Orders of the Day — Electricity Reorganisation (Scotland) Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd February 1954.

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Order for Second Reading read.

3.36 p.m.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your guidance in connection with this Measure entitled the Electricity Reorganisation (Scotland) Bill? Will it be in order for English Members to participate in this debate?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

It is in order for any hon. Member of this House to participate in the debates on any questions which come before the House. Certain conventions are sometimes observed, but they are by no means binding.

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

Further to that point of order. Do you recall, Mr. Speaker, that on the Valuation for Rating Bill, an English Measure on which we gave only five and a half hours to the natives of England, two Scottish hon. Members intervened at very great length—the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) who, of course, habitually intervenes in everything, and the hon. Member for Angus, North (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), whom you. Sir, said at the time when I intervened has special qualifications on valuing? Therefore, on this Bill, which is an electricity engineering Bill among other things, may I take it that English hon. Members are not debarred at all?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

No. They never have been. What I said originally was agreed. I am aware that some sort of convention does exist in these matters, but I am also aware that the Border has been crossed several times in history.

3.39 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

I admit that, somewhat to my regret, this Bill is rather more complicated and voluminous than I had hoped, but the object of it is perfectly simple, and may be stated in a very few words. This is a Bill to make the Secretary of State the Minister responsible for electricity matters in Scotland and to set up in Scotland a new Board answerable to him for the generation and distribution of electricity in the south of Scotland in the same way as the Hydro-Electric Board is responsible in the north.

The House will recollect that in 1943 the North of Scotland Board was set up to develop the remaining hydro-electric resources in the Highlands and to distribute electricity there outside the areas of existing undertakers. But, as a result of the Electricity Act, 1947, the North of Scotland Board became responsible for the whole area north and west of a line drawn, roughly speaking, from the Firth of Clyde to the Firth of Tay.

But in the south of Scotland, as the House is well aware, the pattern was entirely different. There, as in England and Wales, the British Electricity Authority is responsible for the generation and transmission of electricity. It is organised in two divisions based on Edinburgh and Glasgow with two area boards—the South-East and South-West Scotland Electricity Boards—responsible for distribution. At present there is also a division of Ministerial responsibility. The members of the North of Scotland Board are appointed by the Secretary of State and the Minister of Fuel and Power acting jointly; but in other respects the North of Scotland Board is responsible to the Secretary of State only. In the south, however, the south of Scotland boards are responsible to the British Electricity Authority which, in turn, is responsible to the Minister of Fuel and Power.

As a result, therefore, the whole of Scotland is divided into two parts which are treated separately and quite differently for purposes of electricity supply. While I have no desire to criticise in any way the manner in which the British Electricity Authority and the Boards have discharged their functions, we felt it right to review the existing arrangements in the light of experience and taking account of the views and wishes of many people in Scotland.

The Bill is the result of that review. I had hoped—indeed I still hope—that it will be welcomed by Scottish Members on both sides of the House as a further step in the policy of restoring to Scotland the management and control of her own affairs in this field. It is a measure of decentralisation. I hope that hon. Members opposite will welcome it, just as I trust that it will be welcomed in Scotland generally.

So far as the North of Scotland Board is concerned, no essential change is proposed in its functions and powers. It will be generally agreed that the Board has been very efficient and energetic in carrying out its work, and it has shown imagination in doing so. It has had different and difficult problems from those found in the south. It has to supply a very wide area with a scattered population. It has to carry out large hydro-electric development schemes and it has the statutory duty of co-operating in the economic development and social improvement of the Highlands.

There are, however, three changes which affect the North of Scotland Board's position to which I ought to refer. First, the Board will in future be appointed by the Secretary of State only instead of jointly, as at present, with the Minister of Fuel and Power. Secondly, the Board will no longer have to seek the approval of the British Electricity Authority for new constructional schemes. Thirdly, the new South of Scotland Board will replace the British Electricity Authority as the body required to purchase at a guaranteed price the surplus electricity produced in the north from hydro-electric schemes. These three changes were necessary with the introduction of the Bill. They are consequent upon it. I hope that they will be generally agreeable to the North of Scotland Board.

Mr. Hector McNeil:

The right hon. Gentleman says that he hopes that these three changes will be acceptable to the Board. Presumably he has its agreement? Presumably he has had full consultation with the Board?

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

Full consultation. I think that they are acceptable. Perhaps I could have left out the word "hope." I have little doubt in saying that they will work smoothly and be found to be agreeable.

To return to the south, the position there is different. Our view is that we should now adopt for the south of Scotland the pattern which has proved to be so successful in the north and give to one Scottish Board, answerable to the Secretary of State, the entire responsibility for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. I believe this to be a step which will be welcomed in Scotland as being more efficient and more suitable to our needs.

There will remain certain physical links with England, although relatively little power crosses the Border in either direction. The Boards must keep contact as to certain matters affecting their joint interest. The Bill, therefore, requires them to consult together in any matter in which this may facilitate the execution of their powers and duties. This is dealt with in the latter part of the Bill in the First Schedule.

I have in a few words explained the main purpose of the Bill. In spite of the numerous Clauses contained in it, it is not actually what one might call one of the major Measures of the Session. I do not think that I need detain the House very long in explaining its provisions. I have dealt with Part I, which is concerned with the reorganisation proposals, but I should mention before I leave it three functions in the execution of which the Minister of Fuel and Power will continue to act either jointly, or, in one case, alone.

These three matters are, first, staff pensions; that is obviously a United Kingdom matter and in that connection the Minister of Fuel and Power will act jointly with the Secretary of State. The second is the question of safety measures which, it will be agreed, should be uniform throughout Great Britain. The third point relates to the certification of meters. This is a small and highly technical service which it would be uneconomic to run separately in Scotland, and it is proposed to leave it on the hands of the Minister of Fuel and Power.

Clauses 4 and 5 deal with the schemes to be prepared for the appointment of executives for the east and west areas. This scheme will have to be approved by the Secretary of State, with or without modification, and then submitted to Parliament for approval.

Part II, which comprises Clauses 6 to 10, deals with the transfer of assets and liabilities. Obviously, the new South of Scotland Board, in succeeding to the assets and liabilities of the area boards, must come to a fair settlement. This is provided for in Clause 6. Clause 7 deals with the take-over of generating stations, lines, plant, etc. There must obviously be a financial adjustment and settlement between the new South of Scotland Board and the central Authority. This is dealt with in Clause 9. All the assets of the Authority, whether actually held in Scotland or, if elsewhere, connected with the Authority's functions in Scotland, will be transferred to the South of Scotland Board along with all the related rights and liabilities. Clause 9 deals with this at some length. Hon. Members who are interested in these arrangements will find them set out as clearly as it is possible to do so in Clause 9. The settlement under the Bill is to be agreed between the Authority and the new Board, subject to the approval of Ministers.

Part III, which consists of Clauses 11 and 12, contains further financial pro visions. Clause 11 makes the new Board responsible for payments in lieu of rates to local authorities in the south of Scot land. Clause 12—

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

Before the Secretary of State leaves Clause 11, will he say what proportion of rating will fall, under the provisions of the Clause, to be discharged by the new South of Scotland Electricity Board?

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

Until there is an alteration in the rates, I should say that the charge will remain the same as it is at present in respect of the British Electricity Authority. The new Board is merely taking over and will have to assume that responsibility.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

I should like to pursue the point a little further. The total amount paid by the British Electricity Authority in rates is over £14 million. How much of that will now be paid separately by the South of Scotland Board?

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I am afraid that I have not got that figure, but my hon. Friend will endeavour to supply it later.

Clause 12 (3) sets a limit of £75 million to the amount which the new Board may borrow to meet fresh capital expenditure. It is anticipated that this will meet foreseeable capital expenditure over the first three or four years of the life of the new Board.

In Part IV hon. Members will find certain general and miscellaneous provisions. Clause 13 provides for the settlement of disputes between the two Scottish Boards by the Secretary of State or by an arbiter appointed by him. Clause 14 provides for the payment of compensation to members and employees of the existing Boards whose position is adversely affected as a result of the Bill.

Clause 15 provides for any administrative expenses incurred by the Secretary of State. These should be inconsiderable and will be balanced by savings in the Ministry of Fuel and Power. Clause 16, in addition to interpretation, fixes, 1st April, 1955, as the date upon which the new organisation will take effect. Clause 17 provides for the amendment and repeal of existing legislation, and this is set out in detail in the First and Second Schedules.

Photo of Mr Hector Hughes Mr Hector Hughes , Aberdeen North

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves Clause 17, does he realise that the Bill is unnecessarily complicated because a number of alterations to the legislative code are made, not by incorporating them in the body of the Bill, but by means of a reference in Clause 17 to the First Schedule. The explanatory memorandum states: Clause 17 and the First Schedule contain the necessary detailed adaptations of the Acts of 1943 and 1947 and the Electricity Supply Acts. That will make it extremely difficult to construe the Bill if it ever comes before the courts. It will be extremely difficult for those who have to operate it to understand it. The right hon. Gentleman should withdraw the Bill and redraft it in a more workmanlike way.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I assure the hon. and learned Member that I see the difficulty to which he refers. The fact is that the Bill necessitates a certain number of repeals or amendments of existing Acts, and I referred at the beginning of my remarks to the fact that I regretted that I found the Bill somewhat more voluminous than I had first thought it would be. I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that I am well aware of the point that he has raised. It is proposed, as soon as possible after the passage of the Bill, to introduce a Measure consolidating the electricity code applying to Scotland. I agree that the Bill contains some complicated provisions, but its main proposals and objectives are perfectly simple and straightforward.

The Bill provides a measure of decentralisation, and I believe that it will result in an improved organisation of the industry in Scotland. It will certainly provide a closer contact between the new Board, or the supplier of electricity, and the people of Scotland who are the consumers. I suggest that the needs of the consumers deserve consideration, and we believe this to be in their interests and, therefore, in the interests of Scotland. Instead of remote control from England as at present, we shall have the management in Scotland in the hands of those who know the needs of the users or consumers in Scotland and are in close and constant touch with them.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Cleveland

I take it that the right hon. Gentleman is now bringing his speech to a conclusion. I hope he will not conclude without making some reference to the position of the employees in the industry.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

May I put this point to the right hon. Gentleman before he continues? He has said that the Bill will do away with remote control from England. Has he consulted his right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power as to whether he would like not only this part of the electricity supply industry but also the Scottish mines to come under the Secretary of State for Scotland? Is the Secretary of State in agreement with that?

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

If I am in order in replying to the question put by the hon. Lady, we have always stated that what she has suggested about the Scottish mines is no part of our policy. However, we have stated that it is part of our policy to do what we are doing in this Bill. I have consulted the Minister of Fuel and Power very closely throughout.

With regard to the question put by the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer), he will know that that is a matter about which we have been concerned and about which we have had meetings. Although he does not represent a Scottish constituency, I presume that he may be taking part in the debate, and all I can tell him at the moment is that I see no reason why there should be difficulties in connection with negotiations with the employees. We have had no such difficulties in connection with the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, and I see no reason why difficulties should arise in connection with the new Board.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Cleveland

In fairness to the House, the right hon. Gentleman should make the point that the Bill breaks down the principle of statutory national negotiation, which is the great complaint that the trade unions have against it.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I am sure that experience will satisfy the hon. Member that that need not occur in practice. We will certainly very carefully consider any suggestions which he and others make with the object of meeting the point. In practice, the North of Scotland Board has managed affairs smoothly, and I believe that that is what will happen under the new set-up as a result of the Bill.

Mr. McNeil:

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that my hon. Friend has made a very substantial point, which ought to be met at this moment? The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board is not a parallel, because negotiations are not carried on in that fashion. Does she not agree that, for reasons that seem good to him, he is destroying or running away from the principle of national negotiations?

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I have no desire to make any such suggestion. I have just said that I am perfectly prepared during the Committee stage to consider any proposals which would meet the hon. Member opposite in this matter, but it is obvious that I cannot do so at this moment, because we have not reached the Committee stage and there are no Amendments on the Order Paper.

Photo of Mr Archibald Manuel Mr Archibald Manuel , Central Ayrshire

There is a very material point arising from the answer given by the Secretary of State to my hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman said that there is no difficulty at the present time as far as the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board is concerned. Surely he is aware that, in Section 53, the 1947 Act expressly laid down that wages and conditions negotiated on a national level also applied to the Hydro-Electric Board. That was in 1947, and therefore it is quite mistaken to indicate that there is this freedom when in fact there is not. Is the right hon. Gentleman telling the House that it will be open to the new Board to accept the decisions of the national joint negotiating machinery which is set up by the trade unions having members in the various districts?

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I have every desire to meet hon. Members on this point, and I shall be very glad to consider any suggestion which may be put to me before and during the Committee stage.

I think I have covered the main points of the Bill, because the object of the Bill is a very simple and short one. I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite representing Scottish constituencies will see their way to support the Bill on Second Reading. I shall be prepared to consider Amendments of a helpful nature in Committee.

4.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

We looked forward to hearing from the Secretary of State for Scotland some of the reasons for this Bill, because I must admit that we have been a little puzzled by it. While the right hon. Gentleman has given us a very careful analysis of the Clauses, he has not yet given us any illumination on the real purposes and causes of the Bill and on what it is desired to achieve by it.

I gather that the Secretary of State is the architect of Government policy in Scotland, and I have no doubt that, now that he has spent about two years in his office, he finds that, like other Secretaries of State before him, he has not very much spare time, but he evidently thinks he has enough spare time to take on responsibility for electricity. I must say that we have never looked upon the right hon. Gentleman as being an electric Secretary of State until this Bill was presented.

What are the reasons for the Bill? Nobody, as far as I know, has found any reason for the Bill at all. When the original Act was passed in 1947, it did not stem from the imagination of some Socialist Secretary of State or Minister of Fuel and Power; it was passed as an outcome of the McGowan Committee, which was composed of people well acquainted with industrial projects, electricity and fuel and power. As a result of that Committee's recommendations, while we did not accept them en bloc, there was a great deal of research done before the organisation was set up.

Who was consulted before this present change of policy took place? Were the McGowan Committee reconstituted to look into the question again and say whether the problems of fuel and power would be better settled by a division in the industry? Were Scottish manufacturers consulted? Was Scottish industry consulted? Were the Scottish trade unions consulted? Who was consulted? We have been unable to trace anybody who was consulted.

We have some experts in this House on the subject of electricity including the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Sir A. Gridley), and his junior, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who gives us frequent lectures on fuel and power in all its manifold aspects. Were they consulted before this Bill was produced? So far as we are aware, nobody who is really affected by the Bill has been consulted at all.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

May I correct the right hon. Gentleman? Not only was I consulted but the whole of the Unionist Party and. through them, the whole of the electorate, were consulted in regard to this Bill.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

That is very interesting, because at least it shows that this Bill cannot be just a Scottish Measure, since the hon. Member for Kidderminster was consulted. If my hon. Friend goes back to Scotland and says that the Bill meets Scotland's claim to have the management of its own electricity supplies, he can say that it was partly arranged with the consent of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, who has done so much to try to destroy the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.

As far as we can see, the Government seem bent upon being wholly destructive in regard to the economic administration of our affairs, and particularly in regard to the many useful things that were done by the Labour Government. In this case, the Tories, who seem anxious to wreck the achievements of the Labour Government, are actually interfering, in regard to electricity, with what the Tory Government of 1926 did. That Tory Government came to the conclusion that there was no Scottish national electricity, because they did not see any tartan in the electricity that came from Scotland or any blue in the electricity that came from England. When they established the national grid, electricity was to run, like the Post Office, across the Border according to need. So that we are rather surprised now that anybody in the Tory Party is attempting to wreck the work of their own Administration of 1926. We have been given no reason why that should be so.

It is possible that both the Tories in 1926 and Labour in 1947 were mistaken, and that technically the generation of electricity over the country should be planned as a whole. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would probably agree that we ought to have boards dealing with distribution in different areas, but that the planning of the capital expenditure and the building of stations should be done as a whole according to the economic position of the country. If so, we ought to have been given the reasons for this change, and better reasons than chose which we have had. The decision ought to have been taken on economic or technical grounds, apart altogther from any sentimental reasons that might be attached to the matter.

I quite agree that, as far as Scotland is concerned, we desire to manage our own affairs, as far as that is practicable, but we do not want to carry that to the extent of injuring our own economic prosperity or jeopardising our standard of life, and that is a point which we must bear in mind. We have had no information from the Secretary of State as to what has been the result of his own examination of the matter.

Electricity cannot be considered on its own. Electricity is only part of the overall problem of fuel and power. When we are talking about electricity we are only talking about another method of transmitting energy from coal. This Bill raises also a question of coal. One of my hon. Friends tried to ask what would happen to the mining industry, because people are conscious of the fact that in the long run, electricity is part of the mining industry. he received no satisfactory reply.

The eventual purpose, is to achieve the transmission of the energy of coal by means of wires instead of by railway trains. Instead of consigning coal from the Midlands to London by train, instead of shipping coal from Fife to other areas and even to London, electricity may be carried by the projected super-grid and distributed throughout the country, rendering all this surface transport unnecessary.

This Bill might jeopardise the possibility of this plan being developed as a whole, and in the long run it may cause serious injury to the economic affairs of Scotland. There has been no inquiry into these aspects. We all recognise that the north of Scotland is outside this question altogether, because the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board was established for a social purpose, and, if I remember rightly, one of the Joint Under-secretaries of State for Scotland opposed its formation very bitterly when the Bill was going through the House, and was one of the antagonists of the scheme.

Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife East

I opposed that Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman will see if he looks at the Official Report, principally upon the grounds that the Bill was so cluttered up with provisions as to make the position of the Hydro-Electric Board almost impossible. I never did oppose the general principle.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

There were at that time a great many electricity interests which were very bitterly opposed to that Bill. Rightly or wrongly, the hon. Gentleman was thought to be associated with some of those interests which were opposed to that north of Scotland reorganisation. If I am mistaken, I very naturally apologise to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

To assist the right hon. Gentleman opposite, may I read to him one or two sentences of the Amendment which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart) on the Second Reading of the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Bill? The Amendment contained these words: …welcomes the proposal to establish public service corporation in the North of Scotland for the generation and distribution of electricity from water power;

Several Hon. Members:

Read on.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

I will read the whole thing. It goes on: but declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which so circumscribes the powers and duties of the Corporation by bureaucratic controls and needless references to Parliament on details of its work that it robs the Corporation of freedom and initiative in the conception and prosecution of the undertaking."—{OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1943; Vol. 387, c 232.] That was my hon. Friend's proposal.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

I am surprised at the innocence of the hon. Gentleman. He must know very well that when people put down an Amendment to a Bill to destroy it they do not necessarily put openly all the reasons they have for wanting the Bill destroyed. They put down the reasons which are likely to attract the greatest number of Members of this House. Honey attracts more people than vinegar, and so they always put these objections into honeyed phrases. Having had some connection with the passing of that Act, I can assure the House that there were very bitter vested interests opposed to it, and that, rightly or wrongly, and perhaps wrongly, the name of the hon. Gentleman was associated with those interests. That is history.

It is rather difficult to see where the division takes place between the south of Scotland and the north of England in regard to electricity, and why the south of Scotland cannot draw electricity from Berwick, and Carlisle cannot draw electricity from the south of Scotland. It seems nonsense to try to make a barrier. However, if I read this Bill rightly, it is very much as the French say: the more it changes, the more it is the same thing. I presume that electricity will still flow backwards and forwards.

It is now proposed to set up two authorities, and instead of having only one Minister considering and settling one policy on electricity for the country there will be two. I do not deny that there may be advantages in devolving administrative power and that there may be great disadvantages in over-centralisation. That is not a political matter, but one for practical people to discover and to decide upon. If there had been investigation into the pros and cons, and these had been laid before us, we should be able to judge upon the evidence. This matter has been decided without any investigation into the pros and cons, and the Secretary of State has not given us the pros and cons even today. He has not given us one technical or economic reason why this change ought to come about.

Photo of Sir John Macleod Sir John Macleod , Ross and Cromarty

Surely two Ministers are already responsible as far as the North of Scotland Board is concerned?

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. For the generating of electricity the Minister of Fuel and Power has also been the authority, but he is now being cut off from it at the Scottish Border. Planning will no longer be done as one plan but presumably as two plans. Let us assume that it is good that there should be devolution of the centralised power of these great authorities; why then is it good only for Scotland? If it is good to marry generating and distribution in Scotland, that is presumably a good technical job which ought to be good for other parts of the country. Why have the Government come along with this simple Measure, as the right hon. Gentleman called it, instead of dealing with the problem from a national point of view, not only for Scotland but for other places as well?

Another question arises. Not only does the Bill break up the technical and economic basis, but it breaks up trade union negotiation.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

Yes, and a very important nub. Trade unions realise that in every case where wages are settled separately in Scotland and England the Scots get less wages than the English.

Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife East

The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong, as I can prove.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

Scottish miners even today have not recovered from their position under private enterprise where they were paid lower wages than were paid in England and Wales. The farm workers have two separate boards. The English board decided twice on increases in wages, and the Scottish board decided not to have those increases in the basic wages. With regard to the fire brigades, the Scottish authorities have not yet come, I gather, to any arrangement about who is to negotiate wages for the fire brigades in Scotland. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Scottish local authorities want to pay firemen more wages than are paid to firemen in England? He knows that that is not true. When we took over the Health Services I was placed in great embarrassment by the amount of money that would have had to be given in Scotland to bring the wages and salaries up to those being paid in England; that runs through everything. The Secretary of State, while deciding to take this step in devolution, has just agreed on a joint Police Council, although they have been separated up to now, to negotiate wages for the English and Scottish police jointly.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

If the English local authorities manage their business extravagantly, have the Scottish authorities to do the same?

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

They pay less wages in Scotland than in England, and the mentality that the hon. Gentleman is showing is the very thing that trade unions are alarmed about. The inference from his remark is that these economies in Scotland are to come from lower wages. The workers of Scotland are not going to stand for it. An electricity workers' deputation met the Secretary of State for Scotland and stated, according to the report in their journal: the employees' national committee was also absolutely opposed to any alteration of the principle of common United Kingdom responsibility for salaries, wages, conditions and joint consultation as contained in Section 52 of the, 1947 Electricity Act. Scottish members of the organisations represented had urged the strongest possible protest against the suggested change of the principle as introducing a serious risk of lowering the Scottish standards in wages, salaries and conditions. If salaries, wages and conditions are not to be lowered, is there any reason why they should not be negotiated jointly? I hope that the Secretary of State will take note of this point. He will meet with bitter opposition, not only from the workers in this electricity industry but from the workers in the mining industry, who will not tolerate the break-up of the national negotiations. I think the Minister of Fuel and Power knows that very well, and it must be extremely embarrassing to him to have disaffection created in the industry by giving rise to this impression.

