§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved by Lord Kinnaird on Thursday, 22nd November—namely, That there he laid before the House Papers relating to the operation of the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Act, 1943.
§ LORD LANG OF LAMBETH
My Lords, we resume this afternoon the debate on the scheme of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, commonly known as the Tummel-Garry Scheme. Those of your Lordships who heard the speech of the Chairman of the Board, my noble friend Lord Airlie, in defence of the scheme must have been, as I was, very greatly impressed by it. It was, if I may say so, more than eloquent; it was sincere, fair, frank, and forceful. There were moments when I found myself feeling almost persuaded to be a supporter of it, but, on reflection, and after having had the advantage of reading the report, so to say, in cold blood, I confess that there are still certain difficulties remaining in my mind. If they can be cleared up, very well, but, if not, there they remain, both as regards the scheme itself and the possible future of similar schemes.
I cannot speak from a close and intimate knowledge of Scottish affairs—at least I have not the Old Angus which my noble friend possesses—but I can speak with some knowledge of the Highlands, especially of the West Highlands. I have had a home there for fifty years, and no words of mine can express what I have owed during a long and laborious life to the refreshment and re- 208 creation of the scenery of the Highlands. That explains why I must needs be gravely concerned by any threat to the beauty of that scenery, and I am bound to say that this scheme not only threatens it, but would very largely destroy it over a very famous and beautiful stretch. I admit at once, and freely, that that is not the whole question. I agree entirely with what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, in his admirable speech, that the interests of the people must come first. There can be no question about the advantage which a supply of electricity would bring to the people of the Highlands, to their comfort, their health, and their work. I must just note in passing that it seems rather strange to me that, so far as the people of the district concerned in this scheme go, the body which I should have supposed would have been the natural guardian and protector of their welfare—namely, the Perthshire County Council—is strongly opposed to the scheme. That is noteworthy, but let it pass.
I admit also that there may be cases where a scheme, otherwise admirable, does involve a very heavy sacrifice of what are called the amenities. Let us be clear in each case and realize how great the sacrifice demanded is. Let there be no mistake that in this scheme the sacrifice demanded is so great that it might almost be called excessive. My noble friend Lord Airlie said it involved change but not destruction. But in this case the change would be so complete that it is practically equivalent to destruction. The special Tribunal admitted that the River Garry would remain merely a trickle, or, to use their words, "a rocky memory." The glorious tumult of the waters of Garry and the Falls of Garry and Tummel will never be seen again. As for the Pass of Killiecrankie, famous in our history, something else may be substituted for it which may have a certain degree of picturesqueness, but the Pass, with all that it has meant through centuries of history and all that it has brought to the people who have seen it, will have finished for ever.
I submit that that is a very heavy sacrifice to demand, and it leads to the necessity of gravely considering the question whether or not any other scheme might have been possible. As to that, it is very difficult for a comparative outsider like me to speak, but there are one or two 209 things of which I have knowledge, and which I think want such explanation as no doubt the noble Lord who will reply may be able to give. For instance, we all know that the Scottish Board has to obtain the consent of the Electricity Commissioners for any scheme. One of their representatives, Sir John Kennedy, said that he—and I suppose he was speaking for his fellow Commissioners—was so impressed by the value of the scheme that he considered no other was possible or, indeed, could be seriously entertained. I know that the Scottish Board has its own policy and that the Electricity Commissioners have merely a veto on any scheme proposed; but if there be a strong expression of opinion on the part of the Commissioners who have this power of veto, it is only natural to conclude that their opinion would have a very great, if not a decisive, influence upon the recommendation of the Board—that no other scheme could be seriously considered.
Then my noble friend paid a tribute, I have no doubt justly, to this panel of experts, who advised that this was the best possible scheme and there was no other that could compare with it. I could not help remembering the opinion of the late Lord Salisbury, that experts were admirable as witnesses but very bad as judges. These experts were all engineers who, of course, were bound by the limits of their outlook to consider the question mainly from the point of view of electricity with which they were concerned. For these reasons, I am still not convinced that all the abundant waters of the Highlands could riot have enabled the Board to find another scheme which, if it were not so profitable or even so desirable, would at least have been possible and would not have involved this very serious sacrifice of a great and beautiful part of the Highlands.
Again, there are other grounds of disquiet which many people in Scotland, including myself, still feel. One is the degree of importance that was given to this question of what are called amenities. Here I must speak with some caution, because I am not very familiar with all that passed during the somewhat intricate negotiations between the Scottish Board and the Electricity Commissioners; but, as I understand it, the position is this, as it was put before us by my noble friend Lord Kinnaird when he introduced his 210 Motion. As we all know, the Board is required, by the Act, to form an Amenity Committee and it is bound to give consideration to any recommendations of that Committee before and during the preparation of this scheme. So far as I have been informed, the Perthshire County Council asked the Scottish Office in January whether it had received the Report of the Amenity Committee and also (which I am not going to refer to, important as it is) of the Fisheries Committee. They were told that the scheme had already gone before the Electricity Commissioners but that the Report of the Amenity Committee had not yet been submitted to the Scottish Office. Your Lordships will remember, because it has been so frequently quoted during this debate, the very strong remarks of the then Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Tom Johnston, who said that any reasonable recommendation of the Amenity Committee would be strongly backed and enforced by the Scottish Office. When it was examined, the Report of the Amenity Committee was dated October, but it apparently had not reached the Scottish Office officially until January. That seems to me to imply that it was treated as a matter of comparatively little importance compared with the main features of the scheme. No doubt some reply in point of fact may be given, but at present I say that that remains among the grounds for which some of us view this scheme and its possibility for the future with a good deal of anxiety.
You may well say, "What is the use of belabouring this scheme with criticisms now, when in view of the attitude of the Government and the vote in another place, it is quite certain to be carried through?" The reason is that it is just these criticisms of which I have only summarized one or two, which cause so many in Scotland grave anxiety about the character of future schemes. I therefore turn for a few moments, in closing, to the future. And here I must note something that was a surprise to me but which was told us by the noble Earl, Lord Haddington—namely, that the Falls of Tummel which are, I might almost say, so terribly involved in this scheme, were actually conveyed to the National Trust in Scotland by a public benefactor who desired that these falls should be kept for the nation in perpetuity. Apparently 211 that gift has been set aside. If so, what security is there that similar gifts in the future may riot suffer the same fate? Is it not likely, either in this part of the world or in others, that any possible donor would hesitate to offer similar gifts if this uncertainty about their future remained? The noble Earl was abundantly justified in asking just where do the properties of the National Trust in Scotland stand.
But I turn to what is, after all, a wider issue—though that one is very important—namely, what degree of importance is likely to be given in future schemes to this question of amenities? Is it to be treated as a sort of side issue, almost negligible in comparison with the material interests that are involved? I do not like that word "amenity"; it seems to suggest something luxurious, desirable no doubt, but not of serious importance compared, as I said, with these material interests that are involved. It is extremely difficult always to assess the relative value of spiritual things like the influence of beautiful scenery, and material things like the supply of electricity: they stand on such different levels. But surely it is not extravagant to claim that in this age of a necessarily and increasingly mechanical character, the things that do elevate, sustain and strengthen the spirit and soul of the nation, have a great, a unique and an indispensable value. I do not think any of your Lordships would seriously doubt that statement. If it be true, there can be no sort of question that this scheme would so fundamentally alter the whole scenery of the part of Scotland with which it deals that there would be hardly anything left of all that has so far, for centuries, refreshed, recreated and strengthened the spirit of all the thousands who have seen it.
Perhaps I may say a word about the people of the Highlands themselves. I think they have a very real sense of the value of the scenery in the midst of which they live. Certainly their Gaelic literature, with its songs and its tales, is full of the praises of the mountains, the lochs and the rivers that have made the Highlands what they are and have always been. No doubt, alas, the decay or decline of the Gaelic language, their essential soul, is depriving the people of the Highlands of their most characteristic 212 expression; but even so, I am satisfied—and I know something about them—that a sense of the value of those glorious things in the midst of which they were born and bred, in the midst of which they live and do their work, though it is not often expressed in words (they are mainly a very silent folk) is deep seated in their subconscious lives. Let us not forget those things when we are discussing this particular scheme. The fact that the question of amenities has been fully and seriously discussed by your Lordships' House may have this very valuable result: it may secure that in future schemes these imponderable but profound values will have the place of importance which is their due.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, unfortunately I could not be here on the first day of this debate, but having read most carefully the very able speeches that were made on that day, there are one or two questions I should like to put. I want to reinforce what the noble and most reverend Lord said just now in reference to the quotation by my noble friend Lord Kinnaird of Sir John Kennedy. I understood from his speech that the Electricity Commission had insisted upon this site. My noble friend Lord Airlie said that the Electricity Commissioners could veto his Board's policy but they could not and did not dictate it. If they can veto the Board's policy, and if in this case they insisted upon this site, unless that is not a proper way of describing what happened, it seems to me to be very little different from dictation.
§ LORD TEVIOT
I am only quoting from Hansard, in which I find that my noble friend Lord Kinnaird is reported as having said that.
§ LORD TEVIOT
It does appear that the Hydro-Electric Board is entirely in the hands of the Electricity Commissioners. I will deal with that a little 213 later on. My noble friend Lord Airlie said there was now a shortage of electricity in the Eastern Highlands and Central Scotland, but I presume that could probably be put right if the export of electricity from Scotland were stopped. I was one of those Scottish Members of Parliament who were very keen on the Caledonian Power Bill. That Bill was killed, I am afraid, by the English Members of Parliament. Out of the seventy-two Scottish Members of Parliament seventy voted for the Bill and only two against it. We were, however, defeated by the English and I have never forgotten that. I was very much impressed with that Bill; I took a lot of trouble in studying it and it seemed to me a most excellent scheme. I wonder whether it can be resuscitated and perhaps save the Tummel-Garry Falls and the great beauty that is now endangered by this present scheme.
