HL Deb 08 July 1992 vol 538 cc1234-46

9.33 p.m.

Lord Cochrane of Cults

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I must first declare an interest. I am chairman of a small private company which is authorised to supply gas within the meaning of Section 8 of the Gas Act 1986. Gas supply is less than 2 per cent. of our main business, which is that of a caravan holiday park. It is perhaps momentarily interesting, despite the lateness of the hour, to mention that the first production of gas that was proved to work was carried out by my direct ancestor, the ninth Earl of Dundonald, by means which would certainly have been disapproved of by the Health and Safety Executive, had it then existed. I shall not weary the House with the details of that now.

When a Bill is introduced, the first question asked is what it is for. The Bill's Long Title refers mainly to Sections 5 and 36 of the Gas Act 1986. I shall attempt to explain briefly why and how. Should I miss any point in the interests of brevity and the lateness of the hour, I hope that noble Lords will raise the matters in their speech and I shall do my best to explain when I reply.

The general effect of the Bill is to allow gas to be supplied through pipes more readily but just as safely as is allowed at present by simplifying the elaborate and long-winded procedures currently required by the provisions of the Gas Act 1986.

Perhaps I may explain. Section 4 of the Gas Act lays a duty on, The Secretary of State and the director [of gas supply] to secure that persons authorised … to supply gas through pipes satisfy, so far as it is economical to do so, all reasonable demands for gas in Great Britain". Supply is not as easy a term to explain as one might imagine because there is a second variety, which is self-supply. Supply is in practice the sale of a vapour defined as gas to a third party, and so is a concern of the Gas Act. Self-supply—that is, supplying yourself—is not a concern of the Gas Act and so is not within its scope.

In order to supply gas legally—it is a criminal offence to do it without authorisation—you may obtain authorisation under Section 5, to which I shall return shortly. Section 5 is now very limited in extent. Section 6 of the Act dealt originally with authorisation of very large supplies. The quantity was first defined as 2 million therms, which is a very large quantity, but now that has been reduced to 25,000 therms per annum. The DTI plan further phased reductions in this figure.

Section 7 allows supply by a public gas supplier to any premises in its area. The 1986 Act provides that there is only one such supplier—that is, British Gas plc, whose supply area is defined as the whole United Kingdom. Now, the important part is Section 8, which allows other persons to become authorised suppliers to premises specified in the authorisation, subject to not causing danger to the public, to being financially sound and to having a proper 24-hour emergency service available, together with a right of access to every place supplied.

In practice Section 8 has failed due to the vast bureaucratic effort involved in becoming authorised. There is available an alternative method of supplying gas from cylinders which is, with a technical exception, exempt from the provisions of the Gas Act. So total is the failure of Section 8 that last year at a meeting at the Department of Energy I complained that the authorisation procedures under Section 8 were so complex that breach of Section 4, to which I referred earlier, was occurring. That complaint was upheld by the department's legal advisers. That caused a certain creaking of the floorboards in the corridors of power.

Also Section 8 had entirely unforeseen results. It may be necessary to touch on that later. It caught a lot more than anticipated. To quote from the Ofgas report for 1991, during which year a very modest simplification of Section 8 procedures was made: there are a number of statutory requirements governing authorisations which are not within the discretion of OFGAS to change and which continue to give rise to concerns about the bureaucratic burden imposed on independent gas suppliers". The report goes on to refer to having to get numerous government departments (it states five) to agree to what you are doing and to the existence of overlapping codes of practice for the safe supply of gas.

The overall statutory framework which imposes these burdens is now the responsibility of the Department of Trade and Industry. Ofgas has made direct representations to the department to simplify the statutory requirements for authorisation and the department has considered them. Indeed, that was further referred to in a later report. Ofgas said that it must have primary legislation in order to achieve any worthwhile change to the system.

Clearly Section 8 is the cause of major legal administrative problems. The effect has been to slow down and almost to stop the development of the independent gas supply market, which falls into Section 8. Ofgas tells me that it has issued about 313 authorisations, although the operative total, due to its method of counting, which is odd, is somewhat lower. Of these, over half concern LPG.

