmation takes place he should consult the two Committees which he is prepared to consult at a later stage. I cannot honestly see why, if you set up two Committees and are prepared to take their advice at the constructional stage, you should not he prepared to take their advice at the beginning, the development stage. I cannot really follow that argument, but perhaps the noble and learned Lord may be able later to make it plainer to my rather dull comprehension.
There is only one other point, a rather technical point, which I hope the noble and learned Lord will consider on Clause 9 (4). There are certain words in that subsection which are in parenthesis and which if they are allowed to stand might not allow even a small modification of a confirmed work. It might not even be possible to get a modification of a fish pass, which might be a quite proper thing to do. The point was raised in another place and consideration of it was promised. It was thought that another form of words might be devised which would get over the difficulty and I hope the noble and learned Lord will be able to tell us that that form of words will be brought before us at the Committee stage.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, if I do not throw any bouquets at my right honourable friend in another place, it is only that I feel that the tributes already paid might make his hat rather small for him. However, I will add that we are all very grateful to him. I had some doubts about Clause 2 and the danger of big undertakings losing their current. On inquiry I find I was wrong about that 983 clause, but having studied the matter again in reference to Clause 16 I have come to the conclusion that something must be done; otherwise the big industries will never set up works. This is very important. It is no use giving priority of current to the small users, who, undoubtedly, if there is going to be any increase in population in that part of Scotland, will be employed by the big users, if there is a shortage of current cutting off the big users, as that would mean that the employment of the small users would be gone. Therefore, I have hopes that this matter may be gone into again. It seems to me that this is a danger which no big firm would be prepared to risk in putting down a large and expensive plant.
From another part of the Bill, one gets the impression that some of the existing producers, such as the Grampian concern, for instance, in areas which they look upon as a monopoly, might compete with the Board for the taking over of some of the smaller undertakings. Surely, if this is so, it cannot be a very good thing. It would mean that you might have the Grampian people, possibly, in their area competing for the taking over of a small undertaking therein. That seems to me to be not a wise feature in this Bill. I may be wrong, of course, in the idea which I have formed, but at any rate that does seem to be a point worthy of consideration. One other matter and I have done. There appears to be some slight lack of the power of appeal against any decision. The Electricity Commissioners seem to be all powerful. I can visualize certain occasions when there may be a difference of opinion, and I feel that there should be some arrangement whereby an appeal beyond the Electricity Commissioners could be instituted. Having raised those three points, I would add that any further bouquet that has been thrown to my right honourable friend contains a flower from me.
My Lords, the Government have certainly no reason to complain of the reception which this Bill has received in your Lordships' House. I ventured, at an earlier stage, to bespeak for it a cordial reception, and I think that it has had a cordial reception on all hands. The cordiality of that reception 984 has been tempered, naturally and properly, if I may say so, by a certain tincture of criticism. That criticism, so far as I have been able to judge—and I have listened to, I think, twelve speeches which have been delivered, with very great care and attention—was not of any fundamental principle upon which this Bill is based. It would not be too much to describe the criticism as nearly, if not all, of a Committee character.
I had to consider, a few minutes ago, what would be the most convenient course for me to follow in order best to help your Lordships—whether it would be to range over the various speeches, containing, I think, thirty or forty proposals, and deal with them one after the other to the best of my ability. But I think that two considerations, as your Lordships will no doubt agree, forbid me taking that course. The first is borne in upon me when I look at the clock and remember that there is important business to follow upon the discussion of this Bill. The second is this. I do not think that your Lordships will expect me at this stage, and without having any consultation with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, to say "Aye" or "No" to the various Amendments which have been proposed, some of which, no doubt, will appear on the Order Paper at a later stage. Accordingly, with one exception, which I will mention in a few minutes, I propose to content myself, and, I hope, to satisfy your Lordships, by assuring your Lordships that every proposal made in the course of this debate, each of which I have carefully noted, will be duly examined between now and the Committee stage, and will be considered by the Secretary of State in consultation with myself. By the Committee stage I shall be in a position to give a final Government answer to any Amendment which may appear on the Paper.