I have read very carefully the speech which was made by Lord Airlie. In that speech he referred to the use of electricity for houses. I know of a burgh which I used to represent in which a housing scheme was carried out. Electricity was installed in the houses but it was very soon found that the people occupying the houses, the consumers, could not afford to use it. Consequently gas was installed and I understand now that only gas is being used in that particular part of the burgh. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Rosebery. We must get away from the control of the Electricity Commissioners. I have a suggestion to make. Cannot we in Scotland have Electricity Commissioners of our own? Then, if England wanted anything from us the Commissioners there could say "We are in a difficulty, can you help us?" In that event we, the Electricity Commissioners of Scotland, would say: "Yes, we will do it, but we will do it in our own way, taking into consideration all the questions that have arisen in regard to this scheme."
Now I come to the question of atomic energy. My noble friend Lord Airlie seems to be very sure that water power Will be required even if atomic energy is to do something in this connexion. I am quite certain that atomic energy is going to be developed. I gather that my noble friend Lord Airlie did not think it would develop to such an extent as would 214 help in obviating this scheme. I do not think anybody to-day can say—it does not matter who he is—what this great new discovery may mean. It may mean a tremendous amount of industrial development; it may become of enormous benefit to all schemes such as these. I anticipate that development will occur within a reasonable time. After all, we have got every scientist in the world on to it. All that remains to be done is to find a means of controlling it. Once that is done, you will readily appreciate what it may mean to all these schemes. Surely many other schemes of the same sort for generating power may be turned completely topsy-turvy when the use of atomic energy is fully developed.
Then I want to ask this very important question; Is it absolutely necessary to embark now on this tremendous expenditure of six or seven million pounds? Could we not wait a year or two and see how the use of atomic energy develops? It seems to me that some years must pass before this scheme can be brought to fruition. In these difficult days money for any scheme is not too easy to get; and before this is finished, we may find that the whole thing is quite unnecessary. I hope that that will be taken seriously into consideration. When this scheme was first evolved, we did not know anything about atomic energy. If when the original inquiry was in progress the use of atomic energy had been in sight, I doubt very much whether the scheme would have come to its present stage.
Another question which I should like to ask is this: Has the Severn scheme been considered in relation to this matter? We know for the first time that the effect of the tides can be harnessed. We had a debate in this House on the subject, in which my noble friend Lord Brabazon took part. It was he who first started the investigations into the Severn scheme. I understand that the Severn scheme is going to be put through, and surely we should not rush into this scheme without waiting to see how the Severn scheme works; because, if it is successful and does what it is expected to do, what about Pentland? There you have a tremendous rush of water, and we may be able to harness the sea there and so obviate interfering with the lovely places in our land. I hope that this matter is not 215 regarded as having been entirely decided, and that those in authority will pause and take into consideration these very important questions, which may alter the whole complexion of this difficult scheme, which has aroused so much genuine opposition for various reasons quite apart from the question of amenity. I have not touched on amenity; I have dealt with what seems to me to be the logical, common-sense point of view in approaching a subject of this kind
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ LORD RUSHCLIFFE
My Lords, I make no apology whatever, as an Englishman, for making some observations on the matter now before your Lordships' House, because I believe—and I think your Lordships will agree with me—that the beauties of Scotland, the lochs, the waterfalls and the rivers, are just as much the heritage and possession of an Englishman as the beauties of Wales or of the English Lakes are the possession of a Scotsman. It is because I believe, like the noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, that that heritage is in very serious danger, that I am making these few observations. Further, I think that a point which has not been sufficiently emphasized is the fact—and in my view it is a fact—that a definite and precise pledge made in another place has been broken. I shall give my reasons for saying that. This pledge has not been read to your Lordships in its entirety, but it has been referred to. It was given in another place by the then Secretary of State for Scotland on May 6, 1943, and it is as follows:If the hon. and gallant Member wants an assurance that we intend to appoint the strongest possible Amenity Committee and to give every assurance to that Amenity Committee that every reasonable recommendation that they make"—I ask your Lordships to note those words—will be strongly enforced and backed by the Scottish Office, I can cheerfully give him that assurance.The Amenity Committee was appointed and reported against this scheme; and it is my submission to your Lordships that unless the pledge which I have just read is to be dishonoured, the only question is whether their recommendation was reasonable. I shall deal with that in a moment.
216 I have neither the inclination nor the knowledge to discuss the technical aspects of the scheme. I do not discuss, because I do not know, whether Sir John Kennedy did or did not say that no other schemes were seriously discussed. I do not discuss either whether this scheme will in fact bring electricity to a single Highland home; I have not the knowledge to enable me to express an opinion. But I am concerned to show, if I can, that the protection which the Amenity Committee was set up to provide has, in view of the events which have happened, shown itself to have precisely no value at all. The noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, earlier in the debate, said:I appeal to your Lordships, and to everybody who has had a Government appointment; nobody in charge of any Department would delegate his power to a committee. I should not thank it right to expect him to do so.I, like my noble friend, have had Ministerial responsibility, and as a general proposition I should accept that statement as undoubtedly true. But if a Minister chooses to limit his prerogative, and if he chooses to give a pledge in order to allay opposition, to meet criticism and to relieve anxieties, then I submit that he should be held to his pledge.
Another point that the noble Earl made was that this Amenity Committee reported only by a majority; it did not present a unanimous report. I do not know how that argument will appeal to the noble Lord who is going to reply, because I always understood that it was one of the most sacred principles of democracy in this democratic age that the wish of the majority should prevail; but, be that as it may, it is now abundantly clear that there is little or no substance in this point, because if the Amenity Committee had been unanimous, as the Fisheries Committee was unanimous, the result would have been precisely the same
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, may I defend myself? I think that the word "reasonable" has not been sufficiently emphasized by my noble friend. That is a slight qualification, and surely a bare majority of one showed that there was nothing unreasonable in the large minority. Mr. Tom Johnston did take sufficient notice of the Amenity Committee to set up another Committee, and 217 a very strong one, to go further into the matter; he did not override the Amenity Committee.
§ LORD RUSHCLIFFE
My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that I had not forgotten that point, because it is most material. I shall endeavour to show in a moment that, in my view at any rate, the recommendations of the Amenity Committee were eminently reasonable. A Tribunal was set up. I can well understand that the then Secretary of State found himself in an embarrassing position. He was torn, as it were, by conflicting loyalties—loyalty to the pledge which he had given, and on the strength of which he had got his Bill, and his very earnest and proper desire that electricity should be provided for the Highlands. He set up this Tribunal, consisting, we were told, of an eminent lawyer, an ex-town council official, and a convener of a neighbouring county. But this Tribunal was not the Amenity Committee which was promised; it was merely an ad hocbody set up to relieve the Minister of his embarrassment
In any case, whatever his objects were in setting it up, that does not relieve your Lordships of responsibility because under the Act which set up this Board these orders, or any one of them, may, at any time, be annulled by the vote of either House of Parliament. Therefore your Lordships are not in the least absolved from responsibility in the matter if you are of the opinion that these objections were reasonable.
The noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, said that the Bill of 1943 was the first Bill relating to Scotland which has ever gone through without any opposition and with the full approval of everybody in Scotland. That, I think, was the effect of his words. It is not the least surprising that it did go through in that way. Those who wanted electricity—which naturally all did—were satisfied because they thought they were going to get it. Those who were anxious that the amenities and beauties of Scotland should be preserved, were satisfied because they relied on the pledge that they would be preserved.
The noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, has referred to the speech which was made the other day by the noble Earl, Lord Haddington. I confess, my Lords, that I was deeply impressed by that speech. It was a speech in which 218 the noble Earl pleaded with noble eloquence for the preservation of the beauties of his native country. He referred to a point which has been already dealt with to-day by Lord Lang, therefore I will only touch upon it briefly. This is what the noble Earl said:The Falls of Tummel—here is a much more serious matter even than the ones have mentioned—were considered of such beauty that they were acquired by the National Trust of Scotland.He goes on a little later:There are six other properties of the National Trust which may be affected by the Board's operations as they come within the areas of their future development schemes.I have always understood that the National Trust was a. statutory body in which was vested property and that it was the business of the Trust to secure that that property was preserved, as Lord Lang has said, in perpetuity, for all time. What is the position of a benefactor—if you like, the particular benefactor referred to by Lord Haddington—a well-disposed person, who has given his money for the purchase of such property and handed it over to the National Trust? He sees the objects of his benefaction completely defeated, because now this property is to be acquired by the Hydro-Electric Board. As I say, his objects are defeated. I agree with Lord Lang that it is not in the least likely that in the future any well-disposed person will be inclined to buy places of beauty and hand them over to the National Trust with this example before his eyes, for he will never know whether his objects will be secured.
It really comes to this: Is the National Trust in future to be a National Trust for the preservation of properties committed to its charge, or is it to he merely the trustee of such properties until such time as the Hydro-Electric Board may choose to take them over and disfigure, destroy and deface them? The question has been put—and I do support Lord Lang in this—in specific terms, to the Minister who will reply. I trust that we shall have a reply from him as to what is the position of the National Trust in this matter. The National Trust is entitled to know. Apparently, the Board were asked by Lord Haddington on a previous occasion what was their view of this matter, but no reply was received. I suggest to your Lordships that this House and the National Trust are entitled to have a 219 definite reply to-day as to what is the position of the National Trust in respect of such properties as the Hydro-Electric Board may, at some future time, desire to take over.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me intervening for a moment to say this? The Falls of Glomach, the highest waterfalls in Scotland, if not in Great Britain —they are some 300 feet high—come within the area of development of the Glen Affric scheme. This is another of these properties of the National Trust which is also causing grave concern to people in Scotland.
