Amendment made: In page 2, leave out lines 4 and 5, and insert:
the Act of 1943, and, so far as they relate exclusively to Scotland, the functions of the Minister and the Secretary of State acting jointly under the Act of 1947."—[Mr. Henderson Stewart.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
There is one aspect of the transfer of functions and responsibility, from the Minister of Fuel and Power to the Secretary of State for Scotland, on which I should like further clarification. I raised the matter on the Second Reading of the Bill and the reply given me then by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland was not entirely conclusive or satisfactory.
In consideration of the Explanatory Memorandum printed on the front of this Bill I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the provisions of the Ministry of Fuel and Power Act, 1945. The second paragraph of the Memorandum reads:
The transfer to the Secretary of State, with some exceptions, of the functions of the Minister of Fuel and Power is effected by Clause 1.
The excepted functions are of a safety and efficiency character in connection with electricity supply and also the certification of meters and the measurement of electricity. There is nothing in the Memorandum, or in Clause 1 dealing with the wider responsibilities of the Minister of Fuel and Power under the 1945 Act.
On the Second Reading there was a good deal of misunderstanding in the House as to the provisions of Section 1 of the 1945 Act and, if I may, I will read shortly the appropriate Section as ii has a direct bearing upon this Clause.
Under the 1945 Act the Minister of Fuel and Power is charged 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, of maintaining and improving the safety, health and welfare of persons employed in or about mines and quarries therein, and of promoting "—
and here are the operative words—
economy and efficiency in the supply, distribution, use and consumption of fuel and power, whether produced in Great Britain or not.
That Act does not exclude Scotland; it leaves with the Minister of Fuel and Power responsibility for the development and for the efficient use of all forms of fuel and power in Great Britain.
Under this Bill, by Clause 1, we are transferring certain functions from the Minister of Fuel and Power to the Secretary of State for Scotland, but in my view the position remains obscure as to who is responsible ultimately, that is, either the Minister of Fuel and Power under the Act of 1945, or the Secretary of State for Scotland for the overall duty of co-ordinating fuel and power policy, embracing coal, gas, electricity, fuel oil and the remainder. It is significant that the Bill before the Committee makes no reference whatever to the 1945 Act—
Mr. Hector McNeil:
Surely this is a point of considerable importance, Sir Charles. While it may be argued that this is not in Clause 1, it depends a great deal upon how the Clause is read. The hon. Gentleman is making the point that the obscurity of the drafting leaves this point ambiguous. With the greatest respect, I am sure it would be for the convenience of the Committee, and perhaps for the guidance of people involved in this Measure, if we knew what the right hon. Gentleman thinks that Clause 1 means in relation to the 1945 Act—which Minister is responsible. I take it that this is the point of the hon. Gentleman.
Very well, Sir Charles, I shall not mention the 1945 Act again.
May I refer to the short title of Clause 1 which reads
Transfer of the functions of the Minister of Fuel and Power "?
What I want to know from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is whether the transfer of functions under this Clause takes within the ambit of transfer the general responsibility for national fuel and power policy so far as it is applied and related to Scotland. That is an obscure point in the drafting of this Clause, and it will be within your recollection, Sir Charles, that I endeavoured to have an Amendment set down on this point. It is printed on the Order Paper, but was not selected for discussion and it was as follows: in page 2, line 17, at end, insert:
(5) The functions referred to in the foregoing subsections shall not include the general duty of the Minister to secure the effective and co-ordinated development of coal, petroleum and other minerals and sources of fuel and power in Great Britain and of promoting economy and efficiency in the supply, distribution, use and consumption of fuel and power, whether produced in Great Britain or not, under section one of the Ministry of Fuel and Power Act, 1945, or under regulations made under that Act.
I am not approaching this as a matter of omission. I am now approaching it in an interrogatory fashion asking for a clear statement by my right hon. Friend as to whether the transfer of functions referred to in Clause 1 of this Bill, embraces within the transfer the general responsibilities of a national fuel efficiency and development policy that are at present within the powers of the Minister of Fuel and Power, under the Act of 1945, to which I have referred.
I hope by right hon. Friend will be able to give me a reply on this specific point because, within the transfer under Clause 1, we are creating a situation whereby the Secretary of State for Scotland will be responsible for the Highland Board and for the Lowland Board—that is to say, the South of Scotland Board —for the electricity generation and distribution industry. However, it leaves the responsibility with the Minister of Fuel and Power for the other nationalised fuel industries, coal and gas. Once the transfers under this Clause are carried out, it is difficult to understand who, in the ultimate, will be responsible for national and overall fuel and power policy.
With the greatest respect, Sir Charles, this is a point which we attempted to pursue earlier and it is most important. I am not competent to say that this is the only point at which it can be raised, but this seems the best point at which to raise it. For reasons at which we can guess, none of the Ministers so far has been able to give us an assurance upon this point.
The Joint Under-Secretary was kind enough to refer to a question which I and another hon. Member addressed at an earlier stage, and very courteous and gentlemanly he was about it, but his answer was as ambiguous as the drafting of Clause 1.
But perhaps I am wrong. If I am, it is quite easy for the hon. Gentleman now to tell us that, as was claimed by the Government, the Secretary of State is the Minister exclusively responsible for the co-ordination of all fuel and power industries in this area. We know perfectly well that he cannot give such an assurance, and it is because he cannot give it that the wording of this Clause is so vague. That is why no reference has been made to another enactment to which we are specifically forbidden to refer at this stage.
The simple point is whether the Government will say, "Yes, we are sorry. In fact, we do not transfer to the Secretary of State the powers that we claimed that he would have. We agree that we cannot transfer the powers and we agree that the over-riding authority remains for the whole of the United Kingdom the Minister of Fuel and Power." If the Secretary of State will say that, although we shall still have an ambiguous Clause, we shall all know that the Government's claim has been bogus from the beginning.
I remind the Secretary of State that when this matter was dealt with, and in reply to a speech that I made on Second Reading, the Secretary of State, in column 483 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 3rd February, used these words:
Let us consider that in Committee.
I claim that this is the only opportunity of considering this very important point in Committee, and as it will affect national fuel and power policy for many years ahead, not only in relation to Scotland but in relation to the whole of the United Kingdom, and especially in view of coal conservation aspects I believe that this is a question which I should press my right hon. Friend to answer in some detail.
I must press him to give a specific answer to what I called on Second Reading an abstruse legal point. No doubt the legal luminaries in this Committee can simplify the matter for me and help all hon. Members to understand exactly what the position would be in relation to fuel policy.
I hope that in speaking on the Motion now before the Committee I shall not be taken to be making a speech intended to be made on an Amendment which has not been called. As the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has pointed out, the Committee is in a difficulty. I want to make a suggestion to the Secretary of State which I hope he will consider between now and the Report stage with a view to amending one of the Schedules. The 1926 Act, among other things, dealt with the standardisation of frequency. In view of the close association between England and Scotland in the generation of electricity, and if he wants to avoid trouble in future and make matters clear to professional organisations and trade unionists who are interested in electrical generation, the Secretary, of State would be well advised to incorporate in one of the Schedules the relevant part of the 1926 Act.
A small Bill, the Post Office (Site and Railway) Bill, for example, goes into great detail with regard to specifications, and in view of the fact that the 1926 Act is to apply under this Bill we should have within the Schedules of the Bill the whole of the relevant Section of the 1926 Act so that the right hon. Gentleman may know exactly where he stands. At the moment things are rather nebulous. I hope that the Secretary of State will consider that suggestion seriously before the Report stage.
The Secretary of State should pay very careful attention to what the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has said. Whether he intended to do so or not, the hon. Member, in raising this question of responsibility already on Clause 1, has exposed the central weakness of the Bill. I tried to argue on a previous occasion that if it is now logical to hand over electricity to the control of the Secretary of State it is equally logical to give him control of coal, petroleum, and other sources of fuel. The truth is that the hon. Member for Kidderminster is far more discerning in these matters than are the Government whom he supports.
I understand that the Government support in general terms the recommendations of the Ridley Committee which, if it said anything at all, said that there should be a much closer co-ordination of our fuel and power services. Yet by this very Bill the Government, without any consideration of the wider implications, are going right against the recommendations of the Ridley Committee. We should be grateful to the hon. Member for Kidderminster, even if he did not intend us to be grateful, for exposing at such an early stage a very grave contradiction which is inherent in the nature of the Bill.
Purely from the point of view of avoiding another civil war, it might be helpful if I tried to reply to English hon. Members now so as to allow the debate to carry on in relation to Scotland. I appreciate entirely that my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) gave us notice on Second Reading that he intended to raise this matter of responsibility. Having given that notice, he may be assured that we took the necessary steps to make quite certain that we were right and I can assure him that we are right.
I must inform the right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) that the assurance which my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary gave on Second Reading was not quite as I understood the right hon. Gentleman to translate it. My hon. Friend, referring to a question by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, said:
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 Slate and the Minister must act in the closest consultation on all matters of policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1954; Vol. 532, col. 483.]
That is the situation as we thought it was then and as we now confirm it to be. There is nothing in the Bill, and certainly not in this Clause, which can curtail the Minister's powers and duties of co-ordination. What, in fact, is transferred are certain specific powers with regard to electricity supply.
The hon. Member says that that is the point, but it is a point which was not taken by the Government which the hon. Member presumably supported when they set up the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board and left co-ordinating powers in the hands of the Minister of Fuel and Power. Why the hon. Member should object to our following the same course now passes my comprehension. I should have thought that he at once would have considered that we had followed an established and valued precedent of which he would have had good regard. The situation is not a difficult one at all. The question of co-ordinating powers is one which does not involve the Minister concerned having the complete control of the industries he co-ordinates.
My right hon. Friend, for instance, co-ordinates the fuel and power questions which arise in connection with coke ovens. Half the coke ovens of the country do not come under his jurisdiction—if I may use that word—but under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Supply, yet he is responsible for the co-ordination with the iron and steel industry. The same is true in regard to fuel research. We are not responsible for all fuel research. My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, through the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, has a lot of responsibility there. These questions of co-ordination are outside the actual powers of operation and it will remain possible for my right hon. Friend to continue to co-ordinate fuel and power policy in Scotland notwithstanding any provisions of this Bill. I can assure the Committee that the point is one which, although interesting to debate, is not of any real or vital importance.
I take it that the hon. Gentleman will not overlook this fact. He referred to our Act of 1947, but he will remember that under that Act the chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board is made a member of the British Electricity Authority, whereas, by this Measure, it is proposed to remove him. That link with the Ministry of Fuel and Power is removed by the Bill.
—and coordination can still be carried on without that particular link. It is a matter which causes my right hon. Friend not the least concern and the hon. Member need feel no worse anxiety than I do in this connection.
The Committee is indebted to the Parliamentary Secretary for his precise statement. I hope that I shall not misquote him if I say that he has made it abundantly clear—and has done so frankly as his was the first frank intervention from the Government Front Bench on this subject—that the Ministry of Fuel and Power in no way parts with over-riding powers in relation to coordination.
But the Parliamentary Secretary went on to say that, for example, under this Bill the Secretary of State, through his authority, will be responsible for generation. The Parliamentary Secretary surely knows that those two statements are irreconcilable. He is saying, in effect—I think he is quite right in saying it—that so far as the activity of the South of Scotland authority dovetails into national needs and national purposes, that authority will be permitted to perform in conformity with the national Authority. That is the only sensible attitude to be taken.
The Parliamentary Secretary, who was technically so admirable—I mean that sincerely—was, of course, politically a little gauche because his right hon. and hon. Friends have been stumping the country and saying that that precisely is what the Bill did not mean. They have been trying to tell the country that this was a Gaelic revolution and that they were endowing an empire in the south of Scotland where there would be complete autonomy. I hope that I did not do the Parliamentary Secretary an injustice at an earlier stage by translating him improperly, but, of course, at that stage he was determined, quite understandably and rightly perhaps, to be politically adroit and to answer in terms of Tory head office propaganda.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster has elucidated an acceptable and sensible point. We cannot have generation of electricity for one area and one authority and not for another. The weakness is that we are breaking down the co-ordination which had previously been achieved and had to be achieved if the scheme were to operate. What will now happen is that the Minister of Fuel and Power will say to the Secretary of State, "Do not bother about these silly speeches. Come into the committee room and we will decide what is national policy." I do not want to be unfair to the Secretary of State—
I did not think it was a report I had to give to my hon. Friend. We have now seen the Secretary of State's political humbug and the political confidence trick performed not only by him but by some of his hon. Friends. Now that has been set aside and we have it stated quite clearly that the powers vested in the Ministry of Fuel and Power, by the Act to which I am not allowed to refer, are to remain with him and that nothing in this Clause is to alter that position.
I must press the Parliamentary Secretary for a further explanation as, apparently, he is the target for tonight, and not the Secretary of State for Scotland. I regard the Bill as absolute humbug, but we are not concerned about rivalry between England and Scotland. Some hon. Members of the Committee have had something to do with co-ordination for many years, and know something about it from a practical point of view. We are concerned that between now and Report stage the Secretary of State will put into the Schedule those Sections of the 1926 Act which deal with "such functions." We do not like the words "such functions" and I ask the Minister, or the Parliamentary Secretary, the Secretary of State, or one of the galaxy of Under-Secretaries to give that undertaking, for which I think it absolutely reasonable to ask.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 25, at the end, to insert:
Provided that amongst such persons shall be one qualified as having experience of, and shown capacity in, the organisation of workers.
I do not think there is need for much discussion of this Amendment, which is an eminently reasonable one. It seeks only to ensure that this Authority shall conform to a pattern which has been set by other authorities. It would be utterly unreasonable if its composition did not include someone who not only had experience, but who was—I do not mean in official terms, but in reasonable and warm terms—a person who had the same
kind of idiom as the people to whom the Authority will have to address itself. We are not tied to the words in the Amendment, and I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to say, without more ado, that he is prepared to accept the substance of the Amendment.
I wish to support my right hon. Friend in his advocacy of this Amendment. An extraordinary feature of this Bill is its drafting. It is a Bill of shreds and tatters, bits and pieces, and references here and there. Sometimes the reference is to the Act of 1943 and sometimes to the Act of 1947. In Clause 2, which is concerned with the establishment of a South of Scotland Electricity Board, the reference is to the Act of 1943. The Board is to consist
of persons appointed in accordance with the First Schedule to the Act of 1943.
It is true to say, if one looks at the 1943 Act, which established the Hydro-Electric Board, that there is no specific provision in it for an expert who is knowledgeable in matters affecting labour relations. There was such a provision in the Electricity Act, 1947, as in all the nationalisation Acts. In the 1943 Act, however, the provision was left very loose indeed.
It is extraordinary that this Bill should revert in this matter to the words of the inferior Act rather than that the model of the 1947 Act should be followed. The words we are using in this Amendment have been taken from the Act of 1947, and they are to be found in all the nationalisation Acts. I cannot believe that the omission was deliberate, but it is another example of a very bad habit of the present Government, because they made precisely the same kind of omission from the Bill to establish the Atomic Energy Authority which we have recently discussed in the House. We condemned that omission then, and the Minister responsible for that Bill accepted our condemnation by agreeing to our words.
