HL Deb 11 December 1973 vol 347 cc1035-56

2.45 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 33.—(The Earl of Listowel.)


My Lords, those of us who are interested in the landscape of Snowdonia, which is a particularly sensitive one, will be glad to have this further opportunity of continuing the discussion which we had on July 19 last. This matter, as I am sure your Lordships will appreciate, is most important for those of us who live in Wales and those who come to Wales for refreshment and recreation. I should not wish to go over the arguments which were adduced on Second Reading, but for reasons which were explained then, the petitioners who had petitioned in the House of Commons were, owing to lack of funds, unable to petition to any Select Committee of your Lordships' House on matters on which they had not been satisfied in the Committee stage in the other place. In those circumstances the Lord Chairman of Committees, having, I know, looked at the total situation with the greatest care and attention, came to the conclusion that he would not be justified in sending the Bill to a Select Committee, because the only points of issue on the way in which the proposition, which had been passed by both Houses in principle, could be carried forward were between the Caernarvon County Council, as the planning authority, and the Central Electricity Generating Board. As the county council is the planning authority and therefore would retain a locus standi in the matter after the Bill left Parliament, the Lord Chairman of Committees came to the conclusion that this Bill should go to the Committee on Unopposed Bills.

The position, therefore, as I see it, is that the Bill has in effect been approved in principle. There remains, however, a difference of view between the county council and the Central Electricity Generating Board as to the carrying out of this pump storage electricity scheme. I have brought with me only a small proportion of the correspondence which has reached me and which includes a fine set of photographs. As they came in only about ten minutes ago, I must admit that I have not had time to study them, but I have been to the place itself, which is perhaps equally convincing.

My Lords, as I understand it, the Bill in its present form will permit either of the rival schemes to be carried out—either that of the Central Electricity Generating Board or the alternative proposal of the county council. I think it is unfortunate that although we knew that something of the kind was in the offing the county council scheme (I have a copy of the scheme here) did not appear for public study until September of this year, which was rather late in the day. But the essence of it is that the county council's scheme, as opposed to the C.E.G.B. scheme, would provide for a somewhat lower embankment across this great valley, the Llanberis Valley. This would inevitably have some effect upon the landscape and upon the views which could be enjoyed, particularly from further up the valley towards Pen-y-Pass.

I think one should make it clear that the scheme is in two parts; namely, the damming of the lower lakes, and the pumped storage up to the height of a much higher lake called Marchlyn Mawr. I believe I should be correct in saying that among those who have opposed the Bill in principle, including the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, Marchlyn Mawr, is one of the most sensitive areas. So I think it is only right to say that, so far as either of the two schemes now under consideration is concerned, Marchlyn Mawr would be very little affected either way. So I do not thing this really enters much into the argument. The height of the embankment has, I think, in the various passages—well, not quite of arms, but of sharp opinion in North Wales, been perhaps somewhat exaggerated. The way in which the difference between the two schemes is apt to be put is that the county council scheme is for a two-metre scheme (as it is called) and the C.E.G.B. scheme is a 30 ft. scheme

I think it is only right to get this as accurately as possible. My understanding of it is that in view of the expressions of distress at the proposed high dam in this area the Generating Board has agreed to some modification of its original scheme. The Board's revised scheme would mean that there would be an embankment above the present water level of some 24½ ft., whereas under the county council scheme the embankment would be 15 ft. In other words, the real argument is about a difference in the height of the embankment of 9½ ft.; and I would suggest to your Lordships that with a difference of that order of magnitude it would really be best to leave the matter to be threshed out between the Generating Board, the county council and the other authorities who have some say in the matter. It is not true to say that the county council scheme represents a difference of only two metres—it is only two metres of water level, but they agree the embankment would have to be higher and therefore the significant height involved is 9½ ft. I do not pretend that it makes no difference to the landscape or to the distant view, but I would suggest it does not make as much difference as is suggested by some of the protagonists.

In agreeing to reduce the height of the original proposal for the dam, the landscaping consultant, Sir Frederick Gibberd, who has been advising the Central Electricity Board, makes several points. He says that by lowering the dam you flatten the grass slope of the dam and the resulting landscape gains in the valley views would be appreciable. He points out that one of the most agreeable features of the landscape—the old Dolbadarn Castle—would be seen to better advantage with even a slight lowering of the dam. He also makes what I think is the very ingenious suggestion that there would be considerable gain if the levels of the road were raised. He points out that this would bring the road level to within two or three metres of the crest, which would greatly reduce the apparent height of the dam to those who were using the road. If this could be arranged between the Generating Board and the county council, it would be a considerable added bonus; and I hope this might be done.