§ LORD RUSHCLIFFE
Are we to be told now that the objection contained in the recommendations of the Amenity Committee—who, presumably, were endeavouring to protect the interests of the National Trust as well as those of other people—was unreasonable? If it is not unreasonable, I say that the pledge should be honoured, and that this scheme should never have been allowed. I happen to know, because I have seen some correspondence relating to the matter only today, that the National Trust are very gravely disturbed about this matter. As affairs stand now, it would appear that there is not a glen, river or waterfall in Scotland which is safe from—I was going to say the depredations of the Hydro-Electric Board and its technical advisers, all men, according to Lord Airlie, at the heads of their professions. I am quite sure that the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, is right about that and that these consulting engineers, civil engineers, electrical engineers, and mechanical engineers are very eminent men. But as I have said, there is no glen, river or waterfall in Scotland which is safe now from the operations of the Hydro-Electric Board in combination with, or in conspiracy with, these various technical advisers and engineers. I am bound to say that the situation does seem to me to afford very considerable justification for the bitter tone adopted by the Earl of Rosebery when he said in this debate the other day that within a few months the Hydro-Electric Board had managed to sow dissension and discord in the whole of Scotland. A little later in his speech, adopting a tone of sarcasm, he said:I do not know whether they have a Public Relations Officer, but if they have, I 220 should sack him, and if they have not I should get one.I have but one further point to make on the question as to whether this objection is reasonable or not. The people who are most immediately and most seriously affected are, of course, the people of Pitlochry. Pitlochry, as everybody who has been there as a tourist, as I have, well knows, is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. It is a highly popular tourist resort and it had every expectation of becoming even more popular in the future. Now this is what the Perthshire County Council say with regard to the effect on that area:The Tummel-Garry project involves eighteen separate works. (3 reservoirs, 3 generating stations, 7 aqueducts, and 5 diversions of public roads) and provides for the development of the water power resources of a catchment area extending to 322 square miles in Perthshire.In another paragraph the County Council say that one of the results of this scheme is—The diversion to the watershed of the River Tummel of the head waters of the Rive. Garry and its tributaries above its junction with the Errochty water as well as the watery of the Errochty itself by means of aqueducts and tunnels together with an impounding reservoir on the Errochty.That apparently means that on their very doorstep at Pitlochry a dam—I do not know how high, but probably 50 or 60 ft.—is to be made with a power station in the middle of it. The head waters of the Garry will be dammed up and a large reservoir—I refuse to call it a loch—will be made. It is idle to pretend, it seems to me, that such operations will not most grievously affect the amenities and the beauty of Pitlochry itself, and to say that their objection was unreasonable is a proposition which I think not one of your Lordships will accept.
I have only just one word to add in conclusion. It seems to me that in this debate, the account of which I have read with great interest, the most disturbing and perhaps the most sinister statement made in the course of it was that by Lord Airlie, who said:But it must be remembered that the duty of these two Committees is to advise on amenity and fishery matters and nothing else. They cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered as vetoing committees. The Board's duty, therefore, as we see it, is to consider their advice and to take it if we can; but if we feel that the provision 221 of electricity—which is, after all, our job—would be interfered with by the recommendations of either of these Committees, in our opinion we have no other course than to inform the Secretary of State that we are unable to accept these recommendations, giving the reasons why we cannot do so.That means that, in considering water power, waterfalls, rivers and glens, the one thing which has to be taken into consideration is the provision of electricity. The amenity value of waterfalls and rivers and so on, is negligible compared with their importance in providing electricity. I suspect that that statement of Lord Airlie's will by this time have been broadcast all over Scotland and I have not the slightest doubt that it will have caused the greatest alarm.
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
Is there any other way in which we could carry out the scheme put to us? These Amenity and Fishery Committees have to advise on these two other subjects. Sooner or later you will probably come to the parting of the ways where one must be weighed against the other. That was done at the Tribunal. So far as my Board was concerned, we could only take the line we did. I submit that it is not unreasonable.
§ LORD RUSHCLIFFE
Lord Airlie may be right on that, but my point is that a pledge given by the Minister has been broken, that it is reasonable to say that the amenities that he affected to defend have not been carefully—
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
What I do object to is that it is described as a sinister remark. It was quite logical.
§ LORD RUSHCLIFFE
It was sinister in this respect; it shows exactly what Scotland may expect in the future. I think it is alarming and sinister and that is a matter about which your Lordships can judge. As has already been pointed out, nothing we can do can prevent this scheme going on, but I think that the Hydro-Electric Board may be assured that if it goes on, as I suppose it will, it will proceed amidst the indignation, resentment and anger not only of the people of Pitlochry, who are those most immediately affected, but of thousands of people both in England and in Scotland who will feel that their heritage has been needlessly and wantonly squandered.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I feel that an apology is owing to the Scottish members of your Lordships' House on account of the fact that two non-Scottish members are speaking in this debate in succession, but I can assure them that we are likely to be the only two in a debate which may include some fifteen speakers, not including the representative of the Government. Two points have been in controversy in this matter and one is the accusation that the North of England is to steal the products of the Scottish Hydro-Electric Board away from the Scottish people. That is a matter on which I would not venture to say a word; but the other point is one which affects the whole of this island—the preservation of the finest part of its scenery which is a common heritage for us all. It was on that ground that as a member of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and also of the National Parks Committee, that I ventured to take a somewhat active part in the discussion on the question of amenities when the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Bill was before your Lordships' House. At that time I had the advantage of two conferences with the then Secretary of State of Scotland at his request for the elucidation of the matter; and then, both in. this House and in tile other House and in these conferences, the most emphatic: assurances were given that if Parliament passed the Bill the utmost care would be taken to see that injury should not be done to the most beautiful parts of the Scottish Highlands.
We were told that the fears expressed in Parliament and in Scotland were unfounded, that an Amenity Committee would be appointed which would be given a place in the Statute itself; that we should not only be depending upon the assurances of individual Ministers but that Parliament itself would be able to safeguard the situation by the presence of that Amenity Committee charged with the special function of safeguarding these particular interests. What has happened? The matter has gone forward; the Amenity Committee has considered the question and has reported by a majority against it. We are told by the Chairman of the Hydro-Electric Board that of course they must proceed—we have come to the parting of the ways and the Amenity Committee takes 223 one view and his Board takes the other—and that if Scotland is to have electricity no account can be taken of the Amenity Committee. That is the situation and the -procedure adopted in this particular case has been a very strange one. I must say that it appears to me to be very strange. The discussion has been opened by the noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, who speaks as a member of the Perthshire County Council and who, incidentally is Lord Lieutenant of that County. He told us that the Perthshire County Council asked for the report of the Amenity Committee to be communicated to it. They were refused the report because they were told that it was not the intention of the Board to make it public. This statutory authority, an Amenity Committee appointed to reassure Parliament and to safeguard the situation made the report, but the Perthshire County Council could not have it.
He went on to say that the matter was pressed in Parliament and that at last the Secretary of State said that owing to public interest he proposed to make the report public and it would be published immediately the period for the laying of objections was over. Is not that an extraordinary situation? There is a statutory period for the laying of objections. The Amenity Committee sits, deliberates and adopts a report and the Scottish Office finally decides, against the previous intention of the Hydro-Electric Board, to publish the report. But it says it shall not be published until after the last date when objections may be made to the scheme. I trust that the noble Lord representing the Scottish Office here to-day will give some explanation when he comes to reply of what, on the face of the matter, seems to be a most astonishing procedure.
The noble Earl, Lord Airlie, asks what else could his Board do. They have consulted a panel of engineers of the highest authority, and he has been good enough to inform me—it had not been stated at the moment in this House—that the Board has also had the advantage of the advice of a panel of architects which is called into consultation when possible or when necessary, though he did not say what action this panel had taken in this particular instance. But, in the main, the matter has been decided by a panel of engineers. It made a report, and it 224 would be a very exceptional engineer who would say that if the beauty of the scenery is to be preserved and if that would mean an alternative scheme costing to per cent, more, that that scheme should he preferred, and not the cheaper one. The professional engineer, charged with the responsibility of preparing a scheme, naturally, in accordance with the whole of his training, regards the elements of mechanical efficiency and costs as matters which concern him, and it would be very improbable—I do not say impossible—that this panel of engineers should come forward and say: "We can employ this water in a different way, or equivalent water, and get the same kind of power, but it would cost so many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of pounds more." The engineers are concerned with their engineering business, and, having made the report, what follows is that the Hydro-Electric Board, when it gets the report, cannot go behind the engineers. The Hydro-Electric Board are not technicians themselves and, therefore, they accept the report, which goes forward with their approval. The English Electricity Commission naturally follow in the same way.
The Scottish Office would consider that they had taken a very drastic and excessive exercise of their power if they were to negative the report coming before them from the highest engineering authority. Even the special Tribunal appointed to adjudicate in this matter on the report of the Amenity Committee would naturally feel that they may be stopping the development of Scottish electricity, and would hesitate long before they intervened at that stage to veto the proposal. When it comes before Parliament, the other House are in the same position. They will say: "Are we to deny the Scottish people the enormous advantage of electrical development for the sake of amenities?" And now your Lordships' House is called upon to make the same decision. You say, in fact, "Whatever the machinery may be, in essence we must accept the report of the engineers," and all the other authorities go down like a row of toy soldiers, and the first decision becomes the last. No one is brave enough to stand up and say: "This shall not be done; you must find some alternative."
