I beg to move, in page 6, line 31, to leave out from the word "empower" to the end of line 33.
By this Amendment we are seeking to establish, if we can, some of the claims made by hon. Members opposite that this is a Socialist Bill. We are proposing to leave out words which, to all people who want to get a real organisation, seem to make real organisation impossible. Under this Clause the Board, if it is unable to come to satisfactory terms in order to carry out its schemes, are empowered to go to other authorised undertakers. The Government, even if one set of people have failed, propose to maintain the principle of the Bill, which is that it shall be in the hands of private enterprise. We want to delete that and get these powers direct into the hands of the Board. All business men will agree that where you cannot get agreement with existing undertakers you are not likely to carry out your schemes satisfactorily by a company hastily formed. What we are pleading for is that in these circumstances the Board shall acquire the generating station. Why should not the Board do so? There are bound to be many evolutions in this enterprise and hundreds of difficulties will be cropping up, as they do whenever you come up against vested interests. It seems to me that in every case where the interests of the nation are in competition with vested interests, the interests of the nation have to suffer. I have never seen a Bill in which there has been a definite Clause giving the Government power to say to vested interests that as the interests of the nation are greater than theirs, they must agree to carry out the wishes and will of the Government, or get out altogether.
In our opinion, it is the duty of the Board, under this Bill, to become the owners of all stations in those areas where such conditions arise. You cannot expect to get efficiency when you have to form a new company in an area. Where an organisation exists and the owners are unwilling to comply with the request made, then the Board, under the Bill, must begin an entirely new system of generation and distribution. If this Bill is in the interests of the nation—the nation having appointed the Board and paying it well in order that it should be the chief authority—there should be nothing in the Clause that takes the real functions of the Board out of its hands. If you read the Bill through, every reference to the Board means that it is the controlling authority, and it can only carry out the duties which have been entrusted to it by taking over everything that is required in the national interest. The arguments used yesterday in opposition to this policy showed that whilst outside it is the policy of the present Government to try and make the public believe that this is a great Measure for the good of the whole community, the speeches inside this House show that the interests of the community are a secondary consideration. The first consideration of this Bill, in every part, is a bowing of the knee to vested interests. In every step in Committee we had to face that fact, and the Opposition was bought off only by throwing out another bit to them. We ask that the Government should now show the public that they are in real earnest by omitting these words in order to give the Board full powers, so that in all such circumstances as I have described the Board will rule and will run any plant in the interest of the nation as a whole.
I beg to second the Amendment.
We hope that the House will realise what is required in bringing into operation a real scheme for the provision of power and light, which are needed for our industry and our domestia life. The Clause states that where those at present owning stations are unwilling to accept the conditions under this scheme, the Board, instead of undertaking the duty itself, shall devote its time to looking around for another company or person to do the work, so that the community would again be placed at the mercy of a small section of people such as those who have dealt with us so badly in connection with electricity supply up to the present. Surely, if we are sincere in desiring to have electricity in its proper place, we ought not again to place ourselves at the mercy of private companies such as we have been placed under hitherto. Yesterday we heard that it is very bad to have public ownership. If I remember aright, the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour) spoke even of how it would mean the waste of almost the whole of the £33,500,000 which is the figure mentioned for this Bill. It is a very curious thing that many of those people whom one finds in Government employ are readily snapped up by big business whenever big business wishes to use their capacity in any undertaking. It is curious that big business is prepared to accept and to hand out a certificate of merit to men like Sir Josiah Stamp, once they are employed at a high salary by a railway company, but thinks of them as wasters of money when they are engaged in the Government service. That is the only interpretation to be put upon the statement which we had yesterday.
We ask that the community should not allow this great power to pass into the hands of private people so that they may make fortunes out of it, but that the interest of the community may be the guiding motive in carrying on this great industry. Therefore, we ask that the Board shall undertake this work, shall empower the taking over of the stations to itself, rather than hand them over to private companies. If one company has been unwilling it is not right that we should be placed at the mercy of another company which may be unwilling. I hope that the Government, even with the keen opposition they have to face, will accept the Amendment. There is nothing in this Bill that demands any praise from us. Even a proposal that was accepted yesterday many people regard as municipalisation. It is not satisfactory to us and is not municipalisation at all. When the question is one of taking over a station that has been run by people who are unwilling to come into the national scheme, I hope that the Board will take the station for the sake of the people as a whole.
The Mover and Seconder of the Amendment have stated very concisely and very cogently the point of view from which they urge this Amendment, but it is not a point of view which the Government or those who sit on these Benches are able to accept. The Mover of the Amendment said that the effect of the Bill as it stands is to play into the hands of private enterprise, and that we are taking the function of the Board out of its hands, because the Board is the controlling authority. It is quite true that we are playing into the hands of private enterprise in this sense—namely, that we do not desire that these stations shall be acquired or operated by the Board unless the possibilities of their being privately acquired and privately operated are first exhausted. We believe, rightly or wrongly, that we can get more efficient generation if the stations are in private hands—by private hands I mean the hands of existing authorised undertakers rather than a great central Board—which has the incentive of the possibility of reducing the cost to themselves of the current which is generated. We feel that it is more efficiently done if the stations are in the hands of the existing authorised undertakers, be they public or private authorities, rather than if they are handed over to the actual working or ownership of a great central Board such as this.
The whole Clause is one which, in the opinion of the Government, is not very likely to have to be put into operation. The House will remember that Clause 5 is the Clause which gives power to the Board, subject to certain safeguards, to insist on certain extension or alterations of existing stations. Sub-section (2), with which we are now dealing, comes into operation only if, after an arbitrator has decided that the requirements of the Board are not unreasonable, the existing owners of the station refuse to carry them out. That is an event which I hope will never happen, but, if it should happen, the Clause provides that the Minister may empower any authorised undertaker or other person to acquire the stations which the owners refuse to alter or extend, and only in the last resort is the Minister to authorise the Board to acquire such a station. The Mover of the Amendment desired that, wherever the existing owner refuses to carry out an alteration or extension, the Board itself is to be the person to operate. That is the difference of opinion between us. It follows, I think, from the difference of view which was indicated when we were discussing an earlier Clause, that to hon. Members opposite the desirable thing is that the Board shall, if possible, be the generating authority. Our view is that it is an undesirable thing, and that, the Board ought to be a controlling authority. It logically follows from that divergence of view that hon. Members opposite desire that the Board shall, if possible, acquire stations, and that we desire that they shall not, if it can be avoided. We think they can more efficiently carry out the duties imposed upon them if they remain, as we intend them to be, a controlling rather than an operating authority.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that it is largely a question of opinion between the two sides, but does he not think that it is more a question of fact? If you take the returns, you will find that the municipal generating stations are better than the privately-owned stations.
