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Clause 5—(Constructional Schemes)

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 5 May 1943

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I beg to move, in page 4, line 8, after "Board," to insert:

"shall send copies of the said notice to the persons appearing from the valuation roll to be the owners and the occupiers of any land proposed to be acquired and."
The purpose of the Amendment is that when notice of a scheme has been published it shall also be served upon the owners and occupiers of any land affected by the scheme.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 4, line 8, to leave out "it available for inspection," and to insert "copies available for inspection and sale."

This Amendment deals with a constructional scheme instead of a development scheme and to that extent is different from the Amendment which I moved earlier. It also requires not only that there should be inspection but also that copies should be available for sale. The general object of the Amendment is along the same lines as that of the previous Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 4, line 12, to leave out "twenty-one", and to insert "forty". This is a small alteration which will give a little longer time to interested parties to lodge objections against any constructional scheme.

Is there any good and sufficient reason why this period should be extended to 40 days, and is there any precedent for such a length of time in connection with a matter of this kind? Surely 21 days is sufficient in which to lodge an objection. Let us aim at getting on with these schemes instead of holding them up.

The hon. Member will realise that in the North of Scotland there are many outlying places where it might be difficult for people to give notice of objection within 21 days.

May I point out that the ordinary means of communication exist in the North of Scotland? The telegraph and telephone services are in operation there, and this could easily be done in 21 days.

The hon. Member will probably realise that there is the necessity in some cases of consulting a soliitor.

I beg to move, in page 4, line 23, at the end, to insert:

"Provided that where any person who has lodged objection to the scheme requests that an inquiry shall be held, the Secretary of State shall, unless he is of opinion that the objection is frivolous, cause an inquiry to be held before confirming the scheme."
It has been thought that persons who have any objection to a scheme should have the right to have an inquiry, unless the Secretary of State considers the objection a frivolous one.

The form of the inquiry will come later. It is set out in detail in the proposed Sixth Schedule on the Amendment Paper (Provisions for Inquiries)

Will the Solicitor-General for Scotland explain whether he is satisfied that this could not be used as a method of obstruction? Can he give the Committee an assurance that this could not be used as an instrument for holding up schemes indefinitely?

That would come under the word "frivolous." The Secretary of State has control of the question whether he will allow inquiry or not. If there was any serious objection, he would agree that there should be an inquiry. An inquiry might go on as fast as possible, but during the inquiry there might be a slight hold-up. The hon. Member can be assured that the Secretary of State would not allow any undue delay.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 4, line 39, leave out "may be inspected," and insert "are available for inspection and sale."— [Mr. Erskine-Hill.]

I beg to move, in page 4, line 46, at the end, to add:

"Provided that the Board shall not proceed to carry the scheme into effect unless and until a scheme shall have been made and adopted under Section four of the Electricity (Supply) Act, i926, as adapted and modified by this Act in respect of the area to which the constructional scheme relates."
The need for this Amendment is caused by the fact that under the original Electricity Supply Acts which have been incorporated in this Measure, with certain modifications and exceptions, a certain procedure was adopted relating to schemes. Under the present Act there is a different one, and the new Board who have taken upon themselves also the powers of the Central Electricity Board for the purposes of the old Act might proceed in one of two different ways. Section 4 of the Act of 1926 gives certain advantages. There is protection afforded in that Act on certain matters to authorised undertakers, such as the availability and the cost of supply. The benefit of availability and cost of supply goes to the consumer eventually. Therefore it is very advantageous to make clear that you are proceeding by the method previously adopted in the earlier Acts. I understand that the matter has received the favourable consideration of my right hon. Friend, and I would ask him to accept the Amendment.

The Government are prepared to accept the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend.

The Committee ought to be instructed a little on what exactly the Government are accepting here. As the hon. and learned Member has just said, the Act of 1926 laid down a method of procedure for the framing of schemes which is the reverse of the method adopted in the new Bill. Under the new Bill the Board are required to frame the scheme and submit it to the Electricity Commissioners, but under the 1926 Act the Electricity Commissioners framed the scheme and submitted it to the Board, and it was for the Board to say whether they wanted it or not or whether it should be amended. Does it mean now that either or both these methods could be employed, and, if so, which method are the Government likely to prefer? In accepting the Amendment, the hon. and learned Gentleman ought to tell us exactly what he intends to do.