That observation applies to most of the criticism which was made to-day. But I said there was an exception. That exception was the topic to which my noble friend Viscount Samuel referred in his speech—the topic of amenity. That topic has, I think, engrossed more attention on the part of your Lordships than any other, and perhaps it is rather important that I should say a word or two about that matter here and now. As I understood the noble Viscount, what he really wanted was that the Bill should provide 985 that before a development scheme has been sanctioned the Amenity Committee shall be consulted. That, if I am not mistaken, was the gist of his argument—that they should be brought in at what has been called an earlier stage, and that is to be before the design has been approved.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, may I interrupt for a moment to say that I was urging that directions should be given that interference with the beauty of scenery should be taken into account; that notice should be given and that there should be publicity in regard to these things at an earlier stage?
if quite agree. If the noble Viscount is right, I must be quite wrong in the impression I formed of the Bill. What I said in moving the Second Reading, I will just repeat in a sentence, because I am going to assure the noble Viscount and those who supported his view, that everything he said will be carefully considered by my right honourable friend and myself, before the next appearance of the Bill on the Order Paper. But, speaking as a lawyer, I should have thought that Clause 4, referring to a very different kind of scheme from the two which follow at a later stage, relates to a general scheme. My humble view—it may, of course, be wrong—is that that is nothing more or less than a paper scheme, a conspectus, a review of the first and initial survey by the Board of their area. Furthermore, that nothing effective can follow from it until a constructional scheme comes along. In other words, the general scheme is sterilized until the constructional scheme comes along. That scheme may, or may not, have been adumbrated in the general scheme.
LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
My Lords, may I interrupt for a moment? Subsection (1) of Clause 4 states, quite distinctly, that,the situation of the works (including generating stations and main transmission lines), proposed to be constructed for the purpose of utilizing those resourceswill be decided before the scheme in its first stage goes to the Electricity Commissioners and the Secretary of State.
My Lords, I venture to think not. I venture to think that this is, as I say, a purely adumbratory scheme, from which nothing effective can possibly follow. I said in opening this 986 debate that not a sod of earth could be dug in virtue of what this scheme contains; not a sod of earth could be dug until the constructional scheme comes along. Therefore I can put it, I think, in the form of a dilemma. The general scheme may or may not include something which subsequently becomes a constructional scheme. If it includes something which does not subsequently become such a scheme, why bother the Amenity Committee about it? It is a waste of their time. On the other hand, if it does contain something which subsequently becomes a constructional scheme, then consultation with the Amenity Committee becomes imperative.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I am sorry again to interrupt my noble and learned friend, but that does not touch the point which we are on. If the development scheme Axes the situation of the works, can a constructional scheme afterwards alter that fixation?
My Lords, I am not going to press the view which I have expressed on this matter on the House, because it is not a concluded view, or a view which I have discussed and settled with my right honourable friend; and, as the noble Viscount remains unaffected by anything I have tried to say, I shall simply take refuge by adding that I am not going to endeavour to argue the matter further on the merits here and now, but I shall confer with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and endeavour to see whether in some reasonable way the objection can be met. He has met many objections more difficult, and in some ways more pressing, than that stated by the noble Viscount, and I am sure that I can speak for him when I say that he will endeavour in some way or other to meet the objection which has been taken to this clause. Personally, I do not want to predict what he may do. I have heard my right honourable friend say that he regards this development scheme as of so little importance that he would be quite prepared to drop it out of the Bill altogether, so little does he regard it as essential to the fundamental scheme of the Bill. However, I shall discuss the matter with him, and I hope on the Committee stage to be in a better position to deal with the many valuable suggestions to which I have listened this afternoon from noble Lords.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he say that it is the policy of the Government, through this scheme, to give a generous and cheap supply of electric current to the rural areas in the North of Scotland?
My Lords, I think that the answer to that question is to be found in Clause 2 (1) (a). The first duty of the Board is—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).…What more does my noble friend want?
The price is to be fixed in accordance with the terms of the Bill by the Electricity Commissioners, after consultation with the Treasury. If there is any special case which my noble friend would like dealt with, I have no doubt he will put down an Amendment.
§ On Question, Bill read 2, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.