It may be, though the Secretary of State has not argued this, that if we separate from England we shall have cheaper electricity for a short time. The Secretary of State has not told us anything about this. Is that in any case going to continue? It is due, I understand, to the fact that we have many old stations which were built when capital expenditure was low according to modern terms.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

What about the Edinburgh station?

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

Even the Edinburgh station has had to be improved by the Minister since then. It has had to be renovated, renewed and modernised. All old stations have got to be modernised. Can the Secretary of State tell us who is to provide the capital for this? Is it all to be capitalised in Scotland, and who is going to control the capital development? Is it going to be controlled by the Government as a whole, or is the Scottish Board going to be free to develop capital expenditure according to its will? Is the Minister going to give the Scottish Board a free hand to develop electricity stations to its heart's content without any control from over the Border? We shall be very pleased to hear whether that is the case.

The most serious part of this Bill is that it tends to show that the Government are fiddling while coal burns. There is nothing in the Bill to indicate any way in which one extra unit of electricity will be provided. We are told that the demand for electricity is doubling every 10 years. The electricity stations are the biggest consumers of coal. At the present time, they are consuming something like 35 million tons of coal a year, and in the next 15 years that consumption is going to rise to 63 million tons a year.

According to the best estimates of the National Coal Board—and the Minister of Fuel and Power can correct me if I am wrong—in 15 years' time they are going to foe 20 million tons short of that figure. As far as we can see, according to the Government's latest White Paper on the subject, the only hope of filling that gap is atomic energy.

It is true that we are going to have an atomic energy station placed in the north of Scotland. Is the Secretary of State going to provide the capital for that in Scotland? Is the capital for that station to be provided by the Scots independently of the English, and are we going to nationalise it and cut it off from fuel and power and electricity? What is going to happen to the electricity that comes from the Caithness station? In view of the enormous expenditure involved, can the Secretary of State say whether that power is to be kept in Scotland and not brought to England?

The whole range is one big problem, and if we are to attack such a problem it cannot be done in a fiddling little way like this. It must be attacked as a whole. The House is entitled to ask the Government to go into this question as a whole. We have had the McGowan Committee, the Heyworth Committee on gas, and the Reid Committee on coal. The Labour Government based their reorganisation on technical and economic advice, and we say that before that organisation is interfered with the people who advised the Labour Government from a technical point of view ought to be extended the courtesy of being consulted, and that this House ought to have the benefit of their advice.

Who were the electricians, the engineers and the economists who advised the Secretary of State on this? I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman is not going to claim that all this originated from his own imagination. Therefore, if he is not posing as an electrical expert, he ought to tell us who is responsible for this policy. Is this just a little bit of window-dressing in order to try to capture votes as the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) said, or is it going to have some effect in regard to Scotland as a whole.

These are questions to which I want the right hon. Gentleman to give an answer. This problem is far too big to be tackled in this way, and we are entitled to know whether the future prosperity of Scotland is going to be jeopardised by the action which the right hon. Gentleman is taking today.

4.27 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison , Edinburgh West

I welcome the provisions of this Bill because they conform to the views which we on this side of the House have expressed for a long time about the transfer of the functions of the Minister of Fuel and Power, in connection with the generation and distribution of electricity in Southern Scotland, to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

I should have thought that this Measure would have appealed to all Scots, because, after all, we have now had 10 years' experience of the working of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board established under the 1943 Act. I believe that the progress which has been made by the Board during that period has justified the hopes expressed by many of us at the time that the Bill passed through this House. I spoke very strongly in favour of that Bill, and if anyone doubts that he has only to look up the Official Report for 24th February, 1943, column 213. Many hon Members on this side of the House supported it, too.

I go so far as to say that the remarkable amount of development which has been achieved in the North during the past 10 years has made people in the Lowlands of Scotland quite envious, and particularly so in the rural areas. I know that to be so in Berwick and East Lothian, and I have no doubt that my hon. and gallant Friend who represents that part of Scotland will have something to say about it. I believe that this Bill will permit the new South of Scotland Electricity Board to take up the challenge of the North in a friendly way, and to go ahead with developing the supply of electricity in the southern part of Scotland.

It has been stated that nobody in authority has supported the idea of having a South of Scotland Electricity Board. In that connection I would point out to the House some observations made by Sir Norman Duke, the Chair man of the South-East Scotland Electricity Board, on this matter. Sir Norman Duke was appointed by the previous Administration, and took up his office on 1st January, 1948. Speaking at a dinner in Edinburgh, on 29th January—

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

If the hon. Gentleman intends to quote Sir Norman Duke, would he mention the leak" by that same gentleman at Dunfermline, some months ago?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I myself am rising to a point of order. This debate has been characterised by a number of interruptions, as if it were a Committee debate. There will be a Committee stage for this Bill if it gets a Second Reading, and these detailed points might be reserved for that. It would be much better if speeches could be made in an orderly fashion without too much interruption.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

May I now raise my point of order, Mr. Speaker? I do not wish to restrict the hon. Member regarding the authorities which he quotes, but he mentioned Sir Norman Duke as one of them and has said that he proposed to quote him. As far as I understand, Sir Norman Duke is almost a civil servant. He is a person in the employ of the South-East Electricity Board, and I think it should be made clear whether it is in order for hon. Members to derive support for their arguments from such a source.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

So far, I have not been permitted to hear what the hon. Gentleman said, so I cannot pass an opinion upon it. I see nothing wrong in quoting a speech made in public.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison , Edinburgh West

Were I allowed the opportunity to quote from this article I do not think that hon. Members will find anything unusual about it. It appeared in the "Scotsman" of 30th January, 1954. It reports a speech made by Sir Norman Duke, Chairman of the South-East Scotland Electricity Board, at a dinner of the Edinburgh and District Branch of the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants in the Royal British Hotel. Edinburgh. It reads: Sir Norman said that the trouble at present was over-specialisation. In Government administration we are happily situated because Scotland has a voice in the formulation of Government policy, and because, in one way or another, Scotland is accorded a wide discretion to apply Government policy in the way best suited to her own needs and circumstances.By contrast, the administration of nationalised electricity, based on a central authority, in London, deprives us of that measure of freedom to regulate our own affairs to which we are accustomed. The new Bill will remove this trouble. It will, indeed, do more, because it will give Scotland not merely flexibility and decentralisation but electrical independence.It is noteworthy because it will, for the first time, make the Secretary of State fully responsible for a nationalised industry over all Scotland, and because it recognises that the principle of nationalisation is not necessarily bound up with the conception of a central authority in London. Sir Norman concluded this speech by saying: I welcome the prospects of an electrically independent Scotland, not only because it will give Scotland an inspiration which is not to be found under the big umbrella of a central authority in London, and not only because I believe that it will promote efficiency, but because it will open the way to co-operative arrangements between independent authorities in England and Scotland. A man who has been chairman of the South-East Scotland Electricity Board since its inception, at the beginning of 1948, is a man to whose words this House, and all Scottish Members especially, are entitled to give due weight.

One of the snags of the 1947 Act has been that the Secretary of State, although he always must be interested and concerned with electricity development in the south as well as in the north of Scotland, has had relatively little say, under the existing statute, in matters concerning electricity. Under the 1947 Electricity Act his only functions concern joint consultation with the Minister of Fuel and Power under those Sections of the Act which have some application to the north of Scotland area.

As I pointed out during a debate on Scottish affairs, on 15th July last, the result has been that the Secretary of State has had no power to deal, for example, with complaints about electricity tariffs in Scotland, although those tariffs might have an adverse effect on industry, and consequently upon employment. The new Bill will have the useful effect of giving the Secretary of State similar powers of direction in regard to the simplification and standardisation of methods of charge as are at present vested in the Minister of Fuel and Power under section 1 (6) of the 1947 Act.

Clause 3 (1) is very important, and for the life of me I cannot see why any Scottish Members should have any complaint about it. It cuts out a stage in the procedure for the submission of constructional schemes by the North of Scotland Board without in any way impairing, so far as I can see, the degree of Parliament- ary control which is laid down in Section 5 (5) of the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Act, 1943. Incidentally, the second subsection of that Clause abolishes the two consultative councils as well as the two existing area councils, but perhaps the Under-Secretary will clear up the matter in his reply to the debate. I assume that under the First Schedule of the new Bill there will be one single consultative council for the whole of the south of Scotland area.

It is interesting to recollect that in the 1943 Bill we did not provide for any consultative council at all. Under Section 9 provision was made for an Amenity Committee and a Fisheries Committee, but the consultative council only came into being under Section 7 of the 1947 Act. I have always had some doubts as to the effectiveness of these consultative councils, but I agree that the position would be illogical if we had a council for the north of Scotland area and not one for the south of Scotland. I take it that the First Schedule allows for the creation of such a council in the south of Scotland area.

Clause 9, to which the Secretary of State made some reference, deals with the financial adjustment between the new South of Scotland Board and the central authority. Inevitably, that will be a somewhat complicated matter; and some time may pass before a final settlement is reached. I do not propose to comment on all the various points arising from the Clause, but one matter, not specifically mentioned, deeply interests me and many people in Edinburgh and the south of Scotland—the fate of the £1 million electricity reserve fund formerly belonging to local authorities in south-east Scotland, and mainly to the City of Edinburgh. That money was transferred to the central authority under the 1947 Act, and was a very high-handed action.

Photo of Mr Archibald Manuel Mr Archibald Manuel , Central Ayrshire

Is the hon. Member's point about the loss to the local authorities in any way met in this Bill? Under the Bill will the local authorities, as such, have returned to them one penny of that presumed loss?

Sir I. Clark Hutchison: No. The local authorities, as such, are no longer electricity supplying bodies but, as I hope to show, the Bill does make provision for a transfer from the central authority to the new South of Scotland Board.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

This is rather important. Will the hon. Member explain to the House how many liabilities are being transferred? My information is that the liabilities and the £1 million reserve fund are practically equal, so where does the benefit arise?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison , Edinburgh West

I cannot give detailed figures, but I am anxious to show that this sum of rather more than £1 million will be taken into account when the final settlement is made between the central authority and the new South of Scotland Board.

There was a good deal of correspondence about this Fund between the Edinburgh Members and the Ministers in the last Government. On 1st November, 1950, my hon. Friend the Member for Pentlands (Lord John Hope) raised the matter on the Adjournment, and pleaded with the then Government to do something with a view to retransferring this money to Scotland. Unfortunately, that request was turned down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power, on grounds which certainly did not satisfy us, nor did it, I think, satisfy a number of hon. Members on the other side of the House who took part in that debate.

After the formation of the present Government I renewed the correspondence with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Minister of Fuel and Power. I was told that the new scheme for the reorganisation of electricity supply in Scotland would have to be settled first, which was a reasonable answer in the circumstances. When the Bill was published I was not able to find any reference to this matter in Clause 9. I wrote to the Secretary of State about it, and I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend has made it clear, in his reply, that Clause 9 is drawn in such wide terms as to enable the transfer of this £1 million of electricity reserves to be taken into account in the settlement.

I consider that that is a satisfactory step forward. The new South of Scotland Electricity Board, with the good will of the Secretary of State behind it, will be able to obtain a just settlement of this matter and have the money transferred back to Scotland. I believe, as does the Chairman of the South-East Area Board, that this is a useful and constructive Measure, and that it will help to accelerate electricity development in the South of Scotland. The Bill has been well received in Scotland, both by the Press and the public, and I sincerely hope that the House will give it a second Reading to night.

4.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Pryde Mr David Pryde , Midlothian and Peeblesshire

I paid very careful attention to the Secretary of State when he tried to put a good face on this Bill, but I am still amazed at its purpose. His whole approach to the Bill reminds me of the bakehouse, where the baker punches dough and takes a scimitar and divides it into two. There will be some new appointments, and I want to ask the Joint Under-Secretary whether the policy of his Government is the same as that of the United States, which is to clear out everyone, from the President to the local postman. Only the other day the Chairman of the National Assistance Board—who is also a Scot—was cleared out and replaced by an English colleague of the hon. Gentleman. Some people are wondering where the Government are going.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

It is only fair to the Government and the Chairman of the National Assistance Board, who is well known to and respected by so many of us, to point out that his term of appointment had come to an end. He was not cleared out.

Photo of Dr Hyacinth Morgan Dr Hyacinth Morgan , Warrington

Everybody expected that it would be renewed.

Photo of Mr David Pryde Mr David Pryde , Midlothian and Peeblesshire

The appointments of the members of the South-East and South-West Scotland Electricity Boards have also terminated. We do not think that this Bill is necessary, because we know that the members of the South-East Scotland Electricity Board have fulfilled all their duties conscientiously.

The southern sub-area of the South-East Scotland Electricity Board is the most backward area in Scotland, and we are wondering who is responsible. Will this Bill give us one more unit of electricity? The Minister has not convinced us on that point. We have read all the reports. In the first one the South-East Scotland Electricity Board pointed out that this was the last electricity area to have power brought to its rural areas under private enterprise, and all the other reports have reinforced the first one.

Why is it that the South-East Scotland Electricity Board has had so many impediments placed in its way? The trouble does not lie in Glasgow, Edinburgh or Galashiels. It lies here, in London, with the Treasury, which has always been reluctant to release money for any kind of capital development in Scotland. We have main roads from Edinburgh to Glasgow, and from Edinburgh to the south, cutting across great housing schemes, where the danger to life is imminent, and we have been denied the money to give them light. We have also been denied money for capital expansion in regard to new industries.

I have the Burns Report and the Anderson-Scott Report. The latter makes it clear that the present position in Midlothian is due to the refusal of the Treasury to provide the money for further electrification, and the Burns Report says: We were struck by the absence of capital development in Midlothian. A supply of electricity there would have allowed the area to attract more miners, together with their families, and by establishing alternative industries we would have been able to employ female labour.

The last census, taken in 1951, shows that the lack of electricity was responsible for a diminishing population in eight parishes in the County of Peebles. There is alleged to be a lower standard of housing there because, owing to the lack of electricity, there are no amenities. Four most important burghs in the best dollar-earning area of Scotland, the southern sub-area, have lost population, and it is alleged here, also, that the reason is the lack of electricity to provide amenities.

The central area of Scotland employs most of our insured population—about 55 per cent.—but whereas the South-West Electricity Board has been able to take power right down to Wanloch Head—the terminal is lost in the Leadhills—the South-East Scotland Electricity Board has never been able to electrify fully the towns eight miles south, such as Dalkeith, Newton Grange and Bonnyrigg. South-East Scotland is bound to be greatly hindered in its expansion.

I am not now interested in the £1 million which belonged to the local authorities. At the time I protested volubly against its expropriation. Had that £1 million now been available, we would have been in a far better position today. Why is this Bill being brought forward? Quite recently a great Liberal said, "Look what the Government are doing. They are using Parliamentary time on futile Measures of no great account. They are only preparing the way for the day when they will try to get another five years in office to impose their policies upon the people." I do not know about that, but the Government have nothing to their credit in this Bill.

We ask them to leave well alone. The Secretary of State should go to the Chancellor and ask him to release the purse strings. In the last fuel and power debate, I pointed out the same thing. Nothing is being done. It is assumed that if Scotland can be fobbed off with nothing, everything will be all right.

There is a trade union aspect of this matter. Is it not clear that we are going to alter the union set-up in Scotland, while electricity engineers are on strike today endeavouring to better their conditions? Let me tell the Secretary of State that, with all his promises that he is prepared to deal with the Scottish electrical engineers as a national body, he dare not for one moment grant them better conditions than their English confreres, or else he will get his head in a noose. Yet the standard of living in Scotland is lower than it is in England. It has always been. As my right hon. Friend said, we are sick and tired of it, and we are sick and tired of all this filibustering. We in Scotland are determined now that a closer watch shall be kept over this electrical business, because this scheme is only a pretence of bringing electricity under Scottish control.

Ask the people of Scotland whether they believe the Tory Party is a nationalist party or not. They know perfectly well where the interests of the Tory Party lie. Its interests lie not in nationalism. Its interests lie in shares, in profit and loss accounts, and if it is possible at all to get more profit by investing in England, then the Tory Party will so invest. I am only sorry that the Tory Party does not support the Forth Bridge and the Tay Bridge projects. Then, as one right hon. Gentleman said, we should not be required to come to London to ask for money, for we should be able to make it ourselves.

4.52 p.m.

Photo of Sir William Anstruther-Gray Sir William Anstruther-Gray , Berwickshire and East Lothian

I could not help feeling, while I was listening to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) that he had departed quite a long way from his 1945 Election address, in which he wrote: It is clearly desirable that we should press for more and more devolution, and Scottish administration of Scottish affairs.

Photo of Sir William Anstruther-Gray Sir William Anstruther-Gray , Berwickshire and East Lothian

The right hon. Gentleman and his party are now opposing a Measure that will give Scotsmen greater control of Scottish electricity.

But it is not only for that reason that I support this Bill. It is because I think that its passing will result in improved electrification for the rural areas. I am particularly concerned about rural areas. because nobody can doubt how vital it is not only for the conduct of fanning operations, but also for the comfort of farmworkers, that electricity should be introduced as early as possible. For this reason alone I think it is a very good thing that my right hon. Friend is now to have direct responsibility in this matter—

Major Anstnither-Gray:

—because it has always seemed to me that in the past—

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

He has nothing else to do any way.

Photo of Sir William Anstruther-Gray Sir William Anstruther-Gray , Berwickshire and East Lothian

—when one was pressing for electrification for a certain area one could, unfortunately, get no personal help from my right hon. Friend. For example, when, last year, an announcement was made that the Government were to provide another £180,000 for rural electrification I was anxious to know how much of this sum would be available for spending in the area in which I am very much interested and in which also the hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) is very much interested, the southern sub-area of the South-East Scotland Electricity Board. I put down some questions to my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Commander Charles Donaldson Commander Charles Donaldson , Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire

So did I. Major Anstruther-Gray:—and so, indeed, did my hon. and gallant Friend. I asked my right hon. Friend: if he will ascertain from the British Electricity Authority to what extent the increased capital expenditure approved for rural electrification will be applied to Scotland and, in particular, to the area of the South-East Scotland Electricity Board. The only answer my right hon. Friend was able to give, not once but two or three times, was what he said on that occasion: I understand that the British Electricity Authority still have this matter under consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 127–8.] It seems to me that that is just another way of this English centred Board's saying, "Mind your own business," and not saying, "Mind your own business" only to me, but saying, "Mind your own business" to the Secretary of State for Scotland. If the electrification of the farms of Scotland should not be his business I should like to know what should be. Now, if this legisation is passed, it will be his business.

Photo of Mr Archibald Manuel Mr Archibald Manuel , Central Ayrshire

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is now trying to get the House to believe that the Secretary of State, if this Bill is passed, will be able to give him some help so far as capital development in his particular area is concerned. Is he aware that future capital development, if the Bill is passed, will be controlled, as it has been in the past, by the Treasury, which the Secretary of State will need to consult and to get permission from before there can be any capital development?

Photo of Sir William Anstruther-Gray Sir William Anstruther-Gray , Berwickshire and East Lothian

I am very well aware of the importance of the Treasury, and also of having a Goverment for whom the Treasury can produce fruitful schemes, and not a bankrupt country, as under the Government formed by the hon. Gentleman's party.

The farms I have in mind that are crying out for electricity just now are not just individual farms but comprise whole farming communities, of the type of the village of Westruther, in my constituency, where there are no fewer than 35 premises in the village itself that require electricity, where there are 15 farms, where there are 57 farm cottages, and two mansion houses with three cottages. I am glad to say that I understand that now at last the Westruther scheme is to be put into operation, but just nearby there is another scheme, at Wedderlie, which comprises six farms and 22 cottages, and that is indefinitely postponed.

Under this Bill, where I think the Secretary of State will be able to assist is in this. In the Westruther scheme, I am told, there is a risk that it may be delayed, to allow priority to be given to a new scheme of electrification of some houses for forestry workers. Feeling, as I do, that the production of food is fully as important as the planting of trees I think it would be quite wrong to divert electricity from farms to help forestry establishments, and to help those forestry establishments to drain away still further the labour that is so much needed on our farms.

When I say that there is need for these things, believe me, it is not a need that has developed overnight. It is not a need for which hon. Gentlemen opposite can accuse the present Government alone. Let me quote from a letter of July last year from the sub-area office of the South-East Board, at Galashiels. This is in reply to a farming family in my constituency who applied for electricity. The sub-area manager said: With the capital at our disposal we are only able to deal, in the present financial year, with individual applications made during 1945"— it was eight years ago then, it is nine years ago now— …as the first application…was received in December, 1948, you will appreciate that it is likely to be a very considerable time before we can hope to provide a supply there. I think we should all agree that any Measure which offers help in a situation of that kind deserves the encouragement of Scottish Members on whichever side of the House they sit.

I hope it will not be imagined that I am suggesting that nothing is being done. A great deal is being done and I have always received the greatest civility when visiting 52, Melville Street, and seeing the Chairman of the South-East Electricity Board. In the Report we read that the South-East Scotland Board plan to reinforce the 33,000-volt Berwickshire Ring at Eccles.… This will be of considerable benefit to that county. Also, in the Lothians sub-area a 33,000 volt double circuit line is being planned to reinforce supplies in the northern part of East Lothian. That is moving in the right direction.

An Hon. Member:

The Bill will stop it all.

Photo of Sir William Anstruther-Gray Sir William Anstruther-Gray , Berwickshire and East Lothian

The Bill emphasises the need of the areas where it is greatest.

The hon. Gentleman has brought me to my next point, that in the Border southern sub-area only 25 per cent. of the farms have been served as compared with 44 per cent. in the rest of the area. If we compare that figure with the figure for England, it is not a bad one because, whereas in Scotland 44 per cent. of the farms in that area have been electrified, in England the figure is only 34 per cent. However, I am comparing the 25 per cent. in the part of the world I am anxious about with that 44 per cent. and the temptation of the Board in the past has been to do whatever electrification came easily to hand. It may have been the right policy, but it is one which needs to be watched.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

Is this Sir Norman Duke's Board that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is talking about?

Photo of Sir William Anstruther-Gray Sir William Anstruther-Gray , Berwickshire and East Lothian

Yes, the Board which was in operation when the hon. Gentleman was a member of the Government.