I agree that the matter is rather complicated. I think that my hon. Friend—and I am not in the least surprised—has different schemes in mind. The scheme under the 1926 Act is not alternative to any of the schemes under this Bill. It is quite a different thing. A scheme under the 1926 Act is one for determining what generating stations are to be selected stations and how they are to be coupled up. It is agreed on all hands that a scheme of that character which is not otherwise referred to in this Bill will be necessary before the new Board sell electricity, and if it is necessary to have such a scheme, there is no reason why there should not be inserted in the Pill a provision to the effect that there should be such a scheme.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

There are one or two matters in this Clause which are causing us considerable doubt. The first is the ex- tension of time from 21 to 40 days. We consider that for many parts of North Scotland it should be possible to lodge an objection or an appeal within 21 days. We cannot see any reason for extending the period to 40 days. The Solicitor-General for Scotland gets up here and presents the obstacle of solicitors. Then let us abolish solicitors. [An HON. MEMBER: "'Liquidate' them is the word."] I am prepared to accept the word "liquidate," or, in view of the fact that we are discussing this particular Bill, "electrocute" them. We would certainly find it impossible, as far as most of them are concerned, to electrify them. They consult and reconsult, and consider and reconsider, and create wherever they can the utmost complications. In order to prove it, let me take this last Amendment. Let any Member of the Committee get up and say he is able to understand or explain it. It is moved by a solicitor in order to create the greatest possible amount of confusion and difficulty. It says:

"Provided that the Board shall not proceed to carry the scheme into effect unless and until a scheme shall have been made and adopted under section four of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1926."
As soon as this Board operates it will be possible for it to get ahead with schemes, even though the linking has taken place. The character of the Amendment which has been accepted by the legal men in the Government—I am certain that the Secretary of State for Scotland was not responsible for accepting the Amendment.

The hon. Member keeps referring to the Amendment, but we are discussing the Motion "That the Clause stand part."

I am certain that the Secretary of State for Scotland is not responsible for accepting this new part of the Clause, and that it is as anathema to him as it is to hon. Members on this side of the Committee. So I would ask the Secretary of State to reconsider this Clause and stick to the original time limit of 21 days in order to ensure the greatest possible speed in getting schemes going. I ask him to reject this new part proposed by the legal fraternity for, I am sure, very sinister purposes.

There is a certain feeling in some parts of Scotland that one of the faults of this Bill is that local authorities are rather eliminated. From what I can read into Clause 5, even in an area where constructional schemes are being considered there is nothing to show that the local authorities will be consulted. They are not even mentioned. To say that an advertisement will appear in the Press is inadequate, and I ask for an assurance that local authorities will have deposited with them copies of any constructional schemes taking place in their area. I think it is only right that responsible bodies should be taken into account.

I would like to associate myself with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). The Secretary of State has accepted three Amendments to this Clause and has now given us quite a different kind of Clause. Each of the Amendments to this Clause could be quite easily used for obstruction purposes. The Amendment from my hon. and learned Friend opposite I do not pretend to understand in detail, even after the explanation by the Lord Advocate. The other, to which the hon. Member for West Fife has already addressed himself, assumes a new significance. It is not only a question of whether the time for lodging an objection is extended from 21 to 40 days. The Clause now states "not less than 4o days." We on this side of the Committee have the utmost confidence in the present Secretary of State for Scotland but "not less than 40 days" means nothing in a House which showed an unfriendly spirit towards another Scottish Secretary. Again, despite the assistance offered by the Solicitor-General, I still cannot see that the other Amendment the Government have accepted does not leave open the door for obstruction. Interpretation of the word "frivolous" is very difficult. I am quite certain that neither of the hon_ Members opposite can tell us what is meant by "frivolous." A mass of technical objections could be lodged by people who wanted to create difficulties or even by people who could claim an interest in any proposed development. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend to give us a slightly different picture when we come to the Report stage. I do not want to read motives into any changes which have been made; I will content myself by saying that while these may be excellent safeguards so long as the House is situated as it is now and so long as we have a Scottish Secretary of the same temper as my right hon. Friend, they could be properly used, but otherwise they might be most improperly used, to the dismay of, and loss to, that part of the country to which this Bill is directed.

Before we part with this Clause may I refer to a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden), namely, local authorities? Not only do local authorities in the Highlands feel that they ought to be informed of any constructional scheme in their area, but they also feel that they ought to be consulted before any scheme is passed on to the Secretary of State for his confirmation.