That has summarised the position. There have been continuing discussions between the Department of Trade and Industry, the Health and Safety Executive and the trade associations. Most importantly in this context, Ofgas itself, which has been closely involved in these discussions, recognises that this Bill is a realistic and sensible way forward from the present confusion.

Now I shall deal very briefly with the provisions of the Bill. It repeals Section 5 of the Gas Act 1986 and then re-enacts it with some additions. These include Section 5(1)(b), which is a purely drafting amendment because it refers to subsections (3) and (4). Section 5(2)(b) is of a similar nature. Section 5(3) is important. It allows propane and butane (commonly LPG) to be exempted from unauthorised supply or, in plain words, it can be supplied legally—so long as it is done safely—without much further ado.

Section 5(4) allows the Secretary of State to exempt others as he and Ofgas together see fit. This will by degrees allow greater competition in gas supply without prejudicing safety. The Health and Safety Executive is confident that it has adequate existing powers for this purpose. I raise this point because it has been drawn to my attention that Section (8) defines safety as one of the pre-eminent requirements, whereas subsection 5(4) does not mention safety. I have taken particular pains to establish the current position with the Health and Safety Executive.

Section 5(5) states that subsection (4) can encompass particular or more general classes of person and that decisions under this subsection are to be suitably published. The rest of new Section 5 repeats the old subsections, with Subsection (3) and (4) becoming Subsections (6) and (7), but it is otherwise unchanged.

Clause 2 of my Bill orders the Director of Gas Supply to keep a register of those authorised under Section 5(4) and under Sections 7 and 8 of the 1986 Act, and generally reflects the later position of the Electricity Act 1989.

In conclusion, this short Bill has the full support of the various trade associations involved in the independent gas supply market. It is welcomed by Ofgas as a sensible way out of the legislative morass of Section 8. Last week, the Director of Gas Supply, Sir James McKinnon, assured me directly of his support for the Bill. I believe that that support may also extend to the Department of Trade and Industry. By releasing the independent gas supply market from unnecessary and complex regulations, much will be done over a period, starting gradually, to widen the availability of piped gas, with its beneficial effects on living standards, particularly among isolated and small communities or in the caravan and holiday park industry, which are major users. By virtue of subsection 5(4), it can also open up other parts of the gas market to necessary competition—always, I add, within the control of the Secretary of State. Accordingly, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. —(Lord Cochrane of Cults.)

9.42 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, perhaps I should begin my speech by saying that I am speaking only because my noble friend Lord Cochrane of Cults wrote to me asking for my support for his Bill. When he has heard what I am about to say, I am afraid that he may regret having whetted my interest. However, the House will be grateful to him for explaining the need for his Bill so clearly.

There is no doubt in my mind that the procedure by which gas suppliers, especially small ones, have to get consents under Section 8 of the Gas Act is a nightmare. Not only do forms have to be submitted to Ofgas but they have to be sent to and approved by the Pipelines Inspectorate and the Gas and Oil Measurement Branch—and my noble friend has told us that yet more organisations are involved. As I understand the matter, they all have different forms for their own unique purposes. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that I have heard from outside the Chamber that it has taken a very long time for my noble friend to get authorisation for a gas supply to his caravan park and that he wishes to simplify the system for future applicants so as to encourage competition in the supply of liquid petroleum gas.

As one of the Ministers responsible for the Oil and Gas Enterprise Bill in your Lordships' House, I most certainly approve of the increase in competition for which the Government are aiming and which this Bill makes easier. That said, however, we must be extremely careful before we approve the method that my noble friend has chosen. His complaint is that Section 8 is too cumbersome and needs to be changed. The first question, therefore, that I must ask him is, why not change Section 8? The supplementary question is, what will happen to Section 8 if the new Section 5 reaches the statute book? Will it wither on the vine, as I suspect?