Its policy at that time was to proceed with the electrification of the easily reached areas which did not cost so much, and there is a great danger in that when we remember that the outlying areas are faced with the biggest depopulation. Therefore, it is in the outlying areas that it is so necessary to allow our farms to produce at full capacity, and it is there where it is most difficult to persuade farm workers to stay when there are greater comforts elsewhere. I hope that my right hon. Friend, who represents a constituency far in the north, will take full account of the claims of those who do not live near at hand. I do not want to suggest that it is entirely for my right hon. Friend to select which farms should have priority; far from it. The consultative council must undoubtedly have that duty when it is set up. Incidentally, I assume there is no doubt that there will be one consultative council representing the two areas because much will depend upon that council.

I hope that the Board will concentrate upon its primary duty of supplying electricity to areas and will not waste money on non-essentials. The Board has been conscious that there was a tendency to waste money in this way, and when Sir Norman Duke attended a public meeting at Kelso in February, 1953, one of the criticisms levelled against the policy of the Board at that time was that they had spent too much money on putting up extensive showrooms and premises. These were put up not only in large centres but even in small ones. They were called electricity service centres and no doubt they could be justified to a certain extent on the ground that they would be focal points for consumers to go to, but against that the criticism was that they were unduly luxurious, that overmuch money was spent on them, and that the money would have been better spent in giving main extensions and connections to prospective consumers. I have no doubt that the criticism was justified, and I hope that in the new set-up my right hon. Friend will ensure that money is not wasted further in that direction.

My next point is connected with what hon. Gentlemen opposite are so much interested in, wage negotiations. I mention this because there can be two points of view. Today, I had a letter from the Secretary of the Electrical Contractors' Association of Scotland. Among various comments on the Bill, he made this one: Clause 18 (4) provides that the Scottish Electricity Boards will still be parties to the wages agreements agreed between the central authority and the appropriate trade unions in terms of the Act of 1947. On the face of it this seems a reasonable provision but my Association feels that it might be a good thing that the Scottish Boards should have autonomy on wages matters as well as their other functions under the Bill.

Hon. Members:

Oh.

Photo of Sir William Anstruther-Gray Sir William Anstruther-Gray , Berwickshire and East Lothian

I am reading this letter because there is a point in it which I commend to hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Photo of Sir William Anstruther-Gray Sir William Anstruther-Gray , Berwickshire and East Lothian

Hon. Gentlemen opposite and I do not necessarily disagree on every point.The writer continues: The salaries of technical officers of the Boards are determined by the National Joint Board for the Electricity Supply Industry in relation to the capacity of generating plant and units sold and a basis of this kind always means that higher salaries can be offered to technicians by the larger Boards south of the Border. This should not be so and Scottish Boards should have the power to retain their technicians by being able to offer them salaries and conditions at least equal and perhaps better than they can get in England. This is an important matter of principle which, I hope, will be referred to in the debate in the House.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Cleveland

I wonder whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman realises that the agreement which is based on the installed capacity of generating stations was negotiated between the Electrical Power Engineers' Association, of which I happen to be a member, and the old electricity undertakings as far back as the early 1920s? Is it now proposed that this should be broken? It has nothing in itself to do with nationalisation, it is an old-established Whitley Council agreement, and, therefore, I say that the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman would be outrageous within the general tradition of the electricity supply industry—[Interruption.]

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

Order, order. I must point out that this is not a Committee stage, but a Second Reading. Hon. Members who hope to catch my eye later do not help their cause by interrupting.

Photo of Sir William Anstruther-Gray Sir William Anstruther-Gray , Berwickshire and East Lothian

I recognised the point of what the hon. Gentleman has said, but the Secretary of the Scottish Association, who sent the letter to me, stated that he thought the matter was worth raising in the House. I myself believed that the point was worth ventilating, and I am glad to have done so.

I do not know whether this Bill will begin to remedy that situation, because now that the South-West and South-Eastern Boards are to be combined they will form a bigger unit. But, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, let me take your hint and not stray from the general principles of the Bill. I rose to support the Bill without any hesitation. It will certainly give Scotland closer control of her electricity, and I have always been in favour, where possible, of giving Scotland closer control of her own affairs. At the same time, I hope that the Bill will speed up the supply of electricity to the rural areas because the Secretary of State for Scotland, who will now be in charge, is himself the Minister responsible for Scottish agriculture.

5.11 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Cleveland

When the Secretary of State for Scotland introduced this Bill today, I was rather startled that he should remark that the Bill was of somewhat minor consequence. Those were his words. I want to suggest to the House that this Bill, although it is primarily of interest to Scotland, is a Bill also of common concern to the United Kingdom, and we are not doing justice to the importance of the subject unless we treat it in that way.

I want to say at the beginning that the history of the electricity supply legislation of this country has been in the main an evolutionary process. There have been jumps and breaks from time to time, and wherever there have been these jumps and breaks it is usually because the nature of existing legislation had become too cramping to make easy new technical development.

There is an example, for instance, on which perhaps I might get the support of the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Sir A. Gridley), who has had a long and extensive knowledge of the electricity supply industry. I think on looking back it would not be agreed that it was a great error in the early days of the electricity supply industry to confine the industry to local government boundaries. At that time, in the 1880s, direct current was a normal method of generation and distribution. Then along came the great Ferranti, who first developed alternating current transmission in this country, and thus made possible the supply of electricity over large areas. By that one technical development very nearly complete nonsense was made of all the early legislative framework.

I make that point to show to the House the dangers of introducing legislation on purely political grounds which do not correspond to technical needs. I would suggest to the House that the experience of electricity supply legislation in the history of the last 50 or 60 years has proved that it is wrong not to fit the law to practical technical considerations. I therefore suggest that, judged by that test, this Bill is an extremely bad piece of legislation because it attempts in essence to fit electrical development to a pattern primarily dictated by political expediency.

The fact is that in order to half fulfil the election promises of the Unionist Party in Scotland the Government are now prepared to mutilate the structure of British electricity supply in defiance of expert opinion. I should like the view of the Minister of Fuel and Power on this matter, if he cares to intervene in the debate. I suggest that he knows that this change is being suggested in defiance of expert opinion. One of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench rightly asked what impartial expert committee has recommended this Bill.

Before the 1926 Act, we had the Weir Committee, and it made a Report which, in the technical sense and perhaps in the legislative and administrative sense as well, is a memorable State paper. We had the Weir Committee's Report which preceded the 1926 Act introduced by a Conservative Government and supported on this side of the House. Before our Act of 1947, we were able to be guided by another very great electricity supply Report—the Report of the McGowan Committee published in 1935.

I would not say that there is anything sacred about the forms of organisation in a nationalised industry. I would be in favour of making revisions from time to time, but surely these revisions should be consistent and alterations should be made after full consideration.

I put this further point to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power who is on the Government Front Bench. He knows that there has been in existence now, for about two years, a reorganising investigating committee of the British Electricity Authority. I succeeded in getting one Question about it accepted by the Table. This committee has been into Scotland, as I happen to know. Has that committee made any recommendations in favour of this proposal? I suggest to the House that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen should ask themselves: "Is it now sound to overturn not only the 1947 Act but the 1926 Act as well for southern Scotland and combine for a limited part only of the United Kingdom both generation and distribution?", because if it is sound to combine generation, transmission and distribution for a very limited part of the United Kingdom in southern Scotland, it is equally sound to do it for London, Yorkshire and, of course, for Wales. If national feeling is to be taken into account, I am sure that the Welsh are as good nationalists as any of us.

It is interesting to look at the figures. Scotland has now a total installed electrical capacity of 1½ million kilowatts and is now to have all the majesty of two separate, all-powerful, independent capital-raising authorities. That is for Scotland with a total installed electricity capacity of 1½ million kilowatts compared with England's total installed capacity of 16 million kilowatts, which is to remain with just one authority.

I could give some even more interesting figures to the House. South-east Scotland is actually the smallest of the generating divisions of the British Electricity Authority. Its installed capacity is 250,000 kilowatts, which is about half the size of one of the generating plants, such as Barking, in the London area. In southwest Scotland the total capacity is 859,000 kilowatts, giving a total installed capacity for this new all-purpose south Scotland authority of just over 1 million kilowatts, which is about one-third of the total installed capacity of London.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Cleveland

Some of these generating stations in Scotland are very old, and they were built at various times. My point is that the administrative size of the unit is ridiculously small in relation to the great self-contained organisation that is to be established.

Very few of us would quarrel with the special position of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. As has been stated, the Hydro-Board has social re- sponsibilities. Many of us admire the great work that has been done by Mr. Tom Johnston, the Chairman of the Board. In addition, few of us would quarrel with local autonomy and direct responsibility for distribution. If, for instance, the Bill had proposed merely to amalgamate the South-East and the South-West of Scotland Boards simply for distribution, I should have regarded it as a quite sensible move, but the present proposal is to sever the connection which has existed, not only under the 1947 Act, but under the 1926 Act also, for bulk generation and transmission.

What is the rhyme or reason for dividing extra high voltage transmission for the grid or the super-grid at the Border? I do not think the electron, as it dashes up, notices any change in the atmosphere as it gets to the Border. I do not see why the poor thing should notice any change, because it comes back on the next half-cycle. Who can say whether the light which shines on us in the House this afternoon comes from Glasgow, Liverpool, or across the river from Battersea?

I should like to quote to the House the words that were used on this matter in the Weir Report which resulted in the Act of 1926. This was quoted with approval at that time by the Conservative Minister—I think, Colonel Ashley—who introduced the Bill that became the 1926 Act. The Weir Report said: The country should be regarded as a single unit and all the energy required for the country should be generated in a series of stations of convenient size and situation inter-connected with one another. That conception was sound in 1926 and is equally sound today.

Now we have reached the stage not only of the grid, but also of the super-grid which is to go north into Scotland. Surely, it is ironical that at a time when engineers and technologists are drawing closer the electrical links in the south between England and France, Her Majesty's advisers should be severing the electrical links as far as they are able to do so between England and Scotland in the north. It is not a conception which fits in with any kind of modern approach to functional authorities.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

May I ask the hon. Member a question?

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

The hon. Member has only just come in. He knows nothing about it.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

Does the hon. Member remember the Sunday in 1934 when the Battersea power station was put out of operation and in five minutes the south of Britain had closed down because it was unduly linked?

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Cleveland

I remember it very well. It was known as Black Sunday. I also served during the war on the staff of a large London power company. In spite of the tremendous devastation caused by bombing and the destruction of parts of large generating stations, the electricity supply to our vital war industries never failed because of the existence of the grid and the great conception of 1926.

There is no evidence that the Bill will help to provide cheaper electricity; the average cost of production at Scottish thermal stations is about the same as for the rest of the United Kingdom. As far as the Hydro-Electric Board is concerned, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has, to put it mildly, been something of a critic of the Board. He often throws doubt on its financial stability. The Hydro-Electric Board, however, is very much assisted by the fact that it has financial arrangements with the central authority, the successor to the old Central Electricity Board. Under the Bill, that situation would presumably no longer apply, because we are now to have a kind of buffer state in between the North of Scotland Board and the electricity supply for the greater part of the United Kingdom. I am doubtful whether in the long run this situation will add to the financial stability of the Hydro-Board.

There is another point which the House should consider, Not only does the Bill break down the sound technical conceptions of 1926 and 1947, but it is bad also because it breaks down the wider conception of fuel and power planning The Ridley Report is often mentioned in the House, with general approval on both sides. One of the principal recommendations of that Report was that there should be more positive use by the Minister of Fuel and Power of his present statutory duty of securing effective and co-ordinated development of the fuel and power industries.

Under the nationalisation Acts for coal, gas and electricity, the Minister has also powers of general direction. If powers of direction are to be transferred for part of one fuel and power industry alone to the Secretary of State, how in future is that kind of co-ordination to be carried out? How are we to integrate generally more closely at the top level the coal industry, the gas industry and the electricity supply industry? The logic of this proposal is that the control of Scottish gas and coal should also go to the Scottish Office. If that is done, my friends who speak for the miners' unions would have something to say. But I do not think that even this Government would dare think about that suggestion seriously.

There are a number of detailed points which one can make on the Committee stage, and I shall make them in due course. It is a shockingly muddled Bill. The "Electrical Times," an impartial, independent, technical paper, widely read in the electricity supply industry, speaks of the Bill as a "patchwork of draftsmanship" which "mutilates the industry."

The financial provisions will need a great deal of attention in the Committee stage. From my reading of the Bill, the new South of Scotland Board will start in debt to the British Electricity Authority. Under the regulations which are to be issued, safety is to be a joint responsibility, but meters are still to be something for the Minister of Fuel and Power alone. It is quaint to think that whole the new Board can be entrusted with matters like big generating stations, it cannot be trusted to test its own meters apparently.

I happen to be a member of one of the staff associations which has a negotiating agreement for salaries with the British Electricity Authority. As far as this legislation is concerned, as the Secretary of State for Scotland has pointed out, we have been talking to him through the employees' national committee, a consultative body which covers representation of every union and staff association in the electricity supply industry having a negotiating agreement with the British Electricity Authority.

The Bill is viewed with the greatest concern by the trade unions and the staff associations. It goes back on a principle which we thought had been settled for all time, the principle of common United Kingdom negotiations. I will not use the expression "national" because that might upset Scottish sentiment, but I will refer to United Kingdom negotiations.

At the moment the responsibility for establishing machinery for wage and salary negotiation lies with the British Electricity Authority, and that is a statutory United Kingdom obligation. Under this Bill it is now proposed that the responsibility should be placed independently on the three separate Boards. I am well aware of the Minister's point that there is nothing to prevent these Boards from coming together on a voluntary basis as a joint employers' organisation. But when the suggestion was made that there should be a voluntary employers' side when the 1947 Act was still a Bill, the then Minister of Fuel and Power, my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) conceded the point to the unions that the responsibility for establishing machinery should be put on the one authority, the British Electricity Authority. It did not impair the autonomy or independence of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. It had its own district negotiating machinery, but it was joined with the British Electricity Authority and with the area boards for the purposes of national negotiations.

What the trade unions are saying is that that cannot now all be dropped. This struggle for national negotiations has been going on since the early 1920s. I want to pay my due tribute to the Secretary of State for Scotland. He did receive us with courtesy when we went to see him, but we want a little more than courtesy. We want some results. I was pleased this afternoon when he said he would look again seriously at the point when we reach the Committee stage. If a change is not seriously considered and conceded in Committee, there is going to be extreme resentment throughout the trade unions in the electricity supply industry. But it is not only a matter of concern to trade unions in electricity; we are in touch with the T.U.C. and the Scottish T.U.C. If the principle of national negotiations can be broken down in the electricity supply industry, in due course it might be broken down in the mining industry.

I appreciate that Scotland very often—and it would be presumptuous of me as an English Member not to say so—wants a greater say in its own affairs and those matters which are of common concern to both countries. I suggest that could quite easily have been met by integrating for electricity distribution the South-West and South-East Scotland Boards, and it could have been met also by giving Scotland stronger representation, if necessary, on the British Electricity Authority.

There is not time for me to quote the electrical Press extensively, though I should like to do so. There is not a single independent technical paper that has a good word to say for this Bill. We have had Sir Norman Duke quoted to us this afternoon, but I do not think, with great respect to him, that he has established himself as an authority on electricity supply affairs. If Sir Norman Duke is quoted as an expert he must be very good at leaks; he must regard the Rotarians of Dunfermline very highly indeed inasmuch as he spoke to them on this Bill and revealed its contents long before the Minister spoke to this House today. I do not think Sir Norman Duke should be treated as an authority, but if he is quoted to us then I should like to know what Lord Citrine has to say about this Bill. What is his opinion of it, and is he in favour of it? Lord Citrine is silent, but I do not think his silence gives consent.

This Bill is a classic example of unnecessary legislation. It will give no practical advantage to Scottish electricity consumers unless it be home rule for Scottish kilowatts. It is going to set back the clock on progressive electrical development on which the whole United Kingdom, including Scotland, depends. This Bill should never have been introduced, and if this Government were wise—I am afraid I cannot concede that they are—the best service they could do to the House would be to withdraw the Bill and allow us to talk about something that really matters.

5.36 p.m.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

It is no doubt stimulating and inspiring to my Scottish colleagues and hon. Members on the other side of the House who sit for Scottish constituencies to observe that we have a new departure in our Scottish debates, in that English Members have been fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, during the early part of the day.

I join at once with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) in saying that the Bill before us this afternoon is not a matter of concern only to Scotland, but it is a matter which, in its broad principle, is of very great interest and concern to the whole of the United Kingdom. I have no doubt I shall differ from the hon. Member for Cleveland on many points, but at least on that score we are completely in agreement with one another.

This is a good Bill and if there are a few shortcomings, I shall seek to remedy them on the Committee stage of the Bill—and if the Bill is sent to the Scottish Grand Committee I hope the good offices of the Whips may be enjoined to see that I am placed on that Committee as an added English Member—

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

Is the hon. Member coming back?

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

I am quite willing to go back any time. Though there may be points of detail which ought to be amended and attended to in Committee, in its main principles the Bill is quite a sound Measure for three reasons. First, it is a Measure of devolution, which I conceive to be very desirable in all of the mammoth nationalised industries that we seek to administer today.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

If the hon. Gentleman will contain himself just one moment I shall deal with them in due course. It is a good Bill, secondly, because it places in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland the final executive power for the energy for Scottish industry. I believe not only is it a devolutionary Measure in the managerial and administrative sense, but that politically it is desirable that the Cabinet Minister responsible for Scotland should also be solely responsible for the electrical energy for Scottish industry.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

Yes, energy from electrical power.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue. Thirdly, it is a good Bill because it puts my right hon. Friend in the position of answering in this House for the affairs of the electrical generating and distributing industry, transmission, sales and so on, in Scotland outside as well as inside the area of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. I regularly question my right hon. Friend on the affairs of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. I rejoice in the fact that later, when this Bill reaches the Statute Book, I shall be able to question him on the affairs of electricity generation and distribution in the Lowlands' area.

Photo of Dr Hyacinth Morgan Dr Hyacinth Morgan , Warrington

Will the right hon. Gentleman be glad?

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

Whether my right hon. Friend will be glad or not I do not know.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I do not mind as long as my hon. Friend does not ask me any awkward supplementary questions.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I regularly "seek information" from him in the purest sense of that expression., Mr. Rankin: Purest?

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

I should like now to pass from these matters to one of statutory importance, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) and the hon. Member for Cleveland both referred in the course of their very interesting speeches.

I have searched the Amendments to existing statutes and the statutes which are to be repealed, as they are set out in the Bill, with very great interest, in order to find reference to the Ministry of Fuel and Power Act, 1945, but I can find no such reference. I suggest that this is a serious omission which will have to be remedied in Committee. My right hon. Friend will recall that in the course of our earlier controversies on the affairs of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board I regularly drew attention to the fact that it seemed a trifle contradictory that whereas the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Act, 1943, vested sole statutory power, in the House, in respect of the affairs of the Board, in the Secretary of State, yet Section 1 of the Ministry of Fuel and Power Act, 1945, reads as follows: It shall be lawful for His Majesty to appoint a Minister of Fuel and Power (in this Act referred to as 'the Minister') who shall be charged"— and here are the operative words— with the general duty of securing the effective and co-ordinated development of coal, petroleum and other minerals and sources of fuel and power in Great Britain,… The 1945 Act does not say "in Great Britain less only the area of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board." As the Ministry of Fuel and Power Act was placed on the Statute Book two years later than the Hydro-Electric Act, 1943, it clearly follows that there is a contradiction between those two enactments. I suggest that we should do well in Committee to amend the Bill in order to make the position clear as to the overall responsibility of the Minister of Fuel and Power once this Bill reaches the Statute Book, as I hope it will in the passage of time.

Mr. McNeil:

It seems that we have no Law Officer on the Bench opposite, which is an extraordinary omission. No doubt that is because the Secretary of State is himself informed on the subject. I should have thought that the point which the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) draws to our attention might be covered by Clause 1 (2) whereby the powers under the Acts of 1943 and 1947 are transferred. But this is a very important point and no doubt the Secretary of State will give us the answer to it at once.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

I would not seek to respond on behalf of a Law Officer of the Crown, for I am not a lawyer, but perhaps the right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) will permit me to make this comment: I think he has become a little confused between the 1945 Act and the 1947 Act. The 1947 Act was the Electricity Act—the nationalisation Act—whereas the Ministry of Fuel and Power Act, 1945, established a Ministry of Fuel and Power, appointed a Minister and charged him with the overall responsibility for the services which I read out a few moments ago. My complaint is that the appropriate sections of the Ministry of Fuel and Power Act, 1945, are not amended in the Bill before us this afternoon, and I suggest that the omission should be remedied in Committee.

Mr. McNeil:

I must make it plain that I would not quarrel with that comment at all. I have practically come to that conclusion myself. But this is the most extraordinary position: we are proceeding with the Second Reading of an important, and I am told unusual. Bill without a Scottish Law Officer on the Government benches.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

Perhaps the Secretary of State could secure legal advice on this rather difficult point before the Joint Under-Secretary of State replies to the debate.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

On a point of order. In view of the fact that vital information concerning the purpose of the debate, information essential to its continuance, is obviously lacking, I beg to move, "That the debate be now adjourned"—until the information is available.

Mr. McNeil:

May I put it to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that, to say the least, it is an unusual usage of, perhaps even a discourtesy and certainly a great embarrassment to, the House that when an important and relevant point is made we have no Law Officer to give us guidance. Is not my hon. Friend's Motion a reasonable one?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

It is entirely in my hands whether I accept the Motion for the Adjournment of the debate, and I have not accepted it.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

I hope not to occupy the time of the House for too long, but I am sure that by the time I have resumed my seat this information will be available. At all events, I will press for a clarification of this rather abstruse legal point before the Bill makes much further progress towards the Statute Book.

I want to pass to the proposed organisation of the electricity authorities in Scotland, which has occupied the attention of so many hon. Members on both sides in the debate so far. I was responsible for an intervention in the speech of the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire on the subject of Unionist policy on electricity. I had no desire to interrupt his speech at any length, and for that reason I contented myself with saying that, as a member of the Unionist Party in 1949, although not then a Member of this House, I had my attention drawn to the fact that a clear statement in regard to electricity generation and distribution in Scotland was enunciated and widely publicised at that time.