There remain two points of difference between the two schemes other than the fundamental one of the height of the embankment. One is that if one adopts the county council scheme with a slightly lower embankment, there would be very obtrusive works—and this represents a part of Sir Frederick Gibberd's comments with which I would agree—because there would be sluice gates which will be visible, and very much visible, under the county scheme, whereas under the C.E.G.B. scheme these sluices would be hidden in underground culverts and would not be seen at all. The line of the dam itself also under the C.E.G.B. scheme (because no mechanical devices would have to be included within it) could be very much softened, whereas with the sluice gates you would have a very hard line at the end of the lake. So on that point I would say that the C.E.G.B. scheme is infinitely to be preferred.

There is, secondly, a difference of aesthetic view about the promontory now covered with slate waste and scree, which abuts into the lake at Llanberis. This is largely a matter of subjective judgment I have read the comments of Sir Frederick Gibberd very carefully and I must say that I do not share his romantic view of slate waste. He seems to regard this as an admirable relic of Victorianism, which is a view I do not support. However, I take his point that if one moves the promontory on which the scree is now stacked it would alter the shape of the lake. Some of those who wish to have it moved say they wish to see a more regular shore-line for the lake and to have a somewhat wider but shallower lake. Sir Frederick says that in his view the promontory makes a pleasing break in the line and that if you removed it you would then open up to almost every angle of view the absolutely essential ancillary buildings which would have to be erected and the mouth of the very large outflow tunnel, which would be a part of the pump storage scheme. Under the C.E.G.B. scheme these works, even minimal works, would have to be there but they would be screened. If the promontory were removed, you would have a somewhat wider lake but you would then see all the necessary working buildings which would otherwise be veiled from sight.

It seems to me—and here I am giving only my personal view—that there are advantages in the modified C.E.G.B. scheme as opposed to the county scheme. They will lower the dam, and I understand they are perfectly prepared to go ahead with this. My view is that if you really want to improve Llanberis you must remove the extremely obtrusive sewage farm which abuts on to what is to be a country park, which is very close to the lake and which is such a blot on the landscape that almost everything else pales into insignificance. I have discussed this with representatives of the Generating Board, and they assure me that technically there is no reason why this sewage farm installation should not be moved. In their view, the sewage could be pumped to a much less obtrusive site, so it seems to me that if they could come to some kind of bargain between themselves and the county council over the total scheme and involve the possible removal of the sewage farm as an extra provision, then there would be a tremendous gain to the visual appearange of Llanberis. This could be put forward at this stage only as a suggestion, but anyone who knows that part of the world will agree this would be a tremendous aesthetic gain. I hope very much that in the discussions which will be taking place between the Generating Board and the local authority, this is a matter which will be gone into further.

I should like to mention two points which came up on Second Reading. I was very happy to find that the suggestion I made in July, that as part of the total complex the Electricity Generating Board might be prepared to consider a really first-class environmental interpretation centre for the whole of the Snowdonia area, has met with a very favourable response from the Board. I have every hope that such a scheme might be worked out. They have also been most co-operative in meeting the apprehensions of the National Museum of Wales, who have a slate museum as one of their outposts in the immediate vicinity of the dam. There were some problems, but I understand these have now all been satisfactorily met and I should like to acknowledge that.

I have had my attention drawn to one small matter concerning the county alternative scheme. If it were carried out as now proposed, I understand it would make any future working of the part of the quarry which belongs to McAlpines impossible. My own guess is that it is unlikely that this quarry would be reopened on a commercial basis: nevertheless, this is a point which local people who are concerned with employment may wish to take into account as one of the possible disadvantages of adopting the county scheme as it has been put forward. I could very well go into far greater detail but I do not think it would be appropriate on Third Reading, when other noble Lords wish to speak.