The Perthshire County Council has, however, done so. We have here the state- 225 ment circulated—with its reasoned objections—on behalf of the principal local authority in the district, together with the joint County Council for the combined Counties of Perth and Kinross. The Fisheries Commission has also made a statement against this Bill, which has been circulated to Parliament. Furthermore, I have in my hands a very powerful document in opposition to the scheme from the Association for the Preservation of Rural Scotland. That is how the matter stands at this moment. We are advised that this outrage upon the scenery of Scotland must be perpetrated because there is no alternative if development is to proceed. We are always told that. Not long ago there was a not dissimilar case threatening the City of Durham. Your Lordships may remember the correspondence about it in The Times, and the very lively controversy in which the Dean and Bishop of Durham, and other local people, and the whole town planning and preservation movement of this country attacked the scheme, saying that it should riot be carried out because it spoilt one of the most magnificent views in England and, indeed, in Europe, the view of the Cathedral and Castle of Durham. We were told, first, that it would make no appreciable difference, and, second, that if it did spoil the beauties of that part of the County of Durham, it must still be done because there was no alternative. However, the agitation became so strong that the matter was reconsidered and an alternative scheme was found. An equal amount of electricity is produced for the same purposes without damage to the amenities of Durham.
Almost exactly the same position arose in the case of the City of Lincoln. There, again, a great hydro-electric power station was to be put up in a position which aroused the strongest objection from the ecclesiastical authorities of Lincoln Cathedral which, as all your Lordships know, has one of the most beautiful exteriors in this country. Again, the same result follows, and, if my memory is correct—I have not been able to verify it—the scheme was withdrawn and another put forward which met all the objections. I have yet to be convinced that the same conclusion is impossible here. If it is possible, it Ought undoubtedly to be achieved.
226 This is a small island with a population of 45,000,000, all highly industrialized, winch has had handed down to it from the past extraordinary natural beauty. We have an absolute obligation and duty to preserve, so far as may be, those natural beauties which have come down to us unimpaired from previous centuries. An effort is on foot to make this a more accessible country to the world at large and to invite more and more travellers and visitors to see this island. That is a matter of economic value, especially in view of the difficulties of foreign exchange due to the last war. A Travel Association has been formed with Government support and a Government subsidy precisely in order to bring the world to Britain for their refreshment and recreation and, incidentally, for our own economic advantage. Scotland is one of the principal attractions, not only to foreigners but also to people from the British Dominions.
Among the people from the Dominions are the Scotmen who, perhaps more than any other section of the population, have built up our British Dominions in the most astounding degree by their energy and qualities of character. They come back in the first and second generations to their old homes in the Highlands of Scotland—to find what? That great parts of the country they remember or have heard of, parts famous in history and in poetry, have been ruined by vast hydro-electric works. They will come and see the country, not with pleasure, but with anger and disgust that its famous beauty spots should have been ruthlessly ruined by the development of modern industrialism. It is a merely mercenary policy and, in the long run, Scotland will lose more financially by the destruction of its beauty spots; for one of its chief industries, the tourist industry, will be injured, which in the course of time—with rapid air travel and greater wealth and leisure—might bring millions a year to this island by way of money spent by foreign visitors. They would lose far more in the money spent by foreign visitors—many times as much—than they would gain by having this scheme for hydro-electricity in preference to some other alternative scheme.
The noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, when he spoke in the previous debate, referred to the development of atomic energy That is a factor which certainly ought not to be forgotten. Many great scientists are 227 quite convinced that atomic energy within a few years will be applied for industrial purposes and will take the place of energy derived from coal, oil or hydroelectric power. Not, of course, immediately, but gradually, over a course of years, perhaps generations, it may become the main motive power used in the world That opinion has been supported by scientists who are leading scientists well acquainted with this matter, like Professor Chadwick, Professor Oliphant and the leading American scientists; and although Lord Cherwell, in this House, takes a somewhat different view, his voice unquestionably represents a minority among the scientists of to-day. If that were so, all these hydro-electric works would become superfluous. I could not follow at all the view expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, on the previous occasion, when he said that even if atomic energy were brought in, these water works would still be necessary. They certainly would not be necessary. A power station would be necessary—
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
That is what I said, I think; and you still will have to spend the money on those power stations.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Certainly power stations would be necessary, as now, but they would get their power for ensuing developments—such as are contemplated as possible, though no one can say that they are certain—if they do in fact ensue, not from steam engines, oil engines or water turbines but from some small atomic energy mechanism which would run the dynamos; and consequently the whole of these waterworks would be superfluous. The noble Earl shakes his head, but those waterworks would be just as superfluous as if you were changing steam engines or oil engines for atomic energy engines. If that were so—and that is a possibility—all this vast expenditure of capital would be lost, and all that would remain would he the interest charge for a generation, or whatever the period of the payment may be on that capital expenditure. In a later generation there would be nothing left except the ruins of these vast hydroelectric works along these rivers, which would stand as a memorial to posterity of the vandalism of the Scottish authorities of the twentieth century.
§ 5.13 p.m.
My Lords, I am sure noble Lords from Scotland will allow me and expect me to thank very sincerely the two noble Lords who "do not wear the kilt" for their very powerful and useful intervention in this debate. The scheme for the generation of electricity in Scotland by the harnessing of rivers and lochs was started under conditions of world power availability so completely different from those of to-day as to require that this whole question, of which the Tummel-Garry scheme is but a part, be reconsidered. I would like, if I may, to join with the most reverend and noble Lord and others who have preceded me in this debate, in paying a sincere tribute to the very hard work that has been done by my noble friend, Lord Airlie and those who worked with him in what might be called the pre-atomic power age. My noble friend's speech, which your Lordships heard last week, was a model in portraying in clear and vigorous terms the case of the Board over which he presides. I am sure, however, he will allow me to make two suggestions.
Up to the immediate present, the only practical sources of power for generating electricity in Scotland were, as your Lordships are well aware, coal and water, whether fresh or salt. The release of nuclear energy by the hand of man has since then been achieved. Your Lordships will recall that this limitless potential comes to the world as a result of fundamental research undertaken by a member of your Lordships' House, the late Lord Rutherford, and Professor Sir J. J. Thomson. I suggest now that we should take careful stock of what is involved and be determined to lead in the application of this new source of power to constructive purposes. This point has been most ably stressed by my noble friend Lord Teviot and also by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, in the debate on the international situation last week, and again to-day by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel.
Your Lordships may have noticed that Sir Henry Dale, President of the Royal Society, the leading scientific body in the world, in a letter in The Times of August 7, said:The release of atomic energy, now an accomplished fact, can either destroy civilization or immensely enrich its possibilities; the choice is clearly before mankind and those who guide its destinies.229 Now the immensity of atomic power for constructive purposes was well illustrated in an address delivered recently by Professor Oliphant, whose name has already been mentioned by the noble Viscount who preceded me. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and has, from the first, been engaged on research into atomic problems. He shows that whereas a pound of coal consumed in a modern power station can produce one unit of electricity, a pound of uranium consumed in a nuclear furnace can produce 50,000,000 units He also shows that were it possible to apply this power from one pound of uranium to a 10 h.p. car, it would give 10,000 years of running or 10,000,000 miles. So your Lordships have a fairly wide choice, according to your ideas.
Now the physical restrictions of such application in accordance with the knowledge available to-day were touched on a few days ago by the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell. The figures I have just given you are computed from results so far achieved in the tapping of nuclear energy, but they do not take into account, for example, the synthetizing of hydrogen atoms to create those of nitrogen or helium. When this is possible—and there is no reason, we learn from those who know, to doubt such a possibility—the energy released will be infinitely greater than has so far been obtained by present methods. Some eminent men of science engaged on research problems relating to nuclear energy feel that if we are so minded, as the President of the Royal Society puts it, immensely to enrich the possibilities of civilization, we can make nuclear power available as a commercial proposition in ten to fifteen years. Do not, therefore, let us follow the old way and again refuse to learn the lessons that experience teaches us. Surely difficulties exist to be knocked down; the impossible takes a little longer.
As your Lordships remember, the world failed to visualize that flying would exert an immense influence in our day. There were one or two, like my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara, who told us what would come, but few, if any, believed him. In this new development we must be sure not to commit the same error by under-estimating the immense potential that will come, and come rapidly, from the application of nuclear energy, always providing we have "the 230 will to achieve" If the Tummel-Garry scheme is passed by Parliament, Scotland, I suggest, will find herself, if we are active in atomic power research and development, in possession of out-dated equipment in a decade or so. As the Association for the Preservation of Rural Scotland has said, she will have suffered irreparable damage in the Highlands to scenery and amenities. Your Lordships will remember the admirable contribution to this debate on November 22 by my noble friend Lord Haddington on those aspects. I do beg His Majesty's Govern-merit not to proceed with this scheme until the whole question of power potential has been considered by the recently set up committee on nuclear energy under the Chairmanship of Sir John Anderson If, however, the Government are determined to present Scotland with this electrical apparatus, which will be obsolescent before it is finished, then I beg the Government to take note and learn from other countries which faced similar problems in the pre-atomic power days.
It has been my good fortune over many years to work a lot in Sweden with Swedes. Your Lordship will have remarked on the splendid way in which technical developments have been rapidly taken up and made available to the people of Sweden, as, for example, the universal application of the telephone and electricity. A friend of mine, Mr. Hellstrom, worked here for many years as a senior civil engineer on the staff of Messrs. Rendell Palmer & Tritton. He returned to his native land some years before the war and has been devoting his time exclusively to the development of hydroelectric power. Sweden, like Scotland, possesses many natural amenities and beautiful scenery, and is determined that they shall remain unimpaired. The latest schemes over there, engineered by Mr. Hellstrom and those associated with him, show that if it is necessary to generate electricity by water power, dried up river beds, unsightly pressure pipe lines and gaunt power stations can be avoided. With the permission of your Lordships, I beg to submit an outline diagram which will illustrate clearly the difference between the old unsightly above-ground lay-out that has spoiled so much of Scotland's lovely scenery and the modern underground methods that have recently been carried out with such great success in Sweden.