I suggest that these words are sensible. They are in line with much existing legislation, and there is the precedent to which I have just referred of the recent Bill, on which the Government gave ground during the Committee stage. Surely a similar concession should be made here. We are not, of course, asking that there should be some delegate of the trade unions within the industry. We want someone—possibly a former trade union official, although that does not necessarily follow, though in the main these appointments to bodies in the other nationalised industries have been men of great experience—with a broad range of knowledge of the everyday problems which arise in matters of collective bargaining and labour relations generally.
Taking the experience of nationalised industries so far, the trade union members who have served and are serving on the boards of those industries have proved themselves to be competent, able men who have brought much to the service of those industries. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not, by refusing this Amendment, lose a similar blessing in the organisation of this new authority.
I support the Amendment. One scrutinises the Clause in vain to find out what are to be the qualifications of the persons who will constitute the Board. The Clause provides:
There shall be established a public authority for the district …
and at the end of subsection (1) are the words:
consisting of persons appointed in accordance with the First Schedule to the Act of 1943.
The Clause does not specify what are to be the qualifications of those persons; the matter is left entirely at large.
In the interests of the Board, if a Board is to be appointed, it is worth appointing it well and properly and defining the qualifications of the persons who are to constitute it. What is to be their experience? What are to be their qualifications, their capacities? There is not a word about that in the Clause. Here is an Amendment which is specific and proposes that qualifications should be expressly stated.
There are other reasons why the Amendment should be accepted, as I hope it will be if the Government look at it not in a partisan but a responsible way. The Government want the Board to function well, they want to have the right persons on it. Why should they not specify what are to be the qualifications, capacities and experience of the men who will serve upon it? All that the Clause says is that the Board shall consist
of persons appointed in accordance with the First Schedule to the Act of 1943.
Who are they to be? What are to be their qualifications. There is not a specific mention of these anywhere. As my right hon. Friend has said, the Clause, like other Clauses in the Bill, is characterised by vagueness and indefiniteness, and it will be very difficult to administer. There are other tests that we should apply to a Clause of this kind, or indeed a Clause of any kind which sets up a board or committee. One test is how is it to be construed in the law courts, if it ever comes—
I do not wish to transgress, Sir Rhys. I have emphasised the point I wish to make, that this is a vague Clause, lacking in definiteness, and we consider that the Amendment supplies that concrete and definite quality which is lacking in subsection (1). I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment.
If I reply now, it might help the Committee in dealing with the matter. The Amendment lays down that one person shall be
qualified as having had experience of, and shown capacity in. the organisation of workers.
It singles out one particular type of individual. I should like to explain to the Committee the reasons which prompted the Government to draft the Bill as it now appears. The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) is not correct in suggesting that it is vague and not thought out. Indeed, it follows a precedent. As the Bill now stands, we followed the design or precedent of the North of Scotland Board, which has worked well in practice, and it therefore seemed wise to us to follow that precedent.
As the Committee well knows, the North of Scotland Board was set up under the Act of 1943 by the National Government. It happened that the then Secretary of State was a member of the Labour Party. Under that Act the Board consists of a chairman, with not less than four and not more than eight members appointed, and no provision is laid down as to qualifications. But there are today, and there have been in the past, trade union representatives on it, because it is perfectly clear and obvious that in the appointment of any such board—in the new South of Scotland Board just as in the case of the North of Scotland Board —one would only appoint persons with qualifications suitable to make them useful and competent members of the Board.
The 1947 Act, on the other hand, provided that members of the Board should possess all sorts of qualifications. There is a list, which I need not read to the Committee. It specified commercial, industrial and financial knowledge, knowledge of the generation and supply of electricity, applied science, administration or the organisation of workers, but it did not lay down that so many or one of each should be appointed. It merely laid down that, in making appointments, the Minister would choose from such persons. I suggest that in practice the result would be much the same, namely, that obviously whoever had to deal with the appointments would choose from people thought to be qualified and suitable persons to be appointed.
We understand perfectly the intentions of hon. Members opposite, but to accept this Amendment would mean that we were not following the precedent set either by the 1943 Act or by the 1947 Act. We should be creating a new precedent. The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board has worked to the general satisfaction of all who have had to deal with it. The Board has carried out its operations with great efficiency and speed. I assure hon. Members opposite that, in making the appointments, we shall have in mind just such persons as they have mentioned, because that would be the right, natural and sensible thing to do.
In its present form the Amendment would not follow either of the precedents to which I have referred, and I suggest that we should follow a wise and sensible precedent by continuing in the South of Scotland the arrangement which has worked so well in the North.
It has been the practice, at least in Scotland, that on these boards there has been at least one person whose qualifications are similar lo those outlined in the Amendment. Attempts have been made to combine in one person experience of dealing with organised workers and of local government, and very often that has been achieved. We would like an assurance that there will be no departure from that practice.
I do not differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) nor from what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Sterling- shire (Mr. Woodburn)—
Far be it from me to ignore my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes). I thought I was pursuing the same line of argument as he pursued, and I do not disagree with him whatsoever. May I now proceed?
I recognise that these persons have to be appointed and that it is very difficult to appoint what we might call interests. Nevertheless, I am sure that the Secretary of State appreciates that people drawn from the working class, and who have gained their experience in the trade union movement, should have some say in the running of these organisations. While accepting that, I wish to mention a particular sector of the general working class movement, the Co-operative movement. While we recognise that persons from that movement were appointed to the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, nevertheless there is a feeling in the Co-operative movement that it has not—
An attempt is made by this Amendment to insert the words:
Provided that amongst such persons shall be one qualified as having had experience of, and shown capacity in, the organisation of workers.
My point is that people with that experience may be found in many sectors of the general working-class movement, including the Co-operative movement, which has received some slight but inadequate recognition in the past. I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State will keep in mind that he need not necessarily select people from one strata of the public.
I do not advocate that any sectional interest be represented on the board. In the past people have been selected who had practically no knowledge of the industry concerned. Many of them were completely inefficient, even in their own line of business. To suggest that a trade union leader should be selected is, in my opinion complete lunacy, though I would not suggest that the trades unions should be completely left out.
The procedure adopted in such selections is that a person who has held a post in the trade union world becomes a nominee for membership of these boards. Often such a person has retired, which gives the appearance, to use the common phrase, that it is a case of "jobs for the boys," and I am absolutely opposed to that. I urge the Secretary of State to take a wide view. If possible, the people selected to serve on these boards should be fairly young. They should be efficient and have some knowledge of the industry.
There are people who have not come from the trade union world and who have served with success. For example, Mr. Tom Johnston, the Chairman of the Hydro-Electric Board in the North of Scotland, was never a trade union representative, but he overshadows anyone from the trade union world. Though I disagree with him over many things I claim that his ability and capacity are exceptional. He has always made it his business to obtain knowledge about any position which he has held. To confine the selection in a narrow sense to members of the trade union world is wrong and would be liable to bring any nationalised industry into disrepute.
We should get away from the idea that all that is required is for a person to have held a position in the trade union world in order to make him a retired gentleman of leisure and capable of occupying these posts. We should look for people who can carry on the industry in an efficient manner, people who know something about the industry. We should not select them because they come from a narrow section of the community.
I should be very unhappy if the Committee were left under any misapprehension as to the meaning of this Amendment. We would not ask the Secretary of State to accept an Amendment which meant that because a man has been a trade unionist, or is aged or is retired and is of no distinction—and that sometimes does happen even in trade unionism —he should automatically become a member of the Authority.
We all agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) in his obvious concern for the efficiency of the organisation. From his extensive experience, which is greater than mine, I am sure that he would certainly be the first to admit that in the business of the generation and distribution of electricity it is most unlikely that efficiency will be secured unless there is on the governing body somebody with precisely the experience mentioned in the Amendment.
My hon. Friend chose Mr. Tom Johnston as an example of what an efficient chairman could do in such an Authority. He quite properly said that Tom Johnston had not come from the trade unions. I cannot recollect, however, that he was very far away from them. I am bound to say also that, as chairman, Tom Johnston has had the good sense to see that he had with him on the board at least three men who come from that class of people to whom we have referred. However, I am sure there is no quarrel between us.
Much as we value the undertaking given by the Secretary of State we hope that he will attempt to find a form of words which will meet the wishes of the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman was quite right in pointing out that, in a sense, we were here creating a precedent, but although we have selected one particular group of words we are not tied to those particular words. We have often heard the lecture about the good Secretary of State and the bad Secretary of State. I do not want to pursue that point here.
It would be better to find a means by which we had an insurance that by his experience and ability the type of person we seek should automatically find his way on to the Authority. My last word is to say how emphatically I agree with my hon. Friend's hope that in this Authority, as in others, there should be a high proportion of young men.
I shall not argue that one should reach 60 before being made chairman. I am arguing that it is a great mistake if, irrespective of any qualifications, there are too many aged men on any governing body. It will be appreciated that in saying that I am not attacking the Government, although it may have some relevance. The Committee is very much agreed on this subject. No hon. Gentleman on the other side has opposed the substance of the proposition, and I hope that the Secretary of State will agree to think further about it. It would be helpful, make it a better Bill, and might set a precedent if the Secretary of State would do something.
This short debate has served a very useful purpose, because it shows the difficulty of laying down in black and white exactly what is wanted in the way of an efficient, young and competent board. That is why I am still inclined, myself, to the view that it is better to follow the precedent which we are following in the Bill. I am, of course, quite prepared to consider this matter again, bearing in mind the difficulties which have been referred to in this debate.
I think the Committee would agree that one does not want too big a board. Big boards become too unwieldy and difficult to handle. I am very hesitant about laying down a long list of people who should be considered. As the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) said, they should not be chosen from one strata of society alone. I have listened to the debate with interest. I think that it shows the difficulties of laying down hard and fast rules. I will look at the point again, of course, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not press the Amendment.
I rise only to say that I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not feel that all hon. Members of the Committee are adamnant that he should go further than he has. He has assured the Committee that a precedent will be followed by which, whichever Government is in power, there will be every opportunity to choose from all the available suitable men there are, whether they are ex-trade unionists or whether they be old or young. Surely one principle that any Government will follow is that those men shall not be drawn from one strata of society. I am sure that, having had an assurance from the Secretary of State, we should rest content.
I am tempted to thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman at some length for his advice, but I will refrain. I am sure that we are all indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for his undertaking. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment
We have to recognise that from all appearances our opportunities this evening will be most limited. For some strange reason which I cannot fathom, but which the knowledgeable people may perhaps be able to explain adequately, certain Amendments have been swept clear from the Order Paper. I feel that something should be said about the definite change in the purpose of this Clause as compared with that of the 1947 Act.
The greatest danger is that in Clause 2 we are throwing over the main conception of the 1947 Act. Clause 2 gives to the area boards functions similar to those of the central authority. That is the meaning of Clause 2 (2). It entirely removes what is laid down in Section 1 (6) of the main Act, which clearly says that the functions of the central board are to:
I want to dwell on the extension to rural areas and cheapening of supplies of electricity, because I believe that Clause 2 drastically curtails the objective laid down in the 1947 Act to extend rural electricity, and certainly its cheapening and the ultimate arrival at a uniform rate. The Act indicated that the more lucrative areas should help to pay for the poorer areas. In other words, price-fixing arrangements within one region ought to apply over the whole of the country. In the South of Scotland area, charges will inevitably increase under the new set-up. I see the Joint Under-Secretary shaking his head.
That is the wrong Joint Under-Secretary. It is quite clear from examining the Report of the British Electricity Authority for the year ending 31st March, 1953, that the British Electricity Authority had a net surplus of £5,824,452. Contrast these figures with the figures for the South-East Scotland Electricity Board and the South-West Scotland Electricity Board. The South-East Scotland Electricity Board had a surplus of £178,750 for last year, and the South-West Scotland Electricity Board had a deficit of £100,133. The two Boards between them therefore had a surplus of only £78,617.
I presume that hon. Members opposite, especially those representing rural areas, will have seen the Annual Report and will be aware of the figures. I should like to know whether they think that the rural areas should stand alone and pay their own way. Under the previous set-up, which it is proposed to alter by Clause 2, the surpluses for the whole area could be utilised in whatever way was thought fit by the British Electricity Authority. But now we are creating autonomous regional areas that must stand on their own feet.
If the Joint Under-Secretary can tell me that under this Bill some proportion of this £6 million profit made over the Border is to be available in the area that made a deficit last year, I shall be very happy to know of it, but common sense tells me that in my area in South-West Scotland, where we still need a great many rural electrification schemes and where there are many farms and cot-houses without electricity, if this development takes place in a situation in which there is already a deficit, obviously the price of electricity in that area will be increased.
I do not know whether there is anything amusing in this matter. It is not amusing to me or to the people in my constituency who have been crying out for rural electrification for many years. Under this new set-up they will have to continue to wait. My view is that the areas which are more fortunate geographically should help to pay for the less fortunate areas, and by the creation of this new authority, which is to have full financial autonomy, this principle in which I believe cannot operate. It means that in one area the workman, whether he is employed in agriculture or engineering, making £8 a week, will have to pay 6d. or 8d. per unit, as against 2½d. in another area.
Already in the North of England, as a result of the surpluses which have been created, electricity charges are dropping. We are not having that experience in Scotland. The tendency is the other way. My whole case is that this state of affairs will be aggravated by this new set-up. This is not devolution for Scotland. This facade which has been produced by the Tory Party in Scotland is quite unreal, and the Scottish people are not going to thank this Government for so-called devolution which is going to cost them more to run their homes, to use the electric iron, to hear the wireless and see the television, and so on. Many homes, of course, still do not have these things.
I want to make this appeal against what I think is the break-up of the main purpose of the 1947 Act, which was to give a fair distribution in the whole of the country. The richer areas—richer because they were more densely populated—were able to get a lower price. The price-fixing arrangements ought to be spread over the whole country—
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) says "Nonsense." He is supposed to be knowledgeable about electricity supplies. I should like him to forget party politics for a moment and to tell me this. Bearing in mind that in South-West Scotland, with all its rural electrification still to take place, which had a deficit in its 1953 accounts as against a surplus of £5,800,000-odd in the English area, does he not think that it would be better to have the financial responsibility spread over the whole country, and instead of allowing some rural workers, already on low wages, to pay 8d. per unit, should they not have the opportunity of paying 2½d., the same as is paid by people residing in more densely populated areas?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. The whole of his speech appears to be based on a complete misunderstanding of the arrangements which already exist as a result of the Act passed by his party— the Electricity Act, 1947—which created a situation whereby all the area boards were financially independent—not interdependent but independent one from the other—and each board was required to pay its way financially taking one year with another. Whether or not it is a good thing that a board which happens to cover a more densely populated area should subsidise another which is sparsely populated is a different issue.