Finally, I should like to refer to the letter which has been sent by the Countryside Commission to the Central Electricity Generating Board, because the Countryside Commission have a right to be consulted on these matters. I will quote briefly from this letter which was sent on November 29: The Welsh Committee of the Countryside Commission considered this matter recently. They concluded that what was needed now is for the two schemes (that is to say, the Generating Board scheme and the county scheme) to be worked out to a comparable degree of detail so that the impact of each on the landscape can be better assessed. They mention the other point which arose at the Unopposed Bill Committee, when the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, received an undertaking from the Central Electricity Generating Board that the scheme would be submitted to the Royal Fine Art Commission for their opinion. There have already been consultations between the Generating Board and the Royal Fine Art Commission. It has been agreed that as these variants of the scheme have come up it is desirable that the Royal Fine Art Commission should have another look, and I understand that there is to be another meeting to-morrow on this matter.

The suggestion of the Countryside Commission is a wise and statesmanlike one, because with the best will in the world—and I have tried my hardest to study these alternatives with the greatest care and conscientiousness—it is almost impossible for a lay person to understand fully the alternatives unless, as the Countryside Commission suggest, they are worked out to a comparable degree of detail. The Generating Board has worked out its scheme in great detail with sections and height levels, and so on, so one can tell at a glance what can be seen and what change would be made in the landscape from various points of vantage. This has not been done in a comparable way in the county scheme.

I understand that work is now proceeding with bringing the county scheme up to a comparable level of detail so that when these discussions take place between the Board and the Authority, between the Board and the Countryside Commission and between the Board and the Royal Fine Art Commission, like can be compared with like. The Bill allows either scheme, or variants of either scheme, to go forward. My personal view is that on balance the C.E.G.B. scheme is probably the better of the two, but I am happy to leave it to the discussions which are to take place between the Board and the local authority, the Countryside Commission and the Royal Fine Art Commission. In those circumstances, and with the assurances that these consultations will take place, we should allow the Bill to have its Third Reading.

3.3 p.m.


My Lords, I was not able to be present in your Lordships' House at the Second Reading of this Bill; only now, when the battle appears to be lost, am I presuming to join the debate. I hope it will not be regarded as quixotic, let alone irresponsible, on my part if at this late stage I do so on a note of protest about the whole project, and not the alternative one or other of the two that the noble Baroness has explained. I do so because I have recently revisited the area, which I have known for 45 years. I have spoken with many people and I am persuaded that the protest at what the Government appear to be bent on permitting to happen in North Wales in the National Park, and on its fringes, should be maintained, if only as a warning for the future against further encroachments by industry in our national parks.

Despite the energy crisis that we are now approaching, or are in, it may be worth while if I recall, for those of your Lordships who, like myself, were not present at Second Reading, some of the facts. First of all it is worth recalling the original stated purpose of this scheme, even though the situation has changed. At a time when our supply of energy was not threatened, the purpose stated was to enable the C.E.G.B. to meet a sudden and simultaneous peak demand. This peak demand was said to arise at the end of popular T.V. programmes when viewers rushed to plug in their electric kettles and other electrical apparatus prior to going to bed. I do not wish to be flippant, but it was "convenience" energy demanded by a country which is said to be more lavish in its electricity consumption than almost any other developed nation. The project was allowed to proceed until fairly recently on the basis of this "convenience" energy.

Since then we have reached an energy crisis. In these circumstances the relative contribution of this scheme, or its milder alternative, in comparison with alternative schemes for increasing available native energy, is obviously a question of great importance. My information—and your Lordships will know I am no expert in these matters—is that the contribution it will make is minimal. This is borne out by the Government White Paper on Fuel Policy and from following the debate on fuel policy in your Lordships' House last week. Its efficiency in relation to cost and the volume of energy stored is less than that of alternative schemes. Its value in terms of reducing the cost of electricity to the customer is undetectable.

Given that, despite all these reservations, it is decided to develop such a scheme in North Wales, I hope that the alternative scheme proposed by the Caernarvonshire County Council, the so-called "two-metre" scheme, is adopted. It has commended itself to the Protection Society for North Wales, formed of various bodies to resist the scheme. As the noble Baroness has said, it is a radically different proposal for providing the water storage in the lower lake by lateral encroachment rather than by high clamming. But I defer to the greater study of the noble Baroness in her apparent preference for the C.E.G.B. scheme.