My view is that it is a difference of political principle between the two sides. I do not think it is true to say that all the municipal stations are better than private stations. Some of the best stations are owned by the municipalities and some by private companies. There are some instances where municipal stations are as good as any in the country, and there are some privately-owned stations which are as good as any in the country; but I do not think it has been very accurately worked out what is the exact proportion which the one bears to the other. Our view, rightly or wrongly, is that this Board should be a controlling authority, to control the supply of electricity by the method which we have outlined, and that it is only in the last resort, which in our opinion will never happen, that the Board should have power to acquire or operate stations.
I think I said so. I tried to make it clear when I said any private or public authority which is now an authorised undertaker. The difference between the two sides is that hon. Members opposite desire, if the existing owner will not carry out the alterations or extensions which have been approved by the arbitrator, that then the Board should acquire and operate the station, whereas our view is that the Board ought not to be an operating authority, but a controlling authority, and it ought only to have power to acquire or operate the station if all other means of obtaining a supply have proved impossible.
If I follow the Amendment rightly, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has explained it to the Committee, the effect of adopting it would be to make it impossible for a possibly extremely efficient municipality in the neighbourhood to extend its operations by supplying the adjoining area.
It would make it impossible for an extremely efficient municipality in the neighbourhood to acquire this particular station, the owners of which refuse to carry out an Order. It does not affect the distribution of electricity. The distributing power would remain exactly the same. It is only a question who shall acquire and subsequently operate a particular station, the owners of which will not carry out an Order. Our view is that it is not desirable that we should make it necessary that the Board itself should acquire a station the moment an existing owner will not carry out an Order, but that the Board should first go to other undertakers or persons, and only, when such cannot be found, in the last resort itself be the authority to acquire. That is a clean cut difference of opinion I quite appreciate the point of view of hon. Members opposite, but they will not be surprised if, consistently with the view I have endeavoured to advocate upstairs and in this House, I say I am unable to accept the Amendment.
I think the House should look very closely at this Clause, and see what is really the principle we are sanctioning. It may be true that it is a remote contingency that is contemplated by Sub-section (2), but you are setting up a Board largely outside the control of this House, and you are empowering the Minister by Order to take away the property of certain persons and give it to some other persons. We on this side are often accused of spoliation, robbery, exploitation, and so forth, but hon. Members opposite are certainly more extreme than we are, because, while we propose to take in certain circumstances private property and transfer it into the hands of the community, they go further and propose to seize private property and hand it over, not to local authorities or public authorities, but to any authorised undertaker, company, or person. They can, under these circumstances, seize property belonging to a municipality, fix a price, and empower some individual to take that property away. That is an extremely large power to give, even in such a remote contingency as this may be under Clause 5, Sub-section (2). I am not at all a supporter—
Not in the least. My whole point is that we consider that the owner should hand it over to a public authority. That is a different matter from the transfer of property between individuals in the arbitrary manner proposed by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and his friends. Upstairs we did move that this power should be given in order to meet a justifiable point put by the Attorney-General, because you might have a perfectly efficient under- taking, but there is something more than efficiency. There are efficient undertakings in this country, but we have no faith with regard to the question whether they are going to exploit the community, and we believe, when you are having a reorganisation of this sort, and when you are putting in a pretty drastic power like this in order to get a national coordination, the taking away of the property should only be done in order to transfer it to a public authority. We endeavoured upstairs to put in a public authority, but that was defeated, and now we say "if you will not trust the public authorities, then trust the Board," which more or less is a public authority. We think that it is a very laborious process that is being set up, this idea that in every case where the Board wants to take action it has to go running round to see if it can get somebody else to act instead of acting for itself.
The broad line on which the Attorney-General has opposed the Amendment is that the Government are against public ownership. If you look at the Bill you will see that they are only partially against public ownership. They are willing that the Board should own transmission lines, but they want to stop at that point. They do not want it to control and own generating stations. They seem to think that ownership of transmission lines will give sufficient power to the Board. But, if the Board is to be effective, let us give it a little more power. Even those who do not believe in public ownership, if they will carefully study the Bill, will. I think, see the necessity for giving the Board more power. Instead of invariably postponing the Board and making it come second, let the Board act itself. Let the Board have an equal share. As it is, the Board have always to go running round. Not only must they go to other authorised undertakers in the immediate vicinity, but they must go to every authorised undertaker in the country, to every company, and, as far as I can see, to every person, to try and find someone before they can act themselves. That means that they will have to take a plebiscite of the whole of the country to see if there be not someone who will do the job before they can act themselves. It is a ridiculous provision to put in the Bill, and our Amendment is thoroughly justified both on the grounds of principle and of the efficiency of the Bill.
The hon. Member has greatly overstated the case, even from the exaggerated point of view which I know he endeavours to represent in the House. If he will read the words, he will see that they say "the Minister of Transport may by order." It is not even necessarily compelled to approach any one of these authorities; it is entirely in the option of the Minister of Transport, and he would then, under the circumstances, should they arise, have to consider whether the Board were equipped in a manner whereby they could efficiently operate a generating station, or whether there was an existing authority, either a municipality, a joint electricity authority—which automatically becomes an authorised undertaking—or a company with a thoroughly efficient organisation to whom they might entrust the operation of the station feeling that the best results would be achieved by entrusting it to one of those authorities rather than that they themselves, a new-created Board with perhaps no staff at their disposal for such a purpose, should operate the station.
The answer is that the Board, if on acquiring the station, were convinced that their own organisation was the best equipped for operating would go no further, but if they had not the equipment they would naturally turn to the authority best equipped economically and efficiently to operate the station. In passing, I would say that there are Amendments on the Paper to put certain matters into the hands of the joint electricity authorities. The hon. Member, in answer to an interruption by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, said he certainly would not object if this was put into the hands of a joint electricity authority.