I do not know whether the length of the Sitting is exhausting the Members on the Treasury Bench, but they seem to be more pliable as time goes on with regard to the acceptance of Amendments. They were prepared to fight much more strenuously earlier in the day, when better Amendments were proposed.

That may be, but at any rate the Amendments from the other side of the Committee are being received very much more kindly than the Amendments from this side. The question of time is the weakest argument I have heard for a long time. One thinks back to the days when Macdonald had such difficulty in getting to Inverary. He had only 30 days and had to do it on foot, and there were no telephones or such like means of communication at that time. The acceptance of the last Amendment amazes me. What does the Clause say? It says, in Sub-section (7):

"As soon as may be after notice has been given in accordance with the provisions of the last foregoing subsection, the Board shall proceed with the construction of the works specified in the scheme and may do all things necessary for the due carrying into effect of the scheme."
What is wrong with that? There is no doubt that the only reason for putting the Amendment down was for the purpose of delay. They will be able to delay any constructional scheme that is put into operation. I cannot understand why the Government should allow these loop- holes for the purpose of delaying the Act coming into operation. They can buy the support of the people behind them too dearly. It is not worth the price they are paying.

I should like to appeal to the Secretary of State to take back the Clause. There is a good deal of feeling on this side about the concessions that have been made. There never was a day practically since the war started when the line of cleavage was so distinct as now. It is clear as noonday that it is a case of vested interests. That is why we are viewing with great anxiety the concessions that are being made. There are none to us, who are well disposed towards the Bill, but they are being made to those who have been against it from the beginning and are against all development unless they are going to get control. All they are interested in is rent, profit, and interest.

The Second Reading was passed unanimously. When the hon. Member says that certain people are against the Bill, I should like to know the names of anyone he has in view.

That would be going beyond the Clause. The hon. Member is quite out of Order. We are discussing whether the Clause shall stand part, and he is digressing from the question. I hope he will confine himself to it.

I do not think that rebuke is merited. The Deputy-Chairman would allow us to answer when certain accusations were made, and I do not see why I should not be allowed to reply to the hon. Member. But I have no desire to do so. I want this to be a workable Bill, and I want the scheme to go ahead as early as possible. I can see in all the Amendments that have been accepted efforts to trammel the activities of this Board. Everyone who has spoken on this side is annoyed at the idea of accepting 40 days as against 21. Is there any precedent in a scheme of a like character for demanding 40 days as against 21 for a notification? Mention has been made of the time when William, Prince of Orange, came over here to be King and finished up with the massacre of the Macdonalds at Glencoe. In those times not 30 days but 25 days was the time limit that was given. It was in the winter-time, and there were no roads in the Highlands until General Wade arrived to make roads. Now we have roads, telephones, wireless and all manner of communications such as they never had in those days. In spite of that, they are asking for 4o days for no other purpose than to hold up the work. It has been done deliberately. If it was not so barefaced, we simple men on this side of the Committee would never have noticed it. With all due respect to my lawyer friends, among whom I have many friends, the lawyer fraternity have let us down time and time again. It was the lawyers who let the engineers down in the recent award on wages. Here they are again with this subtle phraseology of theirs and putting it in such a fashion that it is difficult for us ordinary laymen to follow. We rely on these occasions, as I have done many times for years, on the Secretary of State for Scotland, who has had a special education so that he will be enabled to understand the meaning of words. That is also your vocation as a lawyer, Major Milner.

I do not think there is any harm in recognising you as a lawyer. Our education has not been such as to enable us to understand the implication of words, but I have been here for 20 years, and I have learned a good deal about it. I can see in the phraseology of the Amendments that their only purpose is to hold up the Bill. I am relying on the Secretary of State to find ways and means to get over all the difficulties that the lawyers are presenting instead of yielding to them and stiffening himself against any request we make.

I am somewhat astonished at the ease with which red tape is being substituted by blue tape. It appears to me that the electricity interests are knocking the Government to the boundary for six on every Clause., If those interests were less evident on Second Reading it was only a question of keeping their claws well concealed. The 220 Amendments on the Order Paper were deliberately designed to delay the consideration of the Bill until such time as the vested interests had gathered their forces. Frankly, Clause 5 has been altered out of all recognition, and are we to be expected to sit by quietly and see concession after concession granted? The Lord Advocate has in no way tried to justify them. It is all very well to get up and say, "My right hon. Friend is prepared to accept these Amendments." We knew they would be accepted before ever we came into the Committee. But there is just the danger that when the next stage of the Bill is reached the opposition will be vocal. If we do oppose it we shall do so out of a sense of duty.