We are told that, whichever of these schemes is followed, by the time it is finished it will have cost something like £100 million of public money. But that is not the imporant aspect of the matter. The really important aspect is the cost to the amenities in the national park. There is the interim cost to the amenities presented by a seven-year state of disruption—"chaos" is hardly too strong a word to use—in the life of yet another Welsh valley. During this time a vast increase in heavy traffic, with the noise and fumes it creates, the introduction of temporary and permanent buildings and a labour force of up to 1,000 men, will disturb the peace of the Nant Penis. Of no small consequence is the incursion of foreign labour. I mean no offence (I am half Irish myself) but let there be no illusion about the effect of these strangers, many no doubt from a different Celtic origin, in a valley rightly jealous of its nationhood.

Then there is the long-term permanent cost to pay, because at the end of these seven years of travail the Nant Penis, its village, its lake, its river and its surroundings, will have been altered for all time, and not in a way a new reservoir changes, but may improve, the landscape. In this case the lake, which is the threshold to the portals of the famous Pass of Llanberis, will have become a vast tank, buttressed by high earthworks, devoid of all vegetation, ringed inside by the unsightly watermark caused by the rise and fall of more than 40 vertical feet of water. This blot on the horizontal landscape, appalling as it will be at valley level from the Northern and Southern prospects, will be infinitely worse as seen by the eye of the mountaineer and hill walker on the crags or on the flanks of Snowdon and Elidir Fawr. New roads will skirt the lake, without any character such as the present road has. One of them leads up the flanks of Elidir Fawr to reach the upper water basin, which is also doomed to be sacrificed—Marchlyn Mawr. As the noble Baroness has pointed out, this lies inside a national park. Apart from the access intrusion into this remote area, there will be a vast dam in the Marchlyn Mawr 2,000 feet in length and 130 feet in height, with a 100 foot rise and fall of water, lined inside, I am told, by black pitch. It will disfigure not only this little mountain lake—as I mentioned, it was already a reservoir, but it is and in fact inoffensive and unobstrusive—but it will also alter the whole character of the approach to this remote, least spoiled and least frequented of all mountains in Snowdonia. In sum, my Lords, the destruction of scenery, the affront to the natural order which it is the purpose of the national park to preserve, will have been successfully achieved on two fronts: on the mountain and in the valley, in the national park and on the fringe.

Then, my Lords, there are the economic factors. I have already expressed my doubts, which have been put forward by noble Lords more knowledgeable than myself, about the justification on national grounds for proceeding with this particular scheme. But there is also the matter of the local economy. Of course, there may well be an interim advancement and stimulus; but even here, I wonder whether the harmful effects on tourism and of drawing away skilled and unskilled labour from existing local industries may not more than offset any benefits. And local unemployment is no longer a problem, as it was when the scheme was first mooted. However this may be, there is a clear precedent—and I am thinking of the neighbouring town of Ffestiniog—for supposing that the end effect on the local economy may be harmful in the employment which has been temporarily created but for which there is no further use at the end of the project, and the residual immigrant labour which stays on in the locality and which will be difficult to absorb.

A good deal has been made of the eventual attraction that the project itself will be for tourists. Whatever that prospect may be, it has no place whatever in a national park: the parks were never intended as attractions for tourists to marvel at technological achievements, at the works of man. We simply cannot afford to fall for these specious excuses to whittle away our small areas of wild and natural beauty. You cannot quantify the value of these areas as you can quantify the energy generated to heat thousands of electric kettles.

My Lords, I conclude, on a note of regret and sadness—because it is clear there is no purpose in dividing your Lordships' House—but also on a note of warning. What some of us are saying to the Government, and with deep conviction, is that if they continue to be simply a passive arbiter in these crucial matters of protecting the environment; if they allow the powerful purveyors of energy, or any other form of industry using the nation's money, to dominate the argument and carry the day over the impecunious defenders of the environment, they will certainly be storing up more power but they will also be laying up store for a bleak future. My Lords, no amount of power, or heat, or light in our factories, or in our homes, can compensate for a desert outside which denies outlet to the human spirit.