A joint electricity authority is sufficient for my argument. It illustrates the absolutely hopeless ground upon which the hon. Member has based his case. As far as I know, not one joint electricity authority, up to date, has a staff equipped for the purpose of operating a generating station. The hon. Gentleman is quite content with the Minister having the option to place it in the hands of a joint electricity authority, but up to date no such authority has ever been tried and tested, at any rate, so far as operating a. generating station is concerned. The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) is quite satisfied, provided it is an authority of the kind in which he, I presume, genuinely believes. It has to be one of those associations with which he himself is identified and which he believes should be set up in order to improve the supply of electricity. No doubt the hon. Member himself is quite convinced that his arguments in this respect are sound, but they have not yet stood the test of time nor have they been proved to people of experience in this country.
In reply to the hon. Member who has just spoken I suggest that it would be better for this House not to load the dice against any particular form of ownership in this Bill, but to leave the Board a considerable amount of freedom in making decisions concerning the taking over of generating stations. It is desirable that they should be able to make the best business bargain for the nation without compelling them, in the words of the Attorney-General, to exhaust every other means before turning to public ownership. I think the Attorney-General put the matter admirably. The position is perfectly clear. I do not think there has been any discussion which has put the two points of view on this subject so clearly as this discussion has done and I am glad that it is being conducted with perfect good feeling. As the Attorney-General has said, the attitude of the Government is that they are opposed to public ownership and we are in favour of public ownership. As far as I can gather, however, the Government, while opposed to public ownership, are not opposed to public interference. We say that public interference is not good enough, that is not going to produce results and that it would be far better to do the job properly while we are at it and to have public ownership and control.
The Attorney-General said every means of securing private enterprise ought to be exhausted and that public ownership should be the last resort. We take the opposite position. We heard speeches from the Back Benches opposite all day long yesterday—some of us listened to them—dealing with the alleged abuses contained in this Bill. We heard that it was unfair to private enterprise and that it infringed the liberty of the people and all that sort of thing. But the power which is now proposed compels the Board not only to take over other people's property but to hand that property on to private enterprise and to companies. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite have been twitted time after time with bringing in a Socialist Measure. This is not Socialism. It is simply using State resources in order to bolster up inefficient private enterprise. We on this side are often told by hon. Members, who were busy all day yesterday attacking their own Front Bench, that the objection to our ideas is that we want to take property away from its present owners and use it for State purposes. Even the wildest Member on these benches has never advocated taking private property away from certain people in order to hand it over to other people—in order to turn it into other people's private property. We have always stood for public ownership and control. There is an old saying, and a true one, which, I think, is attributed to Josh Billings—
The man who succeeds in life is not the man who never makes mistakes, but the man who never makes the same mistake twice.
By this proposal the Government are going to make the same mistake twice. When they find that a generating station, for inefficiency or some other cause, has to be taken over by the Board, instead of putting it under public control and keeping it there, they proceed to repeat the former mistake by taking steps to see that it is put back into private ownership. We hear a lot about fair play in this matter. If our proposal were adopted, and if these words were
deleted, it would ensure fair play from the business point of view. Leaving politics out of consideration altogether, it would give the Board a chance of taking all the factors into consideration. As at present worded, the Bill would prevent the Board coming to a free decision, and from the business point of view, quite apart from the political point of view, we desire to see this Board, who are to be the servants of the nation, placed in a position to make fair and free decisions as to the best business bargain for the nation. If the Board is to be composed of business people, as we are told it will be, they should be left unhampered to weigh up all the advantages and disadvantages, and if there are so many tremendous advantages in operation and control by private companies as we are led to believe, surely the Board will be able to see them. Therefore I support the omission of these words.
I think it would be a pity if we were to treat this discussion as one merely concerning the merits of municipal as against private enterprise. As a supporter of municipal enterprise I always felt that a monopoly of this kind should, as far as possible, be under public control, and I regret that there are so many cases in which public control has been parted with and in which the supply of electricity instead of being vested in a public authority has been vested in a private company. It seems to me, however, that the matter which we are now discussing involves a rather narrower point. Under this scheme, as I understand it, certain stations are to be selected as super-stations. The Government, or rather the new Board, may have considerable difficulty in persuading, not only companies, but local authorities to allow their stations to be selected as stations not with limited local duties, but with national importance. The larger number of the present stations are under public authorities and there are far more local authorities supplying electricity than private companies. According to the last figures I have been able to get the capital invested in generation by local authorities is nearly £50,000,000 and the amount invested in companies is only £24,000,000. I have had some experience of trying to persuade local authorities to come into a joint scheme, and they are just as loth to part with their little power and their little importance as private companies. As the Minister of Transport knows, the delay in bringing the London Joint Electricity Authority into existence was not due only to the opposition of the companies. That was bad enough, but another difficulty arose from the jealousies and parochial feelings of many of the local authorities.
I am persuaded that the only satisfactory solution of this problem is to carry out the original scheme in the Bill of 1919 and to set up joint electricity authorities. In London it will be generally agreed there is not likely to be any difficulty in this matter. In spite of what the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour) says, the London Joint Electricity Authority now, after many years, has commenced to function. The fact that it is not more effective at present is largely due to the skill, ingenuity and craft of the hon. Member for Hampstead himself. I give him that compliment. He is the arch-obstructor there just as he is the arch-obstructor here and he has shown great ingenuity in seeking to prevent the Joint Electricity Authority from coming into existence. Unfortunately, this Clause is not open to amendment on those lines, but I submit that the right way to get over the difficulty of defaulting authorities, whether companies or local authorities, is to set up joint electricity authorities throughout the country and to carry out the original proposals of the 1919 Bill, using compulsion where necessary. Then we would not have the unsatisfactory position of this new Board having to do something which is not its proper function. Its function is not to act as a kind of central bureaucracy running stations all over the country with a large staff. The proper thing is to run those stations with joint electricity authorities and I believe that this view is held by many of my hon. Friends.
May I point out to the hon. Member who has just spoken that although there is no provision in this Clause for setting up joint electricity authorities there is an Amendment on the Paper which will have the effect of giving the first opportunity to a joint electricity authority, where one exists, of acquiring a station. Of course, if the present Amendment were carried that step would be impossible: otherwise we propose later on to ask the House to accept an Amendment on the lines I have indicated.
