Orders of the Day — Electricity Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th June 1947.

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Photo of Mr Claude Lancaster Mr Claude Lancaster , Fylde 12:00 am, 30th June 1947

As one of those who have taken part not only in all the proceedings on this Bill, but in proceedings on the other Bill which the Minister of Fuel and Power introduced, I should like to say a final word or two. It is a melancholy fact that when, five months ago, we first considered the Bill, the occasion should have coincided with the beginning of the fuel crisis, and that today's proceedings should coincide with that very austere statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have hot attempted to apply any one yardstick to this Measure. Most of us have been amateurs, so far as the Bill is concerned. Two Members on the Government side showed considerable technical knowledge, while on our side my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) has had long administrative experience The majority of us could only hope to apply to the Bill such common sense as we might have.

I find myself, not for the first time, in agreement with my* hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) in thinking that the Government have not made out their case for the Bill. I was concerned to see whether, on the score of administration or of costs, they would lay before us a case which justified the Bill coming before the House at this moment. Try as I could, I could not see anything on the score of administration which was likely to set up a better, more workmanlike and more practical control than that which had been introduced upon the previous occasion.

So far as costs are Concerned, once again we find ourselves without any facts to go on. We have pressed time after time for some expression, other than generalisations and platitudes, as to what the effect of this Measure might be. Even at this late stage of the Bill I cannot see any tangible facts which would convince me that the consumer is likely to obtain the benefits he has every right to look for. On the Second Reading I said that, as a very large consumer of electricity for a great many years, by and large I had been satisfied with the service given by the electricity industry. I had had the additional safeguard, which will in future be denied to industrialists, that had I not received good service, it would have been open to me to provide my own power by one means or another. I cannot see the Minister of Supply making that possible in the future.

I have, therefore, to fall back on a determination as to whether or not, by the introduction of this Measure, I am likely, as an industrialist, to get better service than I have had in the past, and I say in all sincerity that nothing that has been advanced by Ministers on the Front Bench or their supporters during the various stages of this Bill has convinced me on that point. Therefore, I propose to vote in favour of my right hon. Friend's Amendment.