I do not want to take up much more time. I have made my appeal on this matter. I am certain that the conception of the 1947 Act was as I have outlined it, and that it was envisaged that there would ultimately be a standardisation of charges. That is clearly laid down in the Act. Even at this stage I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will at least undertake to examine whether or not there is a case for setting up some sort of joint examining council to have a look at the different returns at the end of each financial year, pool their knowledge in order to decide where surpluses could best be spent, and work out a list of priorities.
I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will give some consideration to the arguments I have put forward, and, if the forces arrayed against him are too strong, will at least try to provide for the rather innocuous examination which I have suggested, in the hope that it might do some good for knowledgeable people to get together in considering the problems which need attention within each area board.
In my intervention during the speech of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), I ventured to remonstrate that his whole case appeared to be devoted to a plea for what is commonly called the postalisation, or complete standardisation, of electricity charges, irrespective of town or country areas or their relative populations. I claim that nothing contained in the Clause will alter the position which has obtained since the nationalisation of electricity in 1947 in relation to consumer charges.
I also claim that nothing contained in the Clause will arrest or retard in any way the essential rôle of the South of Scotland Electricity Board, as it will be after the passing of the Bill, in its important task of developing electricity supplies in rural areas.
Do I take it that the hon. Member is saying that nothing will now arrest the development of rural extensions in the South-West Scotland area, despite the fact that in comparison with other areas it had a deficit last year? If that is so, does he mean that the price has to be put up in order that capital development can be paid for by the annual loan charge applicable to the area? How far can we go on that line before we stop rural electrification because prices are too high?
As I mentioned earlier, since the Nationalisation Act of 1947 each area board has been completely independent, financially, of neighbouring boards. The hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer), who is an expert in these matters, will readily confirm that fact.
The South-East Scotland Area Board is in a weak position because it covers such a sparsely populated area, and is a relatively tiny board. I claim that it will benefit by the provisions of this Clause, for it will be merged as one integrated unit with an area adjoining it, namely, that of the South-West Scotland Area Board, which covers a much more populous area and has a much greater demand for electricity. The amalgamation of these two boards will make for efficiency and, in the long run, lower consumer charges.
If I have a single adverse comment to make about the provisions of the Clause, it is that it does not create a single authority for the whole of Scotland, which, I believe, will ultimately have to come. Scotland is in a unique position, of all the countries in the world, in the matter of electricity generation and supply. There is no parallel anywhere. There are no fewer than six methods of generating electricity that are either in being. or in sight of being brought into being, in Scotland. I refer to them very shortly to give an illustration of the importance of Clause 2, which, by creating the two authorities for Scotland, is a stepping stone to the creation ultimately, I believe, of a single authority.
Today there are steam stations in Scotland, for example, of the modern type at Portobello, Edinburgh, and of the older type in Aberdeen and Dundee. There are water stations at Glen Affric, Tummel-Garry, in Galloway and at Loch Sloy. There are oil stations, for example, at Wick, Kirkwall, Lerwick and Stornoway. An atomic station is being built at Dun-reay. A peat-burning station is in course of construction at Altnabreac. I am sure you will be an authority on the matter of the pronunciation, Sir Rhys. I consulted no fewer than three Highland Members on the correct pronunciation of that name. A sixth means of generating electricity is the experimental wind station at Costa Head, Orkneys.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. There is a further variation, sponsored as a result of the engineering capacity and ingenuity of John Brown of Clydebank. I claim that in all these diverse and alternative methods of generating electricity we have an electricity economy in Scotland which is quite different from that of any other country in the world. It is unique, and in those circumstances progress ought to be made at the earliest possible date towards having all those diverse forms of electricity generation placed within a single executive control and a single production, functional and operational board. This Clause makes progress towards that end.
Really? At the present time there is a British Electricity Authority Board for the South-West and a British Electricity Authority Board for the South-East, and an area board for distribution in the South-West and another for the South-East. There is the North of Scotland Board. That is five in all, but this Clause reduces them to two—very great progress towards simplification and unification. Ultimately they should be reduced to a single Scottish electricity authority. For these reasons, and as I am a progressive soul, which is why I sit on these benches, I strongly and warmly commend my right hon. Friend on the Clause.
I want to return to the point which, Sir Rhys, you said would be more appropriately discussed on the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." I propose not to intervene in the debate between my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), who made such an eloquent, constructive and important speech, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).
The objection I have to the Clause is fundamental. I adumbrated it a little earlier. This Clause is a fantastic example of legislation by reference and by adaptation. If the Lord Advocate were here he would agree with me that such a form of legislation is very objectionable, not only to the purists in the English language but to those who will have to administer the Clause, because it is very difficult to construe it and it will be very difficult to administer. Unhappily, the Lord Advocate is not here. He was here a little earlier, and he has gone.
This Clause could be put in a very simple way, and I beg the Government to take it back and redraft it. It has two subsections. One is designed to deal with the constitution of the board, and the other to deal with its functions. But the one which deals with constitution does not say a word, except by objectionable reference, about the qualifications of the members of the board, their capacities or their experience. It refers slavishly to earlier legislation, so that the Lord Advocate or anyone else who has to construe it has to have a whole library of books and to look them up to find out what the Clause means.
In the second subsection, which deals with functions, we find that the draftsman is a slave to phrases. Three times in the course of five lines he uses the phrase "in relation to "—"in relation to" this, "in relation to" that, and "in relation to" the third thing. It is very difficult to find out what the Clause means.
I deliberately say that this is a fantastic piece of drafting which accords with the fantastic characteristics of the drafting of the remainder of the Bill, and I most earnestly ask the Government to take the Bill back, to reconsider it and to redraft it to make it a better Bill.
I have not the competence to follow my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) into those legal deep waters in which he so successfully wades from time to time. I would prefer to bring the mind of the Committee back to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).
As I made clear on previous occasions, I disagree entirely with his conception of a unified Scottish electricity authority. There is no kind of technical or administrative justification for it. But this Clause, of course, does not give that kind of authority. Indeed, I suggest that it gives to the country the worst of both worlds, because we are not to have the unified system which the hon. Member for Kidderminster advocates for Scotland nor are we to continue with the highly successful system of unification of bulk generation and transmission which we have had, since the passing of the 1926 Act, for the whole of England, Wales and Southern Scotland. It is my contention that the electricity generation problems of Southern Scotland are precisely similar to those of the rest of the United Kingdom, with the exception of the North of Scotland, where it is granted that there is a special case.
In my opinion, this Clause goes to the root of the mischief of the Bill itself. It breaks up at the Border, in the most arbitrary way, the unified system of the grid which we have had since the 1926 Act, and which was, of course, confirmed by the 1947 Act. It is interesting to reflect that at no stage in our discussions of the Bill so far have we had any technical justifications advanced for this change. Not a single independent technical expert has been quoted to the House or the Committee. I do not know whether the Joint Under-Secretary of State would say that the engineering experts of the central authority are in favour of the change. I do not think he can claim that they are. Certainly, he cannot say that the British Electricity Authority is in favour of it.
He may argue that such witnesses are biased witnesses; he may say that we should not look for independence from them, but they are experts, and the only experts available in this country—unless we look to the consulting engineers who have had experience of this sort of thing abroad.
I want to draw the Committee's attention to an article which appeared in the supplement to the "Financial Times" on 15th March. The hon. Member for Kidderminster knows it well, because he was a sympathetic if somewhat eccentric contributor to that supplement. This article is written by Mr. T. G. N. Haldane, one of the foremost consulting engineers in this country and a former President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. His article deals with the integration of electricity supply, and it is extremely interesting. He quotes world and Continental experiences, refers to the coming cross-Channel connection and has this to say in reference to the Bill:
he is very cautious about it, but his words are interesting—
as in the United Kingdom, depends not only on technology but more especially on political unity. Where such political unity does not exist, complete integration is no longer possible. In this connection, the effect on integration and economy of the present proposal to re-organise the electricity supply in southern Scotland and to create an additional authority is a matter which calls for careful consideration.
When the whole article is read, it refutes in general terms the whole case for this Bill.
Before the 1926 Act we had the Weir Report, before the 1943 Act we had the Cooper Report and before the 1947 Act we had, in 1935, the McGowan Report. I am not suggesting that in any of these reports—technical and administrative— there is any argument in favour of nationalisation or of any system of ownership. I agree with what the Joint Undersecretary said on Second Reading, that the McGowan Report did not advocate nationalisation of electricity supply.
The fact is that the 1947 Act, from the administrative and organisational point of view, was able to draw on the recommendations of the McGowan Committee. I suggest that for this change there is no such report available for us to draw on. I agree entirely with the case for decentralisation. I would agree with any suggestion which was contained in this Clause for having more decentralisation of distribution. I think that the case for decentralisation of distribution is absolutely sound for the purpose of bringing distribution nearer to the consumer.
If this Clause had stopped short, as it could have done, at amalgamating the South-West Scottish Board with the South-East Scottish Board, I should have thought it sound. What I object to is its taking over for the new Southern Scottish Board from the Central Board—the British Electricity authority, previously the Central Electricity Board—which had functioned so successfully from 1926, to the great benefit of the consumers.
I am not suggesting that in future it would be impossible, under this Clause, to transmit electricity across the Border. I am not so fantastically-minded as that, but it does certainly mean divided responsibility. We shall have every kind of joint committee between the British Electricity Authority and the new Southern Scottish Board. I cannot imagine that that will make for efficiency or economy in administration.
As some of us said earlier this evening, if the Government are to do this kind of thing for electricity, thoroughly bad as it is, they should be logical about it and do the same kind of thing for coal, gas, petroleum and all the rest. If the Government did that, they would end up with two Ministries of Fuel and Power instead of one, as we have now. I do not believe that the Scottish Office has the experience to do this kind of work and to supervise it. The present system, with the efficiency that it has given us, would have been far superior. I hope that the Committee will reject the Clause.
We have had an interesting debate on the Clause. To some extent we are debating the principle of the Bill. On Second Reading we on this side voted against the principle of the Bill and we registered our objection to it. Some of the reasons given by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) were among those for which we voted against the Bill.
We held, for example, that no technical justification was produced by the Secretary of State to show that these proposals were any advantage either for Scotland or for Britain, and that on the whole nothing had been done to examine the problem before the Bill was brought forward. We pointed out that it had been brought forward for a purely political purpose, as a stunt, and that the Secretary of State had not even attempted to justify from a technical or efficiency point of view, or even from an economic aspect, the introduction of the Bill. We made our protest on that ground.
When we come to examine the Clause, my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland has reiterated his argument that it is better to keep generation and distribution separate. We all regret the absence of the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Sir A. Gridley), who has hardly ever missed an electricity debate in the House and for whose skill and expertness in that direction everybody has the greatest respect.
It was noticeable on Second Reading, however, that the hon. Member for Stock-port, South took a different point of view from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland, and he said:
… I say that the power stations should be under the control of those responsible for providing current to customers in their territory."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1954; Vol. 523, c. 440.]
Amongst technical experts, therefore, there is not a unanimous view on this subject; and I am informed that many technicians take exactly the opposite point of view to that of my hon. Friend.
I claim no expert knowledge of electricity, and after my hon. Friend's Second Reading speech I made some inquiries. As far as I can ascertain, no other country except ours divides generation from distribution. The Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario, which is a public body, controls hydro and steam stations and distribution. That Commission is soon to be charged with a very large development when the St. Lawrence Waterway development takes place, and the new power stations when developed will come under the Commission.
British Columbia and Quebec have big authorities, and I am told that in the U.S.A. the Tennessee Valley Authority and other authorities also have joint control of distribution and generation. In France, which has nationalised electricity, the board controls both generation and distribution. I have not been able to discover any important country which has the system that we have. I am told that in this respect Great Britain is unique.
When the Labour Government nationalised electricity, it was recognised to be a problem whether it should be brought under one authority or there should be the two authorities. We must keep in mind that the grid was established long before electricity was nationalised by us in its general sense and that that organisation was already established. This has always been the practice in technical development. If progress is being made, it does not necessarily follow that everything will be changed. For instance, in building a new type of aircraft like the Brabazon, in constructing the prototype it is not fitted up with the new types of engine and the new fuselage. What is done is that the new engine is put into a Lincoln and tried out in that way, while the fuselage of the Brabazon is tried out with a well-known engine already in use.
So the Labour Government did not interfere with the established and well-known grid system, but proceeded to add to it the new nationalised distribution scheme. Those in the Labour Government responsible for this step recognised that the time would come when we would have to consider whether these two things should be married into one system. I am authorised to say on their behalf that even now they are not quite sure that the time has arrived. They think that the formative period is not yet exhausted. But the Government have secured the Second Reading of this Bill and, therefore, the principle is agreed to. We must now consider it within that compass.
Curiously enough, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) dealt with a point that struck me as extremely important. Scotland is in many ways a part of this nation which has been used as a laboratory for trying out different systems and undertakings. There is no doubt that the Scottish people in general, whatever they may think of the technical advantage or otherwise of this Bill, are determined to retain their individuality in making contributions to the educational, social and general life of the nation. They do not want to be uniformly organised as English or British.
They want to have the distinct opportunity of contributing to the common pool from their culture, education, and administration. They are also convinced, rightly or wrongly, that they can do these things more efficiently than the English.
My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) was alarmed lest this scheme was going to increase the cost of electricity in Scotland. My opinion is that Scotland can generate electricity cheaper and distribute it cheaper. There is every possibility that the price of electricity in Scotland will be reduced.
The factual statement is not true that the Scottish nation can produce electricity cheaper. The stations with the best thermal efficiency happen to be south of the Border.
I am coming to that, if my hon. Friend will wait for a moment. A good many of the stations in the South of England have been built since the war and the cost of constructing them has been greater than was the cost of building the old stations. The old stations may be inefficient and use more coal than they ought to, but when we compare one country with the other, it will be seen that the cost of electricity in Scotland is cheaper at the moment.
That is a thing which, like youth, does not last. Youth disappears, and these stations will disappear. When these old stations go, they will have to be replaced by large, modern ones. Under this Bill the capital cost of those replacements will no longer be borne by the Central Electricity Authority but by the Scottish organisation. When these new stations are built the question will arise, will the electricity be cheaper or dearer than in England? I do not propose to guess the answer, but there is the possibility, while we may benefit in the short run from cheaper electricity, that as a result of this Bill Scotland will have to pay more for its electricity in the long run.
Nevertheless, taking the balance, a good deal of our electricity in Scotland is still produced at old stations which will have to be replaced. When new stations are built, it does not mean that the electricity will be cheaper per unit, because the capital charges will be embodied in the price, whereas the old stations do not have to bear those heavy costs. I am informed by financial and technical pundits that this is a danger we shall have to face.
At present there are four organisations in South Scotland and there is bound to be an economy by merging them into one. For instance, there is an unnecessary duplication of administration because of the technical people employed in all of them. So far as opinion in Scotland is concerned, we feel we can accomplish both economies and improved efficiency by fusing those functions.