We also have to be extremely careful when considering the new Section 5(3) from the point of view of safety. As we all know, gas is dangerous stuff whether it is propane, butane or methane. When propane or butane leaks, being heavier than air, they sink and can be trapped under floors, in cellars, in sewers, in telephone ducts and so on, with all the likelihood of an explosion causing damage to other property well after the leak has actually occurred. Unlike North Sea gas or methane from a landfill site, they cannot disperse in the air, so I would argue that they are even more dangerous than North Sea gas. LPG, which is what we are really talking about, also has a higher calorific value which means that it provides a greater explosive energy release if escaped gas is accidentally ignited.

In my view, therefore, it remains essential that the prerequisite of getting a licence under Section 8 should remain; namely, that the supplier should be a fit and proper person with the necessary resources, as specified under Section 4(6) of the Act, so that he can re-lay pipes if necessary, provide an emergency service and at the very least cut off the supply when things go wrong. If my reading of subsection (3) is correct, however, all this is swept away. There is an automatic exemption for anyone to supply propane or butane through pipes to any premises. That is a very sweeping power indeed. I believe that there remains a need for what I call prospective assurances.

I assume that once the supply is up and running the situation is quite different, because the installation will, I presume, come under the powers of the Health and Safety Executive. I say "presume" because I cannot imagine my noble friend or indeed the Government deleting the requirement under Section 8(6) (a) to this effect, although the Bill is a little obscure in this respect. Safety then will presumably be ensured retrospectively as it were. I fail to understand though why, over and above my three requirements, Ofgas needs to be satisfied on all the points it expects to be answered before it grants an authorisation.

I have before me Ofgas's form C1/AA headed "Application for Authorisation". As well as asking the obvious questions such as the name and address of the applicant, the site to be supplied and details of the certified engineer, it also asks some curious questions. Question No. 5 states: Specify the price you intend to charge users of gas". Question No. 6: Specify any other charge for the provision of a gas supply which you intend to make". What on earth business are those of Ofgas, especially as far as concerns LPG? They are surely matters of contract between supplier and purchaser. If the purchaser does not like the terms of the contract, he can buy bottled gas in the usual way, or use electricity or, in certain circumstances, coal.

I am similarly confused by Questions Nos. 8 and 9, or rather the absence of a Question No. 9(a) in the same form. Under Section 8(5) of the Act an authorisation shall not be given to anyone intending to supply gas to any premises situated within 25 yards of a relevant main unless the granter of the authorisation has notified the public gas supplier, which is usually, though in future may not necessarily be, as my noble friend nearly said, British Gas, that the new supply will be in excess of 25,000 therms a year, or the public gas supplier has consented in writing to the giving of a supply. Questions Nos. 8 and 9 cover this, but only in part, by asking: Do you know if the supply is within 25 yards of a British Gas main? Yes/No If no, do you wish OFGAS to contact British Gas? Yes/No". Question No. 9 asks: Have you informed British Gas of your intent to supply gas? Yes/No If no, do you wish OFGAS to do so?". For some unknown reason, there is no "Yes/No" against that question.

There seems to be no question of asking whether it is intended supply more than 25,000 therms a year, so I assume that Ofgas does not have a means of getting that information and will contact British Gas whatever is said. I rather wonder how that encourages competition in the gas industry —that is, competition which is in the interests of gas suppliers—because, as my noble friend Lady Denton told us last week, the more competition there is the less regulation there will be. I refer to economic regulation. Safety regulation is a different matter, as I have sought to explain in my worries over the new subsection (3) proposed in the Bill. Can my noble friend the Minister satisfy me that the automatic exemption proposed will be in the public interest so far as concerns safety?

As I said, I sympathise with my noble friend, but I am quite sure in my own mind that the Gas Act as it stands can be operated in a better manner—though possibly with amendment. For example, under the Act it would seem to me to be quite essential that there is only one application form; namely, the right one, as I have explained, which can be copied to all the other relevant regulatory bodies.

I have already mentioned Section 4 of the Gas Act. That, together with Section 16 (which is about standards of quality of gas), constrains the Secretary of State in certain ways that Parliament has required. There are all sorts of other constraints on the Secretary of State in the Act, and it is right and proper that there should be. This House in particular looks very critically at proposals that allow the Secretary of State to do things off his own hat.