I have here an extract from that statement, which was made in 1949. While this Bill does not fulfil completely what was contained in that statement—and I will criticise that aspect of it in a moment—it goes a long way towards it. This is what the Unionist policy statement said: We propose a separate Scottish Authority for electricity—for the whole of Scotland and not only for the North of Scotland. This Authority would be responsible to the Secretary of State for Scotland, who would also retain unimpaired the special obligations and responsibilities in regard to the development of the Highlands and Islands which are now in his charge under the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Act, 1943. It would maintain liaison with the English Authority by means of a joint committee. My only complaint upon the structure of this Bill is that it seeks to transfer to the Secretary of State for Scotland the responsibility for the Lowlands area boards, amalgamates those boards under the Secretary of State as a single South of Scotland Board, but leaves outside the ambit of that Board the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.

For my part—and I speak only for myself in this matter—I am sorry that there is not being created a single Scottish authority for electricity. The reason I ask for such an authority is that, after a close examination of all the economic, financial and technical arguments inherent in having two Boards and those inherent in having a single Scottish authority, I feel convinced that it is desirable in the interests of the economy of Scotland that there should be a single Board.

When introducing the Bill, my right hon. Friend referred to the social responsibilities of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. Very briefly, those social responsibilities cover such things as the attraction of industry to the Highlands, the building of roads, the provision of houses and the provision of a number of services in this somewhat remote—I do not say that disparagingly—and thinly-populated area. But it is inherent in every major hydro-electric scheme in Western Europe, whether it is in Norway or Switzerland or any of the countries that are generously blessed with water power as those countries are so blessed, that as these large schemes develop one has to build roads and houses and provide amenities in the immediate vicinity. The one thing that was rather different in the purposes of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric pill, when it was presented in 1943, was, as Mr. Tom Johnston, the then Secretary of State for Scotland said

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

I was not quite clear whether the hon. Member said, "Mau Mau" or "Now, now."

Photo of Dr Hyacinth Morgan Dr Hyacinth Morgan , Warrington

The hon. Member should have his ears seen to. Mr. Nabarro: Perhaps the hon. Member will contain himself and allow me to continue. Mr. Johnston said: The large power user, as defined by the interpretation Clause, is a consumer other than an authorised undertaker or the Central Electricity Board who wants not less than 5,000 kilowatts. There is, of course, no guarantee in the Bill that large power users will be attracted to the Highlands by facilities for cheap electrical power, although I most sincerely hope they will be so attracted, and so long as I have any responsibility at the Scottish Office I will certainly do my utmost to encourage the location of some large-scale industries in the Highlands. He went on: I have some good reason for hoping—I might put it even higher than hoping—that the S.C.W.S., the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, will plant industries in the Highlands whenever electrical power is available."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1943; Vol. 387, c. 183–4.]

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

I think that there is a typographical error in the Official Report. What Mr. Johnston meant in the words that I have quoted was "undertaking" and not "undertaker." There is a subtle difference between the two. The point that I am making in connection with that quotation is that not one single industry has been attracted into the Highlands as a result of the vast investment in the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. I am not challenged by any hon. Member opposite because that is a fact.

Mr. McNeil:

Mr. McNeil rose—

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

I do not blame the Board for that. There are other economic circumstances. It is quite wrong to believe that the North of Scotland Board area is a water power area only and that the South or Lowland Board is concerned only with thermal power to which the hon. Member for Cleveland referred. I should like to correct some of his figures. He was not up-to-date. Had he been here at Question time yesterday he would have discovered that the installed capacity was not 1,500 megawatts as he suggested.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Cleveland

I did not suggest that.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

The hon. Member by simple mathematical calculation converted the figure into kilowatts, but the correct figure, at 1st January, 1954, was 1,725 megawatts installed. The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board operates 391 megawatts installed of water power, 113 megawatts installed of steam or thermal power, and 38 megawatts installed of diesel power. All these figures are at 31st December, 1952. The Lowlands Boards, in the case of the South-Western Electricity Board, operated, at 31st March, 1953, 741 megawatts installed of steam power, and the hon. Member for Cleveland forgot to say that it also operates 118 megawatts installed of water power. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie) present, because he will immediately confirm that 118 megawatts installed are part of the Galloway water power scheme built between 1929 and 1933. The South-East Electricity Board, of course, has only 249 megawatts installed, a tiny capacity relative to the whole country, and that is entirely from steam stations.

The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board is predominantly water-powered and to a lesser extent steam-powered, and the Lowlands Boards are predominantly steam-powered but have a certain amount of water power. I believe that there would be great technical, administrative, and financial advantages, notably in economy in technical and managerial staff, if the whole of the electricity generating capacity of Scotland, also the distribution arrangements, were placed in the hands of a single executive authority.

If there were indeed any special or over-riding social advantages in the location of new industries in the Highlands which might have developed from the Hydro-Electric Board's activities, then I would say that perhaps there would be an argument for keeping the Boards separate. But quite the opposite is the case, and no industries have gone to the Highlands solely as a result of the Hydro-Electric Board's activities. That being so, we have the predominance of water power, with the minority of the Board's capacity from steam power in the north and the reverse in the south. It would have manifold advantages if the several Boards could operate as a single authority, charged with responsibility for all generation and transmission, under the single statutory control of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Cleveland

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for paying some attention to my figures, but he did not destroy their truth. He merely pointed out that he had brought them up to date as a result of a Question yesterday. My figures were taken from the British Electricity Authority annual report and the Hydro Board's Report. Is not the hon. Gentleman saying that this present Measure is just a face-saving Measure and nothing beyond that in order to half carry out an election promise?

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

No, I do not think so. I gave the reasons, which I believe are good reasons, that actuated my right hon. Friend and his advisers in bringing this Bill before the House. My complaint is that the Bill has not gone far enough and that manifestly it would be in the interest of electricity generation and distribution in Scotland if the Boards were amalgamated into one homogeneous unit.

Mr. McNeil:

Will the hon. Member explain further? Was he visualising the winding up of the 1947 Board and the creation of a new authority for both generation and distribution for the whole country, or was he thinking of some executive authority to which the three boards would be responsible?

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

No. I endeavoured to make myself quite clear. I am in favour of a single Scottish authority to embrace all electricity generation, transmission and sales in (Scotland, both in respect of thermal stations and water-power stations and to carry out all the functions that are carried out in England by the B.E.A. boards responsible for generation and the area boards responsible for distribution. I believe that that single authority would carry out with greater efficiency the purpose designed by the 1947 Act. I want to draw attention to—

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

Would the hon. Member clear up one point? He has raised an interesting question. He has detailed the powers of the Scottish authority which he would create. Would he drop in his new authority the ancillary powers which are now vested in the Hydro-Electric Board?

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

Certainly not. The Hydro-Electric Board has a social mission for the regeneration of the Highlands. That is why I went to great pains to look up the Amendment to the 1943 Bill which my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart), the present Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, moved on Second Reading, and that is why I correct the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire who said my efforts had been designed to destroy the Hydro-Electric Board. He used the word "destroy." I have done nothing of the sort. I have been highly critical of many aspects of the policies of the Board and of the way it spends money—but destroy the Board? Certainly not. What I advocate, in the form of a single authority, would not detract in any way from the social purposes of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, as it is at the moment.

I want to turn to an entirely different subject, which I hope will have the sympathetic support of my right hon. Friend. Will he turn to Clause 2 of the Bill—[Establishment and functions of South of Scotland Electricity Board]? I think it would 'be desirable on the Committee stage of this Bill if we added a third subsection to Clause 2 to give the South of Scotland Board power to invest money in railway electrification measures in Scotland. That is more pressing in Scotland than in any other part of the United Kingdom, for reasons that I hope to explain later in greater detail. If I had power to decide priorities in the allocation of capital moneys for railway electrification measures I would put the electrification of metropolitan Glasgow railway lines above the Sheffield—Manchester route over the Pennines via Penistone and the Woodhead tunnel, for a variety of urgent reasons. I wish to quote Mr. Tom Johnston as chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, in page 60 of the Report for 1952: The electrification of the railways of Britain as proposed by the Weir Committee over 20 years ago should save 9 or 10 million tons of coal per annum and would have the many advantages which were obvious to the Southern Railway and are obvious to the traveller on the continent. The question is therefore submitted—Can the country afford not to electrify the railways?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

This surely is going beyond the scope of the Bill?

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

I am dealing with an omission from Clause 2 of the Bill which sets out very clearly what the functions of the South of Scotland Electricity Board should be. If I may continue for one moment, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think I may convince you that I am in order in raising this matter. Since the nationalisation of the railways and the nationalisation of electricity, it has always been regarded as the sole responsibility of British Railways to provide the capital moneys for electrification. In my view, that is wrong. It should be written into this electricity statute—as it will become—that as the organisation for generating and distributing electricity in Scotland, the electricity Boards should make an appropriate contribution under Amended powers in this Bill, which are not in the Bill on Second Reading but which I hope to see inserted on Committee stage, towards the urgent task of electrifying heavily-loaded suburban routes, and other suitable lines.

I trust, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will consider that statement in order at this stage. If I may enlarge on that, I would point out that on one occasion when I tackled my right hon. Friend at Question time about the reasons for delay in electrifying the route between Perth and Inverness, my right hon. Friend pointed out, in his response to a supplementary question, that we have got to have the power stations before we can provide the electricity for the railway lines. The hydro-electric power stations are already established in the north of Scotland and at the moment they are operating on a very low load factor. They are operating on a load factor, excluding Loch Sloy, of 37 per cent. and, including Loch Sloy, of only 27 per cent. Mr. Tom Johnston was right; not only does electric rail traction save coal but also raises the load factor of the water-power stations that are there already. That would mean a much greater efficiency in the employment of the capital that is vested in those power stations.

The same arguments apply to the lowland thermal power stations. In addition, electric rail traction leads to a great saving in large coal used by the orthodox steam locomotives. I hope that, at a later stage of this Bill, we shall include in Clause 2 direct powers for both the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board and the South of Scotland Electricity Board to make contributions to the capital cost of railway electrification works in Scotland.

My final point is in connection with the composition of the Board of the British Electricity Authority. At present the Scottish area boards, which this Bill seeks to amalgamate and to transfer their control, are now represented on the central Board of the British Electricity Authority. The representative is the right hon. Thomas Johnston, chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. As we are now removing from the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board—you will find reference to that Mr. Deputy-Speaker in Clause 3—the Board's responsibility for seeking approval for constructional schemes from the British Electricity Authority, it should follow that the Chair man of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board should no longer have a seat on the central Board of the British Electricity Authority. In place of that direct representation, and in order to fulfil the very legitimate point made by the hon. Member for Cleveland, there must be a co-ordinating committee between the authorities for generating and transmitting electricity in Scotland and the British Electricity Authority in England. Electricity knows no national boundaries—

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

The hon. Member is creating them.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

Electricity knows no national boundaries, but it is desirable to see that the control of essential interests is vested in the right people and in the right areas.

This is a good Bill, subject to the clarification of the position of the Ministry of Fuel and Power Act, 1945, subject to the amendment I have recommended in regard to a single Scottish electricity authority and to take in the Hydro-Electric Board, subject to full participation under Clause 2 by direct investment in railway electrification measures, and subject to a co-ordinating committee between the Authorities in Scotland and England. Subject only to all those shortcomings—which I shall seek to remedy on the Committee stage of this Bill—it is a good Measure.

6.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Taylor Mr John Taylor , West Lothian

The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has made so many reservations to his approval of the Bill—and most of those reservations accompanied by a wink to hon. Members on this side of the House—that we cannot take his support seriously. That circumstance should bring considerable relief to the Secretary of State because, in view of his record in regard to electricity supplies in Scotland, the support of the hon. Member must indeed be a considerable embarrassment to the right hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr John Taylor Mr John Taylor , West Lothian

Yes, indeed. In spite of the assurance of the hon. Member that he has never opposed the continuation of the Hydro-Electric Board, I can remember him coming to the Scottish Grand Committee and making a speech—which, for prolixity and rodomontade, exceeded his own record—in which he moved an Amendment which, had it been carried, would have prevented the extension of powers which the Hydro-Electric Board was then seeking.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

I want the hon. Member to be quite correct in his observations. The Amendment I moved was to reduce the extension of borrowing power from £100 million to £10 million. The purpose behind the Amendment was to give this House a more regular scrutiny of the investment of sums in the Board. It meant that they would have to come to the House every two years instead of every 10 years.

Photo of Mr John Taylor Mr John Taylor , West Lothian

Well, it seems a very strange way. I think that the hon. Gentleman could have moved an Amendment which would have been less drastic in its effect and would not, had it been carried, have ruined the prospect of the development of the Hydro-Electric Board.

I wish to join in the opposition to this Bill for reasons which appear to me to be sufficiently important. I believe the Bill represents the worst possible type of legislation because it is dishonest in its genesis. I believe it has been explained to us—not by the right hon. Gentleman, whose explanation was factual and brief and confined more or less to a paraphrase of the memorandum in the front of the Bill—but in supporting speeches. It is specious in its professions, and retrogressive in its provisions. I believe it will be disadvantageous to the public in its operation. I think it is the product of muddled and unhealthy thinking. It professes to aim at decentralisation but succeeds only in achieving disintegration. On thinking the matter over, it occurred to me that these were sufficient reasons for opposing the Bill.

In addition, I think it is merely a sop offered by Scottish Unionists, of all people, to appease something to which they are inherently and fundamentally opposed, as their very name implies—the whole philosophy of Scottish nationalism. It is my belief that by supporting this Bill the Scottish Unionists are showing the same cynical disregard for the real interests of the Scottish people as they disclosed by their support of the Bill which is mauling and lacerating Scotland's transport service and the Bill which raises rents by 40 per cent. I have said the Bill is dishonest. Hon. Members opposite who represent Scottish constituencies know that to be true. They know it in their hearts and in whatever shreds of conscience are left to them.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

I did not know it was dishonest.

Photo of Mr John Taylor Mr John Taylor , West Lothian

I think that is probably true. I believe that this Bill has been bequeathed to the right hon. Gentleman. He has been convinced that possibly it will bring some benefits to Scotland. He approached it in such a naive but sincere way this afternoon that I think he has been led up the garden.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

Would the hon. Member develop his point about the dishonesty he has discovered in the Bill? I am anxious to know more about it, as I do not wish to be dishonest.

Photo of Mr John Taylor Mr John Taylor , West Lothian

I will in a moment. Hon. Members on this side of the House recognise it as a dishonest Bill, as a Bill which plays to a dead-heads' gallery, and which tries to attract a largely nonexistent vote.

Photo of Mr John Mackie Mr John Mackie , Galloway

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that decentralisation was one of our principal points at the General Election?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

Order. I hope hon. Members may be permitted to make their speeches without too much interruption.

Photo of Mr John Taylor Mr John Taylor , West Lothian

I am not aware that a Bill which creates one authority where two existed before is a Measure of decentralisation. As I said, this is playing to a non-existent vote. I believe it tries to disguise these disreputable adventures under a cloak of lip-service to that cult of decentralisation—as the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie) has just pointed out. It has been praised by the various shades of alleged Nationalist opinion. They will regard it as a victory for themselves and a defeat for the Unionists, an unconditional surrender by the Tory Party to their propaganda, and they will be right. It is unconditional surrender born of the desire to obtain political power and to maintain it at all costs.

Sooner or later the Unionist Party, as it significantly calls itself in Scotland, will have to stand up to the implications of its traditional policy, which is to preserve the unity of the United Kingdom—as I understand it. By sponsoring Measures of this kind they are storing up future trouble for themselves. I do not believe they will make converts to the Tory Party in this way. On the contrary, they will give encouragement and impetus to the very groups they are trying to appease. However, that is their problem and not mine.

This is not a denationalising Bill. It does not attempt to return any single part of the publicly-owned sector of the electricity industry to private hands, or even to municipal enterprise. I would not regard it as a decentralising Bill because, as I have said, it creates one authority where two existed before. That is not decentralisation. Disguise it how you will, it widens the area of administration and thus increases remoteness of control. It is not a Bill to decrease bureaucratic control. In fact it achieves the worst of all possible worlds. It creates two new executives with undefined powers.

No one has yet said anything about these mysterious new executives. What are they? Will they have executive powers? If so, why abolish the existing area boards? If they are not to have executive powers, of what use are they? The Bill tells us what the executives may not do, but it does not tell us what they may do. It tells us they may not have anything whatever to do with general financial policy or with the levy of charges. Apparently they are to be technical bodies.

We are led to assume they will have authority to decide on the locus of generating plant, to approve or reject development and reinforcement schemes and to operate those schemes. Of course, it may be that such powers are linked up with financial policy and are beyond the aspect of the executives as stated in the Bill. This set-up of which we are asked to approve is so vague and ill-defined that the Secretary of State is really asking us for a blank cheque. As the Opposition we would be failing in our duty if we gave unquestioned approval to such undetailed and apparently insufficiently considered proposals.

Reading Clauses 4 and 5, which deal with the organisation of the south of Scotland district, one sympathises with the Parliamentary draftsmen. It would appear that they have been presented with a half-baked scheme in broad outline and asked to write it in Parliamentary and legal language into the Bill. They have struggled bravely with the task and we can only admire their facility for clothing ambiguity in legislative nomenclature. Nevertheless, it remains a masterpiece of ambiguous phraseology. Clause 4 provides for the establishment of two executives within a year of the passing of the Act, or such longer period as the Secretary of State may allow.… That allows plenty of timous elbow room. Clause 5 elaborates in a naive fashion. Subsection (1) says: On any scheme being submitted to the Secretary of State under the last foregoing section, the Secretary of State shall consider the scheme and may, if he thinks fit, by order approve the scheme, either without modification or with such modifications as he may, after consultation with the South of Scotland Board, think fit, and the scheme, as so approved, shall come into effect as from such date as may be specified therein. There are a good number of qualifications in that, but subsection (2) goes further and says: Any scheme approved as aforesaid may be amended by a subsequent scheme prepared and submitted by the Board, and the foregoing provisions of this section shall have effect with respect to any such subsequent scheme. Subsection (3) says: Any scheme approved as aforesaid may also be amended by an order of the Secretary of State made after consultation with the Board and with such bodies as he may think fit. We are entitled to ask what bodies—whose bodies? After reading all these qualifications and provisions for alteration, we are relieved to read in subsection (5) that any such schemes will be presented to Parliament for approval. That is a great relief, because the previous subsections cause me alarm and despondency. They should indeed be presented to Parliament.

We have already a considerable amount—almost all we need—of devolution and Scottish control in the gas industry. It may be argued that because we have it in that industry it is logical to apply it to the other power industry of Scotland. We had a greater measure of devolution and Scottish control of transport than was generally realised—that is, before it was sabotaged by the present Government—but I doubt whether disintegration of a national organisation for electricity supply is the best for the consumers in any part of Britain. I will not develop the point, because the technical aspect was ably discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer). I merely underline the point that this undermines the general principle introduced by a Conservative Government when the grid was established.

The Bill will not produce one single extra unit of electricity. Those villages in my constituency which still rely on oil and petrol lamps for lighting will not receive their supplies of electricity any more quickly under the new arrangement than they would have done under the existing conditions. It would have been better for the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to have used their time and energy trying to increase the amount of money available to the industry for development, especially in south-east Scotland. Present restrictions on capital investment are holding up development. Scottish Members who write to their area boards asking for extensions, reinforcements or developments for their constituents, are met with the answer that the Board would very much like to do the work but it cannot because of the restrictions on capital investment. If we had all the energy that had been put into the preparation of the Bill transferred to endeavours to remove some of these restrictions, that would be a good thing.

But in spite of the restrictions progress has been made under the existing Boards. That progress has been steady. On the whole, its priorities have been wisely decided. There has been a steady improvement and advance in development and reinforcement. That development will continue under the Bill. It is a normal tempo of development of our generating capacity in south Scotland, and it will continue. I hope that hon. Members opposite, if their Bill is passed, will not claim that every piece of normal development which takes place is a direct result of this Measure.

We need new generating capacity in south Scotland. We need at least one new thermal power station. The logical site for such a station is either in the Lothians or in Fife, where the coal is. The capital cost of such a station has been estimated at about £2 million. I have not seen anything lower than that figure mentioned in the technical discussions which have been going on in Scotland for some time about the need for at least one new generating station. Even if we have only one new station, is the £2 million now to be borne by the Scottish sector of the industry? In other words, are these heavy costs—because we need more of them—to be met by the Scottish consumers?

If they are, our ultimate aim—and this was surely the ultimate aim of the grid and the 1947 Act—that the price per unit of electricity should be the same all over Britain, with the person in the Hebrides and the person in the Scilly Isles paying the same rate per unit as the person in central London next door to the Battersea Power Station, will disappear. There are bound to be considerable costs in providing not only for the new capacity which we need but also for the replacement of very old stations which are now fast wearing out. It seems to me from my perusal of the Bill that they will become the sole responsibility of the industry in Scotland and of the South of Scotland Board. Unless the North of Scotland Board comes to our rescue, it is likely to be a serious matter for Scottish consumers.

I make a final point by saying that I believe that the Bill is not in the best interests of Scottish consumers. For that reason and for others—and, after all, Scottish consumers are the ordinary people of Scotland—I do not think that it is in the best interests of industry and trade in Scotland. If we hold these beliefs we are very poor Scotsmen if we run away from them and give support to the Measure merely because it may be unpopular, in a temporary way, not to support it. Its speciousness will not deceive Scottish people and I do not think that it will profit the Unionist Party. What shall it profit a party if it gain a few transient, unreliable supporters, and lose its soul in the process? I appeal to hon. Members opposite to examine their real inclinations. A good many Unionist Members have indicated privately, and in some cases semi-publicly, what their real inclinations and doubts are. I hope hon. Members apposite will have the courage to follow their real inclinations, consult their consciences about it, stick to their traditional policy and vote against the Second Reading.

6.30 p.m.

Photo of Commander Charles Donaldson Commander Charles Donaldson , Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire

I follow the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) with some pleasure, although I cannot say I take great pleasure in his speech, and I do not think he felt very happy about it himself. At the beginning he dealt with the genesis of his thoughts, and I imagined that he was going to lapse into biblical phraseology. I recently had occasion to refer to Chapter XXVIII, where I read about Jacob's ladder and the angels ascending and descending. That may be said to be the sort of thing that goes on in a debate of this type. Whether or not we are angels ascending or descending, there is certainly a division of opinion between the two sides of the House about the Bill.

Photo of Mr John Taylor Mr John Taylor , West Lothian

It is always dangerous for an hon. Member, particularly in a Scottish debate, to challenge a Presbyterian with biblical quotations. The hon. and gallant Member mentioned "genesis." It immediately occurred to me that the important part of the Book of Genesis was "Let there be light," and my concern is that there should be light not only in Scotland but also in the minds of hon. Members opposite.