I am opposed to the Government's attitude on this question for a reason which has not yet been mentioned. There is a very grave danger in the Clause as it stands, because past experience has taught us that some municipalities will not carry out legislation enacted by Parliament. We have had the case of housing and of public health and of other matters. Under this Clause any successful publicly owned electricity undertaking, controlled by a Tory municipality, might decide not to accept the terms of arbitration and some of its friends might manipulate matters so that it could be handed over quite easily to a very inefficient company in an adjoining area. That to me is a very grave danger—I think more grave than people realise. I am not accusing the Government of deliberately engineering this Clause in the way I have just indicated, but this is a question of giving a power to appoint one person to administer the affairs of another person. Many Members are aware that there is a well-known trader in Oxford Street who believes he is the greatest trader in the world, and who thinks that his own particular methods are the best. If this kind of legislation were applied to traders generally, it could be quite easily arranged that that particular trader should be selected by some of his opponents as the authority, and the whole of his business and his individuality—the individuality of which the Tory party is so proud—might be taken away from him and handed over, without his consent., to others. We are only asking here for something which is in the public interest and the public interest should be paramount. We believe the time has arrived when we ought to have a forward movement in regard to electricity. When I go abroad and see the wonderful equipment in other countries, and the low cost of production, I look with alarm to the possibility of this new Board tampering with and manœuvring round inefficient companies and then searching for some other persons who may be equally inefficient. It would be wiser in the interests of all concerned to adopt the Amendment.
I do not think the Attorney - General in opposing this Amendment was quite as logical as he usually is. He seemed to think that the Mover was throwing out a challenge on the question of the collective ownership of generating stations. All the Amendment seeks to do is to make it clear that the Board should have the opportunity of taking over generating stations where the owners of generating stations are not prepared to adopt their undertakings to the requirements of the Board. That seems to be a simple business issue and not a question of collectivism versus private enterprise. Where you have an undertaking run by private enterprise which is not prepared to carry out the conditions laid down by the Board, why should the Board be obliged to advertise for some other company or person willing to carry on the work of the undertaking which has expressed its unwillingness to follow the decisions of the Board.
Are they likely to be successful? If the original owners are not prepared to carry out the Regulations of the Board, on what ground is it assumed that the new company or the new person who is prepared to take over the generating station and conform to the conditions of the Board is going to do so with any greater success than the original owners of the station?
The learned Attorney-General seemed to think it was very unlikely that this Clause would operate. He thought it a very remote possibility, in the first place, that any owner of a generating station would object to the Regulations of the Board. Then he thought that, in the event of such an owner objecting, it would be quite easy to find another company or person who would be prepared to do what the original owners of the station were not prepared to do. I fail to follow him there. How can he justify that opinion? If the original owners, with all the advantages of their knowledge and experience, are not prepared to allow their station to be used in conformity with the Regulations to be issued by the Board, is it likely that any other company or person would be in a position to do so? Surely the Government have given their own case away when they say that there is a possibility of their not being able to secure some other company to take over the station. The Clause lays it down that, in the event of no other company or person being found, the Board shall take over the station, but is not the principle in that Clause given away by the provision that, in the event of failure to find a substitute, the Government, through the Board, will take over the generating station? If it is such a remote possibilty, why do the Government seek to protect themselves by allowing the Board to interfere in that event? I suggest that this Amendment is fully justified on business grounds alone, and is not merely a question of Collectivism versus private enterprise.
I feel that the opposition to this Amendment has been unduly stressed, in the sense that the Amendment does not ask that the Board shall exercise this power, but simply that powers might be conferred upon the Board in order that they may use them should the occasion arise. The opposition has spoken as if the Amendment was a definite request that the Board must exercise these powers. The spirit that has moved the opposition to this Amendment is evidently one of anxiety. They are rather anxious lest, when this scheme is brought into operation, the shortcomings of private enterprise may become so manifest that there will be a general demand for these powers to be exercised. I feel that the Government are not fair to this Bill or to the scheme, because it is quite conceivable that the Board of Control, the Commissioners, will be confronted with a set of circumstances in which they will find that they have not adequate powers to make the scheme a success, by virtue of the fact that opposition, already present, has become stronger in the country and is impeding the operation of the scheme. I think the Government ought to be fair to the Board that is to be set up under this Bill, and give it the powers that are necessary to ensure that it shall be an undoubted success. Those powers do not obtain now, and this Amendment does at least give a remnant of power that can be used as a last resort. It is not fair to the scheme or to the country, and it is not giving the country the guarantee that the Government are prepared to see that nothing stands in the way of the successful carrying out of this scheme.
|Division No. 450.]||AYES.||[4.37 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Forrest, W.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Albery, Irving James||Fraser, Captain Ian||Murchison, C. K.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Frece, Sir Walter de||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Gates, Percy||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Goff, Sir Park||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Grace, John||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Grant, Sir J. A.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Pielou, D. P.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Bennett, A. J.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton|
|Bethel, A.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Preston, William|
|Blundell, F. N.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & shetland)||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Hanbury, C.||Radford, E. A.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Harrison, G. J. C.||Raine, W.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Hartington, Marquess of||Ramsden, E.|
|Braithwaite, A. N.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Reid Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Remer, J. R.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hawke, John Anthony||Remnant, Sir James|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Brocklebank, C E. R.||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Hills, Major John Walter||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Burman, J. B.||Hilton, Cecil||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Sandon, Lord|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Shaw, Capt. Walter (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth.S.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. Hackney, N.)||Skelton A. N.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hn. Sir J.A. (Birm.,W)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Huntingfield, Lord||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hurd, Percy A.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Hurst, Gerald B.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Christle, J. A.||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon, Winston Spencer||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Jacob, A. E.||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Clayton, G. C.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jephcott, A. R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Cope, Major William||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Waddington, R.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Loder, J. de V.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Looker, Herbert William||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Lougher, L.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Dawson Sir Philip||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Wells, S. R.|
|Drewe, C.||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Duckworth, John||Mac Andrew, Major Charles Glen||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Macintyre, Ian||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Elveden, Viscount||McLean, Major A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|England, Colonel A.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Malone, Major P. B.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Margesson, Captain D.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L||Morris R. H.||Captain Lord Stanley and Captain Bowyer.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Batey, Joseph|
|Ammon, Charles George||Baker, Walter||Bromfield, William|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Barr, J.||Bromley, J.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kelly, W. T.||Scurr, John|
|Clowes, S.||Kennedy, T.||Sexton, James|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kenyon, Barnet||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lansbury, George||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lawrence, Susan||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lee, F.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lowth, T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lunn, William||Taylor, R. A.|
|Dennison, R.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Duncan, C.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Dunnico, H.||March, S||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Gardner, J. P.||Maxton, James||Townend, A. E.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Montague, Frederick||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Gosling, Harry||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Naylor, T. E.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Paling, W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Groves, T.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Potts, John S.||Whiteley, W.|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Purcell, A. A.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Hardie, George D.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Riley, Ben||Windsor, Walter|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Ritson, J.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hirst, G. H.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Saklatvala, Shapurji||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Mr. B. Smith and Mr. Hayes.|
I beg to move, in page 6, line 36, after the word "Act," to insert the words
but where the generating, station is situate in an electricity district for which a joint electricity authority has been constituted, that authority shall be given first opportunity to acquire the station.