During the short period I have been in this House I have never seen such a muster of the clan of vested interests, and it is not a Scottish clan. I have never seen such a muster of vested interests. Hon. Members have had to beg places for their friends in the special Gallery. This Clause 5 is being mutilated by these interests, interests which are hovering about every quarter of the Committee at the moment. I would give this word of friendly advice to my right hon. Friend. Some hon. Members have complained that local authorities have not been mentioned. If the local authorities had been as selfish as the established interests in the electricity industry in Scotland, I am satisfied that this Bill would not have had such an easy path as it has had up to now. I know the Socialist movement cannot expect a Socialist measure from a Parliament constituted as this one is, but I am going to appeal to those who have established themselves in the Highlands behind the backs of the people of the Highlands: Please be decent and leave a part of the country to the Highlanders to develop. The Amendments accepted on this Clause are deliberately designed to cause delay, and I presume the forecast is that we shall one day have a return of my right hon. Friend's predecessor to the Scottish Office, and then God help any hydro-electric Measure intended for Scotland.

May I first say a word in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum)? The local authorities are by no means eliminated in this matter. They will, of course, see notices that the plans are on view, and it is almost certain that they will have heard about the matter long before then, because if the new Board wishes to smooth its path and avoid objections from local authori- ties, it is almost inevitable that in any case of any magnitude the new Board will get in touch informally with the local authorities at an even earlier stage. Even if it does not, plans are open to the local authority before the date of giving objection, and the local authority would, of course, be in a most powerful position, if it chose to object at the inquiry before the plans were passed. Let me turn, if I may, to the three or four speeches which have been made from the Benches opposite taking exception to the Amendments which have been accepted. In view of the concluding remarks of the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay), may I look at the Amendments which have been accepted to see whether they warrant in any way the remarks which have been made about them? I take them one by one. The first is a provision that, at the same time as the Board publish in the newspapers particulars about what they want to do, they shall inform owners and occupiers of property to be affected of the same thing. In war-time, especially, people are away from home and do not see the newspapers. A certain number of people do not scan the newspapers as closely as they might. I do not see anything tending to obstruction in doing your best to see that the people who are entitled to be informed, are, in fact, informed about what is going on.

Is it not a fact that the people entitled to be informed are the people who are not there, and that you would have to search down in Honolulu it may be, or by the Mediterranean, in order to inform them of the fact that certain interests of theirs were affected by a scheme which is absolutely necessary for the people of the Highlands? Will not that delay the scheme?

If people are so far away that they cannot reply within 40 days, then their case may go by default. [HON. MEMBERS: "May?".] They probably will have somebody in this country, relatives or others, who open their letters and who can take action on their behalf. It does not seem unreasonable or in any way tending to obstruction, to suggest that when things are to be made public, they should be made public in an effective way. It was already in the Bill when passed on Second Reading that this was to be made public. Therefore there is no delay there. The second point is that, consequent upon an Amendment, something which the Bill provided was to be available for inspection shall now be made available as copies for sale—again a more effective way of making public what the Bill provided should be made public. Surely there is nothing very much tending to obstruction if instead of having to sit in the local town hall and copy a thing down in your own hand, you can buy a copy and take it away with you. That Amendment does not seem to justify some of the remarks which have been made.

I come to the question of 21 or 40 days. First of all, in the old procedure which this replaces, the period was six weeks. I do not lay any particular stress on that. It is the universal experience that when you make a time too short for adequate consideration, anybody who is likely to be affected puts in a skeleton objection in order to keep the matter open. It always happens. If you made a period too short, you get more objections and not fewer. I have seen it happen time and time again. If you give people time to consider a thing fairly and reasonably, and if they are satisfied that there is no reason to object, they will not object, but if they are rushed they will say that they had better object in order to keep the matter open and thus you get objections put in which otherwise might never have come in.