However, none of these things has been proved and the opinion of my hon. Friend may be justified, in view of his technical knowledge. At the moment there is an objection to having two- headed control throughout the country, and if we have an experiment in Scotland where this is under one control we may be able to prove whether that is better or whether the English system is better. If it does not work, so much the worst for us in Scotland, but in any case a use ful lesson can be learned for dealing with the situation in the South. There is no question that in Scotland there is a general desire that, so far as is reason ably practicable, we should try out our own ideas of administration. The Bill has been agreed in principle—
That is true; and it will be carried, I am afraid. When this Measure is put into effect it will mean that we shall have to undertake, under the Secretary of State, responsibility not only for the administration and development of electricity, but also the financial responsibility. I do not know whether the Secretary of State has gone into this matter. I am satisfied at any rate, that this Bill was prepared without any prior examination. Once it has been agreed, however, there will be some advantage in the development and experimentation in Scotland.
I shall not go into the point raised by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) as to whether it should be embodied in one organisation. The problem which arises is that the North of Scotland Board has functions outside the production and generation of electricity. It has also a social function to subsidise the Highlands. That difficulty would not be overcome by a merger under one Board because, even inside that, there would have to be separation of function between the North and South of Scotland. Therefore that is outside the scope of the discussion this evening.
I say to my hon. Friend, let Scotland try this out. He may be right and may have the satisfaction eventually of saying, "I told you so," but democracy means that we have the right to make mistakes. People who want to run their own affairs locally, even local authorities, undoubtedly sacrifice economic efficiency. Anybody could prove that he could run this country more economically by means of a great centralised democracy than by local government. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am sure that somebody could prove that economically local government is a wasteful system, but it gives an interest to people to run their own affairs and, whatever we think about Home Rule politically, Scottish people want to run their own affairs to the maximum without losing too much in the way of practical advantage. In this case we may sacrifice practical advantage, but I think that Scotland should have the opportunity to see whether it can make a better system of it.
I am much obliged to the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) for the support that he has just given to the Bill. It is understandable that the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) cannot quite comprehend the Scottish attitude to this Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying to the Committee that, in effect, this is a piece of legislation in accordance with the general sentiment and climate of opinion in Scotland.
On a point of order. I should like to be clear to what exactly we are lending our support. We, on this side of the Committee, opposed the Bill on Second Reading and now the Joint Under-Secretary says that it is given a general measure of support. All the support that is being given, if any, is being given to Clause 2.
I was merely responding, I hope courteously, to the courteous remarks of the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire and was trying to say that the purpose of the Clause, as of the Bill as a whole, is to enable Scottish people, as far as it is reasonable, to manage such part of their business as seems proper.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) was concerned about the Clause because he felt that it was throwing overboard the main conception of the 1947 Act. The hon. Member for Cleveland said the same thing, but his conception of the Act was very different from that of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire had two things especially in mind. First, he said that the 1947 Act was aimed at extending supplies of electricity to rural areas and at what he called the standardisation of prices. He said that both those things were not being done now and that this Clause and the Bill diverted that process.
I know how interested the hon. Member is in the development of rural areas and I am glad to inform him that we are making considerable progress. He will recall the announcement made by the Minister of Fuel and Power last year that a substantially larger part of capital development would be devoted to the electrification of rural areas. That took place and the hon. Member will be interested in the actual figures. The total number of farms connected to an electricity supply throughout the United Kingdom in 1953 was 13,411, as against 11,268 in the preceding year, and of the 13,411 a total of 2,239 were situated in Scotland.
Another interesting calculation is that the Scottish figure represents 6.4 per cent, of all Scottish farms whereas the English figure represents only 4.2 per cent, of all English farms. So it would appear that we are now doing reasonably well. I am entirely in agreement with the hon. Member that we want to extend still further and more quickly the supply of electricity to rural areas. I can give him the assurance that it is the firm intention of my right hon. Friend to do whatever is in his power to bring that about for the South of Scotland.
The hon. Gentleman is not claiming that that had anything to do with the last Budget, is he? These extensions had been agreed to and work had been going on for many years previously. The actual connecting up did not emanate from the last Budget.
My main point was that we are making a radical change and the instance I gave was from Section I (6, b) of the 1947 Act, which contains the words:
secure, so far as practicable, the development, extension to rural areas and cheapening of supplies of electricity;
The subsection begins with the words:
In exercising and performing their functions the Electricity Board shall,
and this is the important provision—
subject to and in accordance with any directions given by the Minister.…
The hon. Member is quite right, but he is now speaking on the second of his two points—prices— and I was coming to that question. I think he will agree that in the electrification of rural areas the fact is that we are progressing fairly well. The statement of the Minister of Fuel and Power of 19th June, 1953, indicated a very substantial easing of the restriction on capital development and that has had a good effect.
On the other point, the hon. Member wants a levelling out of prices and a lowering of prices, but, with great respect, I think he confuses what he calls standardisation of prices with standardisation of methods of charging. If he will look at the Section from which he quoted he will see that paragraph (d) says:
promote the simplification and standardisation of methods of charge for such supplies;
That is a very different tiling from standardising charges themselves.
I invite the hon. Member to look at the last Report of the B.E.A., where he will see that the Authority recognise, as I think my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster pointed out, that the areas are all different. In paragraph 224 of the 1952–53 Report it is stated that differences in levels of charge arise for differences in the various areas within the Authority. They say that that is because there are varying costs to the Board of making supplies available. There are differences in the diversity of use by consumers in different areas, there are differences in fuel costs at the stations.
The Report gives a whole string of reasons to show why areas cannot always be the same in their cost and, therefore, in their charges. As the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire knows, the sharp contrast that he offered on Second Reading of 8d. a unit as against 1s. l¼d. per unit might have been all right in other days, but it certainly is not a reflection of what is happening today anywhere in Great Britain to my knowledge. We have already moved into the stage where, over the whole country, there is a very fair uniformity, but there never can be complete standardisation and equality. I come to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). Is the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire not satisfied?
The hon. Gentleman says "for the whole of Great Britain," but he is cognisant that we have still operating, in certain Highland areas, privately owned supplies. I have a relative who lives in such an area and the price which has been mentioned would be rather a surprise to him.
I did not mean to include the Highlands. I had in mind the area of the B.E.A., from whose Report I was reading.
I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster. I thought he managed to get in his argument on his new Clause very cunningly and with great persuasion. I do not want to follow him in his interesting suggestion that there should be not two authorities in Scotland, but only one. It may be that he is right. There are many things to happen in the future in the case of electricity, and it may well be that that will happen, but we are not in a position to say "Yes" or "No" to that proposition now.
Does that mean that present policy is what the Joint Under-Secretary is saying now, because the only basis on which the hon. Member for Kidderminster offered his support on the Clause was on the assumption that this was a conscious step in a policy towards a single authority? It was the only pillar on which the hon. Member rested the whole of his case. If that is kicked away it means that the hon. Member cannot support the Clause any longer.
Do we understand correctly from what has been said by the hon. Member for Kidderminster that in the view of the Government this is a step towards doing away with the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board? That should be cleared up, because the rather ambiguous statement of the hon. Gentleman may cause some apprehension.
Let there be no mistake about this. It is the Government's firm intention to maintain the integrity of the North of Scotland Board. All I am saying is that my hon. Friend invited us to look into the future, a very sensible and reasonable thing to do. I merely replied that it may well be that something on the lines he suggests may come about, but not now.
Then will the Joint Under-Secretary tell his hon. Friend that the one basis of his support for the Clause has now been removed by his statement that the Government are not moving consciously and deliberately towards a single Scottish authority, and, therefore, the hon. Gentleman's support in that direction is not needed.
Everybody is talking about me. You will recall, Sir Charles, that you found that you could not select my new Clause about a single authority, and I had to make a speech on Clause 2 without referring in too much detail to the single authority. I wish to make it
quite clear to my hon. Friend that the Unionist Party has been quite specific in this matter of the retention by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board of its social functions and purposes for the regeneration of the Highlands. Will he allow me to quote from the Unionist Party policy, published in 1949? It stated:
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."—
The Joint Under-Secretary has made a very important statement. Is he aware that he has completely repudiated his Leader, the Prime Minister, who made a speech in Glasgow in 1949, in which he said there would be a separate Scottish board for electricity for the whole, not just for the North, of Scotland?
There is no difficulty at all. This Bill maintains the independence and integrity of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electricity Board. That is the policy of the Government and they intend to maintain it. Equally, we think it right that there should be a southern board with the same kind of independence as is possessed by the Board which we have had for many years in the North. If my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster likes to look far ahead, as he is entitled to do, and says to me, "Is there not a possibility that at some time in the future something may be achieved?" I say, "It is possible, but the policy of the Government today is quite clear and I do not see any joining up for a very long time."
May we take it that the Committee can accept the assurance of the Under-Secretary that the Government have once more affirmed—as the Prime Minister did previously—that what they say at Election time is not necessarily what they are going to do?
It depends on the state of one's heart. We look forward with a happy heart to the next General Election.
I now come to the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes)—I have been attempting to get at him for the last quarter of an hour. The hon. and learned Member, as he was entitled to do, made his usual complaint about proceeding by legislation by reference. It is an old complaint. I have made it myself, as have other hon. Members, and if we could avoid legislating by reference it would be a very good thing. As the hon. and learned Member knows perhaps better than I, it is not easy to legislate without some reference to the past. As was stated on Second Reading, when this Bill becomes law it is the intention of my right hon. Friend to employ himself in producing a consolidated electricity Measure, so that we shall have that for which the hon. and learned Gentleman so reasonably asked, something we can all follow much more simply.
The hon. Member for Cleveland, to whom I have already referred, seemed to think—I am surprised at him, but perhaps I did not understand him properly —that on the passing of this Act a barrier would be erected along the Cheviot Hills, the boundary between England and Scotland, so that no longer could electricity flow one way or the other. I can assure the hon. Member if assurance be needed, that under this Act it is made abundantly plain that the South of Scotland Board may export to the B.E.A. and the B.E.A., alternatively, can export to Scotland, as happens now. That will go on happening. From the point of view of day-today administration nothing will be altered at all.
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point. I did not suggest anything so absurd as that lines would be torn down, or anything of that kind. My point was that there would no longer be one unified control or organisation, that control will be divided, and that cannot be doubted.
May I put it to the hon. Gentleman in this way? There is something in his view, but we claim that whereas there was formerly divided responsibility in Scotland, there will now be unified responsibility. Whereas the Secretary of State is now responsible for Northern Scotland but not Southern Scotland, in future he will be responsible for both. That strikes us as plain common sense and good administration.
Nevertheless, I was grateful to the hon. Member for his reference to the expert view. He claimed that there was no expert view to justify this Measure. He was answered by his right hon. Friend, who told the Committee that he had consulted experts and that many of them were of the view that this change which we are making—what he called this two-headed organisation and two-headed control—was, in fact, technically sound. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was right and, with respect, that the hon. Member for Cleveland was not right.
At any rate, for many of the same reasons as were given by the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire we have faith in this change. Scotland is determined to make what the right hon. Gentleman called an experiment. We are entitled to try it and I have no fear that it will not succeed. Scotland is unique in having so many forms of electricity, and is, therefore, in exercise, a place for experiment. It is perhaps a very good thing not only for Scotland but for the world that we are doing this.
I do not think that I need say much more. I believe that Clause 2—in a sense the essence of the Measure—is one which, in due course, all Scottish Members, including those opposite tonight, will feel is a good one. The day will undoubtedly come and is not very far away when they will agree that this action of ours tonight has been a good thing for our country.
For the record, may I say that in his reply to my hon. Friend the
Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), the Joint Under-Secretary tried to infer that the British Electricity Authority was not desirous of standardising tariffs but only of standardising methods. I would, therefore, like to quote from the British Electricity Authority's Report, which says:
In substituting standard tariffs for a great variety of existing tariffs, the Area Boards have tried to minimise, as fairly as possible, the effects on consumer accounts of levelling out charges for similar uses of electricity. This, however, has been rendered increasingly difficult…
The latter part, of course, is what the Joint Under-Secretary used to refute my hon. Friend's argument. Had he read on he would have seen these words in paragraph 227 of the Report:
Retail tariffs are therefore under constant review, although the major task of standardisation is approaching completion.
In point of fact, that is what the British Electricity Authority is desirous of securing.
Further to the point made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and to the quotation I have made from what the Prime Minister said it is interesting to note what the official Unionist pamphlet "Scottish Control of Scottish Affairs" said, about electricity:
We propose a separate Scottish Authority for the whole of Scotland and not only for the North of Scotland.
Further, in his speech in North Edinburgh the Lord Advocate on 19th December, 1951—
On 19th December, 1951, the Lord Advocate referred to
An integrated Scottish system which would combine the existing power stations and the Hydro-Electric schemes.
I have other extracts and if I do not quote them now, I am sure, Sir Charles, that you will take my word that they were on similar lines. Then, on 15th December, 1952, the Under-Secretary made a speech when, as has been underlined this evening, the Unionist Party repudiated
the Prime Minister and decided that they would have a separate Scottish authority.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 40, to leave out from the second "Board," to "shall," in line 42.
This is a very simple Amendment which we have put on the Paper so that we might give the Minister an opportunity to explain what is the intention in relation to the consultative organisations which have previously existed. The Committee is well aware that these consultative organisations, representative of the consumer, are valuable to the parent organisation. If the parent organisation has no easy method of ascertaining reactions to its proposals and of finding out whether it has failed to serve some section of the community, then of course it is lacking in efficiency. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power would be anxious to say, as his right hon. Friend has already admitted and as I think every Minister in that situation has admitted, that in times of near-crisis the consultative organisations have been of supreme value to the Minister.
I only rise to point out that since we have come into power we have not had the opportunity of testing what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, as we do not have crises.
Well, we are certainly going to have one in South Scotland. The hon. Gentleman is right inasmuch as the generation programme which the Labour Party of 1945–50 laid down had come to fruition when the present Government came into office, and that presented the Government with an opportunity. But German bombs did not give to the Labour Government the same assets as the Labour Government left to the Tory Party.
I did not want to introduce a party argument. I do not object to the Parliamentary Secretary interrupting me, but I was hoping that if he did not agree publicly, he would at least whisper to his hon. Friends that it is desirable that the consumer should have a quick and easy access—I am not tied to the method— to the generating and distributing authority, and that that organisation should be representative of all sections of the community supplied with electricity. I have no doubt that the Government accept that principle, and we have put down this Amendment so that we may be told how it is proposed to apply it.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Amendment was put down to enable us to explain our intentions, and I am grateful to him for giving me that opportunity.
I am sure that the Committee realises that, although we propose here to abolish the consultative councils which are now established, that does not mean that we want to abolish the idea of them. On the contrary, the Bill as now drafted compels the Secretary of State and the new Board to establish, as in the case of the Hydro-Electric Board, a consultative council for the whole of its area. Indeed, it is compelled to do so under the Bill as it now stands. We shall therefore have one consultative council for the whole area, and I hope that it will do all the good things to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred.
The Bill also provides that the consultative council, when set up, shall consider the appointment of sub-committees of itself. Our hope is that it will divide itself into two such sub-committees, one looking after the east and the other after the west of Scotland. In that way I think that we shall be able to maintain, as between the Board and its consumers, that close touch and consultation which is of the greatest value.