I apologise for moving the Amendment in a somewhat different form from that on the Amendment Paper. The object is the same, but the wording at the end is different, for drafting purposes. This Clause and the next deal, inter alia, with the contingencies under which the Board first acquire, and, secondly, operate, and, thirdly, provide a generating station, together with the safeguards which it has been thought right to attach to those possibilities. A little further down on the Amendment Paper, the Government have an Amendment proposing to give the first option to a joint electricity authority to operate the station after it has been taken over by the Board. I hope the House will agree, that if it be a good thing to give a joint electricity authority, where that authority exists, the first choice of operating such a station, it is illogical not to give it the first choice of acquiring such a station, where the necessity for acquiring a station arises. I venture to hope the House will agree that this Amendment is an improvement on the Bill as it stands, and that the Government will be able to see their way to accept it.
On a point of Order. May I ask whether the two Amendments to the Attorney-General's Amendment later on would not be better moved as Amendments to the Amendment now before the House? I do not know whether it is still intended to take the Attorney-General's Amendment, or whether this takes the place of it?
It will be within the recollection of all those who were members of the Committee, that during the discussions there was inserted a proviso that where the working of one of these stations has to be provided for when there is a joint electricity authority operating in the area, that authority shall be given the first chance to operate that station. I think that was a sound Amendment, as the joint electricity authority comprises and represents in that area all the interests concerned, municipal and private. That being so, it seems to me logical that the Government should accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. H. Hudson), and, indeed, I see that other Members on the Government side of the House are in agreement with my hon. Friend, not only because he has got a seconder, but also because there are six names against an exactly similar Amendment drafted by my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Looker) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir D. Newton). After exhaustive discussion upstairs the Committee having come to the conclusion that in the case of working, the first option should be given where a joint electricity authority exists. Therefore, we should accept this Amendment, and say that where there is a joint electricity authority, that authority should be given the first opportunity of acquiring such a station, as a matter of practical politics. As indicated by the Attorney-General, I do not think either of these contingencies will arise, but we must visualise what might happen.
I am surprised at my right hon. Friend falling so easily into the trap so cunningly laid for him by hon. Members on the other side in using the hon. Member, who, I think an hon. Member opposite described as "the Government submarine." That is not my particular object in rising. I would like, before assent is given to this Amendment, to hear from someone speaking in authority on the Front Bench—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I have not the slightest intention of suggesting that my right hon. Friend is not in authority. I simply had in mind that my right hon. Friend had already spoken on this Amendment, and could not speak a second time. I would like the House to have some information as to the work done by joint electricity authorities in connection with the ownership of power stations, as to whether the joint electricity authorities at the present moment are equipped, and as to whether it is right that this House should in an Amendment of this kind, in the case of authorities, which are largely yet to be created, which are to be authorities of the nature of joint boards, which, in the past, have not proved successful, make a special exception in this Clause. I think my request is quite a reasonable one, that the House should be informed as to the reasons why the Government wish to make a special exception, to reserve powers of delegation to this particular type of authority, a type of authority which, I think, nobody could say has been tried, tested and proved. Alternatively, if any of the hon. Members whose names appear against this Amendment or the following Amendment, can give the House any information as to why this power of delegation should be specially reserved to this type of authority, they would go a long way to remove my doubt. I know no place in the country where a particular authority is entitled to be picked out for this special duty. This is only a repetition of what has gone on in the case of so many Amendments. I ask for something to show that we are doing that which will be of benefit to the public. It is quite immaterial to me what type of authority there is, but we should have some authoritative and precise statement which would entitle us to accept an Amendment of this kind.
I think that some of the questions which have been asked by the hon. Member who has just sat down are not going to be very difficult to answer. This Amendment is warmly supported by the Municipal Corporations Association, and that body, and municipal corporations who are undertakers, have invested over two-thirds of the total capital now invested in the electrical industry. Therefore, I hardly feel that their competence can be justly challenged. Already powers are being given to joint electricity authorities to operate, and, therefore, presumably, those powers already appear in the Bill and, presumably, they are quite competent to deal with that situation. I would like further to urge that the justification for the proposal is that the joint electricity authority, and the joint electricity authority alone, represents all the authorised undertakers in their district. Therefore, I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has accepted this Amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 7, to leave out lines 11 to 15 inclusive.
While it is true as you, Mr. Speaker, say, that there was a discussion on this subject, one or two sentences have got to be said to point out the difference between the proviso I am endeavouring
to get deleted now, and the previous discussion. We have got to a stage where an authorised undertaker has failed to operate a selected station, and the Minister of Transport has decided that someone else has to acquire it, and he has finally made an Order for somebody else to acquire it. The next question is, who is going to operate it? The Attorney-General's point that we have got to exhaust every means to get private ownership to do it before coming to public ownership, has already been dealt with. That may be argued as the main reason for resisting this Amendment of mine, namely, to delete the words
Provided that the Board shall not themselves operate such a generating station unless they satisfy the Electricity Commissioners that they are unable to enter into an arrangement with any authorised undertakers or other company or person to operate it on reasonable terms:
It might be argued against the deletion of these words that in Committee the Government accepted an Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) and a similar Amendment to that just accepted with regard to the ownership of generating stations, that the offer should first of all be through a joint electricity authority. It may be urged that that mitigates the point I am endeavouring to make, but that makes it all the more important that these words should be left out. They do not seem to serve any useful object in this Bill, except to load the dice against the Board, as I have already said. We on this side are anxious, no matter how often hon. Members on the other side may accuse us of looking at this merely from a political point of view, to look at it from a business point of view, and we are anxious that the Board shall, if faced with this situation, have the opportunity of making a fair decision from a business point of view, unhampered by any Clause such as this. The only reason for putting in these words is pure political prejudice. It would be a much more honest arrangement to omit these words altogether, so that when a contingency does arise, the Board may, from a purely business point of view, consider what is the best bargain they can make from the point of view of the nation, and not have to hawk round these generating
stations to companies and individuals, and, finally, if nobody else will have anything to do with them, they will do it themselves. They want to be in a position in which the dice is not loaded against them.