You are telling the Committee now something to justify this Amendment. The Amendment is not your own Amendment, although you would like it to be. You say now that 21 days is too short and that that is your personal experience. Why then did you allow the 21 days to go in, if it was ton short? You had all the information then that you have given us now. With all due respect to you, before this Amendment was put down, all this was before you. You were at the drafting of the Bill and you considered 21 days long enough then. Now you have the hardihood to stand at that Box and tell us that 21 days was not long enough, and that it is your experience that 21 days was not long enough. How can you justify your statement to-day?

On a point of Order. I have heard the hon. Member refer to "you" 15 times. Was he addressing the Chair?

I am addressing the Chair, but what did he do? Did he address the Chair? Although he is one of the old school tie, he is not going to jump up and bring me to Order. I would not take it from his father.

The hon. Member cannot make a second speech in the middle of that of the Lord Advocate. I understood he desired to put a question to the Lord Advocate. Perhaps he would do so and allow the Lord Advocate to proceed.

The hon. Member has interrupted the Lord Advocate. He is not entitled to make a further speech when he interrupts a Member who is in possession of the Committee.

I have no desire to make a further speech or to fall foul of you, Major Milner. I do not give a straw how much I fall foul of the opposition, but I want to draw the attention of the Committee to the statement made by the Lord Advocate. The Lord Advocate is now justifying an Amendment, which is an Amendment —

It is for the Chairman to say that. We do not need a whole crowd of chairmen. Do you not know the procedure of the House of Commons? The Lord Advocate was justifying that Amendment and said that 21 days was too short a time and that 40 days was required. How can he justify that statement?

I do not think the matter is really as complicated as all this. What happened is this: When we first drafted the Bill we had been trying to short-circuit affairs as much as we possibly could, and one of the things we did was to halve the period for giving notice. We put that down in the Bill. Subsequent consideration convinced us that we had gone too far, and it is our Amendment to insert "forty." This is not an Amendment we have accepted from anyone else. It is our Amendment. Because of further consideration we came to the conclusion that we had cut matters too fine, and, as I said a little while ago, it is common experience that when these periods are cut down too far more harm than good is done. It was for that reason that we decided we would put back the 40 days as likely in the long run to expedite the procedure rather than retard it.

Will the Lord Advocate deal with the point as to why no maximum period is put on the Secretary of State? I may have read Clause 6 rather loosely, but in the Clause are the words "not less."

Yes. That leaves the Secretary of State to prescribe, but he is not to prescribe less than 40 days. Of course, if you have a Secretary of State who is antagonistic to the principles of this Bill, it does not matter how these matters are framed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why make it easier? "] This is really a matter of so small importance that it is not worth mentioning, but the Secretary of State has to fulfil a couple of dozen functions. He has to prescribe all kinds of rules and regulations. He has to prescribe all manner of schemes, and any Secretary of State who did not want this Bill to work could prevent it working throughout his tenancy of office without any difficulty. The only thing he would have to fear would be the criticism of this House. If you are to have a House of Commons and a Secretary of State who do not want the Bill to work, surely it is in accordance with the principles of democracy that it should not work. As long as the House wants the Bill to work, the Bill will work, because the House will call the Secretary of State to account if he does not work it, but if the House does not want the Bill to work, then it will not work.

I do not think this is quite relevant, but since the right hon. and learned Gentleman has now enunciated a new theory of government, perhaps we might hear a little more about it. Surely the practice of the House of Commons and under democracy has been that when you wanted to annul legislation, you brought in repealing legislation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is now telling us that this Bill is drafted in such a manner that the intention of this House could easily be defeated.

I have never yet seen a Bill in which administrative action. was not the most important element as regards the, speed with which it would work, and, of course, administrative action depends on the wishes of the House of Commons. If the House of Commons wants administrative action to go slowly, it will go slowly. If it wants administrative action to go quickly, it' will go quickly.

The next Amendment to which exception is taken is the same as the one with which I have just dealt, namely, to make copies available for sale, and the last one, as I endeavoured to explain, does not tend to delay in the slightest degree, because it is agreed by those who advise the Government on technical questions that whether or not you put in the last Amendment, this has to be done, and, if that be so, it cannot cause delay to put down in black and white what would happen in any case. Therefore, I submit that there is no justification for suggesting that the character of the Clause has been altered by the Amendments which have been made.

Who drafted this Bill, and where were the experts when it was being drafted; and why do they come at this time and suggest alterations in something which was supposed to have been made crystal clear on the Second Reading?