231 My noble friend and fellow Scot, Lord Westwood, who will reply to this debate, will understand how sad it is for us to contemplate the fact that His Majesty's Government should choose this year of all to plan to present Scotland with yet two more dried-up rivers and completely to destroy the meaning of those words that, in this bicentenary year of the Forty-Five, ring in our hearts:Cam ye by Athol lad wi the philabeag doun by the Tummel and banks o' the Garry, saw ye the lads wi their bonnets and White Cockades leaving their mountains tae follow Prince Charlie.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD LOVAT
My Lords, as a Highlander I venture to speak in this debate. I wish to join with my noble friend Lord Kinnaird in criticizing the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. I do not, however, wish to be regarded as a dyed-in-the-wool opponent of hydro-electricity; nor am I prepared to talk with any authority on the Tummel-Garry scheme. I shall, however, venture this afternoon very briefly to recapitulate my own short experience of the working of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. Less than a year ago I wrote a letter to The Times newspaper complaining of the manner in which I was approached on the Loch Morar scheme. I am not going into that matter in detail now. It amounts to this, that a scheme to which I gave my whole-hearted support was foisted on myself, and on the crofters and tenants over whom I happen to be the landlord, in a curious manner. I can only express it in that way. I had no notification of the scheme and very little was known about it by the general public. Although I gave this scheme full support, I was only given sufficient warning to lay an objection, if I thought fit, within thirty days. I happened to be in France at the time and was subsequently wounded, and I had no intention of laying any objection, because it was a good scheme.
The Loch Morar scheme should have started this summer. It was the first of the Board's projects and it was an excellent project. There was no suggestion of flooding Highland homes and winter grazing, of dispossessing the crofters or exploiting the Highlands to take electricity to the industrial areas. It was a scheme which affected two hundred of my own Highland tenants, people of the very 232 best stock, Gaelic speaking, proud, independent people, who live under difficult conditions, with none of the amenities—that is a popular word now—which make life easy. That scheme has been postponed. Again I have had no explanation except the lack of labour. That certainly is an excuse, but I do not think it is an explanation. The Board have given notification that they are prepared to put in an oil engine. An oil engine does not cost very much money. The Hydro-Electric Board has, I understand, very great financial backing, yet there is no indication of these houses being lighted or of electricity being supplied to them. I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Westwood if I could have some indication of what the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board propose to do in the case of Loch Morar.
I should like at the same time to point out that this is a national problem and goes far beyond Scotland. Other speakers have emphasized that point. I get letters from all over England, from London and the Home Counties, asking why the Board should not let people know far in advance of the 102 schemes which they propose to adopt, and why it should not be possible for photographs, models and every other kind of facility to be provided so that people can study, discuss and give intelligent thought to these various plans. It is not for me to give advice to the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, but what a man does not understand he instinctively fears.
I suggest to the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, that he would have been very much better advised if in the first instance a number of schemes like the Loch Morar scheme had been put through, instead of forcing the Tummel-Garry scheme, which is considered to be an exploitation of the Highlands. We are very thin on the ground there, and we are going to be very much thinner if this kind of thing is going on.
I want to make two other criticisms of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. The noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, suggested that a Public Relations Officer should be appointed. I should like to supplement that and suggest the appointment of a propaganda officer. The noble Earl, Lord Airlie, has made gallant efforts in support of his scheme, but I do not think that they are wholly convincing. As 233 a younger man. I venture to suggest to him that it would not be a bad idea if he were to be careful about what he says when he tries to justify his scheme in the larger cities, such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. I have a quotation here from a speech which he made to a women's society in Glasgow in which he promised them all refrigerators and other amenities which come from the use of water-power. That is hardly the way to reconcile the Highlands to a hydro-electric scheme. There are people in the Highlands who have no electricity to light their homes, and none of these things which were promised in Glasgow, but who are far worse off than the people there. Antagonism is being fostered at this moment between the Highlands and the Lowlands. You cannot woo the Glasgow housewives with refrigerators and leave the crofters faced with the winter grazing for their sheep and cattle flooded, yet with no chance of lighting their houses with electricity, which will be sent elsewhere. The noble Earl's second-in-command, Mr. McColl, made an equally unfortunate remark when he said recently in Edinburgh that all that stood in the way of the Hydro-Electric Board were salmon and amenities. I resent that remark very much indeed.
My late father, who, I think your Lordships will agree, took an interest in the Highlands and in Highland people, fought the unsavoury ramp on the Bwea Beauly because the people in the Highlands were not benefited at all. I submit that the whole approach to this matter should be reconsidered. There has been a change of attitude since the Act came into force. I should like to read you what Mr. Johnston said in 1943, because I think that the spirit in which the Act is being carried out has changed entirely since then. He said:… half the purpose of this Bill is to restore the population to the Highlands, to provide social amenities for the area; and we desire to have some clause in the Bill providing that this Board shall be something more than merely, as somebody said to-day, a coldhearted hydro-electric organization. It is a Development Board as well. It is the beginning, we hope, of a new era in the Highlands of Scotland …Do not let anybody think that the Highlands are going to become repopulated and revived by an influx of generating stations. That is wholly false. Industry on a heavy scale will never come to the Highlands, because it is common sense that ii is easier to brim, current to industry 234 than industry to current. But there are many other ways in which the Highlands can he revived and brought into a happy and thriving state. I am not going into the details now; they are obvious—agriculture, forestry, inshore fishing for the crofters, lower freights on the railways, increased travelling facilities, better roads, and the tourist industry, which has already been mentioned.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, has dealt so fully and so adequately with the various criticisms raised against these schemes, and anticipated nearly a fortnight ago so many of the criticisms which have been made to-day, that he has left little ground for me to cover. Your Lordships are indebted to the noble Earl for explaining so fully the point of view of the Board of which he is Chairman; and I should like on behalf of His Majesty's Government to assure him that the valuable work which he has performed since he undertook the Chairmanship of the Board is very highly appreciated.
The Motion on the Order Paper calls attention to the operation of the Act of to43; and I should like in the first place to summarize very briefly how the Act has worked, and what the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board have achieved during the two years of their existence. The first task of the Board, on their appointment in September, 1943, was to prepare a development scheme showing so far as practicable the waterpower resources which they proposed to examine with a view to their possible use for the purpose of generating electricity This scheme was confirmed by the Secretary of State in March, 1944. It outlines 102 separate projects for the development of the hydro-electric resources of the Highlands and Islands, with a total estimated average annual output of 6,274 million units. Its preparation within six months of the constitution of the Board represented a considerable achievement, and provided a basis upon which the Board have proceeded to build.
In order to obtain authority for the execution of works necessary for the generation of electricity, the Board must submit what are known as constructional schemes. In order to distribute electricity—and the Board are empowered to dis- 235 tribute only in these areas of the North of Scotland district which are outwith the areas supplied by other undertakers—the Board must submit what are known as distribution schemes. These schemes are, under the Act of 1943, subject to a rather complicated procedure which provides safeguards for all the interests likely to be affected by them. In addition, constructional schemes must be laid before Parliament, and may be annulled by Resolution of either House.
The Board have already submitted three constructional schemes. The first includes a large project at Loch Sloy and two smaller projects at Loch Morar and Lochalsh. The second includes, in addition to the large project in the Tummel-Garry area of central Perthshire, a smaller project at Gairloch. The third constructional scheme covers a medium-size project at Loch Fannich. Public inquiries were held in the case of the first and second constructional schemes, and they were confirmed in accordance with the recommendation made in each case by the Tribunal. I should like to say that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has the most complete confidence in the impartiality and integrity of those who have carried out the inquiries into these two schemes; and he is confident that mischievous suggestions of bias which have been made by opponents of the schemes will find no support in any responsible quarter.
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
May I ask my noble friend when these allegations were made? I do not think that I have ever heard them before.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
We have had quite a few criticisms and some observations which I would net say were all in favour of the scheme. Also there have been quite a lot of letters in the Press all over the country.
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I do not mean that, I mean this mischievous suggestion of bias against the Committees. The suggestion, I take it, is that the Amenity and Fisheries Committees are biased in some way or other. I have not heard that suggestion before.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
I feel confident that the statement would not be submitted to me unless there was some ground for it.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
In the case of the third constructional scheme, all the objections which asked for an inquiry to be held were withdrawn after negotiations between the Board and the objectors; and the scheme had the approval of the Amenity and Fisheries Committees. The first and second constructional schemes are now in operation and work has begun on the project at Loch Sloy. The third constructional scheme is now before Parliament. In the view of His Majesty's Government, the Act, so far as concerns the submission and confirmation of these schemes has worked well and no ground is seen for any departure from the procedure which it lays down.
As regards the distribution schemes, schemes for the Morar and Kyle of Lochalsh areas have already been confirmed. Might I say at this point, in answer to my noble friend Lord Lovat, that tenders were invited some time ago for the electric distribution lines for the Morar scheme? Labour, wire and poles are scarce, but work will be started as soon as it is practically possible. Distribution schemes for Morar and the Kyle of Lochalsh, as I have said, have already been confirmed, and the Board have prepared other schemes and surveyed many other areas in the Highlands and islands—for example, Gairloch, Cowal, Skye, Ullapool, Lochinver, the Orkneys and Shetlands, the Long Island, Mull, Islay, Arran and Bute. The schemes prepared or surveyed will provide electricity for 70 per cent. of the 140,000 people in the Board's distribution area.