It seems to me that by the deletion of these words rather freer powers will be placed in the hands of the Board than if the words remain in the Clause. It is apparent from what has been said by those interested in maintaining private enterprise and private control that the Board is not going to get very energetic assistance from private enterprise. The deletion of these words will give the Board greater powers, and from a business point of view I would add my word to what has been said by the Mover of the Amendment about the Government arming itself with a little more power than they would have if these words were allowed to remain in the Clause.
I am sure hon. Members opposite will acquit me of any discourtesy if I do not go at length into the arguments which have been largely traversed already. It is suggested that we are loading the dice against the Board. If by that it is meant that we are making it as unlikely as possible that the Board shall be a generating authority—an operating authority—then I agree. That is what we want to do. But one reason why we want these words in the Bill is because we think it important that when we are inviting people to become members of the Board we should be able to make it clear to them that they are to become members of a body that is extremely unlikely ever to become a generating authority, but that they will be members of a body that is a controlling body. It might affect them in coming to a decision. We should be able to make it quite clear to anyone accepting a place on the Board that that is the position.
Is not that attitude going to force the Board into a position that they may have to make on behalf of the nation an unbusinesslike bargain because of the bias being put in the Bill?
I was not in favour of the previous Amendment because I thought that went rather far. It seems to me that these words in the Bill are rather stringent. The Board is to hawk a station all round the country to try to find a buyer. The Board will be in a very weak position. There is to be no possible person in the country, or undertaking or authority, that is prepared to carry out the station. I think it can be conceived that some of these companies will be prepared to drive a very hard bargain. They may seek to get this new responsibility under as severe terms as possible. It will put the Board in a very weak position if all the authorities who undertake this duty of running a selected station will know that the Board is weighted against it. The Board has to prove that there is no possible company that will carry out this responsibility. I think that the Clause as worded in the provision earlier on in the Clause will give the Board all the power it wants and
The difference between the previous words and these is that we are dealing with two wholly different things. The previous part of the Clause dealt with acquisition of generating stations, and we are now dealing with the operation of the station after it has been acquired by the Board. In answer to the other question put to me, the Board is only precluded from operating themselves if they are able to satisfy the Electricity Commissioners that no one else will operate it on reasonable terms.
|Division No. 451.]||AYES.||[5.8 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Christle, J. A.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Hanbury, C.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Albery, Irving James||Clarry, Reginald George||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Clayton, G. C.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Atkinson, C.||Colfax, Major Wm. Phillips||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cooper, A. Duff||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hilton, Cecil|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Bennett, A. J.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Bethel, A.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Drewe, C.||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Duckworth, John||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Eden, Captain Anthony||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. Hackney, N.)|
|Bowater, Colonel Sir T. Vansittart||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Braithwaite, A. N.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Briggs, J. Harold||England, Colonel A.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Jacob, A. E.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Fermoy, Lord||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Fielden, E. B.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Forrest, W.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Burman, J. B.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Frece, Sir Walter de||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Campbell, E. T.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Gates, Percy||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Goff, Sir Park||Looker, Herbert William|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Grace, John||Lougher, L.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Grant, Sir J. A.||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Lynn, Sir R. J.|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Remer, J. R.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Macintyre, Ian||Remnant, Sir James||Tinne, J. A.|
|McLean, Major A.||Rentoul, G. S.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Vaugham-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Waddington, R.|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Ropner, Major L.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Mason, Lieut.-Colonel Glyn K.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Sandon, Lord||Wells, S. R.|
|Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Shaw, Capt. Walter (Wilts, Westb'y)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Skelton, A. N.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Murchison, C. K.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Smithers, Waldron||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrst'ld.)||Somerville. A. A. (Windsor)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Owen, Major G.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Woodcock, Colonel H C.|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Preston, William||Storry-Deans, R.||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Radford, E. A.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Raine, W.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Major Cope and Captain Bowyer.|
|Ramsden, E||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hardie, George D.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Ammon, Charles George||Harris, Percy A.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hayday, Arthur||Scurr, John|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sexton, James|
|Baker, Walter||Hirst, G. H.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Barr, J.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Briant, Frank||Kennedy, T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Bromfield, William||Lansbury, George||Stamford, T. W.|
|Bromley, J||Lawrence, Susan||Stephen, Campbell|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lee, F.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Clowes, S.||Lowth, T.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lunn, William||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro., W.)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Cove, W. G.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Dalton, Hugh||March, S.||Townend, A. E.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Maxton, James||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Montague, Frederick||Viant, S. P.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dennison, R.||Naylor, T. E.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Duncan, C.||Paling, W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Dunnico, H.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Whiteley, W.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Potts, John S.||Williams, T (York, Don Valley)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Purcell, A. A.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Gosling, Harry||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Windsor, Walter|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Riley, Ben||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Groves, T.||Ritson, J.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Mr. B. Smith and Mr. Hayes.|
May I call your attention to the Amendment standing on the Order Paper in my name—
Page 7, line 12, leave out 'satisfy the Electricity Commissioners that they.'
This is one of the Amendments that were not covered by the discussion yesterday on the new Clause. I would like to know if it could be taken now.
I beg to move, in page 7, line 15, to leave out the words from the word "terms" to the end of the Clause.
It is proposed to insert there the words
and where the generating station is situate in an electricity district for which a joint electricity authority has been constituted, the Board shall first endeavour to enter into arrangements with that authority to operate the station.
This is only a drafting Amendment, but it puts the intention in rather better form, and carries out what was arranged in Committee upstairs.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment proposed: In page 7, line 15, after the word "terms," to insert the words
and where the generating station is situate in an electricity district for which a joint electricity authority has been constituted, the Board shall first endeavour to enter into arrangements with that authority to operate the station."—[Colonel Ashley.]
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 2, after the word "constituted," to insert the words
or in the area of supply of a power company.
