HL Deb 24 July 1947 vol 151 cc428-34

Adaptation or Modification.

Section. s. 10… In subsection (1) for the words "Electricity Commissioners" there shall be substituted where those words occur for the first time the words "Central Authority" and where those words occur for the second time the words "Secretary of State".

LORD MORRISON moved, in the adaptation or modification of Section 10, at the end to insert: for the words 'so however that there shall be substituted the words Provided that

  1. (i) in determining such prices no undue preference shall be shown to, and no undue discrimination shall be exercised against, any person or class of persons; and
  2. (ii),
and for the word 'may' where that word occurs for the first time there shall be substituted the word 'shall'". The noble Lord said: Clause 37 (7) of the Bill provides that an area board in fixing tariffs shall not show undue preference to, or discriminate against, any person or class of persons. This provision replaces Sections 19 and 20 of the Electric Lighting Act, 1882—the present safeguards against undue preference—which are repealed by the Fifth Schedule to the Bill. In the case of the North of Scotland Board the prices to be charged by them for electricity supplied are fixed under Section to of the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Act, 1943, in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State. This Amendment ensures that in fixing their tariffs the North of Scotland Board, like the area boards, must avoid showing undue preference or discrimination. The substitution of the word "shall" for "may" is a drafting Amendment consequential on the main Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 110, line 6, column 2, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Morrison.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD CHORLEY moved, in Part III (Adaptations of the Electric Lighting (Clauses) Act, 1899) to insert: s. 23 In subsection (1) the words from 'and if the Board of Trade' to the end of the subsection shall be omitted and subsections (2) and (3) shall be omitted. The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to resurrect subsection (1) of Section 23 of the Electric Lighting (Clauses) Act, 1899, which is being killed by this Bill, and to resurrect it in a form suitable for application to area boards and also, of course, to the North of Scotland Board. This subsection imposes a penalty on undertakers for failing to lay down distributing mains in accordance with the statutory provisions applying to them. It is obviously right and proper that there should be a similar penalty under this Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 116, line 12, at end, insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Chorley.)


Do I understand that the only provision selected by the Government from the slaughter of the innocents is the one which imposes penalties upon people?


I am surd the noble Viscount will be glad to know that there is one innocent saved from the slaughter.


No—it is making all the other people guilty. On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Fourth Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Fifth Schedule [Enactments repealed]:


This is complementary to the last Amendment I moved.

Amendment moved— Page 118, line 16, leave out ("23").(Lord Chorley.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

10.3 p.m.

VISCOUNT SIMON moved to omit the reference to Section 24 of the Electric Lighting Act, 1909. The noble Viscount said: In the absence of my noble and learned friend Viscount Maugham I beg to move this Amendment. I make no apology for reading the note with which I am supplied, which no doubt my noble and learned friend would have made much more interesting without any reading; but this is the story.

Section 24 of the Electric Lighting Act of 1909 provided that there should be protection of the lands of non-statutory gas and water undertakers from a compulsory purchase by their electricity competitors. Unless this is altered, the present Bill would repeal that section, and the protection which the lands of non-statutory gas and water undertakers now enjoy would be removed. The Amendment was, I understand, debated in another place, and the learned Solicitor-General at first claimed that the Acquisition of Lard (Authorisation Procedure) Act gave equal protection, and therefore that this Amendment was not needed. I am sure the learned Solicitor-General made a mistake. On Report stage it was pointed out that this was not true because the Act of 1945 gave no protection to non-statutory gas undertakers, who were at present protected by the Act of 1909, which it was therefore desired to keep alive. Nearly all the Scottish gas companies are non-statutory, and the matter is one of considerable importance in Scotland. There are also many non-statutory undertakings in England.

The suggested Amendment was rejected by the learned Solicitor-General on a new ground—that it would be meaningless the context because Section 24 provides that nothing is to enable the Board of Trade to authorize the compulsory acquisition of land belonging to a statutory undertaker; they can authorize only the acquisition of such land under Section 1 of the 1909 Act, and Section 1 of that Act is repealed by this Bill. It is pointed out—and no doubt the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Maugham, would point out with some emphasis and knowledge—that this is really incorrect, because Section 24 is not limited to statutory gas or water undertakers; also because all the Electricity Supply Acts are to be read as one, and references to the Board of Trade are to be interpreted as references to the Ministry of Fuel and Power; and, further, on page 103, lines 20 and 25, it is provided that the Bill is to be read as One with those Acts. That seems to be quite a good answer.

The Solicitor-General was seemingly reduced to silence; he offered no other reason for rejecting the Amendment, and it seems reasonable to Lord Maugham, and as for the moment his mantle has passed to me, I think that the Amendment ought to be made. Accordingly, we ask the Government to think about it again. I rather think there was an indication after that that the Solicitor-General agreed, but I do not know the details. I do not know whether I have made it intelligible to anybody else; I am not sure that I have made it intelligible to myself. I have read what is before me with the greatest candour and I hope the Lord Chancellor, who is very quick at these things, may see that there really is a good reason for retaining this Section 24. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 118, line 22, column 3, leave out ("24").—(Viscount Simon.)