As regards the general policy which has been pursued by the Board, I need add little to what the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, has said. Both the first and second constructional schemes contain a large project of which the main output will be sold at a profit to the Central Electricity Board to meet peak load demands in Central Scotland. These profits will be used to finance the smaller local projects included in the first and second schemes, which must inevitably be run at a loss, and to finance the development of a grid for the Highland area. The output of the third construction scheme will be used wholly within the Highlands. All this is 237 in strict accord with the policy embodied in the Act of 1943, and, may I say in passing, supported in this House when it was being discussed. That Act requires the Board to balance their budget; and they can only do so if they sell electricity to the Central Electricity Board at the profitable price guaranteed in that Act.
The Motion before your Lordships calls particular attention to the provisions of Section 9 (3) of the Act. That subsection requires the Board, both before and during the preparation, of constructional schemes, to consult the Amenity Committee and the Fisheries Committee. The Board may consult these Committees at any other time. Upon being consulted, or at any other time, the Committees may make recommendations to the Board, of which copies must be sent by the Board to the Secretary of State and the Electricity Commissioners with an intimation whether or not they are prepared to accept them. The first three constructional schemes were, in accordance with the Act, intimated to both Committees on the 29th February, 1944. In all cases consultation followed both by letter and by joint meetings. In accordance with the Statute, both Committees have made recommendations on the first three schemes. All these recommendations have been accepted by the Board with the exception of one recommendation made by each Committee in the case of the Tummel-Garry project. That has been referred to several times this afternoon. As Lord Airlie has explained, the first of these two recommendations was made by the Amenity Committee by a majority of three to two and would have involved the abandonment of the Pitlochry portion of the project.
I would bring that especially to the notice of my noble friend Lord Samuel. It shows that the decision of the Committee at that time—as he knows—was a decision by a majority of three to two, but that majority decision would have involved the abandonment of the Pitlochry portion of the project. May I say that I have yet to understand or learn that the people in Pitlochry are against the scheme? The merchants there are certainly not against it, neither are the shopkeepers. They have held meetings and practically all of them are in favour of the scheme. Of course, there may be dissenters. Scotland would not be what it is if we did not have dissenters there. 238 But certainly the Pitlochry people are not opposing this, and if you examine the scheme with a view to ascertaining what is going to happen at Pitlochry, you will find that from the very highest part—namely, that whereon is situated the Palace Hotel—no sign will be visible of anything that is being carried out in connexion with the scheme. It is true that, in regard to Pitlochry itself, the scheme is going to transfer the present recreation ground, the football ground, to another site. I do not think that anybody will object to that because the new recreation ground will be on a better site. I feel confident that the people in Pitlochry, the merchants and the business folk, are welcoming this scheme. They recognize that at the present time there are only two or three months of the year when they can have the advantage of the summer tourist traffic. In winter there is practically little or no business being done.
The second recommendation was a recommendation by the Fisheries Committee involving the virtual abandonment of the Errochty portion of the project. That again we fully appreciate. As some of your Lordships know, I yield to no one in this House in my admiration for the amenities of the Highlands. As a boy I used to go every year to spend my holidays there: the Pass of Killiecrankie, the Soldier's Leap, the Bridge of Cluny, the Road to the Isles—I know them all. May I say that the Road to the Isles, as a road, is a very poor one? I do not see that it lies with the Perthshire County Council to bounce very much about that road. It is, of course, famous in song, but I can assure your Lordships that it is not famous as a highway. When you go along it to the Falls of Tummel, you have a job to know how you are going to get back. I feel confident that when this scheme is put into operation the Road to the Isles will be a real road, so that even the Perthshire County Council will be able to sing the song with real feeling. I do not know if the Perthshire County Council are all opposed to this scheme; I do not think they are, as a matter of fact, because witnesses have come from the County Council in favour of it. I well remember, in 1922, when I fought a Perthshire division to try to secure a seat in another place, that my greatest bugbear was meeting people in the Highlands who told me that the largest export of 239 the Highlands was the flower of its youth and that young people were being sent, or were being asked to go, abroad.
If there are members of the County Council who are in favour of the scheme, it is an extraordinary fact that when they decided to object the decision to do so was unanimous.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
The decision may have been unanimous but I have never met a Highlander who could not be persuaded to change his mind. The majority of people going to the Highlands to-day and seeing the waters of the Tummel, the fails of the Bruar where the water comes down from the catchment area, and then Loch Tummel, wonder why the water power of the Highlands has not been harnessed long ago rather than that the Highlands should be broken up and that the flower of its manhood and womanhood should be exported. Your Lordships will recognize that there are industries in the towns and the young people have got to get into the towns. I remember members of the House advocating that the best possible place for them was the Dominions and the Colonies; they advocated wholesale emigration.
You have passed from the amenities question, but you have not answered the statement that I made, that on the 16th January, the Scottish Office informed the Perthshire County Council that the Amenity Committee's report had not yet been transmitted to them. I maintain that by Section 9, subsection (3) of the Act it should have been transmitted and that the Act in that respect has not been carried out.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
I will come to that point before I finish. I will just give you another illustration of the depopulation of the Highlands. It is rather an interesting one because it is surprising that in this House the two most bitter opponents, as Lord Sempill pointed out, were neither of them real Highlanders who could sport a kilt or wear a tartan. I think that Lord Teviot pointed out that when he was a member in another place a certain number of people voted against him because they were anything but Highlanders. May I draw attention to the depopulation of the Highlands and inquire how you are going to stop it unless there is some form 240 of hydro-electric development which is going to assist in the work of churning, farming, weaving and some light industries?
§ LORD LOVAT
May I interrupt? I think the noble Lord is treading on dangerous ground. In the Loch Sloy scheme there are 200 Germans working on their first construction plan. Three men of the Highland Division came to me asking for work and one of them suggested emigrating.
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
We are only using German labour because up to now we have been unable to get any other, and I think the Government will support me in that.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
In a certain district in the Highlands in the year 1880 one hundred and fifty children were attending school. This year there are 10. In another district where fifty children formerly attended school a University graduate is now teaching one child. In other words, the coffin has replaced the cradle in the Highlands, which is an unfortunate thing. The recommendations of the Fisheries Committee were exhaustively considered at the inquiry held in public before a strong and impartial Tribunal who concluded that the acceptance of either of these recommendations would entirely emasculate the scheme. The Tribunal recommended, having regard to the wider question of public interest and the interest of the Highlands in particular, that notwithstanding the objections on amenity and fishery grounds, the Secretary of State ought to confirm the scheme. This he decided to do, being satisfied that the effect of the scheme on the beauty of the area and on fishing interests was not sufficiently serious to outweigh the very great advantages to Scotland and to the Highlands to be anticipated from its development. It will be seen, therefore, that the provisions of the Act have been fully complied with in all respects. There has been full opportunity for consideration by the public and for the lodging of objections. The objections lodged in the case of the first two constructional schemes have been the subject of a public inquiry by an impartial Tribunal. In the case of the third scheme, all the objections have been withdrawn. The Amenity and Fisheries Committee have been consulted 241 both before and during the preparation of the scheme and, except in the case of the two recommendations referred to, all their recommendations, made after visits to the locality of the proposed works, have been accepted.
The noble Lord, Lora Kinnaird, asked why the recommendations of the Amenity and Fisheries Committee with regard to the Tummel-Garry constructional scheme had not been published at an earlier date. The decision not to make them public until the expiry of the period within which objections to the scheme could be lodged, was taken after very careful consideration. It was felt that those who were interested in the Board's proposals should consider them on their merits and decide, without their being influenced by the views of the two Committees, whether or not to object to them. On the other hand, it seemed right that the views of these Committees should be available to the parties and to the public before the public inquiry into the scheme was held; and they were, in fact, published well in advance of the hearing. I need hardly say that they were also very fully, and indeed anxiously, considered by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State before he decided to confirm the scheme Any suggestion that the recommendations were suppressed, or were not made available at the time when decisions upon the scheme were being taken, has no foundation in fact.
The noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, has also asked what is the position of the Electricity Commissioners in relation to the Board. As the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, has explained, the approval of the Commissioners is required to each constructional and distribution scheme and without that approval a scheme cannot proceed. The intention, and indeed the practice, is that the Commissioners examine schemes from the point of view of their technical and economic soundness. The wider issues of amenity and public policy fall to be considered by the Secretary of State in the light of the objections to the scheme and of the report of any public inquiry which is held into it. My noble friend Lord Airlie has explained that the Board are in no way under the orders of the Electricity Commissioners, and that so far as the initiation of constructional or distribution schemes is concerned they have complete freedom of device.
242 The noble Earl, Lord Haddington, raised the question—which was again emphasized by the noble Lord, Lord Rushcliffe, this afternoon—of the position of the National Trust for Scotland, to which some of the land affected by the Tummel-Garry scheme belongs, and which owns other land which may be affected by future schemes. Might I point out to the noble Earl that the land affected by the Tummel-Garry scheme was only given to the National Trust after the intention of the Board to proceed with the scheme became known? The Trust objected to the scheme and were represented at a public inquiry into its proposals. The scheme having been confirmed, it is open to the Board to purchase any of the land which they an, expressly authorized by the scheme to acquire.
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
Might I ask the noble Lord one very important question arising out of that? A man either bequeaths or gives land to the National Trust because he hopes that a place of beauty will be kept to beautify Scotland for ever. The Government, the Hydro-Electric Board, or the Electricity Commissioners—who are the most potent —take that land. Ought not that man to be financially recompensed by the Electricity Board? I am asking that question because if people come to the conclusion that land which they give to the country to be kept eternally as a beauty spot is going to be handed over to a commercial enterprise for nothing they will think that they have been defrauded and will be very reluctant to hand over land to the country.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
I am going to repeat it. The land affected by the development of this scheme was only given to the National Trust after the intention of the Board to proceed with the scheme was made known.