Photo of Commander Charles Donaldson Commander Charles Donaldson , Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire

I am sure both sides of the House are agreed about the desirability of light.

To turn to my own area, which is the South-East of Scotland, we have heard speeches from the hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Major Anstruther-Gray) about bringing light into the rural communities. Both hon. Members referred to burghs in my constituency and I was interested in their speeches, and I want to make one or two observations along the same lines.

I have never found anything but efficiency and a desire to help in the South-East of Scotland Sub-Area Board, which has its headquarters at Galashiels, in my constituency. Whatever may have been the sad experience of the hon. Member for South Midlothian and Peebles, increased light has been brought into many of the villages and homes in my area. I know three villages which have been fully supplied with electricity. The only regret has been that it has not been possible to proceed more rapidly. It is the belief of my hon. Friends and myself that the extension of the provision of electricity will be brought about more effectively and rapidly under the guidance and aegis of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill begins: The object of the Bill is to transfer to the Secretary of State the functions of the Minister of Fuel and Power in relation to electricity supply in Scotland.… That is the first and prime function of the Bill. Whether or not hon. Members opposite agree with that, I believe that the Scottish people will welcome it just as much as my hon. Friends do.

We have had references to Scottish nationalism, and it has been said that this is a dishonest Bill, but the Government are trying to do what the Conservative Party has for years said it intended to do, which is to bring increasingly within the orbit of the Scottish Office and other Scottish Ministries matters which affect the lives of people living in Scotland.

Photo of Mr David Pryde Mr David Pryde , Midlothian and Peeblesshire

The hon. and gallant Member said, "South Midlothian and Peebles." That went out in 1950. It is all Midlothian and Peebles now. Has the hon. and gallant Member read the "Peeblesshire News" this week? It reports that the local authority has been discussing whether it will be possible to put electricity in its council houses. This is 1954. Can the hon. and gallant Member explain what the Minister failed to explain, how the Bill will increase the supply of electricity to the southern sub-area of Scotland, where it has been said that the farming industry is being impeded because of the lack of electricity supplies?

Photo of Commander Charles Donaldson Commander Charles Donaldson , Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire

I welcome the intervention by the hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles. He probably understands why I welcome it. It is because he wishes to negative the Bill, as he has wished to negative other Bills; and I am a positive type. There is sometimes difficulty when the positive and the negative meet, and sparks fly. I have not read the "Peeblesshire News" for last week, but I have certainly read the eight newspapers published in Roxburgh and Selkirk this week. I will make a point of getting a copy of the hon. Member's local newspaper this week, as well as the others, to see whether the Bill is welcomed by the people and newspapers of Scotland, as I believe it will be.

I wish to draw the attention of the House to a matter which has not yet been mentioned. When the Bill becomes law, the new Scottish Board will be set up. There already exists the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. We shall then be faced with a difficulty about the name of the residual authority for the rest of Britain, which is now called the British Electricity Authority, and is referred to as such in the Long Title of the Bill and also in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum. This is a matter which will have to be considered. We may well wish to incorporate in the Bill a provision for renaming the organisation which will remain for the rest of Great Britain. When Scotland has its own two Boards, "British Electricity Authority" will not be a correct term for the present Authority. It may be a point which we ought to consider when we come to the Committee stage, for certain alterations will probably be required to the Bill as at present drafted. It is a matter on which there ought to be an early decision. I do not propose, at this stage, to suggest what the new title should be, and I might be out of order if I did so.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I do not think the hon. and gallant Member has concluded his speech.

Photo of Commander Charles Donaldson Commander Charles Donaldson , Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire

I have not concluded my speech, Mr. Speaker. I gave way because I thought the hon. Member wished to intervene. He did not glower, as he usually does, but smiled, and I was under a misapprehension.

I appreciate that there is eagerness on the part of hon. Members opposite to make further contributions to the debate. I hope their contributions will be constructive and full of fire, but I doubt whether they will be in line with what my hon. Friends and I think. Whether or not hon. Members are constructive in their speeches, if they oppose the Bill in the Division Lobby they will not be meeting the will of their constituents or the tempo of feeling in Scotland. On this side of the House we do not support the Scottish nationalist feeling but we have always said that Scotland has every right to have an increasing say in the application of matters which appertain to that country. The object of the Bill is to

bring more Scottish thought to bear upon Scottish affairs and to put more power into the hands of the Secretary of State for Scotland in relation to matters affecting the Scottish people.

6.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Hubbard Mr Thomas Hubbard , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

I listened with great interest to the opening speech by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I have since listened to four other speeches from the Government benches on this Bill, but in not one speech have I heard any reason why the Bill was introduced to the House, except, perhaps, that it was a form of devolution and Scottish Home Rule.

I do not envy the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland his task tonight in winding up the debate. If the people of Scotland have to weigh up the advantages which they are supposed to get by breaking up the British Electricity Authority, while at the same time, remembering the Government's refusal to consider the erection of a Forth road bridge, they will realise that they are on the wrong side of the balance.

It may be said that, if there is no other reason given for the introduction of this Bill, it may be the beginning of the breaking up of the nationalised industries in this country, and we have had some indication in two speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite that that may be so. We have had a speech from the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), in which he defended first of all, the Joint Under-Secretary of State for moving an Amendment to the Bill setting up the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, and said that the Under-Secretary did not try to destroy the Bill. If he did not do so, he did try at least to knock the feet from under it, while the hon. Member for Kidderminster himself tried to knock the head off the scheme, so that we should have had a body with no head with which to look ahead or feet upon which to stand.

I should be very interested if some one would be good enough to inform us who asked for this legislation. Who suggested it? Was it the Minister of Fuel and Power, or the Secretary of State for Scotland? Was it the latter who went to the Cabinet and said, "We ought to have Scottish electricity under the Secretary of State for Scotland"? I should be happy if that was the reason why we have this Bill, because if the right hon. Gentleman can be so convincing on that particular issue perhaps he may succeed in some others that may be of considerable help to Scotland in the future; but I rather doubt that.

I am satisfied that the Minister of Fuel and Power did not himself suggest this legislation, because, when the coal industry was nationalised, followed by the gas and electricity industries, I visualised, as I am sure that other people did, the need for increasing production, for the conservation of coal and for the proper use of coal. Some day, perhaps, we might be wise enough to carry out the system of having our gas and electricity undertakings located side by side with the coal mining industry. That was one of the reasons why the control of gas and electricity was placed in the hands of the Ministry of Fuel and Power.

If we are to obtain full advantage from our coal in future, generating stations, outside hydro-electric schemes, should be provided side by side with developing coal areas. There ought to be no need to transport coal long distances from the coalfields to the generating stations, because that is uneconomic, and I can hardly believe that the Minister of Fuel and Power would think it was right and proper to separate these industries, which are complementary one to the other. I am, therefore, satisfied that it was not the Minister of Fuel and Power who asked for this Bill.

Who else could it be? We have, in fact, asked the Government to tell us who it was that asked that this Bill should be introduced. We have also asked the question as to what purpose it will serve, but not a single speaker from the Government side of the House has indicated what advantages we are to get from it or which particular section of the community it will help. Will it assist the consumer of electricity, and, if so, in what way will it do that?

I have been associated with electricity undertakings for a long time, and I used to be a member of the local authority in Kirkcaldy which was generating electricity, but was in difficulties because of the expense of the transport of coal. There was also a privately-owned undertaking, the Fife Electric Power Company, and we know the wastage there was by splitting electrical generation into small units. I do not think it is possible to strengthen anything by splitting it up, but that is all that this Bill will do

I am satisfied that, at the time of the take over, when we had, side by side, an electricity supply coming from a municipal generating station in Kirkcaldy, and also a private company, with showrooms, workshops and generating stations, it was a bad system, and long before the nationalisation of the electricity industry, both the municipal and the privately-owned undertaking were getting their electricity from the grid system. It was expensive and it became uneconomic. There is no advantage at all to the nation in a scheme such as that now before the House.

It may be that perhaps the Joint Under-Secretary may speak at greater length tonight and, for the first time, tell the House what advantages we are to get from this Bill, but, so far, we have been told nothing at all about the reasons why it is proposed that the control by the B.E.A. in Scotland should be done away with.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster said that it was quite a good thing that in certain circumstances southern Scotland should have a separate board. It might be a good thing to argue, on the one hand, that it is a good idea to split up the British Electricity Authority as far as the production of electricity in Scotland is concerned, but it would be doubly good, on the other hand, if we are to have separation, to have a whole number of electricity boards in Scotland. When one begins arguing about people in particular areas, there is no end to it. Once we give way and introduce legislation merely to satisfy one section of the community on a national basis, the people of the south would be complaining about the advantages which the people in the north have over them, and, equally, people in the east will be complaining about the advantages given to the people in the west.

The only reason given for the introduction of a Measure like this is that it is designed to transfer a large section of the operations of the British Electricity Authority to the control of the Secretary of State for Scotland, but why? So far, we have had no answer to the questions which we have asked on that point, and I am satisfied that the Secretary of State for Scotland did not think up this idea himself. I do not believe the Minister of Fuel and Power did it, and I see no reason to believe that any body of consumers in Scotland suggested a Measure like this, for the reason that there is no evidence that it will give them any advantage.

What other section could it be? Is it those employed in the industry, in generation or distribution, who think there might be some advantage to be gained from it? The answer to that question is again "No," because these very people are bitterly opposed to this Bill. Pleas have already been made to the Secretary of State for Scotland to state specifically in the Bill that the national wage structure is to be continued, but all he tells us is that he will consider Amendments during the Committee stage. He cannot expect hon. Members on this side of the House to agree to this Measure unless he states that it will not interfere with the national wages structure, and unless he gives us a better indication that there will be some advantage to the Scottish people.

I want to say, as one who was very closely associated with industries which have come under the Ministry of Fuel and Power, that we truly recognise this Bill as the thin end of the wedge. It is so easy to break up something that is already functioning effectively. If it is reasonable to argue that it is of advantage to Scotland to have a separate control of electricity, and to remove it from the Ministry of Fuel and Power, it is logical to argue that we should do the same thing with coal production. There is no difference in the argument. No argument has been produced to the contrary.

It may be true that more people are engaged in coalmining in Scotland than in electricity. We do not know whether that is true. I have not the figures of those employed in generation and distribution. The production of electricity serves a purpose that we cannot do without in Scotland. Merely to introduce a Measure that will cause trouble in the electricity industry, either in generating or in distribution, is something that the Government ought to hesitate about at this moment. They are putting suspicion and fear into the minds of other nationalised industries in Scotland and in the country as a whole.

There can be no boundaries for the production and usage of electricity or coal. The only excuse for the Bill would be that it will improve the service, but nothing in the Bill and nothing that has been said indicates that there will be any improvement in generating, in distribution or by way of cheapening the price. The only indication is a likelihood of disturbance to those employed in the industry.

I know that the hon. Member for Kidderminster has been bitterly opposed to many sections of the hydro-electric power scheme and has made many criticisms. He spent most of his time this evening dealing with them. There are many little criticisms that every one of us might make of the day-to-day administration of the nationalised industries, but never have we come across anything so likely to destroy the unity necessary for continued increase in production in Scotland as in this Bill.

We have a great deal of trouble at present in convincing workpeople in Scotland that we are thinking of their interests. The Government have done a great deal recently to convince those who work in coal mines, shipyards and engineering industries that they are not very much concerned about their welfare. The Government have also convinced the old age pensioners that they are not doing very much for the pensioners' welfare either. If the Government could say that, by this Bill, they were doing something for the welfare of the people, such as giving them cheaper electricity or electricity in greater abundance, or making life more pleasant for them, the Bill would be worth while. As it stands, the Bill does not do that, and nothing in it convinces me that it will assist those objects in any shape or form. I therefore could not support the Second Reading of the Bill.

6.53 p.m.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

I am really astonished at hon. Gentlemen opposite, for several reasons. First of all, not one of them has any experience of what Scottish development in electricity generation and distribution has brought about. Everybody opposite is saying that the Bill will not do any good but will make the situation worse; how many hon. Gentlemen opposite have any experience of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board? Hon. Members who have had such experience will know that there has never been such a rapid development of electricity in this country, except in the north of Scotland.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

Did the hon. and gallant Gentleman hear the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)?

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

I shall come to that point in a moment. I have some very vivid experience of what has been done in the north of Scotland by the Hydro-Electric Board, and I welcome the Bill because I look forward to the south of Scotland increasing its rate of development up to the same pitch as has been achieved in the north. As to hon. Gentlement opposite keeping up this fandango that the Bill will make everything worse, all I can say is that they are very poor Scotsmen.

The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) started his speech by saying that "this bad Bill" and "this niggling Bill" was trying to wreck all the economic improvements brought about by the Labour Government. Where did we stand in 1951? On the verge of bankruptcy. Where are we today in our economic resources? [Hon. Members: "Ask the Chancellor."] All this bunkum has been talked, and I really cannot sit here for the whole of this debate and hear one speaker after another make this sort of completely untrue allegation.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) has gone out. He was telling us the reason the Unionist Party of Scotland want to placate the Scottish Nationalist Party. For what reason do we want to placate this Scottish Nationalist Party? We know, just as well as he does, that they represent a voting power in Scotland that is pretty well nil.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

Hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side are making a mistake. I remember very well their policy in 1945 of Home Rule for Scotland and the policy pamphlet which they issued in Scotland, and which they afterwards ran away from. I cannot sit here and listen to one Member after another making allegations against hon. Members on this side of the House, and for that reason, Mr. Speaker, I wanted to catch your eye and be able to refute some of those statements. Now I want to come to the Bill. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] Yes, I am very glad to come to the Bill, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite had only done so they would have found it far more worth while than making allegations.

I am certain that the Bill will be welcomed in the north of Scotland by the Hydro-Electric Board because it will remove one control out of its way and will accelerate development. When I think of the schemes that the North of Scotland Board has on hand already, and of the vast improvements it is making, I realise the great drive it has made, both socially and in providing electricity and electric current in the Highlands. I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) in talking about no big industry being brought into the Highlands of Scotland because of electric power. We do not want big industries. We want the Hydro-Electric Board to go on generating light and power for the basic industries of agriculture, forestry and that sort of thing. I want to make that quite clear.

I am certain that the Hydro-Electric Board and the people in the north of Scotland welcome the Bill wholeheartedly. The people of south Scotland welcome it, because they have seen what is happening in the north and they believe that at long last a drive of similar capacity will be started in the south of Scotland.

The hon. Member for West Lothian, talking about the would-be consumers of electricity in his own constituency, said that they would have been only too pleased had there been generation of power carried out in that area. If we get a Board actuated by the Secretary of State which will produce the same drive in the south as has been done by the Board in the north—[Hon. Members: "He has nothing to do with it."] Oh yes, he has a great deal to do with it as we shall see in the development that takes place—we shall see that both in the north and the south of Scotland everybody welcomes the Bill wholeheartedly.

7.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

I am very glad that the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) decided to sit down when he did, because I thought he was going to have a heart attack. He began his speech by strongly condemning all hon. Members on this side of the House, and then, after a while, decided to deal with the Bill. But in fact we heard no comment from him on the Bill. All he spoke about was the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric scheme.

I, in company with some of my colleagues, examined the Bill before this debate began, and I did not like it. Not one speaker from the benches opposite has indicated this afternoon why this Bill is necessary. I think we can start on the basis that the principle of nationalisation as applied to electricity undertakings is accepted in every quarter of the House. Hon. Members denationalised steel and transport, but they are not prepared to denationalise electricity undertakings.

No narrow party political arguments therefore enter into the matter, and we are entitled to deal with the Bill from other angles. There is the broad political aspect—with which I shall deal later—there is the technical aspect, and there is the administration and management aspect of the industry. I am not arguing as a technical expert. I have no knowledge of the inner workings of the industry, and it would be presumption on my part to argue from that point of view.

We had a very able and competent speech today from a qualified man, my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer). He riddled the Bill with criticism, and was thereafter challenged by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) who, if I may say so, is an authority on almost every subject that comes before the House. The hon. Member for Kidderminster said that this was a wonderful Bill, and then proceeded to destroy it with every point he made. Judging from his speech, I am not very enamoured of his technical or scientific knowledge of that industry. He may have such qualifications, but he did not indicate them today.

We have not been told by anybody on the Government benches whether any authority on the technical side of the industry is backing this change. The hon. and gallant Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Commander Donaldson) who,] am sorry to see, has departed from the Chamber, got up to make, as he said, a constructive speech. He did not quote the view of any expert in the industry at all.

I do not wish to go any further on the technical side except to say nobody has yet indicated in this debate that we are going to get any more electricity because of this form of devolution. I am surprised to learn that, because the matter is going to be handled from the other side of the Border, we shall have a different type of electricity from that which we should get if it came from England. Indeed, the hon. Member for Kidderminster proved to us yesterday that we received 26 million more units from the northern area than we supplied to them. Therefore, from the technical side, we are at a very great disadvantage at the moment.

I now come to the administrative and the management side. We have a population of somewhere in the region of 4½ million, and we are going to have two authorities—the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board and the South of Scotland Electricity Board. If it can be argued that it is sound to break up the electricity undertaking into certain areas, then a very strong case can also be made for giving autonomy to the other 12 area boards in England. There can be no argument against it.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

Why cannot they have autonomy?

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

That destroys part of the argument of hon. Members (opposite. They have been trying to argue all day that this change is being made because of Scottish devolution. They cannot have it both ways.

As I have said, the 12 area boards in England will have every justification for demanding their own autonomy, and if it happens, judged by the pattern which we are going to evolve in Scotland, we shall have a lot more executives. We eliminate the South-West Scotland Area Board and the South-East Scotland Area Board, and we decide to appoint two executives. What are they for? What is their responsibility? In order to meet the needs of a population of something like 3½ million people we are told we require a Board and two executives.

If we do that in Scotland, then we are entitled to do it in England. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard) said, once we start doing it there is no case for continuing to operate the coalmining industry and the railways as we do today. Anybody associated with a business concern will admit that they try to co-ordinate the industry with a view to avoiding waste.

The real crux of this matter is the breaking up of national agreements, which have been made for the smooth working of the industry. Employers and trade unions both recognise that national agreements make for smooth working in industry which was impossible in the earlier days. This Bill makes no mention of the continuation of national agreements.

When dealing with this question, the Secretary of State said there was nothing to prevent us from having consultations. If it was good enough to insert in the 1947 Bill a Clause specifically dealing with arrangements regarding trade union agreements, then it is good enough insertting a similar Clause in this Bill. I will quote the Section in the 1947 Act, because, when the Bill first appeared, it was not included in it. It was only after consultations with the trade unions that it was decided to insert it in that Bill.

Section 53 (1, a) lays down that machinery will be set up for The settlement by negotiation of terms and conditions of employment of persons employed by Electricity Boards, with provision for reference to arbitration in default of such settlement in such cases as may be determined by or under the agreements; I will not quote further, except to make the point that subsection (3) states: It shall be the duty of every Area Board and of the North of Scotland Board to comply with any such agreement as aforesaid. In other words there had to be a national wage agreement in regard to conditions of service. I therefore maintain that, if the Bill has to go through, the Under-Secretary should tell us tonight that he intends to put in such a provision. It is not a question of consultation—we cannot have any ambiguity about this. It is stated quite definitely in the former Act and we are entitled to have it put into this one. My last point is the political one. A lot has been said about the authority being vested in the Secretary of State for Scotland, but we are getting to the stage in Scotland when all the great economic, industrial and social undertakings rest on one man and three lieutenants.

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

No, I give credit to my political opposition. I think that within the framework with which they are associated they do their work sincerely and according to their lights.

The more responsibility comes to Scotland the more we require a change in the political structure; we cannot have economic and administrative changes without some political change. I am critical enough even of my own former Government. I am not happy about many of the industries that were nationalised, and many of the great social services which were brought under national control, because I think that in many cases the administration is not effective. I am satisfied that if we are to get more economic and industrial power in Scotland, there must be a change in the political set-up.

It is impossible for a Secretary of State for Scotland—no matter how active, how energetic or how able he may be—to handle the responsibilities he is supposed to undertake. In other words, although I do not say anything "dislikeful" about the Civil Service, the more we have of this form of structure as it is, the more the Civil Service runs it and not the democratically elected.

Politically and in other ways this is a bad Bill. It is a terrible way to try to keep a promise to the electorate of Scotland to have some form of devolution. I tell the Government that if this is the best kind of legislation they can suggest to advance the economic and industrial development of Britain—and Scotland—they are wasting a lot of time. In fact, the more they bring in Bills of this kind the greater will be their fall at the next General Election.

7.14 p.m.

Photo of Sir Arnold Gridley Sir Arnold Gridley , Stockport South

It is with more than a little trepidation that I venture to be impudent enough to intervene in a Scottish debate, but as this Bill deals with a subject with which —if I may understate it—I am not unfamiliar, I felt that it might be useful if, speaking from some experience, I dealt shortly with some of the points which have been raised.

It is not for me to answer the queries from the other side as to the justification for this Bill. I would say that I only had a copy of the Bill two days ago and I was not, as the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) questioned today, consulted about it. Since then I have approached it from a quite dispassionate point of view and today have listened to practically all the speeches made on both sides.

If I were asked, as a consultant, to say whether I thought it was a good move to combine the two South Scotland Area Boards into one I should say yes.

Photo of Sir Arnold Gridley Sir Arnold Gridley , Stockport South

I am coming to decentralisation in a moment.

I have various reasons for my view—which is not held by some who have just as much experience as myself—that the authority operating the power stations in an area, whether they be hydro-electric or coal burning, should own and control them. The power stations should not be in the hands of some other authority.

I think that one of the mistakes we made in the Electricity Act, 1947, was to put into the hands of the B.E.A. the control, not only of transmission—I do not object to that—but of the whole of the power stations in the country. Hon. Members will remember that when, in the old days, the Central Electricity Board had control it was able to say how power stations should be operated. It was not the owner, but had all the necessary power to enable it, if a power station broke down in, say, Glasgow, to give Leeds or Manchester instructions to send load up North. That power was in its hands, and the various municipalities and others owning power stations at that time had to comply with the C.E.B. operational orders. That is a position which I think we should be very wise, some day, to restore, and we can make a beginning in the south Scotland area. This is one reason why I say that the power stations should be under the control of those responsible for providing current to customers in their territory.

I wonder whether hon. Members realise that, at present, no area board knows, until after the end of the year, what it has to pay for the units it purchases from the power stations. And even then—and I do not think I am wrong in my understanding of this—there is no bargaining between an area board and the British Electricity Authority as to whether the charge is too high or too low. The bill is rendered and the various area boards have to accept it. I do not think that that is the right way to carry on the business. One of the advantages of a board knowing power station costs in its territory is that, if a new industry comes along and wants power the board knows exactly what tariff can be quoted to the intending user.