Taking the country over, joint electricity authorities such as those referred to in the main Amendment either do not exist or are not functioning in the capacity contemplated in that Amendment. I think there are only three of these bodies at the present time, and one has now handed over its effective duties to the power company in the area. There is, I fear, some misapprehension in the minds of a good many Members of the House as to these joint electricity authorities. An hon. Member who has left the House spoke strongly just now in support of these bodies being entrusted with duties of this kind, but the fact is that up to date we have no experience to indicate how they will be able to carry them out. They exist in only three instances, and the House has had no figures or facts placed before it to show how they will function, or whether they will be an advantage. The House should bear in mind that the areas of joint authorities will frequently include the areas of statutory power companies. Statutory power companies differ from even the larger municipal undertakings in that they exist under Statute for the purpose of covering large areas of territory and delivering bulk supplies in that area, whereas muni-
cipal undertakings exist primarily to distribute electricity in their own locality. That being the case, if it is felt that a joint electricity authority ought to have some special precedence in regard to the operation of this Clause, it would appear to be only fair, as from an operative point of view it would be much more convenient, that where a power company exists it should enjoy similar precedence as regards the opportunity of functioning on behalf of the Board. The larger areas of the country where power companies exist are obviously suitable for the application of the proposal I am now making to the House.
Hon. Members ought to know how this matter came to be raised at all on this Clause. It was moved from the other side, where, as we well know, there is a great regard for the virtues of the joint authorities, though so far these bodies have not really functioned, and it was opposed by practically half the Members on the Government side. As a matter of fact, of the Government Members on the Committee, 16 voted for the proposal and 13 voted against it, and it was really carried in Committee by the party opposite, from whom it had emanated, and I think it is fair to say that they moved it because they hate a company performing any duty.
That is a matter of argument. Efficiency and inefficiency can be found alike among municipal and company undertakings. What I am suggesting to the House is that we should not be led off by the quite fallacious doctrines of the other side, which have not been tested in practice. The facts as they exist to-day indicate that in a number of instances the existing statutory undertaking will perform these functions most economically. If joint authorities have to be created for the purpose of carrying out these powers, or are created a little in advance in anticipation of cases arising under this Section, administration and operation cannot be so efficient, because they will be in the hands of an entirely new organisation. I put this proposal to the House merely as an argument for efficiency and sound administration. Everyone knows that a large undertaking such as a generating station is much better managed by a responsible authority having the management of it within its own hands—much more efficiently managed than it would be by a joint committee composed of many bodies with conflicting interests. On grounds of efficiency as well as of fairness to those who already have statutory obligations imposed upon them, it is only fair that this addition should be made to the proposed Amendment. I think that possibly a case might be made out for some of the larger municipalities being given a similar preference, but I do not quite see how that addition is to be made under the words we are now considering.
I beg to second the Amendment.
Where these joint electricity authorities have been established, it appears to have been recognised as a general principle that if there is a big power company within the area, that big power company must be, for practical purposes, excluded from the area of the joint authority; to put it in another way, the powers of the joint electricity authority are delegated by that authority to the power company. So far has that been carried that it has been found necessary to regard the area of a power company coming into touch with the general electricity authority as being a separate area. If that be so, surely it is only reasonable that the power company should have the same privileges which it is proposed to give to the joint electricity authority, which, as a rule, is no more than a method of co-ordinating smaller undertakings than those of big power companies.
I was rather sorry that my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment introduced a certain amount of prejudice into his speech. He told us that this particular Amendment which we are moving was moved by an hon. Gentleman who sat on the opposite side in Committee. I do not mind from what quarter an Amendment comes if it be a sound one. I am sure the House would not wish to turn down any Amendment without first considering it upon its merits. The Amendment put forward by the Government deals with the operation of those stations and provides that a preference should be given to the Joint Electricity Authority set up under the Act of 1919 and representing all the interests in the electricity district. It seems to me that that is precisely the body to which a preference should be given.
Now the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) comes forward, and moves an Amendment providing that an equal preference should be given to a power company when you are in the area of supply of that company. The power company, of course, is an excellent institution, but it does not represent the interests of all those on the Joint Electricity Authority. Therefore what my hon. Friend is asking is that, in the case of a power company not representing all the interests in the district, the Board shall first endeavour to enter into arrangements with that company. If you include everybody in this way, where does the preference come in? Both on the grounds of smooth working and justice I think this Amendment cannot possibly be accepted, and I ask the House to reject it so as to leave the proposal plainly that, in the case of certain stations, the Joint Electricity Authority existing at the time of the passing of the Act should have a preference.
I am glad to hear the last sentence of my right hon. Friend, because I intended to move an Amendment to that effect. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend has anticipated my intention, because it will go a long way to satisfy our objection. We have heard a good deal of contradiction in argument from the Front Bench in the course of the last hour and a-half. The Attorney-General, in replying to a speech from the benches opposite, said:
We believe we can get a more efficient operation if these stations are in private hands.
I took the words down, and I think that is exactly what the Attorney-General said. The Minister of Transport has just pointed out that the first option has been given to a body which is not connected with private enterprise, but is a joint body known as the Joint Electricity Authority. That shows the difficulty we find ourselves in at the present moment, because we are constantly faced with contradictory arguments and we do not know what line of conduct we should adopt in our criticisms of this Measure.
I do not think the Attorney-General disputes the words I have just quoted. I will say no more provided my right hon. Friend is prepared to accept words to that effect. It was my intention to move to insert in the Government Amendment, after the word "constituted," the words "at the date of the passing of this Act." I think the Minister of Transport said he would agree to this Amendment, and, if that be so, that will meet our major objection on this point.
I thought the right hon. Gentleman said he would agree to the insertion of those words. If that is not so, I am glad to be corrected, and we are now thrown back to a full discussion of this Amendment. If I am in order, I should like to move now as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "constituted," to insert the words "at the passing of this Act."
The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour) seems to take a great delight in attacking Joint Electricity Authorities, and he always endeavours, although he is singularly ineffective, to make them out to be labour bodies in order to wave the red flag before the Conservatives. When I moved this Amendment upstairs it was not moved as a party Amendment at all, but I moved it because I had been asked to do so by a conference of joint electricity authorities. The hon. Member for Hampstead thinks that we should always leave everything of this kind to the efficient power companies, but I would like to point out to him that as a rule a Joint Electricity Authority commands quite as much experience amongst its members as those undertakings with which the hon. Member for Hampstead is connected. The Joint Electricity Authorities represent all the various interests concerned, including the railway interests and so on, and they are quite as competent to carry on such a business as any of the companies formed by the hon. Member for Hampstead. The hon. Member says that these authorities are new and quite untried. I do not think that when he goes round the City to form his companies he says, "We cannot subscribe to this undertaking because they have not got a start and are untried men." It is the constant habit of the hon. Member for Hampstead to sneer at Joint Electricity Authorities. I do not know whether it is a mere business prejudice against the members who compose those bodies or whether it is because he happens to be on the other side.