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I heard the noble Lord say it once, and now I have heard him say it twice. My memory is very good, and he also talked about the future. I think my noble friend Lord Lovat mentioned a place in the Highlands which has also been given to the 243 National Trust—the Falls of Glomach. I appreciate what the noble Lord said about the present one.
§ LORD RUSHCLIFFE
May I draw the noble Lord's attention to a statement made by the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, the other day? He said that six other properties of the National Trust may be effected. Were all those conveyed to the National Trust after this scheme became known?
§ LORD WESTWOOD
That I do not know, but the National Trust will get compensation, as would any other owner, for the property handed over. That is the decision, as I understand it, arrived at by the people concerned. Let me go on, and again we will emphasize the general position of National Trust property which can be acquired for hydro-electric purposes only if an express authority for its acquisition is conferred by a constructional scheme. A constructional scheme is subject to the most elaborate safeguards—consideration by the Amenity and Fisheries Committees, approval by the Electricity Commissioners, publication, objection, public inquiry, confirmation by the Secretary of State, and submission to Parliament. Therefore, there is no possibility of National Trust land being taken against the wishes of the Trust unless the case in the public interest for so doing has been clearly established to the satisfaction, in the last resort, of Parliament, of which either House may annul any scheme submitted to it.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
It really surprises me to hear so many objections to the scheme, because it has the approval of a Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland—namely, Mr. Walter Elliot, who was in office before Mr. Tom Johnston, and it has the approval of the late Secretary of State for Scotland before the present one—namely, the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery. Everybody agreed with it, but when it becomes an Act, and when really nothing can be done to annul it, objections are raised. We do not worry so much about that; we do not want to trail our coat intentionally, and we feel that it is sometimes best for noble Lords opposite to have these debates which act as safety valves and restrain 244 them, possibly, from doing damage in other ways. Might I be allowed to clear up another point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Haddington? He asked the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, why the Grampian and Galloway Power Companies were exporting electricity to the North of England? The Grampian Company is not exporting electricity to the North of England, but the Grampian Company was—
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
Is the noble Lord accurate in saying that? I was informed on the best authority that the Grampian and Galloway Power Companies are exporting current to the North of England.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
Might I come to another question which it is necessary to say something about because the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, seems in his own opinion to be one of the very few of the noble Lords opposite who seldom make a mistake? Might I correct one which he made, although possibly he may have an answer to it? When discussing the financial position of the Board, he said it had a credit of £30,000,000 and a time limit of ten years. The position is that the Board will be required to balance their budget for a period of years to be fixed by the Electricity Commissioners. This period has not yet been fixed. There is provision for a Treasury guarantee of the capital and interest of loans raised by the Board up to a maximum of £30,000,000; but it was made clear when the Act of 1943 was passed that whether any particular loan shall be guaranteed is a matter to be settled in the light of the Board's financial position at the time when the loan is raised. It is certainly not the case, as the noble Earl implied, that a credit of £30,000,000 has been placed at the disposal of the Board—
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I do not think there is a great deal of difference between a credit and a guarantee of £30,000,000.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
It depends who is giving the credit or the guarantee 245 Possibly the noble Earl knows better than I do about that. I was saying that a credit of £30,000,000 has been placed at the disposal of the Board, and the Board in submitting schemes, and the Electricity Commissioners and the Secretary of State in approving them, must have regard to their effect upon the Board's budget and to the obligation to see that the budget is balanced.
In conclusion, I would refer to the references made by the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, to the provision of the labour required to carry out these schemes. A considerable number of men will be needed for the work which has to be done on the site and a great deal of employment will also be provided in the manufacture of turbines, generators and other apparatus. Arrangements for the supply of the necessary electrical plant are well advanced and as much as possible of this plant will be made in Scotland. That will prevent any objections being made across the Border. But the labour required on the site for the construction of roads, dams and other works presents a really difficult problem. This labour, rather inaccurately described as "unskilled," is in short supply and is urgently required for site preparation in connexion with new houses. The Government believe that the hydroelectric schemes must go on because they have a vital contribution to make to the economic development of Scotland without which the improvement of the standard of living, to which the provisions of better housing will contribute, cannot be achieved. The Government must, therefore, strike a balance between the demands of hydro-electric development and the essential requirements of the housing programme.
The noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, spoke a good deal about the beauties of the Highlands.
§ LORD RUSHCLIFFE
Before the noble Lord goes on, and while he is dealing with the point about labour, may I ask if he suggests that this labour will be Scottish labour, or will it be the gangs of mostly Irish labour that follow contractors from one scheme to another?
§ LORD WESTWOOD
If local labour can be got, it will be local labour. Nobody has any desire to go to Ireland to secure labour and see Highlanders walking idly around. If the labour can be 246 got locally, it will be got locally; but if it cannot be obtained there, it will have to be obtained from elsewhere. As Lord Rushcliffe possibly knows, in road making and many other works of similar character, Irishmen stand second to none. But certainly we would never agree to see Scotsmen standing idle while Irishmen were doing the work and trying to improve the beauties of Scotland—not destroying them, as has been said to-day.
§ LORD LOVAT
There are no fewer than 42,000 persons unemployed in the Highlands, and I see no reason why Highlanders should be short of work when Germans are working at Loch Sloy. They are not likely to work with the Germans.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
I do not know the suitability of the people Lord Lovat mentions. There are quite a lot of people who were unemployed during the whole period of the war. One has to consider the suitability of the man or woman for the job.
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
You must allow me to intervene for one second. We are in the hands of the Ministry of Labour. We have to apply for labour to deal with the scheme and can only get the labour they give us. Labour was so short that eventually the Board had to act in opposition to their original undertaking that they would not employ prisoner labour, because they could not otherwise get on with the scheme. There was nothing else, and under a certain amount of protest they accepted the dictum of the Ministry of Labour that we had to get on with. German prisoners. Our policy was—and we gave it out in the papers—that we would use local labour in increasing circles until we exhausted the circles and had to go outside. We have to get on with the work, and if we can get local labour we will. But having these German prisoners was not really our fault.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
When I was interrupted, I was about to deal with the point about beauty spots raised by Lord Lang in connexion with Pitlochry and Killiecrankie. In spite of any disturbance that may be made by the introduction of this scheme, there will still be a lot of beauty spots left in the Highlands, and I have yet to learn that the beauty spots are going to be unduly disturbed. Pipes will be covered by bracken, trees and 247 shrubbery. In Pitlochry you have no loch, so possibly the hydro-electric scheme will put the loch into Pitlochry. You are coming right down to the Tummel, and your scheme is stopping at Pitlochry.
Now may I refer to a point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and by Lord Rushcliffe, regarding atomic energy?
§ LORD WESTWOOD
I am sorry; I should have said Lord Sempill. One can quite understand that it was likely to be argued to-day that this source of power should be developed, and the suggestion made that the Tummel-Garry scheme in particular should be abandoned or postponed because of the prospective development of atomic energy as a source, of power. It will no doubt be argued, and indeed has been argued, that once this source has been developed, the use of water power for the generation of electricity will be unnecessary and old-fashioned, and that it is accordingly unwise to take action now which will permanently affect Highland scenery. The answer to that criticism is perhaps that the development of atomic energy as a source of power is a matter for the future, whereas the need for the production of additional electricity is an urgent and present necessity. The Lord President of the Council, in the remarks which he made in the debate in another place on October 30, gave a very long statement regarding the use of atomic energy. Lord Cherwell, in this House, in a debate on the development of nuclear power, said that so far, nuclear power fission shows no sign of producing atomic energy in any immediately useful form except low-grade heat; and he gave details to show that atomic energy might be a thing of the future, but it certainly was not of the immediate future.
I will not refer to the Severn scheme, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, who has gone, because the Severn waterways have not reached the Highlands yet. Therefore, as we are dealing particularly with the Highlands, I will leave the Severn alone. I have no fear that there are not still plenty of beauty spots left in the Highlands. I have no fear that under this scheme, where you are going to make rivers into lochs and 248 have a great expanse of water, you will have less beauty. When you get on to Queen's View and cross over and look down on Loch Tummel, I think it will be difficult to convince anybody that the beauty of the Tummel is being interfered with because you will have a greater expanse of water and the tree-lined banks of the loch.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
May I ask if the noble Lord thinks that the hand of man can improve on the hand of nature in regard to scenery?
§ LORD WESTWOOD
The hand of nature has to give way for the progress of science. You cannot allow certain things to stand in the way of the progress of science. Let me link up with the point with which I was dealing. I mentioned previously that the Government must strike a balance between the demands of hydro-electric development and the essential requirements of the housing programme. For both it has been decided to make use, in present circumstances, of prisoner of war labour upon such work as was referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Airlie—for example, road making and site preparation—which prisoners of war can properly tackle. As the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, the Chairman of the Board, said, 200 prisoners of war are already at work under British supervisors on the Loch Sloy scheme, and the possibility of increasing this number will continue to be actively pursued. No obstacle will he placed in the way of employing the skilled British workmen required to supervise the work and everything possible will be done by the provision of additional labour as and when it becomes available to secure that the work is completed by the date when, in the national interest, the output of this scheme is required.
§ 6.21 p.m.
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
My Lords, may I say one word on this question of labour? As Chairman of the Board, I cannot say that I feel very happy about this reply, and I do not suppose my noble friend would expect me to be. I realize that his answer is the one he has to give, and those of your Lordships who have held the same office know that too. How. ever, I do feel a little like a man who has been in Belsen Camp for two months and who is offered three whitebait to 249 appease his hunger. I realize the difficulties to the full, as I told your Lordships when I spoke on November 22. The difficulties which face the Government are formidable, but at the same time we have, somehow or other, got to get on with this work. It is, of course, not possible to do it without labour.