Scottish Members will know perfectly well that south-east Scotland does not regard itself as at all the same as southwest Scotland. The two areas have different views. One turns to Glasgow as its centre and the other regards Edinburgh as its headquarters. It is anticipated that the new Board will take account of that fact. That being so, the right hon. Gentleman can feel thoroughly assured that all the benefits of these consultative councils, which are admitted and applauded by us all, will be maintained in the future.
I was glad to hear the explanation of the Joint Under-Secretary of State, because it cleared my mind of a certain confusion created by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who is no longer in his place. During the discussion of the last Clause, on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," he made the claim that one of the achievements of this hybrid Measure was to reduce five Scottish authorities to two. He claimed that that was a great achievement and, because of that fact, that the Clause and the Measure were worthy of our support, although we had voted against the Bill on Second Reading.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State has now destroyed the argument put forward by his quondam supporter, by pointing out that all that the Bill really does is to provide for two authorities instead of three. Only one authority is disappearing. The two South of Scotland authorities now merge into one. We now have two authorities in place of three, and not five, which existed formerly in the imagination of the hon. Member for Kidderminster.
The hon. Member was including the consultative councils, but even they are not going to disappear. The Joint Undersecretary has just informed us that one consultative council will take the place of the existing two, and he hopes that this, in due course, will change itself into two parts, by which time we shall be back to the point at which we started. That is a great Tory achievement, and if hon. Members opposite want congratulations on it I hope that they will get them from hon. Members on this side of the Committee, perhaps in a more obvious way than we have congratulated them so far.
I would underline what my hon. Friend has said so adequately. The Joint Under-Secretary of State, it must be admitted, was candid. As the Bill is unravelled, it is seen to be a piece of misleading propaganda. It has been said that we are to have two authorities combined in one, but we are to have two executives under the one authority, and we are going to take two consultative councils, make them into one and then divide it into two. The hon. Gentleman was very forthcoming. He referred to the South-East and the South-West, but what he meant was that the interests of Glasgow and Edinburgh consumers are not always complementary.
It would have been an interesting business to have seen the Glasgow and Edinburgh branches of the consultative council working together. I do not quite understand the machinery, and whether they would first of all meet in two little groups before formulating a report. I suppose that what will happen is that each will hang on to the appropriate executive and pretend that it is one authority. The Committee is indebted to the hon. Gentleman for his candour, if not for any administrative ingenuity. In view of the explanation he has given, however, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment
I have some difficulty in understanding why we have this Clause at all, and I think the Committee deserves an explanation of it. Earlier the Joint Under-Secretary of State said that I possibly could not understand Scottish feeling and Scottish electricity matters. Of course, I always approach discussions of Scottish matters with what I hope is suitable modesty and humility, but I cannot concede that this is anything but a Committee of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and it is my view that electricity is a United Kingdom interest. I make that point because I am about to say something to which objection may be taken on the ground that I do not know enough about Scottish feelings or Scottish interests.
When the 1947 Act was going through Parliament, it was said that the reason for creating two area boards for Southern Scotland, one for the South-West and one for the South-East, was that there was rivalry between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
My hon. Friend has very great knowledge of these matters, but it was also said in electricity circles, although it may be contradicted now, that there were great company and municipal jealousies, and that all these things had to be resolved because, though we could change forms of organisation and of ownership, we could not change men and women. I thought that the solution in the 1947 Act was a mistake, perhaps, on the part of the Labour Government, although I supported them. It seemed a mistake to have two boards when one might have done. That is my view. Now we are to have an independent authority to combine the functions of the area boards and the British Electricity Authority for a limited part of the country.
There is no recent experience in this kind of thing to know what problems will arise, and I should have thought that it would have been best to have left the form of organisation and working to the responsible men and women to be appointed in due course to the Board, and to let them adapt and modify the system in the light of their experience and their own judgment, rather than to tie them to artificial geographical considerations. As the Committee may have gathered, I very much object to being tied to artificial geographical considerations.
We have here a scheme which—and I hope I do not use too strong a word—is insulting to those men and women who are to be appointed to the Board. They are being treated like small children, with the Secretary of State as their domineering father—or, as one of my hon. Friends suggests, as their nurse. They are to submit schemes for an east executive and a west executive. The smallest electricity area in the United Kingdom is to have separate executives. I cannot understand why. There is no such arrangement for the British Electricity Authority, which is left to devise its own form of organisation as it thinks fit. There is no such arrangement for the area boards in England and no such obligation placed by statute upon the North of Scotland Board, which is often taken as our model in these discussions.
The Secretary of State is apparently to have the power to modify as he thinks fit the suggestions put to him by the Board about these executives. I do not know what test he will use or what competence he or his Department have to make a judgment in these matters. Are the executives to combine on a very small scale the generation and distribution functions?
It seems to me that this Clause means that the administration of electricity supply for Southern Scotland will be done in future through the Secretary of State's office and not by the Board. I am sure that is not intended, and I suggest that the Clause and the subsequent Clause which is consequential upon it—and which we cannot yet discuss—are very ill thought-out. The Clause might well be withdrawn for further consideration at the next stage.
We put down formal Amendments to leave out Clauses 4 and 5. My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) has put in rather pungent terms some of the reasons why we were puzzled to observe that, after we had gone through all this trouble to merge the boards into one board, we were then proceeding to create procedure to separate them again.
Would the Secretary of State tell us what is the idea of these separate executives? What are they going to do? Is it proposed to maintain in office those people who are in office now? Are there to be no economies of the sort we thought might arise when we discussed previous Clauses? The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) spoke of economies through the merging of five boards into two. Is that all to be nullified through the manufacture of extra bodies? If, as a normal part of the administration, the Board is to have administrations of different kinds in Glasgow and Edinburgh, what is the purpose of putting all this formally in the Bill?
Earlier, my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) pointed out that this was multiplying the number of boards after we had reduced it. I do not want to argue the matter until I have heard the Secretary of State's reasons, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland that once we set up a Board we should leave it to think out the best way of managing its business. Had the Secretary of State said that the Board would prepare a scheme for administration which would be embodied in an order, there might have been some sense in these provisions, but to lay it all down in detail and then to have a scheme submitted to be modified by the Secretary of State seems a peculiar arrangement.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer), I am very apprehensive of this Clause. The Joint Under-Secretary of State has told us that there is a difference between South-East and South-West Scotland. I do not intend to argue any differences of opinion here; I will deal only in facts, and it is a fact that in the first Report of the South-East Scotland Electricity Board it is clearly stated that this was the last area in which any attempt was made to bring power to the rural districts.
I should like to ask the Joint Undersecretary: Who is to determine the bias as between the South-East and the South-West? There will be two executives and they will be responsible to the Secretary of State for Scotland. The hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that there has been, more capital invested in other parts of Scotland than there has been in the South-East. Perhaps he will tell the Committee, because he has already boastfully told us the number of firms supplied and connected up with power during the last few years, how many applications have been made for a supply of power to the Board in South-East Scotland at the present moment.
I cannot at the moment answer the hon. Member, but I will endeavour to give him an answer, if not today, later.
I can understand the attitude of hon. Members in saying that they find it a little difficult to follow this proposal. They want to know what is the idea, and that is only fair and natural. I will endeavour to supply the answer. It is not very easy to answer questions about the functions and personnel of these two bodies because, as the Committee will observe, the Board has to produce a scheme to the Secretary of State, and until we have seen the scheme we shall not know quite what the Board intends to do.
The right hon. Gentleman is sometimes a little too clever. I am not trying to be rude. I will come to the point he made in due course. I was saying that until the Board had produced a scheme, which it is obliged to do under this Clause, we cannot examine every detail of that scheme.
The intention is something like this. The Central Board will be responsible for control, planning and financial policy, and the determination of charges over the whole area. But the Central Board for the South of Scotland, knowing quite well that it is dealing with a very scattered area, may well feel that in this scheme it ought to have these two area executives to deal, for example, with distribution in their areas. Distribution is a matter where contact between the consumer and supplier of electricity is of the highest possible importance. There is no one in this Committee who has not had many letters from his constituents about getting a supply of electricity.
We know, therefore, how vital in the daily lives of the people is this matter of distribution. We anticipate that the Board, having thought the matter out, will say, "One of the functions of the East Scotland Executive, as of the West, will be to handle distribution and matters of that kind." I cannot think that that would not be a good idea. The hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) said that that had never been done before, even in England. That does not seem to matter. The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) said that Scotland was entitled to experiment.
It would help us if the hon. Gentleman would state exactly what is meant by "executives." For instance, will the district offices in Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Maybole, Alloa, Edinburgh, North Berwick and all these other places, in their ordinary administration, have executives in the sense of the American use of the term? What does this term "executive" mean? Is it a board that will be called by another name, or what is it going to be?
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman can think of analogies. I can think of cases where boards of large companies divide themselves into sub-committees; or sometimes they are called executives. It does not much matter what they are called. We are not sticking to the word "executive." We are trying to ensure that the Board shall out of its members create two area groups, one group to be in charge of this area and the other group in charge of that area; but they are members of the Board, although they may well co-opt other people if they wish to do so. It will be the Board who will have ultimate responsibility, but the executives will have their special functions.
The hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) asked a question on a good point. He said, "Where is the priority to be—east or west?" Of course, it will be with the Central Board, which will endeavour to extend its supplies of electricity fairly and justly over its area. Therefore, I cannot see any difficulty arising, although, naturally, there will be pressure from the people of one side or of the other.
That being, as far as I can give it without talking too long, a reasonably clear picture of the Government's intentions, I hope that right hon. and hon. Members opposite will feel able to agree to the Clause.
The hon. Gentleman does not seem to have answered the main point of our case. There may toe a need in the organisational sense for having a divided control, tout why do it rigidly by statute and not leave it to the judgment of the Board?
One answer would be that we think we know our South of Scotland and its people fairly well.
My right hon. Friend took the view, after much advice and great thought— this Clause and the next have been the subject of very great thought—that in view of the history and the present set-up of the areas, it would be a good thing to have this somewhat delegated authority for these executives.
The hon. Member must not think that he is boring the Committee or is under any compulsion to speak shortly. It is a baffling subject and the hon. Gentleman, whose adroitness we all admire and who always comes to any subject having studied it carefully, did not seem certain that he understood the purpose of the executives.
The hon. Gentleman tells us, for example, that the Secretary of State having carefully considered the position of these people and realising the difference between the south-west and and south-east, thought it better to give to the Board the opportunity of forming this body, whose structure I will try to examine. But the Joint Under-Secretary's tenderness seems suddenly to have deserted 'him, because at a later stage we learn that the Secretary of State reserves the power to himself to make modifications in any fashion he likes, without consultation.
Let us have it one way or the other. If we have the Secretary of State, assisted by the Joint Under-Secretary, shuffling round all the villages, talking nicely to town clerks and saying, "What would you like us to do gentlemen?"—if that is a necessity for permitting this strange operation—I should not think that it would make for good administration or even for vote catching, which, no doubt, it is designed to do. The Secretary of State cannot dress himself up as Red Riding Hood and the wolf at the same time. He can arm himself with powers to do just what he likes with these poor little consumer Red Riding Hoods about whom the Joint Under-Secretary is so concerned.
Let us see whether I understood what the Joint Under-Secretary said. He told us that it was necessary for the Government to unite the two organisations in this area into a single organisation for the business of generation and distribution. Having said that, he went on to state that there may be problems of distribution— presumably there are problems of generation, too—and this single authority is to have the power divided into two.
The Joint Under-Secretary went on to point out that because there are financial matters, the Board would lay down the general policy, but other functions might be delegated to what I may term sub-authority boards. It is difficult to understand the position. If the policy is to be laid down by the Board, then no other organisation can make policy. If the job of these two sub-authorities is to supervise administration, one would have thought that that was something that could be done by the Board itself, which is the policy-maker, or it could be done by the area technicians. Would it not be better for that organisation, which the Joint Under-Secretary of State says is to be in close contact with the consumer, explaining his needs and making technical provision for him, to do this job, because it is the technicians who do it in every other part of the country?
The truth is—and I have already predicted that it would come out increasingly and clearly as we took the Bill Clause by Clause—that the Government, having made one pledge and then deserted it, have produced this piece of humbug and said, "It is an autonomous body." When they looked closer at the scheme they found that for distribution purposes it could not be autonomous. Then they said, "Here is one authority with powers; not quite one authority, but two authorities. There are some limitations in their powers, but outside those they have power to carry out a policy."
What is the policy? I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will tell us, but if I do not misunderstand him the Board is to be given the power to delegate what it likes to these two sub-authorities. It is an extraordinary state of affairs. The truth is that the existing personnel of the two authorities and the existing senior executives are to run the show that they have been running, and the Government have written Clause 4 into the Bill to try to make the operation one and disguise from this Committee and the public what the position really is.
When this Bill was at its Second Reading stage, I happened to discuss it with a person in authority in the South-West regional area. I asked him for his opinion of the Bill and he said he saw no reason for it. The more I listened to the Joint Under-Secretary of State, the greater the reliance I place on the opinion which that gentleman gave me. It is as clear as daylight that all that is happening here is that one authority or, if the Committee prefers it, two authorities are being knocked down. Under another guise those two authorities are being restored because executives are to be created. The Joint Under-Secretary of State has said that he is not thirled to the word "executive." Are we to take it, then, that on Report the hon. Gentleman will move an Amendment? Will he' tell us tonight what he will do about that word?
Do not let us get mixed up about this. I was being pressed about the meaning of the word "executive." I tried to explain it and said that I was not tied to that word. If the hon. Gentleman has a word which may appeal to us more, we shall be glad to consider it.
That is just the difficulty we are in, because paragraph (a) refers to the executives as being—
… one for each area, as may be specified in the scheme; and
(b) for the delegation to those executives of such of the functions of the Board as may be so specified.…
We have had no indication tonight as to what functions have to be specified. I have tried to follow the hon. Gentleman but he has not given me any indication of them. Farther down in paragraph (b) we are told that the functions which may go to those executives will not be functions that relate to general financial control or that apply to electricity charges.
May we take it that these rather unreserved functions will not be delegated by the Board to the executives? Apart from administrative functions, I understand that the generation of electricity, the distribution of electricity and the charge for electricity are the functions of an electricity authority, and two of those are specifically reserved to the new South of Scotland Authority. Therefore, the only function that is to be assigned to the two executives is that of the general distribution of electricity.
Will they have any other function? I take it that they will say to the parent body, "There is a certain area which is not receiving the distribution which it should be getting." What else will they do? Before we approve of this Clause we ought to have a much closer acquaintance with what may be the functions of the executives which are to be elected. We shall not have that, however, and I honestly fail to see the purpose of the Bill. If the Bill works, it will take us back to the position which it was intended to alter and will not create something newer and better. We might as well have left the South-East and South-West Boards in their present position, because if the executives mean anything at all, that is the position to which we are returning.