That is one reason for combining the two southern boards. Another reason is this. I do not suppose for a moment that anyone would deny that, by so doing, economies would be possible. The more economies we make the greater will be the advantage to the customers in the south of England.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

The hon. Member would probably agree that his argument, as it applies to Scotland, would also apply elsewhere, and that the question as a whole should be investigated.

Photo of Sir Arnold Gridley Sir Arnold Gridley , Stockport South

I do not deny that for a moment. If Scotland wants more control over its affairs and over its electricity destination, and if the move which we are now being asked to make is a sound one, there is no reason to say, "We do not want to be the pioneers in this. We will wait until it is extended to the whole of England." Is that a very good argument? I very much question it. I have been astonished at the arguments disputing the advantage of Scotland having control of its own affairs.

Have the arguments which have been put forward been sound and genuine? Have they not really been saying, "Look here, this Bill gives us another stick with which to beat the Government. We believe in our hearts—as we must if we hear the arguments—that there will be advantages to us if this Bill is carried through, but we do not want the Government to succeed in getting it. How can we upset them? We will make a great fuss, and say, 'You should not have done this to us. In the first place, this question should be hammered out throughout England and if it becomes an agreed policy it can be applied to Scotland later.' "

I always understood that Scots were rather proud of being ahead of we poor Englishmen further south, but I am not very proud of the arguments which have been put forward today by some Scottish Members on the other side of the House. I think it was the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) who made great play about the difficulty of transmitting current between the north and south if this Bill were carried through. Those of us who have been in this business for 40 years, as I have, know that we have been doing that every day and night. Does anybody mean to tell me that Scottish engineers, discussing the matter with their brothers on the other side of the Border, will find any difficulty in coming to an arrangement for the transmission of current one way or the other? Of course they will not; it is an every-day task. That argument suggests to me that the man who puts it forward does not know what he is talking about.

I sympathise with the point which has been made concerning the remuneration of staff and employees. I am not altogether without ignorance of Scottish matters, because I have a small engineering works up there. I do not find that those who work for me in Scotland suffer because they get lower wages than those in England. Why should one anticipate that those who are to be employed in this combined board will be any worse off in future than they have been in the past? Unless there is equalisation of payment we shall not get the people we want.

One cannot pay a tool-room operator the ordinary wage of a skilled mechanic. One has to pay him several pounds a week more—and he earns his money—because of the shortage of manpower and the degree of skill which is required in his job. There need be no undue anxiety or worry about that question, but if it is necessary to incorporate in the Bill a provision to deal with it I should not argue against it.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

The hon. Member has just said that tool-makers in Scotland are paid wages equal to those of their fellow workers in the south. Only two years ago I worked in a tool room in Scotland and, although I made inquiries at many tool rooms there, I found it impossible to discover any firm which paid anywhere near as high a rate as I was getting before I went to Scotland. The hon. Member may believe what he said, but skilled tool makers in Scotland do not earn anything like the money that they do in England.

Photo of Sir Arnold Gridley Sir Arnold Gridley , Stockport South

Then they had better come south.

Photo of Mr Archibald Manuel Mr Archibald Manuel , Central Ayrshire

That destroys the whole argument.

Photo of Sir Arnold Gridley Sir Arnold Gridley , Stockport South

I did not put that point forward seriously.

The question of denationalisation has been raised over and over again. This Bill does not represent a step towards denationalisation. The South of Scotland Electricity Board will remain a publicly-owned undertaking and, if the same system is applied in course of time to the area boards south of the Border they will remain, as they are today, publicly-owned undertakings. The argument that this is a step towards denationalisation is one of which we can cleanse our minds entirely.

7.27 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

I am sure that the House was delighted to hear the contribution of the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Sir A. Gridley). I can assure him, on behalf of all Scottish Members, that we never resent the intervention of any person from foreign parts in a Scottish debate. I should not like to bring my technical equipment into conflict with that of the hon. Member, but if his argument is pursued to its logical conclusion it means the reversion of the whole great nationalised structure of electricity into private hands.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

The hon. Member for Stockport, South says that we ought not to resist the formation of this new authority, because every electricity authority should have within its own control the power units in its area. If that argument drives me anywhere it drives me back to the fact that Glasgow, for instance, will dissociate itself from the nationalised undertakings and from the new Board in order that—on the hon. Member's own argument—it can control its own power station within the city. Unless I am grossly misunderstanding his argument, I fail to see how the hon. Member can escape its ultimate logical conclusion.

He made the facetious remark, which we all appreciated, that if Scotsmen want to get better wages they should cross the Border. He admitted what the Board of Trade will also admit, that, on the average, Scottish wage rates per week are lower than English rates. I can give no figures at this moment but on the last occasion when I put to the President of the Board of Trade a particular question dealing with that point, the answer showed that the divergence between England and Scotland in average wage rates for a normal working week varied to the disadvantage of Scotland to the extent of 10s. a week. That is a fairly serious disadvantage. I shall refer to it a little later in my speech.

I am sorry to see that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) has left the Chamber. I welcome the return of the wanderer, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), and I hope he is now suitably equipped with sufficient nourishment—which I lack—to endure the rest of the debate. However, I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll has gone because he vented on our innocent heads a very fine indignation indeed, which we all appreciated; only it was not about our misdeeds, but about the misdeeds of his own colleagues, and the misdeeds, in particular, of the hon. Member for Kidderminster. The hon. Member for Kidderminster might have heard his hon. and gallant Friend replying to all the various denunciations that he made of the Hydro-Electric Board in his speech, had he been present a little earlier.

I would say to the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll, if he has to say anything in defence of the Hydro-Electric Board, that its biggest enemies reside amongst those who sit on the benches with him, and not amongst us, who have striven all the time since its inception to preserve it and guide it so that it might grow to be the vigorous project that it now is. That Board has been far more encouraged and far more kindly treated on this side of the House than ever it has been by that side, particularly by the hon. Member for Kidderminster.

For a little while during the debate I wondered what Bill we were discussing. Was it some Bill that had not yet been presented dealing with hydro-electricity? Or was it indeed the Bill supposed to be before us? For this Bill almost specifically excludes the Hydro-Electric Board from the Bill's purposes. Whether the Bill goes through or not, the Hydro-Electric Board as now constituted, with the functions and the duties that it has, the functions of generating, transmitting and distributing electricity, and with all the social purposes the Board has, would still remain as it is.

So I say that the discussion dealing with the Hydro-Electric Board has been an effort largely wasted. It leads to nothing, because, save for one or two little changes in the Board, for example, the destruction of the link that now exists between the B.E.A. and the Hydro-Electric Board, the Board will largely remain constituted as it now is and with the purposes it now has. So I say that there has been a great deal of wasted time.

However, I listened to the hon. Member for Kidderminster with interest because he did make a most interesting speech, and he made the only real proposal—

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

Well, I would take that interruption of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster to avizandum. He did make an interesting contribution. He made a real proposal dealing with devolution, devolution in Scotland and devolution in England; but by using the word "devolution" he, at least by implication, suggested the retention of an overall controlling body from which both countries would have devolved powers.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

Very simply expressed, all I proposed was that on reorganised electricity generation and transmission in Scotland it would be advisable for a variety of reasons to create one single authority for water power and steam power, and for that authority to have statutory control under my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

I appreciate that, and, as I said, the hon. Gentleman's suggestion was an interesting one. He wanted to create two national units as the basis of generation, transmission and distribution, a Scottish unit and an English unit. I take it that that is his proposal. Then he destroyed his whole argument by saying that electricity knew no national bounds. So as the hon. Gentleman has no significant regard to the argument that he so laboriously built up, he will excuse me if I leave him alone, with this further observation that he ended in the position from which we on this side started. He wants two authorities, unlike the Government, who want three. We want two also, only the limiting frontier, so far as we are concerned, would be the geographical fault that runs across Scotland—not the Kidderminster fault. The hon. Member for Kidderminster would stop at the Border.

We are going to create two separate structures, and that is what we have to examine very closely. We have to look at the nature of these two structures, separate and distinct, that are to have separate powers of generation, transmission and distribution. Admittedly there will be some liaison between them. I assume that the English authority will have some liaison with the South of Scotland Electricity Board. I assume some liaison will exist amongst the Boards. That is not clearly defined in the Bill. All we can say is that they are quite separate and distinct in their functions. As we are to create a South of Scotland Board adjacent to the English Board, we must discover exactly what the result will be.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) dealt with those two Boards from the point of view of their generating capacities. I should like to look at the financial might of each of the Boards, because I think that will provide some interesting facts.

Photo of Mr James Stuart Mr James Stuart , Moray and Nairnshire

Before the hon. Gentleman goes further, may I draw his attention to page 17 of the Bill, paragraph 17 of the First Schedule, which requires the Boards to consult together in matters which may facilitate the execution of their powers and duties?

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

I think it will be within the recollection of the House that I assumed that there would be some liaison, but I had not noted that in the Bill and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving me the direct reference.

I want to look at the financial aspect of the problem, and the figures which I am about to give to the House are derived from the Fifth Report and Accounts of the British Electricity Authority, for the year ending 31st March, 1953. The Report shows sales of electricity amounting to £190,883,967; trading expenses of over £167 million; and a net surplus for the year of £5,824,452. I want to contrast those figures with the figures for the South-East Scotland Electricity Board and the South-West Scotland Electricity Board. Sales of electricity for the B.E.A. amounted to £190 million. For the South-East Scotland Electricity Board they amounted to a little over £6 million and for the South-West Scotland Board a little over £14 million. The South-East Scotland Board had a surplus of £178,750 for last year and the South-West Scotland Board showed a deficit for the year of £100,833. The two Boards between them, therefore, had a surplus last year of £77,867, compared with a surplus for the neighbouring authority of £5,824,452.

That does not tell the whole story. This afternoon I put a question to the Secretary of State in which I asked him whether, before the debate concluded, we could be told the amount which is to be paid under the Local Government Act, 1948, by the new electricity authority to the local rating areas. That sum is considerable. At present the British Electricity Authority, which shoulders the whole rating burden for the 14 area boards, is paying over £14 million to the local authorities.

It is very difficult for an ordinary hon. Member to utilise the formula which is provided in the 1951–52 Report to work out the incidence of the rating burdens, because it involves a great deal of calculation. In the hurry in which we are usually engaged here, it is difficult to get down to these rather intricate calculations. It is necessary to search out the requisite figures, and then one becomes involved in figures for sales and for gross income and percentages which are rather time consuming. The easiest way is to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, who, I suppose, will supply the answer. At a guess I imagine it will not be far short of £1 million.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

Because I used the 11/80ths formula—but that does not matter.

I suggest that the amount from the new authority which will be consumed by the rates will be more than every penny of its present little surplus. That is the danger. This Bill will create a deficit area in southern Scotland. One of the English hon. Members opposite wondered why we opposed the Bill. Those are reasons why, if we do not go into virulent opposition, we should at least ask the Government what reasons they have for seeking our support for a Bill which will create in one particular area in Scotland a deficit which may last longer than most of us here imagine.

We have heard much about the Hydro-Electric Board but we notice that the Government, who back the Hydro-Electric Board, because of the special nature of its mission, to the extent of £200 million, are backing this new infant to the extent of only £75 million. That is a point which we should consider, too.

Here, then, is the grave disadvantage of the new situation—a lusty, vigorous adult on one side of the Border and a sprawling, helpless infant on the other side of the Border, yet both expected to maintain the same conditions for the people employed in their projects. There will tend to be a continual economic unbalance between the two. There will tend to be the gravitation, which the hon. Member for Kidderminster mentioned, of those in the somewhat uneconomic unit in the south of Scotland to the almost naturally better conditions which will prevail in the more flourishing unit on the other side of the Border. That is not a situation which I want to see created or encouraged.

While the hon. Member for Kidderminster was speaking, he was covering and uncovering his eye frequently, and I took that to mean that he was winking at this side of the House in order to convince us that his argument was not serious and that he was only pulling the legs of his own Front Bench. The hon. Member is now drooping his mouth. I suppose it is because he realises that the economic point which I have put before the House is one of substance. It is certainly one on which I hope we shall have some assurance tonight.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

It is very bad arithmetic.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

I do not agree. So far as I know, my arithmetic is fairly sound, and I think that the figures I have made out, so far as their major significance is concerned, are quite dependable.

I should like very briefly to deal with what I think are two major objections to the Bill. By disintegrating the existing national authority, that will prevent, or at least will seriously restrict and hamper, overall control. If we are to face up to a proper solution of the economic problems that are perhaps going to press on us increasingly, as the feared recession in America would indicate, then one of the things that is necessary is some form of overall control, and that will not be substantially enhanced by a policy of disintegration such as is now being pursued. If co-ordination is to take place under that umbrella, then that coordination should reside in the hands of the Minister of Fuel and Power. That point has been advanced sufficiently often in the debate to make it unnecessary for me at this particular stage to pursue it.

There is a second point which I want to make. At the present moment we have sitting in Scotland a Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Balfour. That Royal Commission, as I know, because I was engaged in the preparation of evidence that has been submitted to it, has been inundated from all quarters of Scotland, industrial, business and professional, with proposals for the better management of Scottish affairs. I know that plans have been put at their disposal which suggest that the present powers of the Secretary of State for Scotland are far too complex and widespread, and ought to be diminished and shared with an increasing number of full-time Ministers.

There is much evidence being submitted to the Royal Commission, that the powers of the Secretary of State for Scotland ought to be devolved more considerably than they are at present; that it is wrong that the strings controlling all Scottish affairs should ultimately pass into the hands of one individual. I do not like the use of the term Pooh-Bah, but it has been used time and again, and I use it with no disrespect to the present occupant of that distinguished office, because we all like him as an individual very much indeed. But that evidence has come in, and it is being considered by the Royal Commission at that very moment when the Government proceed in a contrary direction and add another onerous duty to the many that rest on the shoulders of the Secretary of State.

The Government are proceeding in the opposite direction to that in which public opinion in Scotland is advancing at the present moment—they are not in step with public opinion. They have sought to disguise that fact so far as the use of the term "devolution" is concerned. Devolution does not apply to this matter. It is an act of excision and separatism, and, because of the fact that it is cutting the present British Electricity Authority into two separate units, we are opposed to it. We oppose it also because, so far as Scottish opinion is being expressed just now through the Royal Commission, the Government are also advancing, by this Measure, against that publicly expressed opinion, and I join with my colleagues, in view of these things, in asking the Government to withdraw this Measure.

7.55 p.m.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

I have listened to this debate with increasing interest, and not the least interesting speech was that of the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin). The impression left on me is that the objections to the Bill, as expressed by the Opposition, are due to the fact that it is an attack upon the twin gods which the Socialist Party always worship. These twin gods are nationalisation, that is, government from the centre, and the trade union organisation, which is also centralised, and this Bill appears to them to be an attack upon the principle of nationalisation and the principle of central organisation for the trade unions. That is the basis of the objection to it.

I expected the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) to take a better view of the Bill than he has disclosed. It is true that his speech consisted mainly of asking a number of questions, which is quite proper, but I would have thought that, with his admitted reputation as an authority on business organisation, he would have commended this Bill, because it seems to me to be an honest and practical attempt to secure a concentration of management where management is necessary.

Under the present arrangement, the British Electricity Authority, admirably managed and well-constructed, has not the compacity or the ability to bring about that concentration of management which is so important. What this Bill seems to do is to take an area of the country which, geographically and from every point of view, is united, and united for the purpose of the generation and distribution of electricity—I do not think there is anything wrong in that—in order to bring the devolution of the functions of central management to the locality, with certain advantages.

The figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), whose intervention was valuable and helpful, showed that South-East and South-West Scotland is not in the first rank of development. It is lagging far behind, and if, as a result of this Bill, by concentration of management in South-East and South-West Scotland we get more of the new power stations such as are being erected in other parts of the country, it will be welcome.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

I am indebted to the hon. Gentleman for telling us about what is to happen under the Bill. Up to now, we have had no information about all these technical developments. What I put forward was that before we make this change there ought to be some information from the Secretary of State which will satisfy us that it will be for the ultimate benefit of Scotland.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

I wrote down what the hon. Member said. He demanded to know what consultations were to take place because unless there were consultations there would, in the Socialist mind, be no action. There must be consultation with trade unions, consultation with the annual party conference. Consultation is the essential background and right hon. Members opposite will not move unless the appropriate consultation has been made and, apparently, that has not been done in this case.

I do not profess to have intimate knowledge, but I am aware that consultations were held with the British Electricity Authority and that there was the pronouncement of the Chairman of the South of Scotland Electricity Board. The right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Wheatley) made pointed reference to that not long ago. He asked why this person had given an indication of this policy. There were consultations, otherwise the giving away of information in advance by Sir Norman Duke, which is objected to, could never have taken place. But the fact is that they were not the consultations which right hon. Members opposite wanted. The right hon. Member demanded, "Why this Bill? What consultations have taken place?" Consultations did take place with B.E.A. and, as I happen to know, in other directions.

What is the objection to the Bill from the point of view of the right hon. Member? It would ill become him to deny Scots people opportunities of greater control of industrial development—nationalised, admittedly—in their own area. Does the right hon. Member think that all the wisdom resides in the B.E.A.? Does he not think it remotely possible that a group of Scotsmen, organised for the distribution and generation of electricity in their own neighbourhood, might do it as well as a remote central organisation? I know that he is a student of organisation and I think he will admit that the nearer management is to functioning the more effective it is likely to be.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

As the hon. Member has put that point to me, may I ask him whether there is any way he can suggest by which Scotland can produce coal as cheaply as Derbyshire?

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

The right hon. Member has always been a friend of mine. I shall be happy if he gives me the opportunity to speak to one of his many organisations—the Fabian Society in Edinburgh on a Saturday afternoon, say—on how coal can be produced in Scotland more cheaply than in Derbyshire. I do not think that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would allow me to develop that argument now, although I am interested in the subject and the temptation the right hon. Member offers is almost irresistible.

But I do resist it because I want to keep to the Bill.

The Bill has many remarkable merits, as I am sure the right hon. Member will be prepared to agree after more consideration. I remember the days when I was doubtful about the organisation for generation of electricity on a nation-wide basis. But, with the education and experience and other developments one does realise that that is possible because the capital investment is beyond the capacity of a private company or a private individual—in this country at any rate.

I should like to point out to the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) that in the United States—which is the largest producer and user of electricity in the world, per head of the population—no such difficulty or problem of overlapping occurs. There one may dump a substation down, if one can find the money, almost anywhere and the country is not defiled. The overlapping, which is so offensive to the mind of the Socialist planner, occurs in abundance, but it introduces a higher standard of living than in this country. Do not be afraid of overlapping. Any good tailor will tell hon. Members that if they do not have a little overlapping a suit will not hang very well.

I should like to deal with some of the other arguments we have heard from hon. Members opposite. I was disappointed at the theme of envy and jealousy which seemed to run through most of what I heard. I was particularly disappointed by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor), who described the Bill as a vote-catching Measure or a vote-catching device. It was a Bill the object of which was to curry favour with the Nationalists—

Photo of Mr John Taylor Mr John Taylor , West Lothian

I never used the word.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

I apologise to the hon. Member, but it was certainly asserted that this was a vote-catching device.

What is wrong with vote-catching? Is there something criminal in cultivating by education, and by the standard of explanation, the votes of the people? If so, the criminals have been fairly successful for many generations. I have no objection to this Bill being called a vote-catching Measure. Of course it is a vote-catching Measure and the people of Scotland will support it more enthusiastically than support by the Division figures to- night will indicate. I am not ashamed to say that it is a vote-catching Measure, and I hope that it gets a lot of votes.

Photo of Mr John Taylor Mr John Taylor , West Lothian

I entirely agree with the hon. Member's examination of the philosophy of vote-catching, but I would add a rider to it. Surely vote-catching is a spurious acceptance of a philosophy entirely and fundamentally opposed to the philosophy of one's party as it is not honest.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

We must indulge the hon. Member, who was the organiser of vote-catching for the Labour Party in Scotland for many years.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I do not think that vote-catching is part of any Clause in this Bill.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

I quite agree, but it was mentioned in the debate. I only followed it up because it was mentioned by hon. Members opposite. I follow the experts in these matters.

The hon. Member for Cleveland, who has flitted from the Chamber, contended that it was absurd to disconnect Scotland from England in the transmission and generation of electricity. He is a very eminent member of his profession and must know, as I know, that arrangements are now under consideration to take electricity from France, from Norway and, indeed, from Switzerland. All these are possibilities and he, as an electrician, knows that very well indeed.

I notice that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard) has also left the Chamber. He protested at what he called the breaking up of the B.E.A. I have a great regard for the hon. Member, but I must warn him against the conservatism that is seeping into him. Is the B.E.A. like the Pyramids, to be there for ever and ever, or is it a living organism, which can change and modify its purposes and intentions as time goes on? Although the hon. Member is not here, I beg him not to take this Tory view of the rigidity of a nationalised industry. I beg him to think that the B.E.A. is capable of evolution, of change and development.

The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) is not here. How they dart away, these hon. Members. They pursue the loaves and fishes of life rather than the intellectual delights which may await them here. The hon. Member deplored the absence of technical advice in this matter. He need not be anxious about that; there will be all the technical advice which is available now and more in addition because of the specialised character of the proposed organisation.

The hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) has also departed. The Chairman of the Kitchen Committee ought to be flattered that the temptations of his department are more enticing than those of the debate. The hon. Member made a point about wage rates and the question was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South (Sir A. Gridley), who has so much experience of these matters. I see no problem there—[Hon. Members: "The hon. Member would not."] Those who see a problem there are afraid, or doubtful, of their powers as negotiators. If the trade union organisation in this country is what it is said to be, it will have no more difficulty in arranging wage rates under the new method as under the old.

Where is the problem? If the rates, in Scotland, in some industries or parts of industries are lower than in England is it the fault of the employers or the trade unions? The trade unions are the boasted guardians of the rights and demands of the working-class. If wage rates are low in Scotland let the Scottish Trades Union Congress look to its laurels. It is not the Tory Party they have to complain about. It is they who have failed to carry out their responsibilities.

Incidentally, I am not aware that wage rates in this industry are lower in Scotland than in England. I happen to be the chairman of an electrical engineering enterprise. We have to train people. We have to bring people from Rugby, Coventry and elsewhere to support the development of our industry. We pay not only the highest rates in Scotland. We have to pay more to bring people to Edinburgh and elsewhere, and we have to provide them with other advantages.