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, until I was entering the Chamber a few minutes ago, I was not aware that my name was on the list to speak. However, as a North Wales-ian I want to support this Bill wholeheartedly, and for more than one reason. In the first place, there is more widespread unemployment in this area than in any part of Britain and there is no hope of solving that dis-stressing problem unless some scheme such as this is introduced into the area. When it is commenced, there will not be a single unemployed man in the Llanberis area and for miles around. I would ask the House to support the Bill wholeheartedly were it only from that point of view. But I would also remind the House that the Bill has been thoroughly ventilated before a Special Committee of this House, and they decided, after sitting on it far days, to give it their wholehearted support. So we are in honour bound to support them.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has pointed out, the scheme will assist in solving our energy problem, which no doubt is going to be the greatest problem of the next decade. Now, we have a scheme such as this up in Blaenau Ffestiniog. That was opposed, too, by people like Lord Hunt. They said that it would destroy the tourist trade, and destroy the natural beauty of the place; but as a matter of fact, is has added considerably to the tourist trade. People go there by the thousands to see that scheme because there is nothing like it in the whole of Europe. You have to go to Canada to see schemes such as the one that is proposed in this Bill, and the one already in operation at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Lastly, the Bill has been passed unanimously by the House of Commons. There was a full debate there, and the House of elected representatives gave the Bill their wholehearted support. So, briefly, I would ask the House—I am hoping that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, will not call a Division on this Motion, because this would be a great disservice, I can assure him, to my compatriots from this area. I ask noble Lords to give the Bill their wholehearted support.


My Lords—


Order, Order!


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, does not know that Lord Holford had added his name to the list of speakers. So perhaps Lord Chorley would not mind letting Lord Holford have the next word, then I am sure we shall be anxious to hear from him.


My Lords, his name was not on the list that I saw.

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, I am sorry about this confusion. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Crook is not to speak, and last week when the debate was postponed, I asked to speak. My name is not on the list, and I asked for it to be added. I have to admit some interest and also some involvement in the subject of this Bill. I intended to speak at the Second Reading, on July 14, after the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside, but I was unable to stay as the debate was scheduled very late. Now, like Lord Hinton, I am no longer a member of the Central Electricity Generating Board; but for 16 years I was a part-time member, and my particular responsibility was for the works of architecture and the protection of amenities on the Board's behalf.

In that capacity, I visited, more than once, the pump storage scheme at Ffestiniog to which the noble Lord, Lord Maelor, has just referred, where the power station (and since I had no hand in its design I feel free to say that it is a power station not only of interest but of a very sympathetic design) now attracts 40,000 visitors a year. And if you look at the books there you will find that most of the visitors to the power station are young people. I mention this because it shows that when a first-class work of engineering, even though it is in a national park, is visited to this extent it is not an absolute loss.

I went over the ground and assessed the possibilities of a number of schemes originally suggested in North Wales for pump storage. I had no doubt whatever that the Board should honour its own obligations under the Electricity Act 1957 by avoiding the wilder and less populous valleys which were also suitable for pump storage schemes, and should also avoid creating new lakes where lakes did not exist before. Llanberis, on the other hand, is, if I may steal a phrase from the noble Baroness, Lady White, a sort of "honeypot" area which attracts tourists for a whole number of reasons, including the mountain railway to Snow-:Jon, and so on. And it was feasible in the slate mountain there to build a power station underground.

The Board took the greatest care to assess the landscape as well as the technical problems of each site. As your Lordships know, and as the noble Baroness has again made clear to-day, the Board appointed Sir Frederick Gibberd to be their landscape architect. He paid very considerable attention both to local materials and to the local character of the site, which I think is an important point to remember when comparing his schemes for the dams with those of the county council. He looked, and I looked with him, at the two dams—the two existing lakes in fact: Marchlyn Mawr, which is remote and almost out of sight above, and to which I am quite sure everyone will agree there will be no thronging of tourists (it is a very bleak landscape now), and Lyn Penis, in the valley below, which is well known, much seen and very much visited.

Now it would be easy for me to try to persuade the House that, because, for one reason and another, this Bill reaches its Third Reading at the outset of an immediate fuel crisis and of a long-term energy shortage, a scheme like this—which uses no primary fuel but takes advantage of the off-peak electricity to pump water to the upper dam, in order that almost instant energy should be available at times when the whole generating system is fully or, as will be the case in the near future, overloaded—should be accepted, if not with enthusiasm then at least without objection. But in fact I take entirely the opposite view.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hinton, argued in the Second Reading debate, the Generating Board is accountable under the amenity clause of its own Act; and it is absolutely right that it should be challenged at all times by Press and public, in this House and in another place, to show that it is not evading or riding roughshod over these responsibilities. I hope that it does not sound two-faced or sycophantic to say this, but I actually welcome the observations made by the noble Baroness, Lady White, and by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, to-day. I would go a good deal further and agree that when yet another invasion is planned by the mechanical into a natural site, a site of exceptional interest and strangeness (I cannot find quite the right term), then exceptional skills should be exercised, first to avoid insensitive and unnecessary damage by the works of man upon the face of Nature.