I hope that the Government will look at this matter again before the Report stage. Some of us were mystified when we read the Clause for the first time, and my mystification has increased rather than diminished since then. I cannot understand why the Clause should be compulsive. It may be desirable to leave power to the Board to set up these executives, but under the provisions of the Clause they are compelled to do so. It might be said that we do not need the Clause for this purpose at all. It has been argued by the Government that one of the advantages of the Measure is that it will allow experiments to be made in Scotland. By all means let us have experiments, but let us leave it to the Board to think out the right experiments and make them.
I do not see why the Board should be bound to this set-up. Some of the advantages that might flow from the Bill include greater efficiency and reduction of staff and costs, but under this Clause we may find that all that we shall get will be the same organisations running under new names with no advantage in greater efficiency or lower overhead costs.
The Board might come to the conclusion that it does not want to bind itself to a geographical basis. It might, for instance, want to have a special committee to deal with rural electrification. It is not clear why the Board should be tied to a geographical basis, nor is it clear what that geographical basis will be.
The Bill refers to east and west areas, but those areas are not defined. Is it intended to have the old areas all over again, or is it open to the Board to define new east and west areas and, for example, to set up an executive in Fife? It seems to me that the objects of the Clause are still extremely obscure. The Committee should hesitate to write into the Bill a Clause which gives the Board power to set up executives for unspecified functions in unspecified areas for unspecified reasons.
I listened with great care to the Joint Under-Secretary. His explanation must be regarded by the whole Committee as unsatisfactory. One of the strangest things that he said was that these executives might co-opt members. That seems a most extraordinary proposal. Does it mean that the executives can be set up and that then they can co-opt some other people to help run the business of the Board? This seems to be a very loosely drawn proposal.
Before the Government drafted the Clause they must have had some reason for providing for the creation of these executives. The word "executive" has only one meaning and it is no use the Joint Under-Secretary saying, "I do not care whether the word is executive or something else." When the Bill is passed the word in the Act will be "executive." We have had various interpretations of its meaning today.
If the Government felt that executives were necessary they must have felt that those executives would have specific duties. It would appear that, with two exceptions, they might even control policy, outside general financial control and general control of charges and supply. With those two exceptions the executives might have some policy control within their grasp.
We simply could not co-opt people on to them to deal with policy. Perhaps the Secretary of State will be able to tell us how many executives were his advisers thinking of when the Bill was drafted and where they would be situated. What were to be the functions of the executives? It is no good setting them up unless there is a job for them. The Committee is entitled to expect an explanation now from the Secretary of State of what the Clause means. It may be that he will not be able to give an explanation. If so, it would be better if he would say that he will think it over and take back this Clause and the succeeding Clause.
Both Clauses require further consideration. Many Governments have taken back a Clause of a Bill for re-examination. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot give the explanation the least he can do is to say that he will take back this Clause and Clause 5 and present them again on Report.
I think the Committee is making rather heavy weather of what does not seem to me to be a very intricate problem. As the Joint Under secretary said, a great deal of thought has been given to the matter. Today there are two boards. In altering that position and drafting the Bill, after very much thought, it was decided that the best arrangement would be simply to have the South of Scotland Board. But all Scottish hon. Members know that there are considerable differences in development, outlook and life between the eastern area of Scotland and the west—
I have only just started my reply and I will say what they are if I am allowed to continue. There is the highly industrialised area of the west, while in the east there are the wider agricultural areas stretching up the east coast. With these differences are coupled differences in outlook. It seemed, therefore, sensible to establish executives which would be in a position to be closely in touch with the consumers, and to have an executive for the west and one for the east. In the whole of the organisation what seemed to have been ignored entirely is the interest of the general public, the consumer of electrical current throughout the country. The sole aim and object of this suggested organisation is to establish boards or executives in the east and in the west which will exercise certain functions delegated to them by the South of Scotland Board.
The right hon. Gentle man is pointing out the great importance of an organisation for the east and an organisation for the west. That existed under the 1947 Act—
I was explaining that after very careful thought, before introducing the Bill, we decided that the best thing was to have one board in the South of Scotland and one in the North; but that, in order to keep contact with the con sumer—because, I repeat and insist on repeating, it is in the opinion of the Government their duty in handling the generation and supply of electricity also to give some little thought to the person who has to pay for the stuff when he gets it—
I appreciate the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman in giving way. The whole point of his remarks is that these executive councils are necessary to keep contact with the consumers. Surely he is aware that consultative councils are already in being.
If I were allowed to complete what I started to say, I might be able to get to the end of the story.
It has been made perfectly clear that financial control and general policy will remain in the hands of the South of Scotland Board, but there are questions of distribution and other problems in particular areas which have to be considered. The hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) was talking about farms in his constituency which should be linked up. We all have these problems in our constituencies; my own happens to be in the area of the North of Scotland Board. We feel that an executive in the west and one in the east, with certain functions delegated to them, provide the best way of handling such problems. I repeat, however, that financial control and general policy will remain in the hands of the new South of Scotland Board.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the Committee why, if it is now desirable, as he puts it, that certain executive powers should be devolved to the east and certain executive powers to the west, does he not allow the situation to remain exactly as he presently describes the situation as he wants it to be?
I said that we have come to the conclusion that the best set-up is to have two, not three, area boards in Scotland. There has to be a solution of some sort and if we had reached a solution the other way round from that in the Bill, I have no doubt that we should have been criticised. When there is a central authority—as when right hon. Gentlemen nationalised transport—area boards or consultative councils are needed to keep in touch with the localities. We want to strengthen and improve that aspect in Scotland. We think that the main South of Scotland Board, with executives in the east and west to look after matters of consumer interest, will provide an efficient and workable solution.
With the best will in the world, I must admit that I cannot follow what is intended by this proposal. Two attempts have been made from the Government Front Bench to give us some knowledge of what functions it is intended to delegate. The only possible explanation of the speeches we have had is that the Ministers do not really know what those functions are to be. Surely it is a very simple proposition to explain.
The se matters come under managerial functions and should not be included in the Bill at all. The Board should be given power to appoint people responsible for doing the job. It looks as if behind the Board there are to be other people, smaller boards, lesser lights that are to be appointed. I submit that no Member of the Committee can reasonably be asked to accept the explanations we have been given, and vote for the Clause.
Even as one who believes that the Bill is going a certain way along lines that he desires, I say that no explanation has been offered so far by the Secretary of y State or the Joint Under-Secretary on this matter. Surely they can tell us how many people there are to be on these executives, what are their functions, what is the job that they are to do? We may even be entitled to ask what is to be the salary in order to decide whether they are people of responsible character.
I repeat that the only explanation of the two Ministerial speeches to which we have listened is that neither speaker knows what the functions of these executives will be. If that be so they should admit that the plan has not been properly thought out, and that later they will be in a position to provide a proper explanation. I do not feel justified in voting for a Clause of this description which has not been properly explained.
I urge the Secretary of State to define the position and what these individuals will be required to do. Surely we could be told that in plain and simple language.
After the two speeches to which we have listened from the Government Front Bench, it is increasingly clear that we shall not get much further information about the duties of these executives. It is clear from Clause 4 (b) that they are not to have anything to do with the general financial control or the control of the charges for the supplies and services provided. That was made clear by the Joint Under-Secretary.
The Secretary of State now tells us that these executives are needed as a cushion between the Board to be set up for the South of Scotland and the consumers. We have had consumer councils in the past, comprising people drawn from the local authorities who, in the main, were unpaid. They did excellent work in keeping in contact with the ratepayers in their respective areas. From my experience as a member of the Ayrshire Electricity Authority, under the old set-up prior to the 1947 Act, I welcomed that most heartily.
I wish to add my appeal to those already made to the Secretary of State to consider Clause 4 again. The Joint Under-Secretary said that the executives would comprise in part members of the Board itself. I do not see where authority for that is given in the Bill. Perhaps I could be told if there is any indication at all that the members of executives shall be drawn from the personnel of the Board to be set up for the South of Scotland.
Unless I am gravely mistaken, anybody who reads the Bill would assume that the executives will comprise people outwith the Board altogether. If they are to be drawn from the Board I cannot see the sense of it. I hope, therefore, that on Report we shall have an opportunity to examine this matter further, and that the Secretary of State will oblige us with more information on the subject.
The Secretary of State has heard much of the discussion upon this Clause, and he must be conscious that nobody is clear what it means, or why it is necessary to incorporate it in the Bill. I see no reason why the original suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) should not be adopted, namely, that within 12 months the Board should lay before the Secretary of State a scheme for the administration of its area. I cannot see why separate boards should look after Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively, while Fife and Clackmannan, just across the river from Edinburgh, should be left without any administrative executive.
It would be a simple matter, if the Board had to survey a big area, for it to decide to have more than two executives. It might decide to have half a dozen. The Secretary of State would make the Bill much tidier and much better by withdrawing everything in the Clause from "providing," or amending the whole thing and making it much simpler by excluding any reference to administrative executives. It is to his interest to try to make progress, and I respectfully submit that he should accept my hon. Friend's suggestion, or tell us that he will look into the matter before the Report stage to see whether he cannot tidy this matter up and put it on a more businesslike basis
There is no definition of who is to specify the controls. My hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) expressed the general sense of the Committee when he said that none of us knows where he is, in spite of the explanation which has been given. The right hon. Gentleman must agree that that is an unsatisfactory way for a Clause to go through, and I hope that he will reconsider the matter. If not, I promise him that we shall take every opportunity to see that the matter is raised in the proper manner on the Report stage.
I had hoped that we would have got some information from the Secretary of State on this matter. He says he has given it, but the Committee is very dissatisfied with what he has said. I doubt very much whether he has been listening to the arguments. The Government are pushing through these Clauses, and they must have something in their minds as to what they want them for. All we ask is that we be told the reason for this provision, how these two new authorities will be composed, and what their functions will be. We have had nothing but vague phrases from the right hon. Gentleman so far.
Only two things are clear about the Clause. First, there are to be two executives. Secondly, there is to be one for the east and one for the west of the South of Scotland. We are told that they are to have certain functions. We have asked repeatedly what those functions are. The Bill says that there is to be no general financial control, which implies that there is to be some other kind of financial control. If so, how much is there to be? The same consideration applies in the case of charges. There is to be no general control of charges, which means that there will be some kind of unspecified control.
Here the Secretary of State claims the right to modify the schemes. We know he has departed from his original idea, and yet he cannot tell us what his new idea is. I am coming to the conclusion that he just does not know, and that it is a piece of pure humbug.
There is one thing which is clear and it is something which should not be in the Bill at all. If the right hon. Gentle- man is trusting these executives to do the work why does he say that there should be one for the east and one for the west? That is why I say that because he is making a show of doing something but is departing from the set-up, this is just political window dressing. He states that there are great differences between east and west in development, outlook and life. Of course there are not. If one takes a longitudinal division of Scotland one does not get the same degree of interests between east and west chat one would get if one divided the south of the country latitudinally.
The south of Scotland is not Glasgow and Edinburgh. If the right hon. Gentleman considers the south of the country he will find that it is a hill-farming area right across: my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) mentioned it. There is some reason for grouping that part together, and, for the same reason, grouping the industrial areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh together. There is no justification for dividing them into east and west. What are we going to get out of this proposal? Merely the same set-up. If the right hon. Gentleman will apply himself to this matter he will accept the offer to withdraw the Clause without any final decision being taken tonight, think about it again and bring forward a new Clause on the Report stage.
I plead with the Secretary of State to answer some of the questions put to him. The Committee is scarcely being treated with courtesy, and it is an unusual experience to find the right hon. Gentleman, who is always so genial, being a little testy and crotchety. Here are some of the questions to which we do not know the answers. Is it, as the Joint Under-Secretary said, competent for the executive to consist only of members of the authority? Are the executives to be comprised of members of the authority, plus a number of people whom they choose to co-opt, or will that be specified in the scheme?
Are the members to be whole-time, or part-time? Are they to be paid, and at what rate? What financial powers remain with the executives? What variations can they make to charges laid down by the Board? What alterations can they make in the distributive, arrangements set out by the Board? Are the members to be actual technicians, or actual operators, or do we assume that their functions are completely at the policy level?
As one of my hon. Friends said, if they are managers it is reasonable to call them managers. Do not try to make them managers and also policy makers. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that we are not being unreasonable in asking for some hint of a reply. Moreover, if he does reserve some powers to himself he must have a reason for doing that, some fears or eventualities he contemplates. Will he tell us what types of eventualities he is contemplating? We do not expect him to tell us in detail. What we ask is that he should tell us broadly what his attitude is to the five points I have put. If he thinks we are pressing him unduly, let him take out the Clause, and bring it back at a later stage in a more precise form.
I would say finally that the schemes for the setting up of these executives have to be drawn up and approved, but that that work has not yet been undertaken because the South of Scotland Board is not yet set up. The Bill is only at Committee stage. I think the suggestion that the executives should be set up under the Board is a perfectly sensible one. We have given a great deal of thought to it. I cannot say what the schemes will contain until they have been drawn up. I hope that the Committee will now be ready to agree to the Clause.
Perhaps that is a reply. I doubt if it is. Perhaps I am being unreasonable, but I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that it is disingenuous for him to say, "I cannot comment on the schemes until I know what they are," when he is reserving powers to himself to decide those schemes. If the Secretary of State feels he must reserve certain powers in relation to those schemes what is it he thinks that the executives must at least do and what does he think they must in no circumstances do? There must be some reason for reserving these overriding powers.
It is surely not unreasonable for us to put those simple questions. What are the functions the Secretary of State has in mind that must be discharged by the executives? What are the functions which the Secretary of State, after this full consideration to which he has drawn our attention, thinks the executives must in no circumstances undertake?
It is what I asked. I asked the Secretary of State to tell us what functions of the executives he has decided must be discharged, that he retains power to direct shall be discharged; and what are those they must not discharge, that he retains power to direct they shall not discharge.
The Secretary of State says the scheme comes before Parliament, but is he telling me—of course, I shall accept his word— that it is his intention no scheme shall be approved except with Parliamentary authority? That is not how I read it. The right hon. Gentleman said some thing to the effect that the scheme had to be made, and had to be laid—
It is in the Bill, of course, but I wanted to make sure I was not doing the right hon. Gentleman an injustice. It is a little odd that he should say to the Committee, "Please accept my word that this is the answer. I cannot tell you why it is the answer, but do take my word, because in the end I have to approve the scheme." If he wants us to sustain his power of approval it would be reasonable for him to tell the Committee on what ground he would offer his approval or withhold it.
I do not think the Committee has ever been treated in this fashion before. We are told that this is a great novel, bubbling idea of which the Government are the architects. When we ask questions about the design it looks as though we are being rude, or impertinent. This is a Parliamentary Committee, and it is quite usual for a Minister, in Committee, to deal with questions put to him in an attempt to assist the Committee to understand the Bill. Perhaps we are being stupid, but I do not mind being thought obtuse if I am trying to do my duty in understanding a Clause. We should be glad if the Secretary of State, or the Lord Advocate, or the Joint Undersecretary would give us an explanation. If, alternatively, we were asked for further time for consideration of the points we have raised, we should not consider that unreasonable. It is certainly unreasonable, however, for the Secretary of State to seek to steamroller this Clause through without giving us an explanation.