Knowing that, I now turn to my noble friend's new subsection (4) which deals with exemptions to suppliers of any form of gas. So far as I can see, those provisions are quite inimical to both the Gas Act and the Competition and Services (Utilities) Act which specifies, as I recall it, fair competition. Moreover, if we enact subsection (4), slightly amended if necessary, to cover suitable persons and safety matters, do we need Section 8 at all? The new subsections (4) and (5) would seem to be a replacement for it.

Instead of an authorisation under Section 8, my noble friend proposes that the Secretary of State should lay an order. But, as I read it, it means that that order—a negative instrument—need only state the name of the company concerned to which he wishes to grant an exemption. It is quite clear that he may make any conditions that he likes, or none. I hope that Ministers in the DTI will think long and hard before agreeing to such a proposal. Although it will certainly increase competition in the gas industry substantially, there is a danger that a future Secretary of State, or a future government, could open up a very tilted playing field indeed. Surely, at the very least, the same conditions should apply to every firm granted an exemption.

I have no complaint about the Bill's new Section 36 which deals with the keeping of a register. As my noble friend said, he has based it on the provisions of Section 49 of the Electricity Act. It seems eminently sensible. There is a saying on the West Coast of Scotland which I have quoted before in this Chamber. It goes, "We think better later". The Electricity Act gained Royal Assent some three years after the Gas Act and it is of no surprise that better and clearer thoughts on keeping a register occurred in the meantime, even among those that I gather are now called "the Energy Command" in the Department of Trade and Industry.

I know from experience that it is the most difficult thing in the world to bring Bills before your Lordships' House and have them exposed to the glare of noble Lords. I can assure my noble friend that it is equally difficult to comment on a Private Member's Bill from the Back Benches. My initial reaction to much of his Gas (Exempt Supplies) Bill has certainly been negative, but I recognise that I could just as easily be totally misguided. I shall, therefore, await the other speeches with interest, especially my noble friend's wind-up speech.

9.54 p.m.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, in rising to speak on the Bill, I should like to declare an interest as I am chairman of a firm which is involved in the distribution of gas. I found the explanation of the purposes of the Bill given by the noble Lord, Lord Cochrane of Cults, to be very convincing. There is no doubting the fact that there is a procedure which has to he followed by suppliers of liquefied petroleum gas which is excessively complex. The details of that procedure, which were read out by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, confirm that fact. It is obvious that it needs to be simplified. Of course, there could have been many ways of doing so. The proposal before us is one of them. It seems to me to be quite reasonable.

However, I thought that the question of safety raised quite properly by the noble Lord. Lord Skelmersdale, had been covered by the noble Lord, Lord Cochrane, when he said that there had been discussions not only with the Department of Trade and Industry and Ofgas but also with the Health and Safety Executive. If those three bodies are satisfied that the safety aspect is taken care of, I should have thought that that would satisfy the rest of us. However, I have been approached by outside bodies which have expressed anxiety about that aspect of the matter. We should take the opportunity, in Committee perhaps, to propose amendments on that point which could reassure us.

The continued existence of Section 8 of the 1986 Act, alongside possible exemptions, will need a little explanation. No doubt the Minister will be able to give her views on that subject. Bearing in mind the complexities of the existing regulations, and the objective of increasing competition within the gas sector, I believe that the Bill is desirable, and I wish it every success.

9.55 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cochrane, for introducing the Bill and for speaking to it so clearly. I tend to align myself with the noble Lord, Lord Ezra. The procedures at present in place are cumbersome and need reform. But—I am speaking in a private capacity, because this is a Private Member's Bill and I do not speak for my party—I wonder whether we need legislation of this sort to rectify what seems to be a rather minor deficiency in the Gas Act 1986.

There are some disadvantages with the Bill. As it currently stands, the wording of the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, pointed out, confers wide powers on the Secretary of State to exempt whole categories of supplier from the current regulatory requirements. The implications are wide-ranging for the consumer, too. Those persons who are exempted under Clause 5(3) will be completely outside the current regulatory structure. I put this question to the Minister: if the Government are going to support the Bill and give it a fair wind, do they consider that this is the right way to go about solving what all your Lordships recognise to be a problem? Is there not a simpler way? If there is, should not the Government try to devise one and bring it before your Lordships' House as a government Bill?