The suggestion that this concentration of management in south-east and south-west Scotland would have a deleterious effect on wage rates is absurd. The more efficiency there is in management the more attractive the industry will be in this part of the country. I come to the objection of the trade unions, which is really the reason why we have had such a demonstration in force. What is the fear of these great monopolies—they are monopolies—the chairman of one of which is sitting within the range of my eye. It has hundreds of thousands of members, and is the most powerful in the country in the monopoly of the labour force.

What if it is true that the setting up of an independent body will require a new arrangement with the trade unions. Trade union organisers are among the laziest of men. They like other people to do their work for them. If hon. Members opposite want information to support that view let them look at their own Electricity Act and all the legislation passed by the former Government, providing—I am not objecting to it—that for the convenience of trade union representatives those representatives shall have easy access to the management. If that is not making it easy and admitting the sloth and indifference of trade union organisers, I should like to hear a defence.

Photo of Mr Thomas Oswald Mr Thomas Oswald , Edinburgh Central

On a point of order. Might I challenge the hon. Gentleman's statement that trade union officials are the laziest of people? It is most unfortunate that a Member is permitted to make a statement of that character and to make references to Members who are not permitted to say anything in their defence.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

That is not a point of order.

Photo of Mr Thomas Oswald Mr Thomas Oswald , Edinburgh Central

Further to that point of order—

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

There can be no further point of order to what is not a point of order.

Photo of Mr Thomas Oswald Mr Thomas Oswald , Edinburgh Central

As my intervention was not a point of order—and I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—may I ask whether it is in order for an hon. Member to mention another Member who is not permitted to say anything in his own defence?

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I thought the hon. Member was rising to ask a question, but he proceeded to make a speech, which was not in order.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

I was saying that much of the heat—we have had an example of it—engendered against this very practical and useful Measure has been due to the fear that the trade unions will have some difficulty with this new body. That fear has been expressed in many quarters, not least by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Oswald).

There is nothing objectionable in the observation which I made. All of us want to do as little as we can and get as much as we can for it. I do say that the objection to this Bill which I have heard is due to the fact that the trade unions will now find that they would have to make a new arrangement and negotiate with the new body. Why not? If modern society demands new forms of organisation they should meet that situation. They should not be like the Pyramids or regard the B.E.A. as being like the Pyramids. I see no reason why trade union officials should not make a proper arrangement on behalf of their members with the new body as they have done with the B.E.A. and other organisations in the past.

The observations which I have heard from the Opposition give me the impression that that is their fear, that they are not afraid of the disadvantages of this organisation from the point of view of the people of Scotland, that Scotland will not welcome it. What they fear is that their established practices as trade union organisers will be made a little more difficult and complicated. I am entitled to say that because I believe it to be true.

8.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

We had the usual display of verbal acrobatics from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling). I sincerely hope that the hon. Member is not going to quit the Chamber in the way to which he took exception when other people seemed to have done so. We have had his usual display of what I might call "darlingistics." I doubt very much whether he himself believed what he said.

He spoke of our having practised vote-catching for generations. No one should know better than he how long we have practised it. There was a time when he was on our side and spoke in support of what we believed. It is all very well for him to talk about taking the chair at Fabian Society meetings. I feel inclined to suggest that an electric chair would be suitable.

We remember how in the House the hon. Gentleman has battled against the bureaucrats—the wonderful phrases that he used to pour out—"obdurate," "isolated from reality," "ruling our destinies." I wish he had addressed himself to the Bill.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

The hon. Member should address his remarks to the Chair.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

I am perfectly sure that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will call me to order if I get out of order. The hon. Member, having addressed us for so long and having said so little in such a long time, should not prolong his own participation in the debate by usurping your functions.

We have known the hon. Member as a fighter against bureaucrats. He has not said a word about the effects of this Bill on that very aspect of Scottish life. Whatever may be the real genesis of the Bill, I have tried hard to find out its effect in its technical aspects. I listened to the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Sir A. Gridley), who gave us his impression of what would be the technical and managerial advantages. But he was honest because he said that the ideas he was putting forward were not accepted by other experts. It is in that statement from the one admitted expert who has spoken on the other side of the House that has emerged one of the real objections that we have to the Bill.

It is all very well pioneering, but in a country where every pound spent in capital development has to be doled out so carefully by the Treasury, one does not pioneer without first devoting a certain amount of consideration and investigation to what is to be done. That is all that we on this side of the House want in this matter. Surely before we take this new step some considered decision should be come to by the experts who presently, as the hon. Member said, disagree on this matter.

Photo of Sir Arnold Gridley Sir Arnold Gridley , Stockport South

The hon. Member misunderstood me. When I said that there were other experts who disagreed with me, I was referring to the one point of whether coal-fired generating stations should be owned by B.E.A. or the area boards. That is the point.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Surely that is one of the main points of the Bill.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

One of the main points is to concentrate, as the Member said, the management of generation and distribution within the hands of the one authority. If there is doubt as to the efficacy of that, it should have been investigated first. We were quite right to ask, as we have asked, about what technical discussions have taken place on this matter and whether there have been such discussions. We had the right to be given information about what had happened, and we have not had it.

To my mind, the Bill runs counter to what has been the accepted idea of the general trend of British electricity development since about 1925 or 1926, and the plan from which Scotland has probably derived more than any other part of Britain. With this recognition of the whole of Britain as one generating area, in the development and progress in Britain there has been nowhere any match for the development which has taken place in Scotland since that idea was accepted. So far as engineering and technical problems are concerned, they are of a nature which, in my opinion, can best be solved by that central body of experts which we can get from the B.E.A.

Not a single hon. Member opposite has given us any complaint from Scotland regarding the British Electricity Authority in the matter of generation. I have heard hon. Members, one after the other, complaining about questions of distribution in the rural areas. But it is to those authorities who are already concerned with distribution—many of whom have been falling down on that job—that we are adding the burden of generation. We have only to see what the "Sunday Express" said last week about the British Electricity Authority. Last Sunday it had a glowing leader on the goodness and progressive nature of the B.E.A. and the success with which it had done its work. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may not agree, but in this debate no one has been able to say otherwise. There has been no question of making suggestions of economy. Once again we have not been given one single detail of the way in which a pound will be saved.

What have we got at the present time? We have the South-Western Electricity Board and the South-Eastern Electricity Board. They are to be wiped out, and instead we are to get one new central authority. That is a strange form of devolution, of bringing people nearer to their controllers and managers about which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South has spoken. Instead of having two authorities, we get one great new body of bureaucrats to control the whole of central and southern Scotland. And then, of course, to help them, we create two other authorities, so that where today we have two Boards we shall have three.

I do not doubt that if a Labour Government had been doing this we would have heard the cry of "Jobs for the boys." If anyone does raise that cry he will be haunted by his own statements. We have more than just one Board be cause now, for the first time, we have the Secretary of State for Scotland coming in. So we shall have one more department in the Scottish Office

Photo of Alice Cullen Alice Cullen , Glasgow Gorbals

More jobs for the boys!

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

More civil servants, more experts on the distribution and generation of electricity to advise the Secretary of State for Scotland. I should not be surprised if before long we have a demand for another Under-Secretary of State, or it may be another Minister of State, to trot round and have a look at the Boards.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Exactly, why not? The truth is that this patched-up Measure is the outcome of the bombastic speeches and the nationalistic flag-wagging we got from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, and the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) and from the junior Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland in the days when they sat on this side of the House. They told us how Scotland was in chains and they were going to denationalise and get rid of the bureaucrats and return the services to the local authorities. I wish the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South had dealt with that problem. He was one of the people who talked about the loss of real democratic control by the taking away of services from the local authorities. There is no question here of their being returned to the local authorities.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

No nearer at all if they are to be given to this body of impersonal bureaucrats. Hon. Members opposite in days gone by decided that they were going to put an end to this high and mighty body of bureaucrats. They were going to free us from the enslaving bonds which bound us to Whitehall—"Scotland Arise," that was their challenge in those days. But their patriotism has failed in responsibility. The fresh wind which it was prophesied would blow through St. Andrew's House—[Hon. Members: "A vertical wind."]—I do not know about that, but it has certainly cooled the nationalistic ardour of Scottish Tory Members, not least the junior Undersecretary of State for Scotland. In fact the only contribution to Scottish self-government on the part of this Administration has been the prosecution of guileless youths who had taken too seriously the speeches of hon. Members opposite made when in Opposition.

This Bill, small as the Secretary of State admits that it is, and unimportant as it looks on the surface, raises the whole question of the future of Scottish government. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite realise where they are going and the questions they are raising. True, they have a Minister of State to help them out in the various jobs they have to do, though, so far as I can see, he is more or less a Government-paid propagandist for the Tory Party who goes about the country explaining their policies to the people of Scotland.

What has the Secretary of State presently to do? [Interruption.] We are glad to see the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South flitting from the Chamber. The Secretary of State for Scotland has to look after and is responsible in Scotland for all these things: the police and prisons—and in the Home Department he has also to look after the efficiency of the National Fire Service and Civil Defence in Scotland—he has to do the job of the Minister of Health and look after housing, agriculture and fisheries; if that is not enough, he has education to look after, local government, town and country planning. One man is responsible for all this. In the Highlands he has special powers regarding roads, piers and harbours. He has full control of the whole of afforestation in Scotland and shares with the President of the Board of Trade the development area policy for Scotland.

Whereas on English questions Members of Parliament can address themselves to the Home Secretary, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Housing and Local Government, the Minister of Agriculture, the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Transport, in Scotland all these responsibilities reside in one man and Scottish Members have one day per week on which they can question him about all these matters. One of my hon. Friends says, "But what a man." Of course, we are all proud of his powers of oratory, but the question is one of ability to deal with these responsibilities.

This really is an impossible task for a Member of a Government who is also a Member of the Cabinet, with joint responsibility for all the other high and burdensome decisions. He has all these matters to look after. But it is equally difficult for Scottish Members of Parliament. We get one day per week for Questions. Under the Bill the Secretary of State is to be given another function for the first time. This is a serious matter. He is now to have responsibility for the generation and distribution of electricity in Scotland. That means that, instead of putting our Questions to the Minister of Fuel and Power, we shall have to put them to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

What chance shall we get of having them answered in the House? At present it is only on about two days in the rota that we have the opportunity of having Questions answered orally. This new function will make matters much more difficult. Also, I should like to know how this subject can be debated in the House. We have had no mention at all whether or not Scotland will be allowed an extra day for the discussion of Estimates. If we are to discuss electricity, we shall need more time. This is a most difficult matter. Does not the Secretary of State for Scotland realise that with every new burden he takes upon his shoulders he underlines and emphasises the need for a change in Scottish government? He has taken this upon himself. He has told us that even he does not want Scottish Nationalism and a Scottish Parliament. It is inevitable that the question will arise with all these new burdens—

Photo of Commander Charles Donaldson Commander Charles Donaldson , Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire

Is the hon. Gentleman now suggesting that he—with his party—recommends a separate Scottish Parliament?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

I can tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we do not recommend the Bill which raises the matter. We are concerned about the future organisation of Scottish business in this House and the way in which it should be properly divided out.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I doubt whether the hon. Member is in order in discussing the arrangement of Scottish business in this House. He is in order in discussing the additional duties placed upon the Secretary of State for Scotland, but if he went into further detail, he would be going beyond the Bill.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

The Secretary of State is already over-burdened. It is a complete farce to suggest that the kind of Ministerial supervision which will be required by this new and important responsibility can possibly be given. I put it no higher than that. From that point of view it appears to me that more than ever we shall have civil servant control, and it is even more likely that the bureaucrats on these Boards will have a much more easy time than they did when they came under the responsibility of the Ministry of Fuel and Power which is concerned only with fuel and power.

I am determined that in Scotland we should get the very best out of any changes made. I do not think that we shall get any good from this form of devolution. If we had had any explanation from the Secretary of State showing how we would get more or cheaper electricity, then I would gladly have thrown my whole weight behind the Bill; but the right hon. Gentleman gave us no reason to justify the change. He left us purely and simply to guess that this was more or less some tartan eye-wash which he was throwing in the eyes of the Scottish electorate. It is eye-wash.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South said that Scotland will now be able to get a greater share of these power stations; these managers, with their concentrated new powers, would do it. But he was wrong. The Bill states clearly that responsibility for the allocation of capital expenditure will still be retained by the Treasury. So we are "Nae further forrard," as we say in Scotland. Whitehall will still control the capital development which will lead to the generation of further supplies of electricity in Scotland.

The implications of the Bill are serious. If there had been some effort to return to democratic control of the service through the local authorities, it would have been a real solution to one of the dilemmas of Scottish government and all government at the present time. The Secretary of State has taken upon himself an impossible task, and he has done so without properly considering the consequences to Scotland, to electricity in Scotland and to Scottish government. If he had thought about it and submitted it to the Royal Commission as a matter for discussion, we might have been able to take a step towards real devolution, but, as I said, this is pure tartan eye-wash.

8.36 p.m.

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

The way in which the Opposition have handled the Bill is a splendid example of trying to have things both ways. If the Government do what they said they were going to do, the Opposition ask why we are doing it, whether it is necessary and whether we have had any previous consultations. On the other hand, if the Government do not do what they said they were doing to do, they are attacked because of that.

Another example of trying to have it both ways was provided by the speech of the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin). The general attitude of the Labour Party is, "Hands off the Hydro-Electric Board," and yet the hon. Member complained that the Bill excluded the Hydro-Electric Board. He cannot have read the Bill very carefully. He cannot even have read the Explanatory Memorandum, because it clearly says what the Bill does about the Hydro-Electric Board. It states that the Board does not now have to obtain the central Authority's approval of its expenditure and its plans. The Bill allows the Board to take part in wage negotiations now, but the hon. Member does not like that. There are four and a half pages at the end of the Bill dealing with the position of the Hydro-Electric Board, and yet the hon. Member says that the Board is excluded from the Bill.

Photo of Mr Archibald Manuel Mr Archibald Manuel , Central Ayrshire

Is the hon. Member trying to tell the House that, for the first time, the Bill gives the Hydro-Electric Board some powers with regard to negotiations? Is he not aware that under the 1947 Electricity Act the Hydro-Electric Board was tied to national negotiations in relation to conditions and wages, and that this had to be applied throughout its region?

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

The hon. Member has previously in the debate referred to Section 53 of the Electricity Act, 1947. The point there is that the central Authority had only to consult the area boards and the North of Scotland Board. If hon. Members refer to page 20 of the Bill, they will see how Section 53 is amended and how the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board is brought into the Bill in this matter.

The attitude of the Opposition seems to me to be characterised by fears, rather than facts in this case. They are afraid that this may be the first nail in the coffin of nationalisation. They seem to have forgotten that their leaders are going away from "nationalisation" and are now talking about "public ownership." They also seem to have forgotten how long public ownership has already existed in the electricity industry.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) spoke as if he would have preferred the Electricity Act never to have been passed and would have preferred electricity undertakings to have been left in the hands of the local authorities. He complained that the Bill did not hand back to local authorities the powers which they had lost. That seemed to be the burden of his final remarks. The hon. Gentleman complained, as other hon. Gentlemen opposite have complained, that there may be political repercussions from this Bill and that adjustments may have to be made in the procedure of this House, but surely adjustments should be made in this House in order to conform with the needs of the people of Scotland.

The first thing to do is to see that the Bill conforms with those needs, and that is the purpose of this Bill—to conform with the needs of the people of Scotland. Let us do what is administratively necessary first and make the political changes which are necessary after that. It is no use saying that this may add to the number of Questions which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State may have to answer. If there are more Questions arising out of that, it may be necessary, but, in view of the number of Questions on Scottish matters, it may in any case be necessary to make a change; but that is no reason whatever for complaining about this Bill.

I could not really make out whether the party opposite wanted a change in this respect or not. Do they want a change to more political devolution or not? The hon. Member for Kilmarnock spoke at times as if he did, but again he was trying to have it both ways. He was addressing his remarks as if he were in favour of further political devolution in Scotland; he complained that this Bill was leading towards it, but said he was not in favour of the Bill. It was extraordinarily difficult to follow his argument, just as it has been difficult to follow the arguments put from the other side of the House. I am trying to put those arguments in logical form as they appear to us, and I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that they make no sense as an attack on the Bill.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

One of the important points made by my hon. Friends in this debate is that, if we are to make a change, it is reasonable that we should know what are to be the results of that change and its repercussions on the economy of Scotland. We have had no information from the responsible people concerned about any inquiry into that matter at all, and if the hon. Gentleman can tell us, it might make a difference.

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

I hope very much that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-secretary of State, in winding up the debate, will give us this information, and if he does, as I hope he will, and shows how this Bill is definitely going to be of benefit to the people of Scotland, I hope that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock will do what he said he would do and give his wholehearted support to the Bill. That is what he said he would do if the Bill was shown to be of benefit to Scotland, and we shall await with very great interest the speech of the Joint Under-secretary of State and the action which is to be taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

The Secretary of State, in introducing the Bill, had ample opportunity of explaining the Bill to us and showing us its various merits, but so far we are completely in the dark as to what is going to happen. I tried to point out some of the political consequences, and we have had no answer as to how they are to be tackled.

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

The fact is that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State explained very clearly the purposes and the methods of this Bill, and I am quite certain that the Joint Under-Secretary, in winding up, will explain it equally clearly and give answers to those hon. Gentlemen opposite who have expressed their fears and doubts.

I think this Bill fulfils in principle a promise that we gave. It is true—and this was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)—that it does not set up one Board fox the whole of Scotland, but that merely shows that we on this side of the House are determined to adapt and adjust what we intend to do for Scotland to the facts as we see them at the time, and that is what we are doing here. We recognise that the Highlands of Scotland have special problems and we do not wish the interests of the Highlands to be dominated by any other interests at all, whether from the Lowlands or from Whitehall. The need to develop the Highlands of Scotland is so great that it is good to have a separate Board there. Hon. Gentlemen opposite say: "In that case, all you are doing is to combine two Boards into one," but that is not the case. We are taking under the control of Scotland the whole of the electricity generation and distribution of Scotland. That is exactly what we said we were going to do

How very much we welcomed the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South (Sir A. Gridley), who has immense experience in electricity. He recalled what was discussed during the passage of the Electricity Act and said that it was not necessary or even desirable that generating stations should be controlled by one central body. No doubt one would like to see, as he said, the main distribution of electricity throughout the country remain under one authority, but, as my hon. Friend also very wisely said, we can hope that the Bill is a step in that direction. There is no doubt in those circumstances, the decision having been taken to assume control of generation and distribution in Scotland, that it was right to combine those two boards.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Cleveland

If that be the case, does it not make nonsense not only of the 1947 Act but of the 1926 Act as well?

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

It does not make nonsense of them. The south-east and south-west areas make a compact unit for the generation and distribution of electricity, and the question obviously was whether to retain two Boards or to have one.

I am not quite clear about one point in the Bill. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock said: "You combine them in one Board, and then you establish two other Boards." That is not true. The Bill says that two executives shall be established. Of course, there must be some decentralising. The hon. Member himself was in favour of it; but the object of putting something into a Statute is to get somebody to do something which we think they might not otherwise do. Surely it is obvious that the South of Scotland Board would be decentralised to other bodies, either in the existing divisions or otherwise. This is an administrative matter for the Board, and I am doubtful whether it is wise to define in this way the administrative action of the Board which we are setting up. This is a matter with which the Secretary of State perhaps can deal tonight or when we discuss the Bill in Committee.

It is also said that the Bill will bring in bureaucrats. When the hon. Member for Kilmarnock was speaking, I was not quite certain whether the bureaucrats were members of the Board or gentlemen in St. Andrew's House. He and other hon. Members, like the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael), gave the impression that they feared that the Bill would entail further control by civil servants. The Bill mentions the Secretary of State quite often, and in setting up the South of Scotland Board and in making adjustments the Secretary of State must inevitably come into the arrangements. I hope that the Secretary of State will not come into the picture too much after that, and that the Board will be allowed to run its own affairs. For that reason it might be just as well to have the Board situated where the electricity is mainly consumed in Scotland, and that is in the west.

There is one other point to which I wish to refer, because it is one of immense importance. Periodically in this House we have debates on Scottish industry. Here is a very large sector of industry supplying power to other industries, a sector which is, in a sense, outside the scope of these debates. I know that the last time we had a debate on Scottish affairs there was an unprecedented line of Ministers on the Front Bench, and we were very glad to see them.

If we are really going to plan proper employment and distribution of industry in Scotland and encourage industry in Scotland, then, surely, it is a good thing that the source of electrical power should be in the control of the Secretary of State for Scotland so that he may consult the different industries and other organisations in Scotland in order to get the best results. He should have the necessary powers to deal with these matters. I think it is a good thing that the whole of electricity generation and distribution right down to the customers in Scotland should be in the hands of the Scottish people and under the control of the Secretary of State for Scotland. For that reason, I welcome this Bill.

8.52 p.m.

Photo of Mr Archibald Manuel Mr Archibald Manuel , Central Ayrshire

I am very pleased Mr. Speaker, that at long last I have managed to catch your eye. I believe that everybody else who has spoken in this debate has had some sustenance. As yet, I have had none.

The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) said that the party opposite were all out for the good of the people of Scotland. It is my sincere conviction that all hon. Members of the party opposite stand condemned because of their support of the break-up of long-distance road haulage. I leave it at that. The Highlands are already having to deal with problems arising from that, and hon. Members are receiving petitions about it.

In moving the Second Reading of the Bill, the Secretary of State for Scotland certainly said nothing to allay the fear of the trade unions that it may ultimately have a very bad effect on the wages and conditions of work of their members. Up till now, the trade unions have been able to negotiate with the B.E.A., and, as a result of this central negotiation, conditions of work and rates of wages were laid down which applied equally to the north of Scotland as to other parts of Scotland.

This Bill weakens that position and gives autonomy to two separate Boards in Scotland which will have to negotiate separately. I am sure that no large-scale industrialist would agree that this was a good thing. I see two hon. Members opposite smiling. If any Scottish Members of the party opposite are prepared to smile at something which may mean the worsening of conditions and the lowering of wages for the working-class of Scotland, then they ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. For far too long the people of Scotland have had worse conditions and lower wages than their counterparts in England. The hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) need only talk to his farm workers; they may be getting more, but not as much as their English counterparts, and that should not apply.