We have had a long discussion. I want to say, in reinforcement of my right hon. Friend's observations, that I have been in the House a long time and I do not remember an occasion when a Minister has treated a Committee as the Secretary of State has done tonight. He must admit that my hon. Friends have put their points reasonably and courteously. We have now reached a point where the Secretary of State apparently is going to wait for this Question to be put to the Committee. I see no purpose in continuing to press him to say anything. Obviously he is unable to say anything or is refusing to do so, which is discourteous to the Committee. If he is unable to give an explanation he could at least say that he will look into the matter and clear it up.
We did not put down Amendments to this Clause because we took it for granted that there was some reasonable explanation. I challenge hon. Members opposite to say that they have the slightest understanding of what it is all about. We do not want to prejudice our right to amend this matter on the Report stage. Therefore, we are not going to divide on the Clause. As it is unintelligible we intend to put down Amendments for the Report stage, and to take the opinion of the House then.
When discussing the Question that Clause 2 should stand part of the Bill, I had to criticise its drafting. I have the same kind of criticism to make of this ridiculous and fantastic Clause. We see these astonishing words at the beginning of it,
Within 12 months of the coming into operation of this Act, or such longer period.…
What does that mean? It means, within 12 months of the coming into operation of the Act or not within 12 months of the coming into operation of the Act. It is a ridiculous piece of draftsmanship, and I hope the Minister will take it back and reconsider it.
Then we come to the statement that
the South of Scotland Board shall prepare and submit to the Secretary of State a scheme…
There is more verbiage. No one with proper knowledge of the English language would commit himself to such phraseology. Then we come to paragraph (a),
for the setting up, for the east and west areas of the South of Scotland District, of such executives, being one for each area…
that is, one for the east, and one for the west. Why repeat it?
This Clause is a ridiculous piece of nonsense, and I hope the Government will find some more consummate draftsmen to put it into real English which will mean something and be capable of construction and of administration, if the Bill ever passes into law.
Yes. Together with this Amendment we could take the following:
In page 7, line 19, to leave out from "subsections," to the first "and," in line 20.
In page 7, line 21, to leave out "loan," and to insert "stock."
In page 7, line 24, to leave out "loan," and to insert "stock."
In page 7, line 28, to leave out "loan," and to insert "stock."
In page 7, line 28, to leave out "arranged," and to insert "issued."
In page 7, line 32, after "such," to insert "British Electricity."
In page 7, line 33, to leave out "the expiry of the loan," and to insert:
the stock issued under this section has been redeemed.
In page 7, line 36, to leave out "loan," and to insert "stock issue."
In page 8, line 10, to leave out subsection (8), and to add:
"(8) Any stock issued by the South of Scotland Board under this section shall be deemed to be issued under section thirteen of the Act of 1943."
In Clause 12, page 9, line 34, to leave out from "a," to "by," in line 35, and to insert:
stock issue by the South of Scotland Board to that Authority.
From the discussions we have had on this Bill it appears that no one has thought out what the scheme was about and how it was going to work. The Government decided to carry out a pledge they gave, but no one seems to have thought what was going to happen as a result of the Bill. However, we on this side of the Committee have decided, as good democrats, the principle of the Bill having been decided, that wrought to make the Measure logical.
The Secretary of State's justification for the Bill is that he wants to give the control of this electricity authority to Scotland, but if that is going to be the case it must have had financial independence, otherwise it is not going to have complete control. As the Bill is drafted, it is going to be a subordinate authority to the main Authority, and, financially, it is going to be at the tail of the existing Authority. While we have no desire to have the Bill, if it is going to be put into force it would seem to be logical to remedy that state of affairs.
We have put down this series of Amendments in order that the Scottish Board will be able to issue its own stock, just as the Hydro-Electric Board does, and be independent of the Central Authority. The purpose of the Amendments is simple and clear, and they fit in with the avowed purpose of the Bill.
I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have put down these Amendments because the point which the right hon. Gentleman makes is a very reasonable one. The first point he puts is that this new Board must enjoy a full measure of independence, and he is a little anxious lest the financial provisions set out in this Clause may, in his own words, put the Board "financially at the tail of the existing Authority."
The right hon. Gentleman thinks that instead of dividing the duties between the Scottish authority and the B.E.A., it should be done by the Scottish Board issuing their stock in the way that the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board did in 1947. That is not an unreasonable view, and the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to make it; but, as the Committee will understand, it is obvious that the Scottish Board is going to take over a vast amount of property —generating stations, transmission lines, and a hundred and one other things and pieces of property—and we assume, although this can be only a rough, estimate, that the value will be about £70 million.
Now, part of that may be in cash, but as the right hon. Gentleman knows, when the British Electricity Authority took over from the existing undertakers in the south of Scotland, they gave those undertakers B.E.A. stock for their electricity concerns. Since then, the B.E.A. has had to issue further stock to sustain its gradual steady development, and the £70 million, by and large, is represented by stock which the B.E.A. has already issued.
What the right hon. Gentleman suggests would cost a considerable amount of money, for whether in the case of a nationalised board, or a private individual, stock cannot be floated—at least not stock of this value—without there having to be a fairly large payment; and from what we know of the cost of issuing stock, it is reasonable to say that the charges might amount to as much as £300,000 for the expenses of issue, and about £13,000 for the management of expenses. As a good Scot, I do not know why we should ask this Board to enter into this expenditure when it can simply undertake a loan from the B.E.A.
The other argument of the right hon. Gentleman is that he thinks, as he is entitled to do, that the loan method puts us a little under the control, if one cares to put it that way, of the B.E.A., whereas the issuing of stock would not. But if the South of Scotland Board issues stock, the B.E.A. would have a kind of a holding in the Board, and my Scottish blood does not rise at the one idea and then cool off at the thought of the other. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the question in that way, and if he remembers that after a great deal of thought has been expended by the accountants and experts who have explored every possible solution, this system appears most certainly to be the most sensible, the most practical, and the most economical, I think he will agree that we have done the best thing.
I am asked why, then, did the Hydro-Electric Board, when it was in a somewhat similar position, and being responsible for large properties, issue stock? The circumstances were different. At that very same time, the B.E.A. was issuing stock, and it appeared to the accountants who advised the then Secretary of State for Scotland, and the then Minister of Fuel and Power, that what was then done was the best way of handling the matter. I am only trying to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, as one Scotsman to another, that in the present circumstances the method we propose in this Bill is the best method, according to the advice which we have been able to get.
It seems to us that the more we discuss this Bill, the more anomalies appear. The hon. Gentleman disarms us a little by his courtesy and charm after our previous experience tonight. This sudden appearance of reason on the other side of the Committee is a little disconcerting after the last hour and the resulting waste of time.
I must say to the hon. Gentleman that while we have just been told that we ought to agree to what is in the Bill because it is the best way of doing it, up to now we have been told that we should accept the Bill because we are prepared to be so independent in Scotland that we want our own Board, even if it costs us more for our electricity. It is all so contradictory that we cannot find any reason in it. As a Scot, I have no wish to force a considerable expenditure on the South of Scotland Board, nevertheless this shows how irregular and illogical the Bill is, because none of it fits, none of it has been thought out properly, and it stands condemned for that reason.
I beg to move, in page 7, line 23, at the end, to insert:
under an order to be laid before Parliament.
If this agreement is to be made between these two bodies, it would seem that at least it should be known to Parliament what are the terms on which it is made.
Here again I fancy that the right hon. Gentleman has put down his Amendment to elicit information, and I respond gladly. The point of the Amendment is to provide that the Secretary of State, the Minister of Fuel and Power and the Treasury shall convey in an order laid before Parliament the approval which they are required to give to the amount and terms of the loan agreed between the South of Scotland Board and the B.E.A.
As Parliamentarians we have immediate sympathy for that proposition, but what is it that would be presented to Parliament under this pattern? It would be merely a statement of account, a statement of fact, and there would be no argument about it. I do not think that that would be a suitable thing for presentation to the House in the way suggested by the Amendment.
Under Clause 9 (3) the amount and terms of the loan must be agreed by both the Boards and be approved by both Ministers and the Treasury. Failing agreement, the matter will be settled by the Ministers under Clause 10 (2). Any dispute, however, could relate only to questions of fact, not of policy, and in these circumstances it does not seem to me appropriate to suggest that this should be laid before Parliament.
I would remind the Committee that both the Board and the Authority will be bound to show in their annual accounts the settlement that has been reached, with the details of the interest payable, the expenses of management, and all the other items. These annual accounts are, of course, laid before Parliament and there should be ample opportunity for Parliamentary information and any subsequent desire for Parliamentary debate and scrutiny. I hope it will be felt that everything is being done to maintain the proper interests of Parliament.
I beg to move, in page 10, line 35, at the end, to insert:
(2) For the purpose of any regulation made under subsection (1) of this section the period of employment necessary to qualify for the payment of a compensation there under shall not exceed seven years immediately preceding the vesting date.
I have intervened for a few moments to raise a small but important point of some of the people concerned in receiving compensation. As I understand. Clause 14 brings forward provisions almost identical with those under the Act of 1947 in that it requires the South of Scotland Board to pay compensation on the same grounds as covered by the previous Act. There is one small point where we note a slight change. The Electricity Staff Benefit Regulations of 1949, under Clause 1 (2) say that they shall apply to people who have been employed during the period of not less than eight years immediately preceding the vesting date.
The South-East Scotland and the South-West Scotland Board came into existence on 1st April, 1948. and about that time the boards would have been recruiting staff and among other persons would no doubt have attracted others from outside the industry altogether. These persons obviously cannot have put in eight years by the time of the vesting date defined in this Bill as 1st April, 1955. I think it is not unreasonable to ask that those who joined the staffs of these two boards in 1948 should be covered by any compensation regulations that are made.
This Amendment seeks to cover those who would have been left undisturbed and free from financial loss and I hope that this has been made quite clear in its wording. If not, I hope that its principle will be acceptable to the Government.
I want to support what has been said about the desirability of having a period of seven years with reference to staff compensation regulations. Under the 1947 compensation regulations, it was left to the Minister to make the regulations in effecting the relevant period to meet the entitlement of compensation and the qualifying period was put down as eight years.
The effect of the Amendment, if it is accepted, would be to bring into the scope of possible compensation those men and women who joined local government service, or possibly even company service, at that time and were almost immediately transferred to the new nationalised undertakings on the vesting date of 1st April, 1948. I think that somewhere it has been announced that the vesting date on which this Measure becomes operative is to be 1st April, 1955. Therefore, I think the Committee will see the relevance of having a shorter period than eight years. This would be to the convenience of the staff in the industry and I think the authorities would not regret it if the change were made.
I appreciate the purpose for which the Amendment is moved, but in its present form it should not be accepted. It is not customary, nor appropriate, to specify a detailed matter such as this. Minimum qualifications and matters of that sort are usually left to be specified in the regulations. That course has been followed in previous Acts, for instance, the compensation regulations under the Electricity Act, 1947, and similar regulations under the 1947 Transport Act and the 1953 Transport Act.
In the present case, provision is made for regulations which have to be submitted to Parliament in draft and they have to be subject to affirmative Resolution as provided for under Clause ‡4. When the existing compensation regulations under the 1947 Act were prepared the appropriate employers' and employees' organisations were consulted before the regulations were finally drafted. I can assure hon. Members that similar consultations will take place when the regulations which have to be made under this Measure are prepared and drafted. In these circumstances, although I appreciate the purpose for which the Amendment is moved, and will bear the matter in mind, I suggest to the Committee that the Amendment should not be accepted.
Here we have a body which has not been in existence for eight years and, therefore, something should be done in the regulations. Cannot the right hon. and learned Gentleman go further and relieve anxieties in these circumstances?
I want to raise a point on the general position of pension rights and superannuation in relation to the Bill. Section 54 of the 1947 Act, specifically provided for the maintenance of existing superannuation rights and gave the opportunity to the electricity boards to establish new pensions schemes for their staffs if they wished to do so.
Clause 14 relates to compensation to officers and members of the Board in connection with transfers, but there is no similar Clause specifically relating to pensions, and I wonder why that is so. It may be said that under this Clause no one's position in relation to pension rights will be worsened, but apparently there are to be no specific regulations as such on pensions, and that seems to be special to this particular Bill. The employees are wondering if there is any rational explanation for this.
I beg to move in page 11, line 7, to leave out "the Secretary of State," and to insert:
any Minister of the Crown or Government department.
This is an Amendment to bring the Bill into line with the Financial Resolution. It extends the provision for payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of expenses incurred by the Secretary of State as a result of the Bill. It extends this to cover expenses incurred by any Minister of the Crown or Government Department. The expenses may be incurred by the Minister of Labour in connection, for instance, with arbitration proceedings arising out of the provision of Clause 14. The Amendment gives authority for the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of expenses incurred in this way by the Minister of Labour as a result of the passing of the Bill. The Amendment is drawn in accordance with normal practice to cover any Minister of the Crown or any Government Department, but we do not anticipate that expenditure by any Minister other than the Secretary of State or the Minister of Labour is likely.
This is an extraordinary Bill. Its Clauses comprise 12 pages of print and the two Schedules 13 pages of somewhat smaller print. There is more in the two Schedules than there is in the rest of the Bill, and this Clause and the two Schedules together comprise more than half the Bill. As I submitted earlier, the Bill is very badly drafted. The Clause with which we are now dealing refers to more than 100 adaptations, modifications and repeals. I drew attention to this astonishing fact in the Second Reading debate, and I take this opportunity to do so again.
I wrote a letter to "The Times," expressing the hope that the Government would withdraw this astonishing Measure and redraft it nearer to the heart's desire and more in accordance with the traditions of good draftsmanship. They have not seen fit to do so, and I take this opportunity of showing up their evil ways and appealing to them to return to purity of diction and expression, especially in Parliamentary Bills.
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
The Committee will appreciate that we have made a surprising amount of progress with the various considerations in front of us. As you will see, Sir Charles, there are three very long Amendments to the Schedules. Two are Government Amendments, one of which is very important, and there is another, standing in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends, which seems very important to us. It would be rather a pity if, having gone so far, we tried to garble the Schedules. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would indicate his intentions now. I do not think he will deny that we have made very satisfactory progress. For various reasons, with which he is quite familiar, we shall have a very thin Committee from now on and we are about to discuss subjects of great importance.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not press this Motion. As he says, we have made good progress, and we were still progressing satisfactorily until he moved to report Progress. I cannot refer to the later Amendments on the Order Paper, but one of the main ones in the names of hon. Members opposite need not take up a great deal of time, as I hope to be able to meet them on it. I hope that we can complete the Committee stage without having to sit very much longer.
I beg to move, in page 16, line 46, at the end, to insert: Provided that—
This is a very simple Amendment, which is needed merely to complete the arrangements under the Bill. It adds a proviso to the new subsection (3, a) which is inserted by the Bill in Section 16 of the 1943 Act. That subsection provided that the Scottish electricity boards may purchase electricity from any person other than an area board on such terms and conditions as may be agreed with that person.
The purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that if the North of Scotland Board or the South of Scotland Board wishes to take a supply from a person in the other board's area it must obtain the approval of that board. It is a matter of courtesy. If either Scottish board wishes to take a supply from a person in the area of a board over the border the Scottish board must obtain the approval of the British Electricity Authority. That is a matter of courtesy again. The purpose of this is that the generating authority of the areas concerned should have the first refusal of any supplies generated by any person in that area.
It is a reasonable, technical Amendment and we are not going to oppose it. But I would take this opportunity of once again saying that the hon. Gentleman is admitting that there is no practical way by which to make this authority completely autonomous.
I beg to move, in page 17, line 27, at the end, to insert:
The Authority established by section one shall be known by the name of the Central Electricity Authority and that name shall be substituted for the words "British Electricity Authority" wherever occurring.
This Amendment changes the name of the British Electricity Authority to Central Electricity Authority. If the Amendment is adopted the effect will be that from 1st April, 1955, it will be the Authority's legal title, and the name in which it will act—for example, in making contracts, dealing with correspondence or in other transactions—and the name by which it will be known to the public, such as in their annual report. Just as at present there are the initials B.E.A., to which the title is contracted, if the Amendment was adopted the initials would be C.E.A.
The reason for proposing the change in the name is that on 1st April next the functions of the authority in relation to the South of Scotland District will be transferred to the new South of Scotland Board, and there will be a complete change of authority. Subject to certain physical links with Scotland which will remain but the powers and duties of the British Electricity Authority will be confined to England and Wales only and it seems that the change is desirable. The title British Electricity Authority will no longer be appropriate, because it implies responsibility throughout the whole of Great Britain.
The new title Central Electricity Authority will distinguish the authority, with its general responsibility over England and Wales, from the area boards. Moreover, it involves the change of only one word in the present title of the British Electricity Authority and will, therefore, reduce to a minimum the inconvenience and expense involved in such a change. In the Electricity Act 1947 the B.E.A. is referred to as "the Central Authority", and that is, indeed, the term used in the Bill itself. That is simply an abbreviation adopted for the convenience in the Electricity Acts to save words. It is not the official title of the British Electricity Authority and outside the context of the Electricity Acts "Central Authority" would be rather meaningless.
Section 1 of the 1947 Act which established the B.E.A. established it as the British Electricity Authority but went on to say that in the Electricity Acts it is referred to as the Central Authority. The change in name proposed in the Amendment will not in any way affect the use of the term Central Authority in the Electricity Acts, indeed, it will make that abbreviation much more apt. One effect will be to take away one of the two sets of initials B.E.A. relating to the British Electricity Authority and the British European Airways, which sometimes cause confusion.
As a whole the Bill gives effect to a further form of devolution for Scotland, and the Amendment if it is accepted will make it clear that there is a form of devolution. It will be welcomed as such by Scots, and while none of us in the Scottish section of the Committee wish to pass any reflection on Welsh Members we are proud of our Scottish way of thinking.
There is a procedural point that puzzles me, but I am not very good on such points. This means that the short title of the Bill must be redrafted. I suppose that that means the Government then bring in an Amendment on Report. I am very interested in this sudden decision to accept the Amendment. We shall be in a very curious position. We have a United Kingdom Ministry of Fuel and Power and we have answerable to it an English Authority; but, of course, it is not really an English Authority, because it has a role in relation to Wales. I hope that the Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs was consulted.
What really activated the Amendment was the desire to erase the label by which this great Authority is recognised. I would not attempt to predict what a change of Government would do about this, but it would be reasonable surely, in this experimental period, as the Secretary of State said it was, to leave this great organisation, the British Electricity Authority, with its name, instead of this anonymous, bureaucratic, undescriptive title the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to give it.
I think the Committee should have a little more explanation than the Parliamentary Secretary has given of the Government's anxiety to accept this sudden change. Many Members who do not normally take part in this Committee's work will be interested in this, and I think the hon. Gentleman should give us a fairly full explanation so that they can read it in HANSARD. I am sure that even if he is anxious to let the Committee get on with its work he will agree that rather more than eight words are necessary to explain the Government's anxiety to take this step.
Like my right hon. Friend, I am startled at the way in which this has been done. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary could tell the Committee whether there has been any consultation with the British Electricity Authority on the point. Does it like this name particularly? Does it think it appropriate? I am not convinced by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Commander Donaldson) that without the Amendment Scotland loses some right. The British Electricity Authority has existed since 1948, During the whole of the time there has been the autonomous North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. Apparently it did not resent the B.E.A. or feel that the B.E.A. interfered with its autonomy.
There is a good deal of talk about a sudden change. Notice of this Amendment was given on 29th March. It is quite clear from the wording what the intention is. There is nothing sudden about it as far as I am concerned.
I still think it is. After all, it is a fairly obvious point which could have been in the Bill as first drafted. The point I made is one of substance, namely, that the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board did not feel that its self-respect, independence, or autonomy, were infringed by the British Electricity Authority using the word "British," and I do not believe that the South of Scotland Board will feel upset. I do not feel strongly about the matter, but I suggest that there might be more time for consultation. I would like to know whether the British Electricity Authority was consulted.
The hon. Member and I were present at the second reading of the Bill, and in the brief remarks which I made then the general trend was that this might be necessary. I think I said then that I would not presume at that stage to settle the words of such change.
I should like to say a word in reply to what has been said, as I do not want to appear discourteous. The brevity of my speech was not intended to be so. I thought the arguments had been so adequately dealt with that it was unnecessary for me to add very much. So far as the facts to which reference has been made are concerned I accept them. Opinions are a matter for the individual. I can assure the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) that the British Electricity Authority has no objection to the change of name. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. McNeil) that the long Title is right as it stands as it refers to the transfer of functions from the British Electricity Authority, and it is not until the Bill is passed that the Authority becomes the Central Electricity Authority.
I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for the explanation. I had not noted that. I am glad that the British Electricity Authority has been consulted, though I noticed that the hon. Gentleman did not say that the British Electricity Authority welcomed the change. He merely said that no objection was offered. It will cost B.E.A. quite a lot in repainting and notepaper; but I do not suppose that when the Tory Party wants to pursue a nasty bit of propaganda it will hesitate to do so at the public expense.
I beg to move, in page 17, line 40, at the end, to insert:
In subsection (4), in paragraph (b), after the words "Central Authority" there shall be inserted the words "or, where the agreement relates to the acquisition of bulk supplies of electricity from any person in the district of a Scottish Electricity Board, with the approval of that Board.
This Amendment gives the other side of the picture, as it were, to the one I moved a few minutes ago. It requires the Central Authority, where an agreement relates to the acquisition of bulk supplies from any person in the district of a Scottish Board, to get approval of that board.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 20, line 31, at the end, to insert:
51. At end, add the following subsection:
(3) This section shall apply to the Central Authority as it applies to an Area Board.
This Amendment seeks to make good an omission. An area board and either Scottish Board has under the Electricity Act of 1947 the right to take up streets for the purpose of providing supplies of electricity outside its own area. This gives the Central Authority the same right if it is needed. It will be appreciated that at some time one or other of the boards may want for the general advantage of the community to take supplies from an area in another board's territory.
I beg to move, in page 20, to leave out lines 32 to 45, and to insert:
In subsection (1) for the words from "to seek consultation" to "such agreements" there shall be substituted the words "the North of Scotland Board and the South of Scotland Board to seek joint consultations with any orgnisation appearing to them to be appropriate with a view to the conclusion between the aforesaid Electricity Boards and that organisation of such joint agreements.
For subsections (2) to (4) there shall be substituted the following subsections—
(2) It shall be the duty of every Area Board to comply with any agreement entered
into for the purposes of this section by the Central Authority, and that Authority before entering into any such agreement as aforesaid shall consult with the Area Boards.
(3) Electricity Boards which are a party to any agreement entered into for the purposes of this section shall send to the Minister, the Secretary of State and the Minister of Labour and National Service, a copy of that agreement.
The hour is late and I am sure we all shall be glad to see our beds. Therefore, I propose to be as brief as I can on this Amendment. I hope the Committee will appreciate, however, that it is an extremely important Amendment, and particularly important to employees in the electricity supply industry who will be affected by the passing of this Bill.
The intention of the Amendment is to give effect to a point which was raised sharply on Second Reading by my hon. Friends and myself. The point is this. Whatever good or ill is done by the Bill, the principle of national United Kingdom negotiations for wages, salaries and conditions within the industry should be preserved. I think it is well-known that there is a very highly developed system of collective bargaining in electricity supply. There are a considerable number of Joint Whitley Councils which have been established for a number of years and they have worked successfully. The electricity supply industry is certainly one in which there are good labour relations on the whole.
As the Minister knows there have been very strong representations from the electricity supply trade unions and staff associations to him on this point of national negotiations. Those representations were made at an early stage and discussions have continued since that time. The Trades Union Congress has also made representations to the right hon. Gentleman and it was very anxious that any change in the matter of the negotiating machinery brought about by this Bill should not be a precedent for other nationalised industries It is particularly relevant, I feel, to state that the Scottish Trades Union Congress, in addition, has been in touch with the right hon. Gentleman to see whether he could take steps to preserve the principle of national negotiations.
If I may without putting myself out of order, I should like to explain a matter on which there is often much misunder standing. That misunderstanding was apparent on Second Reading. Section 53 of the 1947 Act, which this Schedule alters, does not concern itself—and this is most important—with everyday discussion of wage rates, salary scales, and so on. Section 53 is concerned only with the establishment of machinery for collective bargaining and the recognition of trade unions, but not with the further agreement which arise from that.
There is no question of this Amendment, if it is accepted by the Committee, doing what was suggested by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) on Second Reading—I am sorry he is not in his place; he was here a short time ago— namely, of lazy trade union officials making Parliament do their job for them. Trade union officials in the electricity supply industry, as in most industries, are able to do their jobs for themselves, and they prefer that the detailed negotiations on salaries and wages and conditions should be free to the industry itself to resolve.
As drafted, the Bill leaves the three proposed authorities free to act separately and individually. The Amendment, if carried, will compel them to act jointly and collectively in the matter of wage and salary bargaining machinery. The general effect of it in the electricity supply industry will be to preserve unaltered the existing successful collective bargaining arrangements on a national United Kingdom basis.
It will also remove a certain amount of fear which existed among the Scottish employees of the electricity authorities of breaking away from national negotiations and consequent lower standards. I am not disclosing any secret if I say that, since the Second Reading of the Bill, there have been further negotiations with the Minister, and although trade union opinion is still hostile to the Bill itself, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will now say that in this matter at least he is a reasonable and understanding man.
I am grateful for the way in which these negotiations between the Government and the unions have been conducted, and also for the very helpful part which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) has played in them. I can also say, straight away, that I am willing to accept the Amendment which he has moved. Right hon. and hon. Members may recall that on Second Reading I endeavoured to say that I had no desire to break existing agreements, or negotiating machinery between the unions and the management, and, for the sake of the record, I think I ought briefly to state the gist of what I wrote to the hon. Gentleman on 2nd April last.
I then stated that if these amendments were made, and if the Bill became law, the existing agreements for the electricity industry would continue; the two Scottish Boards being deemed by Clause 18 (4) of the Bill to be parties to them, unless and until they are altered. If they were terminated, it would, under Section 53 as we propose it, become the duty of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, the South of Scotland Electricity Board, and the B.E.A., to seek consultation with any appropriate organisation with a view to securing joint agreement with that organisation.
I should like to thank the Secretary of State for the manner in which he has met us in the negotiations on this matter, and also for his acceptance of the Amendment. I must say that it is pleasant to see him reappearing in the rôle of Dr. Jekyll because we have had Mr. Hyde for so long, in more than one meaning of the word, and really I am glad, if he has been refreshed in some way, that he has come back with some sort of courtesy and some measure of good will for the Committee. I hope that he will not lose it before we reach the Report stage, but will then again come forward in helping us to get along with the least possible trouble rather than that he should behave as he has done earlier today; for that will cause the greatest possible trouble.
To save the time of the Committee it may be convenient—as there is a consequential Amendment to the next Amendment in the name of the Secretary of State for Scotland—if the hon. Gentleman moves his Amendment to page 23, line 16, column 2 in its amended form. The consequential Amendment is in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Commander Donaldson) and is to line 12, leave out "British," and insert "Central," We have just amended the Schedule to put in that word.
I am happy to accept your suggestion, Sir Charles. I beg to move, in page 23, line 16, column 2, to leave out from the beginning, to end of line 34, on page 24, and to insert:
For subsections (2) and (3) there shall be substituted the following subsections—
(2) The Minister of Fuel and Power (in relation to England and Wales) and the Secretary of State (in relation to the South of Scotland District) shall ascertain and certify, for the calendar year nineteen hundred and forty-seven, the total number of units of electricity to be taken into account under subsection (5) or (6) of this section.
(3) The Minister of Fuel and Power or the Secretary of State, as the case may be, shall then ascertain and certify the amount by which the total number of units to be so taken into account for the last calendar year ending before the beginning of the year for which the payment by the Central Electricity Authority or the South of Scotland Electricity Board is to be made exceeds or falls short of the number ascertained under subsection (2) of this section.
For subsection (5) there shall be substituted the following subsections—
(5) In relation to England and Wales, the number of units to be taken into account for any year is—
(6) In relation to the South of Scotland District, the number of units to be taken into account for any year is—
(7) For the purposes of this section—
I should like to remind the Committee that electricity boards do not pay rates in the same way as ordinary people. They pay lump sums, based partly upon a basic valuation in the earlier part of their life and partly upon fine amount of electricity which they distribute in the area. Those lump sums are collected by the B.E.A. and, so far as Scottish areas are concerned, they are paid over in a lump sum to the Secretary of State, who then reimburses the local authorities concerned. In the case of the Hydro-Electricity Board, they pay to the Secretary of State and he reimburses the local authorities.
The first method, which we had of doing this by way of an Amendment to the 1948 Local Government Act, turned out on examination not to be entirely satisfactory and to be a little unfair to England, and, therefore, we looked at it with our experts to see whether we could not arrive at a more equitable and clearer way of reaching the same end. I give the Committee the assurance that all that has been done here is to find a neater way of doing the same thing.
I cannot speak for the Committee, but I am indebted to the hon. Gentleman for his lucid explanation. I have to take it on faith because I do not understand it, but I would be in great trouble if I did not ask the hon. Gentleman whether it is his opinion that this will be more beneficial to the constituency I represent than the previous arrangements? Because I have never been in doubt that previously the burgh of Greenock was robbed of a substantial amount of money in the sense that they never got the fair proportion of the rates due to them. I am sure that when the Joint Under-Secretary of State tells us that it is a better application, he means that all these local authorities will find it beneficial. I am a little suspicious of his tenderness for England at this stage, but perhaps we shall hear more about that later.
I beg to move, in page 25, line 19, column 3, after "of," to insert "section fourteen of."
This Amendment is required to correct a printing error in Part I of the Second Schedule, since the Bill as it stands repeals the whole of the adaptation and modification of the Electric Lighting Act of 1882. With that assurance, a genuine assurance, I hope that the Committee will accept the Amendment.