Secondly—and I think this is a new point—care should be taken to compensate the loss of wildness by some gain in engineering design and imagination. Therefore we must put our best endeavours into the making of an extraordinarily interesting scheme, a scheme that many young people will come a long way to visit, because it is much more exciting even than Ffestiniog, which in its day was extremely interesting. In addition, it seems to me that we should do this in a way which combines with the natural character of the site and does not stand out against it. This is where I take issue with the county council's quite interesting and obviously well-meaning proposals, that we should lower the height of the dam. I have discussed this matter with Sir Frederick Gibberd in great detail. Both of us are absolutely certain that we shall have to make out a case for the Board scheme, not only before the Royal Fine Art Commission tomorrow morning, but also before the Countryside Commission which is entitled to make observations on it. We feel in our own minds absolutely right in saying that we should have natural, apparently earthbound embankments for these dams, and that if you take 100 feet out of a 220 foot stretch at the bottom on Lyn Penis, and introduce sluice gates, you turn it from a dam of apparently natural materials into a reinforced concrete structure. This seemed to us to be entirely against the character of the site, and I hope we shall be successful in persuading the Fine Art Commission and the Countryside Commission that we are paying more attention to the character of that site than the county council would have us do.

Secondly, there is a great difficulty of dealing with the slate promontories. The slate industry in its time paid no attention to amenity whatever, but Nature of course decided that when slate was thrown out of the side of the hill it went down, as it were, in spurs following the alternate promontories and valleys of the mountain from which it was coming. Therefore it is a characteristic of the site, like the wings of a theatre, for example, that you have alternate projections from this side and that which break up the water surface and create a perspective down the length of the lake. Imagine that one said: "Well, we had to have everything tidy. We had to build a straight embankment. We had to show two parallel lines, the top being the high-water level and the bottom the lower-water level of the lake, and that should be an absolutely flat expanse of mud or scree or whatever the material might happen to be." My own feeling—and I think Sir Frederick agrees entirely with me—is that one must follow the characteristics of Llanberis and not attempt artificial, horizontal lines which draw attention to the very feature one is trying to camouflage.

Therefore, I should not like to see the slate promontory cut off. I should not like to see the lake drained and for eight months to have a waste in that area before the slate is put back again later. I should not like the extra cost involved in doing this. If it were worth doing, one would not mind the extra cost, but if, as I believe, it is not worth doing, then I think it is an added disincentive that it would cost about £4¾ million more to introduce the sluice gates system on the county council's suggestion. Therefore, if I may say this, speaking from the appearance point of view, I hope that we shall be successful, if the House allows us to proceed, to go to the Fine Art Commission and the Countryside Commission and ask that our original, careful scheme should be accepted.

3.29 p.m.


My Lords, I must start by apologising to the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat for, as it were, trying to "gate crash" in on him. I had not known that his name was on the list of speakers. But it has given me the opportunity of listening to a very understanding and well-argued speech, which, if I may say so, I enjoyed very much. Nor do I criticise unduly the Central Electricity Board. It is their job to put up these schemes, and it is our job in Parliament, if they are not good or are going to interfere too much with the natural beauty of the countryside, to shoot them down. Indeed, in the discussions which have taken place, the Central Electricity Board have behaved in a very understanding and reasonable way. I should particularly like to express my appreciation of the way in which they readily agreed, when the Committee stage was held a week or two ago, to take this scheme back to the Royal Fine Art Commission. They agreed very readily indeed, without contesting it. I am grateful to them and to the noble Baroness, Lady White, has also expressed her gratitude.