9.58 p.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Cochrane of Cults on bringing forward this Bill which I know relates to a subject dear to his heart. He has made his views known to my department, as well as to the Office of Gas Supply, over a period of some months and I commend him on his tenacity.

The thrust of his Bill very much conforms with the Government's own thinking. As your Lordships will know, we are fully committed to the progressive liberalisation and deregulation of the gas industry. We have made clear our intention to reduce the British Gas monopoly threshold this summer from 25,000 therms to 2,500 therms.

We are very much aware of anxieties within the industry about the burden of complying with the authorisation procedure under Section 8 of the Gas Act 1986. We acknowledge that that is an area which requires reform. As my noble friend has explained, Section 8 of the Gas Act 1986 provides for the Director General of Gas Supply to authorise supplies of gas through pipes to particular premises—that is, a single consumer, or premises of specified description specified in an authorisation. Such authorisations are required by any supplier of gas other than British Gas or a person supplying over 2 million therms a year to particular premises (Section 6 of the Act refers). Prior to the Act, the Health and Safety Executive issued consents, under an agency agreement on behalf of the Secretary of State for Energy, under Section 29 of the 1972 Gas Act, as amended by Section 12 of the Oil and Gas (Enterprise) Act 1982.

The main purpose of Section 8, and the provisions in earlier legislation on which it was based, was to control entry into the piped gas supply market. Caravan sites and holiday parks have been caught by the legislation because the owners have tried to improve the facilities on offer to their customers. As a result, the supply of gas to caravan sites and the like is now generally piped from a central LPG storage unit rather than bottled in order to give customers a continuous supply. As a result, caravan sites have the same characteristics as supply systems on a much larger scale and thus now attract the same degree of control.

Both we and Ofgas are aware of the burden that the Section 8 authorisation procedure imposes on these small businesses. They are not after all attempting to set themselves up as gas suppliers, rather the supply of gas is incidental to their main business.

In its 1990 annual report, Ofgas noted that anxiety had been expressed by the British Holiday and Homes Parks Association Ltd. and the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Industry Technical Association about the increasing delays, costs and paperwork involved in the authorisation procedure. Ofgas therefore undertook an internal review of the Section 8 procedures which identified a number of shortcomings which could be resolved by a mixture of administrative and legislative changes. Ofgas has now implemented the various administrative changes, such as a fixed system of charges, which have done much to streamline present procedures.

I am satisfied that Ofgas has done all it possibly can to rationalise the authorisation procedure within the existing statutory framework and I commend it for its efforts. However, I recognise that while its efforts have gone a considerable way towards satisfying a number of the worries voiced, it has not completely resolved all the problems identified with the current procedures. Last summer Ofgas therefore drew our attention to the legislative changes needed to rationalise further the authorisation procedure. In particular, it drew attention to the overlap of safety responsibilities between Ofgas and the HSE under the Gas Act and to other unsatisfactory aspects which would require legislative change.

We have studied Ofgas's recommendations and have concluded that they are eminently sensible. Officials have been engaged in discussions with Ofgas and HSE with a view to making the appropriate changes. Our problem has been in finding a suitable legislative opportunity in which to carry this forward.

The noble Lord's Bill is therefore timely. Clause 1 would give the Secretary of State power to exempt suppliers of butane and propane gas—

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, if the noble Baroness will allow me to intervene, she seems to be speaking very much in favour of her noble friend's Bill. Will the Government adopt it as a government Bill?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, the noble Lord has correctly identified that I am speaking in favour of my noble friend's Bill, I support it.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, are the Government adopting the Bill? Perhaps I did not make myself clear. Will the Government adopt the Bill as a government Bill and give it the Government's legislative time?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, this is a Private Member's Bill. As I said, it is timely and in line with our thinking and that of both Ofgas and the Health and Safety Executive. However, it is important to emphasise that in deregulating this aspect, there will be no diminution in safety standards. Safety will remain of paramount importance.