I do not promise to say that the noble and learned Viscount has made it quite plain to me, but I have spent a considerable time, seeing that Viscount Maugham was to move this Amendment, in going into it properly. I confess that it was plain to me before the noble and learned Viscount started, and I am afraid that I am not going to be reduced to silence, as apparently the Solicitor-General was. It is not really difficult. The Electric Lighting Act, 1909, had two sections which are relevant for these purposes—Section 1 and Section 24. Section I gave the Board of Trade a power by provisional order to authorize any electrical undertaking to buy any land. That is the power. That is Section 1. Section 24 limited that power, and it limited it both as regards statutory and non-statutory gas and water undertakings by saying—I am not quoting it exactly—"Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 1 you shall not, under Section 24, acquire compulsorily by provisional order the property of a gas or water concern, be it statutory or non-statutory." The odd thing is this. The power to purchase by provisional order under Section 1 has now gone since that Section is repealed. What is now suggested (for some reason which I am quite unable to understand, because I have not had the advantage of the note), is that the limitation upon the power, the power having gone, should remain.

It by no means ends there, because provisional orders have gone altogether. Under the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, the provisional order became a special order, and now by Clause 9 of this Bill, all land acquisition is to be effected by special order under the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946. That your Lordships will find in Clause 9. There you will see it provides: The Minister may authorize any Electricity Board to purchase compulsorily any land which they require for any purpose connected with the discharge of their functions, and the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946 … shall apply, in relation to any such compulsory purchase," and so on. That clause having been passed, this procedure by provisional order is quite adequate. The machine we have now is the code set up by Parliament under the Acquisition of Land Act of 1946. It is quite true that the 1946 Act does not provide the complete protection for the non-statutory undertaker which was provided by the provisional order machinery of the Act of 1909, but, on the other hand, they have this protection: they have the protection which applies to all the lieges under the Act of 1946—namely, the holding of the inquiry and the making of objections, and all that machinery with which your Lordships are only too painfully familiar since we discussed this Act at length not long ago. The 1946 Act is intended to provide a new modern code of procedure relating to compulsory purchase of land, and if Parliament had intended non-statutory undertakers to have special protection, the Act would have contained it. There is, in fact, no reason why non-statutory undertakers should have greater protection than other members of the public, since they have no statutory duties to perform; they are merely in the same position as other industrial undertakings.

If we were to accept this Amendment, subject to the fact that one pre-supposes that you still keep Section 1 of the 1909 Act to some extent, though you have repealed it, and supposing you were to accept the provisional order procedure, we should have the anomalous result that certain undertakers would be protected absolutely against compulsory purchase by an Electricity Board, but not against compulsory purchase by other bodies or persons possessing compulsory powers, such as local authorities, or the Transport Commission, or anything of that sort. In fact, a non-statutory water undertaker would receive greater protection against having his land purchased compulsorily by an Electricity Board than a statutory undertaking or an Electricity Board would have against having their land purchased by a local authority; and you really would be in a complete state of muddle.

The long and short of the matter is this. The old provisional order procedure is as dead as the dodo. The limitation upon that order is, therefore, equally dead. To resurrect the limitation upon the dead dodo would have no effect at all except to create—assuming that you thereupon re-create the dodo for some purpose—immense confusion. It gets away altogether from the simple procedure we have under Clause 9 of this Bill, of having the machinery of the Acquisition of Land Act, 1946, which is to apply to everybody, statutory or non-statutory. For those reasons, I am afraid I cannot accept this Amendment.


Following the traditional courtesy of the House, I must thank the Lord Chancellor very much for making this so plain. I shall, of course, have the opportunity of studying it in Hansard to-morrow. When I read my note there was a moment when I thought I understood the point, but I am not quite sure that I understand it so clearly now. It was a delightful topic to start on at a quarter past ten, and I gather that the result is that the protection which does at this moment exist over land belonging to a non-statutory gas or water undertaker from compulsory purchase by electricity competitors, in fact, goes; it will not exist under the new Bill. That I gather from what has been said. I appreciate to some extent, dimly and "through a glass darkly," what are the good reasons for that. But it is plain that the Lord Chancellor and those who advise him have looked into this closely, and I must take it that he has reached a quite definite conclusion. In the circumstances, I cannot press the Amendment and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved to insert:

"23 & 24 Geo. 5. c. 51 The Local Government Act, 1933. In Section two hundred and eighteen, paragraph (a) of the definition of Sanctioning authority'"

The noble and learned Viscount said: I beg to move this Amendment. It is almost the 200th Amendment which we have had, and it has the great merit of being the last. This provision of the Local Government Act, 1933, lays down that the Electricity Commissioners shall be the sanctioning authority for borrowing by local authorities for the purpose of the Electricity (Supply) Acts, and other electricity legislation. After the vesting date there will be no more borrowing by local authorities for these purposes, and this provision should, therefore, be repealed. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 118, line 40, at end insert the said words.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Fifth Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

House adjourned at sixteen minutes past ten o'clock.

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