Having said that I fully appreciate the difficulties, I am going to ask my noble friend whether he will get in touch with the authorities at the War Office and find out whether the suggestion I am about to make is feasible. I am not aware of the actual position or of the state of the various units both inside this country and abroad, but I cannot help feeling that there must be Pioneer Companies and R.E. Companies either in the Middle East, the Far East, the Near East or in this country who are free—who have very little to do, if anything. Is it not possible that the War Office might be persuaded to arrange for certain of those units to be brought back and to be put on to this scheme? They arc perfectly capable of doing a lot of the work. There is a new form of tunnelling known in the United States which is far ahead of ours and about which none of of our people know anything at present. Could not we have these men trained in that by experts? They would then be ready to play their part on demobilization. I realize that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to stick to the Bevin scheme to the letter, but I cannot help feeling that if my suggestion were adopted it would kill two birds with one stone. You would be getting labour on a vital project, and at the same time you would be gradually bringing men nearer to the place at which they will ultimately be demobilized. By giving them fairly generous leave you could make them extremely happy. I hope my noble friend will give me an assurance that he will really take this matter up and see whether it is possible to carry out my suggestion in order that I may be able to get on with my job.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
In answer to the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, I would say that I cannot answer for the War Office, but I can give him an undertaking that the suggestion he has made will be passed on, arid that very forcibly, and that the necessity of the provision of labour for the carrying out of this scheme will be emphasized.
§ 6.25 p.m.
My Lords, may I say first of all, in reply to my noble friend Lord Westwood, that we are not in opposition to the development of hydroelectricity in Scotland? He said he could not understand it; we had all approved the Bill and now we Were all objecting to the scheme. As I tried to make clear at the beginning of what I said the other day, what we are examining at this point is this question: Arc the intentions of Parliament being carried out? The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has made it very plain that most clear understandings with regard to amenities, following on several meetings with the Secretary Of State, have proved valueless. What we are examining is this: Are the intentions of Parliament being carried out?
As my noble friend Lord Haddington is not able to reply, I should like to say that the statement about the National Trust seems to me to be totally inadequate. I think the position is most unsatisfactory, and I have little doubt that the people who are responsible for the National Trust will take the matter up again. It seems to nee that one Act of Parliament forming a Hydro-Electric Board is simply overruling another Act of Parliament forming a National Trust. The position could not be more unsatisfactory.
The first point I raised on November 22 concerned the control by the Electricity Commissioners. I think it is very important that we should get this point cleared up. Lord Westwood quoted Lord Airlie. Lord Airlie is the authority for a great deal that he has said. As I said before, statements made in Parliament are not apparently binding on anybody, but can be disregarded. In this case, however, we are quoting from the Explanatory Memorandum of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board Constructional Scheme No. 2. That is what the Government have accepted. Paragraph 30 says:We consider, therefore, that the policy which the Board have adopted in promoting this Scheme is one which they arc entitled to adopt, and even one which, in the circumstances, having regard to the pressing needs of the Central Electricity Board … they were constrained to adopt. It appears to us further that in the absence of evidence to contradict the testimony of the Central Electricity Board, or of successful challenge of the discretion of the Electricity Commissioners, the conclusion 251 cannot be avoided that the Board had little option but to follow the course so plainly indicated to them.If that is not control, I do not know what is. My point is that that is the report which the Government have accepted and unless the Government say they think the Tribunal was wrong it will be quoted as evidence that the Electricity Commissioners have a right to control. I hope the Government will say whether they agree or not with the report they have accepted.
On the question of the assurance of the Secretary of State, the one to which the noble Lord, Lord Rushcliffe, and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, referred, I would urge that the matter of time is all important—the time or the date on which the Secretary of State gives his decision. By Section 9 (3) he must be told during and before the preparation whether or not the Hydro-Electric Board are prepared to accept it. That is the time when the strong backing of the Scottish Office could have effect. The Amenity Committee is advisory only and has no power of veto. In Parliament, when this Act went through, we were satisfied that if the Amenity Committee's recommendation was reasonable, then with the powers provided in the Act and the backing of the Scottish Office, that would ensure that some scenery would be preserved for the nation. It has been said in this House that that assurance has proved valueless. The assurance was clearly understood by Parliament. It was given before the Bill was passed, so that it was regarded as something on which we could rely. I feel that the question of whether it is going to be of value is of immense importance for the preservation of our national heritage. As the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has explained, if the Secretary of State does not make himself acquainted with the position during and before the preparation of the scheme, and if he is not aware at that time whether or not the Board are going to accept the recommendation of the Amenity Committee, then it is too late. Once it goes on to the Electricity Commissioners for approval, and there is art inquiry, and people come and refer to the urgency of the matter, and so on, it is too late for the Secretary of State to bring his weight to bear, and so the value of this assurance is lost. I feel sure it was under- 252 stood that the assurance given by the then Secretary of State bound not only himself but the Scottish Office.
In a recent statement to the Press, the Secretary of State for Scotland said that the recommendation was not unanimous. The assurance did not say that it was to be a unanimous recommendation, and, as has been said, in a democratic country the majority view prevails. The Secretary of State then said that he had passed the recommendation to an inquiry. He was bound to do so by the Act; he was not giving anything away by holding an inquiry, because he was bound to do so if the objections were not frivolous. If he will excuse me for saying so, therefore, I think that he has shirked his responsibility, which is to say whether he thinks that the recommendation is reasonable. If it is reasonable, we know that we shall get the Scottish Office to back us. He must know about it, however, before it is too late. I feel sure that these points, as the schemes come up one by one, will be most critically examined, and on every occasion that the recommendation of the Amenity Committee is disregarded the matter will be raised, and raised again and again, in this House.
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
I should like to clear that point up. Negotiations actually took place with the Committee within about six weeks. A letter was sent to the Scottish Home Department on November 30, enclosing the recommendations of both Committees, together with the Board's observations in draft.
The letter from the Perth County Council, which I have here, does not bear that out, but of course I accept what the noble Earl says.
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
I give you the facts as I know them, and I do know them, because they are in the files. The noble Earl opposite, Lord Rosebery, who was Secretary of State, will bear me out, or at least I hope he will!
§ LORD WESTWOOD
My Lords, I should like to clear up some of the points which the noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, has raised. With all due deference to the noble Lord, I do not want to cover the whole ground again. I think that when he reads my statement he will find that many of the points on which he is not quite clear now will be made clear to him. I should like, however, to clear 253 up one or two now. He asked whether the intentions of Parliament were being carried out. The answer is Yes. The question of the National Trust is a matter which can be considered again; I said in my statement that the National Trust will be consulted from time to time. He asked whether the Board were under the orders of the Electricity Commissioners. The Board are in no way under the orders of the Electricity Commissioners. The initiative in all schemes rests with the Secretary of State for Scotland.
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
The initiative in all schemes rests with the Secretary of State for Scotland? That is something new!
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
Did the noble Lord say that the initiative rests with the Secretary of the Board?
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
The noble Lord said that the Secretary of State for Scotland was responsible, and I could not stand that!
§ LORD WESTWOOD
There are times when you get an answer to a question which can be interpreted in two different ways. You had better interpret it in the way that suits you. The noble Lord asked about the Amenity Committee. The Amenity Committee makes a recommendation to the Board, who submit recommendations to the Secretary of State. The scheme is submitted to the Electricity Commissioners for approval. If approved, it is submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation. The Secretary of State considers the scheme on its merits, along with the recommendations of the Amenity Committee and with the report of any public inquiry. The Secretary of State's jurisdiction thus arises at the fourth stage, and he is completely unhampered and unprejudiced by anything that has gone before. That clears up briefly many of the questions raised by the noble Lord.
Too late for the Scottish Office to enforce the carrying out: of the recommendations of the Amenity Committee. They could never do it after all those stages. They could at the beginning do something; if the Amenity Committee thought it reasonable to suggest that a certain river should he spared, the Scottish Office could take action.
There is one other point that I want to mention. A question which has been mentioned in both inquiries is the public interest. It is said that this is in the public interest. What is the public interest? That is not easy to answer. As some guide to what is tile public interest, I should like to refer to the terms of reference of the Cooper Committee:To consider the practicability and desirability of further developments in the use of water power resources in Scotland for the generation of electricity … with due regard to the general interests of the local population and to considerations of amenity.The terms of reference occupy only six lines, but in them it was thought necessary to mention "due regard to the general interests of the local population and to considerations of amenity." I cannot feel that due regard has been given to either.
In Constructional Scheme No. 1, Mr. Cameron, in paragraphs 21, 22 and 28, made it clear that when the urgent need of the Central Electricity Board is established the scheme is in the public interest. In the consideration of Constructional Scheme No. 2, Sir John Kennedy, the Electricity Commissioner, was called in to assist the Tribunal. He was not a member of the Tribunal but I presume that he was asked to attend. Largely, I take it, on the views expressed by Sir John Kennedy, the Tribunal found that the need of the Central Electricity Board for power was established and therefore it was in the public interest. One is forced to the conclusion, as one sees how these schemes are developing and with the evidence of these two cases, before one, that if the need of the Central Electricity Board is established that will be held to outweigh all other interests. The general interest of the locality and of amenity will not receive due consideration. The views of local authorities, of the Association for the Preservation of Rural Scotland, of the National Trust, arid of the people of Scotland—to whom their love of their country is sacred—will not receive 255 due consideration. That is the position as we see things developing now. May I say this with regard to the noble Earl, Lord Airlie? He was appointed Chairman of the Board not as an electrical expert but because it was felt that we should have in him a person of wise judgment and great integrity who would see that all interests would receive the regard that was due to them. Scotland should be able to rely on him to give clue consideration to the preservation of our national heritage and the general interests as well as the interests concerned with the production of electricity.
§ On Question, Motion for Papers negatived.