While I agree about the possible repercussions that this may have on wages and conditions that is not my only fear. There is the difficulty of preventing those repercussions affecting trade union members employed by the three Boards. Those three autonomous Boards, working in their own peculiar circumstances, will have to meet varying conditions. They will have to meet demands for rural electrification in one area to a greater extent than in other, and more sparsely populated, areas. The hon. and gallant Member for Argyll knows that to give electricity to the farmer and the farm worker, so that the housewife can use her electric iron or the farmer milk his cows, costs much more than in the more thickly populated areas.

Even in southern Scotland we still have a lot of rural areas with no electricity, but, though the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll says that they now will under this Bill, the Bill does not create a single extra unit of electricity. The Secretary of State will not have to get his jacket off and go into a generating station to produce electricity. It all depends upon the capital development allowed to the right hon. Gentleman by the Treasury, and if the Chancellor is not more forthcoming on behalf of Scotland than he has been during the lifetime of this Government we shall be very badly off.

In the sparsely populated areas we will have greater capital outlay and there will be a greater impact of loan charges on the Boards in those areas. That cannot be gainsaid. New schemes are necessary. Under the present set-up these Boards must look at their oncost charges, of which labour costs will be one. They will then find themselves in the same difficulty as the British Transport Commission has in dealing with the men employed by British Railways. Everyone agreed that railwaymen were lowly paid and under paid. The Act passed by the Labour Government laid it on the Transport Commission that it had to stand on its own feet and here the smaller areas are being told that they, too, must stand on their own feet. The Bill gives no release from that, and there will be soaring costs if the question of rural supplies is tackled.

My main opposition to the Bill has not yet been dealt with, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will be good enough later to try to answer my point of view. My fear is that by the setting up of three separate boards in place of the B.E.A. we are losing entirely the main conception of the 1947 Act. By that Act the Labour Government intended ultimately to level out prices over all the country and to avoid householders paying a higher price for their electricity—because of the high cost of generation or supply, and so forth—in their particular area than in others.

Surely that was a laudable thing—or do I take it that the party opposite are agreed that because a board is having difficulty in supplying electricity to its rural areas the people in those areas should pay 8d. a unit while somebody in another area pays 2d. or 1½d.? Is it putting it too high to say that a more Christian conception would be an ultimate pooling of resources, so that men earning £6 a week, whether in Dundee, Ayr, Oban, Leicester or London, pay the same price for the electricity they consume in their homes? Surely that is a much finer conception? I should like to know what are the arguments against it.

I should also like to know the position of the South of Scotland Board under Clause 12 (3). It appears from that subsection that the words "seventy-five millions pounds" have to be written in in place of the £200 million which applies to the Hydro-Electricity Board, and that a limit of £75 million is being placed on the South of Scotland Board's borrowing powers. There was no limit under the B.E.A. set-up, as laid down in the 1947 Act. The Minister could have allowed whatever borrowing ceiling he liked, according to the needs of certain areas, but this Government are putting on a ceiling of £75 million, and the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll will understand that this may mean a longer wait for rural electrification than would otherwise have been the case.

I am not against devolution. As a Scottish representative, I am not against administration being as close as possible to the people. It is necessary to have decentralisation. I should give the Boards full powers in whatever respect they require them. This Bill does not give them full powers. They are still tied to the Treasury, and no matter what the Scottish boards may think the Secretary of State has to approach the Chancellor—and I see someone behind Mr. Speaker's Chair who will possibly wreck the chances of the right hon. Gentleman getting much more from the Treasury. To tell the Scottish people that the Secretary of State will do something which will bring great relief to them is just not telling the truth. He will have to approach the Treasury and get their consent, after having had to consult his Cabinet colleagues in order to get them to back him up.

I am being completely sincere in saying that there should be a national pooling of resources at the end of each financial year. A national authority should decide where help is needed; what area most needs help; where costs are soaring to the greatest extent, and how best we can help the people of Britain by giving them more electrification at the cheapest possible price. I believe that if we were to retain that conception, we should ultimately, although it may be a long-term job, be able to get a standard price per unit of electricity consumed by householders, and enjoy greater equity than we shall be able to by this, in my opinion, wretched Bill.

9.5 p.m.

Mr. Hector McNeil:

I shall try to deputise for the late hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Neil Maclean). Often we listened to his contributions in this House, and I have no doubt what his views would have been on this subject.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I called Mr. McNeil, not Mr. Maclean.

Mr. McNeil:

I am most sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I misunderstood, but as a fellow Celt I would say that it sounded like Maclean. It is not a name for which I would apologise, only I was baptised in this name, which I would not apologise for either.

Photo of Hon. John Maclay Hon. John Maclay , Renfrewshire West

May we get it quite clear, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that it was not I whom you called?

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

Certainly. I called the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock.

Mr. McNeil:

If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) wants to sit on these benches we will try to arrange for that to be done.

This, plainly, has been a very poor night for the Government. It has been asserted on this side and almost admitted on the other side that this is a sham Bill. We have had, I think, two speeches in which technical reasons for it were adduced, those by the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Sir A. Gridley) and the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). I shall refer to some of their arguments later. For the rest, however, the only argument that was offered for the Bill was offered by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), with his usual gusto and his usual disregard for logic and for fact. He told us, while the Government Front Bench looked very uncomfortable, that the reason for the Bill was vote-catching. He told us that our reason for opposing it was that it made things more difficult for lazy trade union organisers.

These are two interesting propositions, but they had very little to do with the Bill and we shall argue about them in the proper places. We may have the fortune to discuss them, for example, at a by-election that is impending in the city of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, South. It will, I am sure, advance the electoral chances of the party opposite if one of their supporters be exposed as saying, "Of course, this Bill is designed for vote-catching."

All in the House with any knowledge of the subject, however frequently they may disagree with the hon. Member for Kidderminster, will agree with his proposition, which he repeatedly offers, for he has come frequently to the Scottish Grand Committee to educate Scottish Members on this point, that what we want is a national programme for the generation of electricity. The rider, of course, is that we attend to the efficient distribution of that power. No one defending the Bill has attempted to say that by this piece of alleged reorganisation there will be produced one additional kilowatt of electricity. The limiting factors nationally for the generation of the power we need are the production of cement and steel, building capacity, and engineering skill. That is beyond argument, and it is sheer humbug to pretend that this piece of apparent reorganisation will ease that position.

Several of my right hon. and hon. Friends took up the point which immediately flows from this—that no one, except the hon. Member for Stockport, South, has attempted to show that there is any technical justification for the Bill. In putting forward his case, which he did with his customary fairness and cogency, the hon. Member immediately admitted that his was not a position held unanimously by experts but that there were experts who disagreed with him in the conception that generation and distribution should be under the one authority.

As we were reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer), there is inside the British Electricity Authority a committee—which, I believe, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) promoted—which addresses itself speci- fically to the question of reorganisation inside that industry. That is a very important point. I did not know, and I am sure that the whole House is indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland for this information, that that committee has recently been in Scotland. As I remember, the committee carries area board representation, and it is, therefore, a proper assumption that at the appropriate level the South-East or South-West Scotland Boards were represented on it.

I want to put a perfectly fair point to the Joint Under-Secretary of State. As I remember, the report of this committee is the property of the authority, but I believe I am right in assuming that the Minister can also call for a copy.

Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife East

The committee to which the right hon. Gentleman refers is the Reorganisation Committee of the British Electricity Authority. It is composed entirely of B.E.A. officials. The B.E.A. has not announced any decisions upon any report which it received. The Government cannot officially know what these decisions are, because they are entirely an internal B.E.A. matter.

Mr. McNeil:

I hope I am not misunderstanding the hon. Gentleman. He is not attempting to tell the House, I am sure, that the Minister cannot have access to such a report. If that were the case we should be in an extraordinary position. We all know that we cannot question the Minister on day-to-day operations, but we have always been able to question him on matters of policy; and if the Minister is not himself to be informed of the information and conclusions behind such a large measure of reorganisation as is proposed in the Bill we are in a ludicrous position.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Cleveland

The point should be made clear that the area electricity boards, including the South East Scotland and the South West Scotland Boards, were consulted in the setting up of this committee. Whether they were directly represented or not I would not know, but all area boards were certainly consulted.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

It is purely a domestic B.E.A. official committee.

Mr. McNeil:

When my right hon. Friends were, happily, in the then Govern- ment one of the problems which confronted them was that it was essential, from the point of view of both the House and the country, that from time to time there should be scrutiny of the operations and organisation of these nationalised industries. Various remedies were applied. One of the proposals which arose from the activities of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South—and I speak from memory here—was that the Authority's committee was set up. But the committee, as my hon. Friend has reminded us, was empowered to consult every area board. I am trusting my memory, but my recollection is that they were also empowered by the Minister to call upon any experts they wanted to join them for any specific test. The Minister perhaps remembers.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Birmingham King's Norton

I was not following the right hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. McNeil:

I do not blame the Minister for not following; he must be disgusted with this Bill. But it is an important point.

I put it to the Joint Under-Secretary that it would have been wise to await the recommendations of this committee. I put it further to him that he is a sufficiently senior Member of this House and has been for so long sufficiently intimate with Ministers to know that, even if they have not got to the point of actual publication, it is not difficult to ascertain, through the usual Civil Service channels, what the advice is likely to be.

This examination having been made—I cannot say that it is improper, because the Under-Secretary says that they have not reported—it is unusual, and I think I would call it irresponsible, that the advice of the experts has not been sought. I remember that we were told that the B.E.A. had been consulted. We were told in the course of this debate that the B.E.A. had been consulted. Is the House to be asked to believe that consultation having taken place between the Minister of Fuel and Power and his right hon. colleague and the B.E.A. the B.E.A. never mentioned the survey of this committee and their probable views upon this point?

Can we be told whether the B.E.A. feel that it had any information that would guide the right hon. Gentleman upon this point? Can we be told if it indicated any view about the proposed piece of reorganisation which is embodied in the Bill? It is a strange fact that any Government should come to the House with a proposal of this dimension and not have sought any specialised authority or approval at all. If the hon. Gentleman is not prepared to be forthcoming about his consultations then, of course, the House will inevitably suspect the worse.

The hon. Member for Stockport, South developed a known point of view, and I thought he developed it with reason and obviously with authority. Would be not agree that while his general proposition that generation and distribution should be married is a good general proposition he does not necessarily want that applied to this development at this stage?

The biggest single problem confronting the country is how can we get nearer to the American unit usage per industrial man hour. The figure quoted is that we use one unit per industrial man hour and the United States use three units per industrial man hour. That shows the apparent disproportion between our productivity and theirs. It was the admission of that which, of course, drove the Labour Government into making one of its first tasks the nationalisation and unification of this industry. It is noteworthy that the right hon. Gentlemen have not—at any rate overtly—admitted any opposition to such a proposal.

In 1945—again, I am talking from memory, but I know that I am, broadly, right—the capacity of this country was about 9½ million kilowatts. When we went out of office we had raised it to about 15 million kilowatts. The capacity last year was 15½ million kilowatts. The hon. Member for Kidderminster is usually well informed on these points. That had happened because not only the House but the country had admitted that the method of achieving the most efficient use and the urgent development was through a single authority. I scarcely think that the case of the hon. Member rests unless he also admits that that necessity has disappeared.

Of course, Scottish interests in this matter cannot be separated from the United Kingdom interests. If I may take the point a stage further, I would say this to the Government, but more particularly to the hon. Member because we have found him to be reasonable and we have proof here of the irrationality of the Government. When the industry is discussing proposals to export and import power between this country and France—when there have been discussions about the possibility of importing power from Norway which Norway, unhappily, will not do because she says she cannot meet her own development programme—the Government have come forward with a miserable, timid, little Bill which scarcely bears reading and have tried to tell us that they are doing something important. This point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel).

For the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South to deceive themselves that this will be an extraordinary pulsating piece of development shows that they are not even familiar with the Bill. The Clauses which seek to provide for the financial take-over show that there is no autonomy. I have no doubt that we shall be told that this scheme will be a wonderful thing which will recapture the £1 million which the City of Edinburgh permanently lost in the ravenous maw of the B.E.A., but that will be an insufficient statement unless it also makes clear that it will recapture the liabilities. Indeed, the Bill shows that the account is overdrawn, because Clause 9 lays down that when the arithmetic is done the B.E.A. will be permitted to lend to the newly created Board the minus difference which the promoters of the Bill obviously anticipate.

Will that be in conditions arrived at in the open market? Not a chance. This pulsating private enterprise is to queue on the steps of St. Andrew's House and, when they are through with that they will come to Whitehall, to the Treasury. Once it is out of the rut will it be free to build as it wants? The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South gave us a picture of people jostling each other in the rush to push on with these tremendous developments. But the powers and limits are quite clearly laid down in the Bill. They are to be found in Clause 12 (3) and the limit of their borrowing power is £75 million. They will get into this queue, but they will get into a more important queue. The ability of this authority to develop is not conditioned by this Bill; it is not conditioned even by the amount that is written into the Bill. It is conditioned, as every responsible hon. Member knows, by how much material and how much labour is available nationally. That is the real test.

Some hon. Gentlemen opposite may believe that there is autonomy. The Secretary of State has an obligation to tell them that not even this Government believe for a second that this haphazard free-for-all is to take place in this important economic sector. The right hon. Gentleman knows, as he sits there, that he will go to the Cabinet and subsequently to a Cabinet Committee, and will there make his case, because even this Government have a capital investment programme, and must have. They must decide that capital investment programme in terms of where they can expect the greatest efficiency. I anticipate that the hon. Member for Kidderminster will remind the right hon. Gentleman, in Committee, if he needs any reminding, that that is the programme which he should pursue.

The trade union point is a very important one for us. It has been dealt with adequately, and to be fair I think that the right hon. Gentleman almost gave us the form of words we wanted. If a helpful Amendment, one which will re establish the principle that there shall be no breakaway negotiations, no back-door attack on the wage standards of this country—

Colonel Alan Gomme-Doncan:

There is never likely to be.

Mr. McNeil:

The hon. and gallant Member should have been here when his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South spoke. That hon. Gentleman told us about lazy trade unionists—[An Hon. Member: "No."]—leaders, organisers. [An Hon. Member: "Officials."] Yes. He told us of the great benefits that would arise from free competition in the labour market.

To be fair, however, I think that the Secretary of State has already said, "I do not mean to proceed with that." It may even be that he did not mean it ever to be in the Bill, because the Bill is so slightly drafted. With great respect to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, does he tell us that he has had nothing to do with the Bill? I can understand him not wishing to be associated with it. An hon. Member has argued that there should be an amendment of the 1945 Act. Someone else argued that there should be an amendment of its Title. That would be interesting, but I think he is wrong. I hope that we shall be told whether the Government mean to amend the 1945 Act, because that would expose the political fraudulence the pretence and pretentiousness of the Bill.

I do not think for a moment however, that the Government mean to amend the 1945 Act, and endow the Secretary of State with powers of a Minister of Fuel and Power—even a limited Minister of Fuel and Power. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said, the right hon. Gentleman, whom we all like and with whom many of us sympathise—he comes to the House with honesty, courtesy and good will at all times—must know that if he is to be expected to be even an abbreviated Minister of Fuel and Power for Scotland he and his Ministry will collapse.

There is no such intention. This Bill will not add very much to the right hon. Gentleman's worries. At the best it is a back-door attack upon an efficient piece of nationalisation; at the worst it is a piece of political humbug. It is up to the Joint Under-Secretary of State to try to remove our fears.

It is a curious business to come to the House and say that this will be an economy because two Boards are to be nationalised and, at the same time, to tell us that we shall have two executives. To me, at any rate, it looks as if the Government were trying to pretend to a section of the Scottish people that they would be getting something while, at the same time, trying to assure those behind the scenes that nothing will be lost. We have heard the definition of a harlot as being a lady having power without responsibility. It is the opposite in the case of this authority which has responsibility but no power. It is to play the rôle of a drudge. It is to be a puppet, a figure to be manipulated sometimes.

We on this side of the House will, of course, vote against the Bill, because the case has not been proven—no one has attempted to prove it. But we wish to say, as we have repeatedly shown, that we are not afraid of devolution. But devolution is not a slogan or a phrase. It is a practice. The slogan may be here, but the practice is not, and no one has even attempted to demonstrate that it is.

9.31 p.m.

Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife East

I think it fair to say that the debate and the speeches may be divided into two parts. One is a series of questions on what might be called minor points, and the other an onslaught upon the whole principle of the Bill. It may suit the convenience of the House if I try first to deal with the various minor questions which have been raised.

The hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) asked about rates. It is true that a little over £1 million has been paid by the B.E.A. to the Secretary of State as payment in lieu of rates to local authorities in the south of Scotland district. This sum, adjusted to take account of changes, will be paid in future by the new Board. The hon. Member then said that the pro fits of the two Boards last year were only some £60,000—

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

I gather that was what the hon. Gentleman said.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

No, the two together were £77,878.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

That makes it all the better. The hon. Member said that if this sum of just over £1 million was paid, they would be out of pocket, but, with respect, I think he is mistaken. At present the B.E.A., which pays the contribution, recovers it from the area boards by one of two methods, either by means of a direct contribution in respect of area board assets or, alternatively, out of the charge made for electricity supplied to the area boards. The rate payment therefore is made before the profit was calculated, and so this in no way affects the profits.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

If the hon. Member has any further points to make, we can clear them up in Committee.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

But it is not made clear in the Report.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

I hope I have made it clear now.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Sir I. Clark Hutchison) raised the point about Edinburgh's £1 million asset which was taken over in 1947. My hon. Friend has been in touch with the Secretary of State and knows what is the situation. Shortly, it is this. The financial settlement to be made between the South of Scotland Board and the B.E.A. will be governed by Clause 9 of the Bill, as we all know. The settlement cannot be made until the new Board is set up. In any case, it must take account of the financial position of the various bodies concerned in the matter, on the date of transfer, that is to say, April of next year. Therefore, it is not possible at present to be specific about the treatment of any particular item in the settlement.

However, Clause 9 has been drawn in wide terms to give full scope for a just and fair settlement. It covers, among other things, the proper division between the Board and the B.E.A. of the B.E.A.'s intangible assets. These include the free reserves of companies and local authorities taken over under the Electricity Act, 1947. The reserves accumulated by Edinburgh Corporation will, therefore, be taken into account in this way. I think that my hon. Friend can feel reasonably sure that Scotland will get the benefit of this £1 million as a credit. It is true that the Board inherited deficits as well as assets, but here is an asset which I think we can count upon Scotland receiving. It will be put to the credit of Scotland.

I was also asked about Consultative Councils. It is true that under Clause 3 (2) the two Consultative Councils now in operation in the south of Scotland are to cease to exist, but, as my hon. Friend knows, under the First Schedule it is proposed to place on the new South of Scotland Board the same obligations in this respect as the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board now has. That means that it must establish a Consultative Council in the south of Scotland. I have no doubt that this Council when formed will create sub-committees, as the Act provides, so that the local interests are fully met.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)—I am very glad that I am able entirely to agree with him tonight—asked three questions which I can answer shortly. First, he raised what he called an abstruse legal point. It was a little difficult. I think that the answer is that the Bill transfers to the Secretary of State for Scotland the duties of the Minister of Fuel and Power in relation to electricity supply in Scotland. It does not affect the Minister's other duties, but clearly the Secretary of State and the Minister must act in the closest consultation on all matters of policy.

Mr. McNeil:

Then why not amend the 1945 Act to say so?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

Let us consider that in Committee.

Mr. McNeil:

No doubt the hon. Gentleman has considered it before.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

I am only responding to the right hon. Gentleman's intervention and inviting him to assist us in this matter. Let us consider it.

Another point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster was about railway electrification. He asked why the Secretary of State does not take power so that the two Scottish Boards may invest their capital in railway electrification in Scotland. The answer is that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not the Minister of Transport. He is not responsible for railways in Scotland. We have the Transport Commission. The new Board will have power, like the B.E.A. and the other Boards, to supply railways with electricity; but they have no power themselves to electrify the railways or to finance railway electrification. Obviously, that must be a matter for the Transport Commission. We hope that there will be very close co-operation between the Commission and the Boards.

Another point my hon. Friend made was about co-ordination. He thought that there should be some way of co-ordinating the work of the new Board and the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board with the B.E.A. I am sure that my hon. Friend has noticed that the Bill, by annulling Section 17 of the Act of 1943, requires the three bodies to consult together and to collaborate on any matters which will facilitate their proper functioning. This will give the advantage of joint action where it is desirable without creating unnecessary machinery which might only encumber the real co-operation that we want.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Commander Donaldson) raised the question of a possible change in the name of the British Electricity Authority when the new Board is formed. I am very much obliged to him for that point. We shall have to look at it. It is a matter for the Committee stage.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

Invite us to the christening.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

I was also asked about the executives which are to be formed. The proposal is to amalgamate the two existing South of Scotland Boards into one new Board which will be responsible for all major policy in finance, direction, planning and so on. However, as my colleagues from Scotland know very well, the two districts have their own peculiarities. One is based in Edinburgh and the other in Glasgow, and it is thought by those whom we have consulted, those who know the areas best, that for the purposes of local administration, such as in regard to distribution and contact with consumers, subsidiary executives would be to the advantage of the consumers and would make for good administration. That is all that is intended, but we shall be happy at a later stage to discuss the matter and to indicate just what is intended. This is a matter in respect of which the Secretary of State will have to lay regulations.

I come now to the matter of the trade unions, which was referred by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) and also by the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) who has met the Department on the subject and also corresponded with us, very amicably, I believe; and other hon. Members have also mentioned the subject. I hope the House will not become confused about this. The position is clear. It is not as troublesome as the hon. Member for Cleveland appears to think it is.

Let me put our case. The Bill deals with the matter in Part II of the First Schedule, in which it is proposed that Section 53 of the 1947 Act shall be amended. I have the Act by me and will gladly refer to it if the House wishes. At present the Section places the sole responsibility for seeking consultation with the appropriate trade unions upon the B.E.A. The B.E.A. are, in turn, required to consult the area boards and the Hydro-Electric Board. Again, in turn, these Boards are required to comply with whatever decision the B.E.A. takes.

My Scottish colleagues in the House will agree with me that if we intend to maintain the independence of the Hydro-Electric Board—there is no argument about that—and to establish the independence of the South of Scotland Board, it is a little difficult to say that in this important matter these Boards must be subject to the decision of a Board sitting in London which has now nothing whatever to do with Scotland.

Several Hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham East

I know that hon. Members opposite may not agree with me, but I am trying to explain the Government's view. That is what we feel about it.

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

The hon. Gentleman said that the Hydro-Electric Board was outwith the British Electricity Authority now in respect of conditions and wages. It is not. Section 53 of the 1947 Act brought it in.