I should like to say how much I agreed with the speech made by my noble friend Lord Hunt—a Second Reading speech which I had hoped to make myself had it not been that at the last moment the Bill was put back to a late stage in the evening. I could not have made the speech half as well as the noble Lord has done and I do not propose to go over the ground again. But there are one or two points that I should like to underwrite. It is particularly interesting on a day when Mr. Bernard Levin has contributed to The Times one of the most carefully argued and weighty of his pieces. Sometimes they are just amusing, but this morning it was a serious contribution to the power situation which we were arguing here only last week. He emphasised throughout that article, as the noble Lord, Hunt, has done, that we are continually putting our convenience before the higher values in this nation and we shall not be out of the wood until we can get out of that depressing habit. Quite obviously as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said, this is almost entirely an energy convenience scheme in which the convenience of the people round about with their electric kettles, heaters and so on, has been put before the beauty of North Wales, one of the most attractive and compelling natural scenic places in the world. I hope, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said, that we shall pay attention to this.

I was sorry that my noble friend Lord Maelor, whose feelings about this matter are very understandable, should have made no attempt to deal with the arguments adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. He had obviously thought it out beforehand, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, gave us the information about what had happened as a result of bringing in this labour from outside. I well remember that it was said that this scheme would provide employment for people in North Wales but, of course, people have now come in and there is more labour asking for jobs in North Wales. Now the noble Lord, Lord Maelor, says, "For a few months we will employ them." He made no effort whatever to meet the argument put by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that at the end of the few months they would merely be additional mouths asking for bread in that area.

I do not want to go into the details of what happened in the Commons. In my view, the Select Committee there was badly handled and the Chairman's speech in the other place when reporting the matter to the House as a whole was very much open to criticism. In fact if I had made the speech which I intended to make on the last occasion I should have been very near unparliamentary language, because some of the argument which was used there was really beneath contempt.

Before I sit down, I should like to say that this Bill once again brings us back to the fact that the amenity societies, when a Bill of this kind comes before Parliament, have to choose, according to whether it is first discussed before a Select Committee of your Lordships' House or before a Select Committee of the other place; they cannot afford to oppose it in both Houses. In this case they opposed it in the Lower House and their arguments were dismissed with contempt, which I think was completely wrong. When the case came to your Lordships' House, where I am sure our Select Committee would have given much more favourable attention to the evidence and to the argument, the amenity societies just could not afford to oppose it again, with the result that it came before the Unopposed Bills Committee last week instead of going to a Select Committee. This has happened time after time in other cases—I am thinking of Brighton—and it was really as a result of this fact that the noble Earl the Lord Chairman of Committees said that he would consider the question as to whether there should not be a Select Committee and what could be done about presenting the argument on that occasion. Not unnaturally, he came to the conclusion that as there were no Petitions it would be unreasonable to send it to a Select Committee. But, of course, if the sinews of war had been available there would have been Petitions, and it is really time that matters of this kind, Private Bills really concerned with a wide range of extremely vulnerable public interest, should be properly discussed on the evidence of a Select Committee of your Lordships' House and not just left to a few drafting alterations made in the Unopposed Bills Committee.

I shall go on saying this as long as I am here to trouble your Lordships with it. My arguments have been reinforced by my noble friend Lord Molson (who unfortunately is not here to-day) and by other noble Lords. There should be procedural arrangements for, so to speak, underwriting those Private Bills which have a real public import of the kind which this one undoubtedly has, as I am sure the speech made by my noble friend Lord Hunt might have persuaded your Lordships. When that is done, the few thousand pounds needed should be provided so that there may be a proper investigation of the whole subject and a Select Committee of your Lordships' House—which, if I may say so, in nine cases out of ten is much better qualified to deal with a matter of this kind than a Committee of the other House—could then have the opportunity of going into it in the thorough way that it deserves. I hope eventually to see that arrangements of this kind are made and I shall continue to press upon your Lordships the importance of some arrangement of this kind being made.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, as a Scot I intrude into this matter which concerns the people of Wales with very great diffidence indeed, and I do so only in an attempt to assuage the fears which have been expressed this afternoon. As some of your Lordships may know, I have for many years been connected with the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. I have had exactly the same fears expressed in relation to our work in the North of Scotland, in some of the most beautiful country in the world—even as beautiful as that which we are discussing this afternoon—and I have seen these fears completely vanish when the structure has been completed and properly treated, taking care of all the natural features in the area and, as the architects can do to-day, producing something which in itself is beautiful and almost inconspicuous. I wished just to state that fact to your Lordships, because I have seen it happen not once or twice but several dozens of times, and the fears have vanished with the completion of the work.