With that in mind, I am pleased to see that the provisions for exemption are modelled closely on the Electricity Act 1989 and that they would be brought into effect by a commencement order. That means that I can give a firm assurance that the Bill will not come into force until the Health and Safety Executive has had sufficient time to put alternative arrangements in place.

Clause 1 also gives the Secretary of State power to exempt further classes of suppliers from the need for Section 8 authorisation. While we have no immediate plans to utilise such powers at present, it is conceivable that we might wish to exempt other types of gas, such as landfill gas or coke oven gas, at some point in the future, again provided that this can be achieved safely and can be accommodated within the existing system of economic regulation operated by Ofgas.

Clause 2 requires the Director General of Gas Supply to keep a register of those to whom exemptions have been given. This seems eminently sensible.

I am grateful for the opportunity to outline our reaction to my noble friend's Bill. If I may sum up, we welcome the possibility of further deregulation in the gas industry, and particularly the alleviation of a burden upon small businesses, provided that safety can be assured.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, are we to understand from what she says that the Government see no reason to amend this Bill in any way?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I have just supported—I am sorry if I did not make myself clear—my noble friend's Bill as it stands.

10.7 p.m.

Lord Cochrane of Cults

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this brief debate on the Bill which I have introduced. Perhaps I may refer briefly to the remarks that have been made in order of speaking. My noble friend Lord Skelmersdale—and the point was raised by others—asked what would happen to Section 8. The answer I was given when I asked this question was in rather oblique "Mandarin", but I think the effect is clear, if not the reasoning. I was told that if Section 8 were repealed it would destroy the architecture of the Bill. I have to confess that, after close study of the subject, I have not yet identified a gas supplier who would certainly be caught by Section 8 if the new Section 5 is to be enacted, as proposed in this Bill.

I am positively assured, as I will repeat again and as my noble friend on the Front Bench has said, that while anyone can supply gas, at any rate in LPG form, they are encompassed at this very moment by the provisions of the Health and Safety Act in relation to gas systems. If I have failed to answer my noble friend's questions, I will read Hansard extremely carefully and will write to him before the House sits again on the Bill. I hope he feels happy with that.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend.

Lord Cochrane of Cults

My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend. I should like particularly to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, for his unstinted support for this Bill. He has enormous experience in the gas industry, and therefore his support is of uncommon value. I am grateful to him. I think I have already covered his points about safety in my reply to my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale, but if on further reflection it is discovered that some amendment to the Bill is required to tidy things up, I will of course be most willing to consider this extremely carefully. At the moment I am content to rest on the assurance of my noble friend Lady Denton that the Bill is as brightly polished as it can be for the time of night.

I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, that it has been repeatedly stated by the Office of Gas Supply that they could not escape from the duties laid on them by Section 8 of the Gas Act without legislation. It is on that basis that I have proceeded with this Bill. I am glad to say that that view is shared by my noble friend Lady Denton. It is not a new decision or a new idea; it has been in common parlance among those discussing Section 8 for some time.

Lord Williams of Elvel My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. What is the origin of the Bill? We have a Bill which is apparently a Private Member's Bill, on which no noble Lord other than the Minister can speak in an official capacity for a party, because that is the convention of the House. We have a Bill which the Government apparently endorse lock, stock and barrel without any amendment whatever, cleanly polished, and which will receive full support. What is the status of the Bill? Is it really a Private Member's Bill, or is it a Government Bill which has been handed to the noble Lord to move?

Lord Cochrane of Cults

My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, I shall say the following. I hope that I am doing so in the correct form and with due regard to the procedures of this House.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that the status of the Bill is that of a Private Member's Bill. It is the product of long discussion with the bodies to which I referred in my earlier speech. The drafting has been done by an eminent firm of commercial lawyers in Edinburgh in the firm's capacity as solicitors to the company to which I referred earlier and of which I am chairman. The costs of so doing have been met in equal share by the two principal trade associations in the holiday parks industry. I hope, therefore, that I have convinced the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, that it is indeed a Private Member's Bill.

Perhaps I may now refer to the remarks of the noble Baroness on the Front Bench. She has a much better script writer than I shall ever have and I thank her very much for her support. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.