It is a rather novel suggestion that one should come to this House with a Bill which is perfect in all particulars and that one should not be entitled to take advantage of suggestions made during the passage of the Bill for its improvement. [An HON. MEMBER: "To mangle it."] I have tried to show that there is no mangling at all. The Clause is not altered in essence. These are all matters of unimportant detail, to my mind, and if, on matters of detail, it is pointed out to the Government that something would be better expressed in black and white than left to implication, and if that is something which the Government intended throughout should receive effect, then I submit it is well to take notice of the suggestions and incorporate them in the Bill

I do not think we should allow this Clause to pass to-night. This is a serious question. We are anxious to help in every way, and we would like the Secretary of State to have a night to think over the changes made in this Clause, and to make a statement on the next Sitting Day, to decide whether we are to divide on the Clause or not. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide now."] I want to give the right hon. Gentleman the chance to recover from the anaesthetic effect of what we have heard from the legal fraternity. We have had a most amazing statement made at that Box in connection with this Measure such as has never been heard before in the House of Commons. When a Bill passes through the House of Commons and eventually becomes an Act it is supposed to come into operation, but the Lord Advocate says that this Bill is framed in such a way that, if there is a Secretary of State for Scotland who does not want the hydro-electric scheme to work, it will not work.

There is the alteration in the number of days from 21 to 40. I would like to give those who were responsible for the Amendment, 21 days'. As originally included, it meant not less than 21 days, and if there should be any peculiar difficulties it was within the right of the Board or the Secretary of State to increase the period. In all general situations 21 days is absolutely sufficient time. There is no reason why there should be more than 21 days. If a worker is dismissed, he has four days within which to make an appeal, but according to the argument of the Lord Advocate—a most peculiar argument—if, instead of giving the worker four days, you gave him eight days you gave him eight days in which to appeal, there would be fewer appeals, and that if you gave him 16 days you would reduce the appeals still further. I have never heard such silly argument in all my life. If you make it not less than 21 days, they will all want to make an appeal; make it not less than 4o days, and there will be fewer appeals. Why not make it six months, and then you will have no appeals? That is the sort of argument we get from the Lord Advocate. Nothing can be said to justify the change from not less than 21 days to not less than 40 days. That Amendment was brought forward as the result of pressure brought to bear on the Lord Advocate and his Department. I am certain that they carefully studied the question before they put in the 21 days and thought that it was adequate. But the Lord Advocate has had some new experience since then, and so we get 40 days, no doubt in order to hold up the whole scheme.

Then we get this other new part of the Clause, saying that an inquiry will be instituted. Somebody makes a complaint, somebody feels that his interest is affected, big business feels that it will not get a big enough cut, and so, according to the new Amendment, an inquiry has to be instituted before a scheme is operated. That is not in keeping with intentions when the Clause was prepared. This is nothing more than an attempt to provide an opportunity for holding up schemes. It is clear that the Amendments to this Clause have been deliberately prepared and used for the purpose of ensuring that by means of this Clause many gates will be left open, so that vested interests can hold back the operation of the scheme. I ask the Secretary of State to take this Clause back. We do not want to harass him in any way; we merely want him to take the Clause back, so that he can give us a statement on the next Sitting Day.

May I make a personal appeal to my hon. Friends opposite to let us have this Clause? The reason I make this appeal is because we have made remarkably little progress with a long and complicated Measure. We have another day to go, and I hope we shall be able to see the conclusion of the Committee stage at the end of our next Sitting Day. The essential point that is worrying my hon. Friends opposite is why the Government should have moved that the period in which plans should be deposited for inspection should be jumped from 21 days to not less than 40 days. The reason why 21 days was put into the Bill originally was this: We were trying to shorten Private Bill procedure, which provided for 42 days' deposit, so we put 21 days into the Bill. Subsequently, however, there were negotiations with local authorities, and may I point out to some of my hon. Friends that county councils sometimes do not meet for a month and that some find it exceedingly difficult to get quickly into touch with all these complicated schemes.

We therefore extended the 21 days to not less than 40. I can see the force of apprehensions about the words "not less than," because they might allow a long stretch, and, if it will meet with the general wishes of the Committee, we will see before Report whether they are required, but I think the word "forty" is essential to the operation of the Bill. If my hon. Friends will accept that assurance and let us get the Clause, I am sure it will meet the general wish.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again," [Major Sir James Edmondson] put, and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.