My Lords, before the noble Lord resumes his seat, may I ask him whether he is aware that Sir Frederick Gibberd, who was referred to a moment ago by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in cross-examination before the Select Committee in another place admitted that this scheme would in fact do considerable damage to the scenery in Snowdonia?


My Lords, I did not quite catch what the noble Lord was saying. All I am doing is to give the House the result of my experience over many years and in quite different circumstances.

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to deal briefly with two matters which have been discussed during the consideration of this Bill, both at this stage and on Second Reading. The first is procedure; the second is amenity. The main procedural question, as the noble Baroness, Lady White, rightly pointed out, was the possible reference of the Bill to a Select Committee, although it was unopposed in this House. At the conclusion of the debate on Second Reading, as the noble Baroness will remember, I undertook to consider the position of those parties who had deposited Petitions against the Bill in the House of Commons. I have done so. There were four such Petitions. Two of these were settled in another place without going to the Select Committee set up on the Bill. The two other Petitions were dealt with by the Select Committee in the course of a nine days' hearing. The North Wales (Hydro Electricity) Protection Committee wrote to me subsequently stating that when the Bill came to this House—and I am using their words: There remained unresolved issues going to the heart of the Bill and they went on— it was only lack of funds which prevented them from depositing a Petition in this House. I considered the arguments in evidence submitted to the Select Committee in the Commons and concluded that the submission of the petitioners there was exhaustively ventilated, with the advantage of representation by counsel. It would have been possible, nevertheless, to refer the Bill to a Select Committee of this House in the absence of opposition, but I did not consider that this procedure would really have helped the Protection Committee, as they had by their own admission insufficient funds to pay for the representation necessary to adduce the technical evidence required to support their case. I would add that when this expedient—namely, the reference of an unopposed Bill to a Select Committee—has been adopted in the past, it has shown that our Select Committee procedure is not well suited to that sort of ex parte hearing, particularly when technical evidence has to be adduced.

In setting out, as I have done, the considerations which led me to my decision regarding the position of petitioners, I should like to express the opinion—and I think this opinion will be shared by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley—that the predicament of petitioners with limited funds might be the subject of review, to ascertain whether means can be found to save objectors to the provisions of Private Bills who have locus standi and substantial grounds of complaint from being debarred from petitioning in this House by lack of funds.

The second point to which I should like to refer is the extent to which amenity interests have been met during the progress of this Bill through Parliament. In my opinion, the main points in dispute have been dealt with by agreement between the Promoters and the parties. The first, concerning the height of the dam as proposed in the Bill, has been dealt with by agreement with the Caernarvon County Council, who are in any event the planning authority and whose approval under Clause 47 is required for any works authorised by the Bill. Clause 53 has been added to the Bill for the protection of ancient monuments, and this clause gives protection to, among other places, Dolbadarn Castle, which has been referred to, the Dinorwic slate quarry workshops and the slate quarry table incline unit.

There is a new Clause 48, which provides that the Beard should have a duty to collaborate in promoting economic development and social improvement with the authority of the new County of Gwynedd.

Lastly, at the Unopposed Committee in this House the Promoters gave an undertaking, which has already been mentioned to the Committee, that they would consult the Royal Fine Art Commission regarding their proposals for the construction of the embankments and dams at either end of Llyn Penis. I hope that this undertaking may give some satisfaction to the noble Baroness, Lady White. Consultation with the Royal Fine Art Commission was suggested at the Unopposed Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. I should like to thank him for attending and also for giving the Committee the benefit of his views.


My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, would he answer one question about the reconsideration of the financial means of private petitioners? Is he aware that it is not only the cost of employing counsel which is sometimes extremely burdensome, but also the cost of the transcripts which they need during the course of the hearing? Would not one means of assisting these private petitioners be to say that copies of the hearing are available to them, either free of charge or at some nominal charge, in the same way as copies of the Hansard relating to Public Bills?


My Lords, I think the cost of transcripts should also be a subject of review.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether he would consider setting up a working party to deal with this matter? He gave much the same undertaking at the time of the Brighton Bill, which must have been three or four years ago, but no progress has been made there. It really ought to be threshed out in detail.

On Question, Bill read 3ª, and passed.