Amendment to proposed Amendment negatived.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 2, after the word "constituted," to insert the words "at the date of the passing of this Act."
My object is to ensure that these powers shall not be entrusted to an authority of which we can have no possible knowledge at the time of the passing of this Act. The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) has thought fit to refer to me at some length, and he has suggested that I am animated by personal motives against the persons acting on these joint authorities. I can assure my hon. Friend that he is quite wrong, because I am not at all concerned with criticising the personality of a Joint Electricity Authority, and I am prepared to assume that the gentlemen serving on those bodies have been selected with special qualications and are entirely suited to discharge their duties. The hon. Member for Limehouse said that the Joint Electricity Authorities held a conference, but I would like to remind him that that conference consisted of the representatives of only three organisations.
On the contrary, it consisted of representatives of all the Joint Electricity Authorities as well as other bodies, and 11 or 12 organisations were represented covering the greater part of the country.
We are now dealing with constituted joint electricity authorities, and I would like to ask the hon. Member how many joint electricity authorities were represented at that conference.
I am told that the number represented was only three, and no more, and of those three only one is conducting an active business. The North Wales electricity authority is the only joint electricity authority in active operation at the present time. I hope that all these authorities when they are created will function well and discharge their duties, but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that these joint electricity authorities are to be drawn together by election and are to be drawn from the municipal authorities, the companies, and the representatives of various interests in the district. Theoretically that should prove an excellent method, but practically it does not do so. The hon. Member for Limehouse said in regard to the authority with which he is associated that he did not think a great deal of the company side of the business.
That is an entire travesty on what I said. I said that the representatives on the joint electricity authorities were quite equal in ability to the hon. Member for Hampstead.
The serious point is that after we pass this Bill the working of it has to be handed over to other people, and they will consider it in the light of what they find printed in the Bill when it becomes an Act. I know that when the Bill becomes an Act there will be a rush to set up joint electricity authorities in districts like that to which I referred yesterday when dealing with another matter. I find that I mentioned a period of two years, but, after four years of enormous expense and disturbance to the industry in that area, the matter was only settled a year ago by the creation of a joint advisory board, with the full assent and co-operation of all the people to whom the hon. Member for Limehouse refers, that is to say, all the local authorities, all the companies, and all the large consumers. Having examined this very problem, they did not form a joint electricity authority. But there is a certain minority anxious to get a joint electricity authority established in this district in order to give effect to their views and ideas, which, however, were proved to be fallacious when submitted to the test of the series of inquiries that were held. A joint electricity authority like that is to be the authority which is to have the first opportunity of operating these stations in the event of the Board having to take over the responsibility for them. I would press the Attorney-General to give grave consideration to this matter, and to consider whether the request that these words should be inserted is not a reasonable one. I should be quite content at the moment, in order not to delay the proceedings, if he could give me his assurance that he will give this matter consideration, and, if my contentions are agreed to, see if they can be given effect to in another place.
It is important that we should know exactly what this proposal is. The House has already, at an earlier stage of the Bill, approved of the view that joint electricity authorities shall have the first opportunity of acquiring stations which the owners will not operate. We are now discussing similar provisions with regard to the operation of the stations which have been acquired by the Board, and the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour) is that a distinction shall be made between the three joint electricity authorities which have already been constituted, and any others which may be constituted hereafter. I confess I can see no reason why any such distinction should be drawn. My hon. Friend apprehends, apparently, that such would be the attraction of the possibility of being given the first option to operate stations which will probably never be acquirable at all, or, if they can be acquired, will never get as far as the Board—my hon. Friend fears that such would be the attraction of that remote possibility that everyone would rush to form a joint electricity authority.
My hon. Friend speaks as if people had only to apply in order to become joint electricity authorities, but no one knows better than he that that is a complete misconception. It is a very difficult thing to become a joint electricity authority—my hon. Friend himself has seen to that—and only three have passed through the eye of the needle so far. As the House will remember, a joint electricity authority can only be set up after there has been an inquiry, after an Order has been made by the Electricity Commis- sioners, after that Order has been confirmed by the Ministry of Transport, and after the Order so confirmed has been laid before each House of Parliament and approved by each House. Therefore, a very elaborate and careful process has to be gone through. Further than that, by the Section which provides for the constitution of such authorities, they have to be representative of the authorised undertakers within the electricity district.
The body, therefore, to which we are proposing to give the first option of operating these stations, is a body which must, by the terms of the Bill, be representative of the whole of the authorised undertakers within the district, and it can only be set up after the Electricity Commissioners have been satisfied that it is desirable, after that view has been confirmed by the Ministry of Transport, and after that view of the Ministry has in turn been confirmed by both Houses of Parliament. I venture to think it is not an extreme thing to say that a body so constituted, so carefully examined and ultimately approved, is a fit body to be given the first option of operating these stations. That is all that we are giving to it. Even without these words the Board would still be entitled to allow the joint electricity authority to operate the station. All that we are providing is that it shall be given the first chance. I can see no logical reason why any distinction should be drawn between the three joint electricity authorities which have already been constituted and those which may hereafter be constituted under the elaborate provisions to which I have referred. I hope, therefore, that the House will not accept the Amendment.
May I ask the Attorney-General a question? He seems to attach considerable importance to the representative character of the joint electricity authority. Supposing that the joint electricity authority, as in the case of the existing ones, has a very large power company within its area, to which it has delegated, in respect of the district of the power company, its main powers, can the joint electricity authority in these circumstances, if it considers that the power company is a proper body to operate this station, require that the offer shall be passed on to the power company?
I think the answer is that they cannot require that the offer should be passed on to anyone, but certainly they can suggest that it should be, and, in view of the fact that they are representative of the district, probably that suggestion would receive most favourable consideration.
May I further ask whether, in the North Wales case, the operation of this proviso, if accepted, would not mean that the North Wales Power Company, being the joint electricity authority, would have the first option, and the Chester Corporation would be shut out?
No; it means that in any district, including North Wales, the joint electricity authority would be given the first option of operating the station. If they declined to exercise that themselves, no doubt they could make a suggestion to the Board, and no doubt the Board would favourably consider it. Whether they suggested the Chester Corporation or the North Wales Power Company, no doubt the suggestion would receive careful consideration.