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Orders Of The Day

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 6 May 1943

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Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Bill

Considered in Committee [ Progress, 5th May].

[Major MILNER in the Chair]

Clause 6—(Distribution Schemes)

I beg to move, in page 5, line 3, to leave out from "electricity," to "within," in line 4, and to insert "to ordinary consumers."

I would suggest that the Board should from time to time prepare schemes for the supply of electricity to ordinary consumers. It is a question of trying to ensure that ordinary consumers will not be prejudiced as against large consumers.

I think the Amendment does not alter the sense of the Clause, but it is better drafting, more direct and more easily understood, and we are prepared to accept it.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 5, line 5, leave out "limits," and insert "areas."—[ The Lord Advocate.]

I beg to move, in page 5, line 9, at the end, to insert, "and approve."

I am obliged to the hon. Member for his brevity, but I have some difficulty in undertanding just what he wants. The position under the Bill is that the Secretary of State prescribes the form in which these various documents are to be presented. He cannot, of course, approve of the documents at that stage, because it is his judicial duty to consider and approve of them after he has received objections. I do not really think the Amendment would improve the position, and I suggest that it is unnecessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made:

In page 5, line 18, leave out "it available for inspection," and insert, "copies available for inspection and sale."—[ Commander Galbraith.]

In line 23, leave out, "twenty-one," and insert "forty."

In line 33, at the end, 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,"—[The Lord Advocate.]

In line 36, leave out "may be inspected," and insert

are available for inspection and sale."—[Mr. Erskine Hill.]

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

I did not seek to move the Amendment which you, Major Milner, called earlier, because I discussed it during the Debate yesterday on Clauses 4 and 5, the short point being that in my view, and that of many who are experts in the matter, the present arrangement by which every such scheme has to he submitted to the Commissioners for approval is likely to cause delay, and possibly inconvenience and difficulty, for the Secretary of State. The alternative proposal which I submitted, and which I would still press if it were in Order, is the more sensible and workmanlike method, by which the Board is required, in consultation with the Electricity Commissioners, to prepare and present schemes to the Scottish Secretary. In that way I am advised that you would avoid disputes and disagreements which are almost certain to arise now and also avoid putting the right hon. Gentleman in the most invidious position of either having to wait for the Commissioners' approval or act as an arbiter. I have put that to the Scottish Office. The Lord Advocate does not re- gard it as a good system. I put the Amendment down on the advice of some of the leading men in the industry and I still believe it to be sound. If the Government decline to accept it, they must take the responsibility.

I want to speak upon the Clause in general. What does it deal with? It is a simple matter of erecting lines to carry electricity to private consumers. Id is not a matter of great transmission lines carrying supplies from the generating stations to the Central Electricity Board. The Government have imposed upon the Board, as I contend they have done throughout, another cumbrous piece of obstruction. I see no need for this heavy weather system of an inquiry, and I am bound to ask the Government why they impose upon this Board a condition that they do not impose upon private undertakers. It is inconceivable to me that the Board should be required to do something which was not laid down in the East Anglian Electricity Act, 1927. That is only one of many that I have examined, each of which contains similar provisions. This private undertaking has not to make a public inquiry. There is a very simple instruction from the House. Section 23 says:
"The company may at any time, and shall within a year, submit to the Commissioners proposals for the development of the supply of electricty for lighting and general domestic purposes."
To whom must they submit their proposals? To the public for an inquiry? Nothing of the kind. Only to certain local authorities.
"The company shall, in submitting any proposals to the Commissioners under Subsection (1) of this Section, serve copies thereof on every local authority whose district, or any part of whose district, is situate in the area to which the proposals relate."
That is all. The company is required to submit a scheme to the Commissioners and copies of the scheme to the local authorities concerned in the area. When that has been done, when representations from the local authorities have been heard and when the Commissioners are satisfied, then, it says:
"When the said scheme has been approved by the Commissioners with or without modification, it shall he the duty of the company to carry the same into effect,"
If that was the considered instruction of the House of Commons for private companies—and, despite all the criticism from the other side under which private companies lay, apparently it was thought sufficient—why impose upon this public company this burdensome, cumbersome and delaying procedure? I cannot understand it. It is another example of the excess of zeal on the part of the Scottish Office to load this wretched Board with instructions, delays, red tape and bureaucracy. On the same principle as that which underlies all my other objections, I object to this system and ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider it.

I regret to say that I am not acquainted with the situation in East Anglia or with the terms of the Act which applies there, but the general Act which applies all over the country is much more elaborate than my hon. Friend's citation. Indeed, it is more and not less elaborate than the procedure in this Bill. We have simplified the general law here, and not expanded it. The general law under the 1919 Act is that a special order for distribution is made by the Electricity Commissioners, confirmed by the Minister of Fuel and Power, and then submitted to Parliament. There is a provision in that code for local inquiries, and in certain cases an inquiry is obligatory. There is certainly nothing more elaborate here than there is in the existing general code. I would say further, in justification of the seeming elaborateness of this Clause, that it raises questions of great public importance. It is obvious from a number of the speeches made yesterday that the question of distribution in some remote areas arouses great interest both inside and outside this Chamber, and it seems right therefore that when there is a proposal affecting some remote part of the country that the House of Commons should become aware of it, and should be entitled to make its comments.

Surely my right hon. and learned Friend is not right in that. This scheme will not come before the House of Commons. It is the construction scheme which comes to the House of Commons, but this relates only to a distribution scheme.

It has to be inquired into and passed by the Secretary of State, who would very soon hear about it in the House of Commons if he did anything wrong. The House of Commons, therefore, because of the Secretary of State being brought into the picture, has an indirect control which ought to be preserved. I submit that there should be opportunities, not only for members of the public, but for Members of Parliament, to make their views felt.

I do not think my right hon. and learned Friend quite appreciates the position. First, he seems to suggest that the case which I mentioned is exceptional. It is nothing of the kind. I can give him other cases, and I could find still more, if I took time to look them up in the Library.

Perhaps the hon. Member will do me the courtesy of allowing me to finish what I have to say. I can give the example of the Cleveland and District Act, 1928, the East Anglia Act, 1927, Section 28, the Wessex Act, 1927, Section 21, and there are others. The Lord Advocate refers me to the Act of 1919. We have advanced since 1919. By 1927 the House of Commons had conceived a shorter, neater, quicker method of doing these things. My right hon. and learned Friend suggests that we ought to go back to the old cumbersome method of 20 years ago. Really, I cannot understand what I may call the Conservative view on these matters which my right hon. Friends represent.

I did not interrupt hon. Members opposite yesterday. We listened with great patience to speeches, many of which we thought were miles beyond the point and quite unjustified, and one would hope that they would, at least, give us a chance of putting a point of substance directly attached to the Bill.

My right hon. and learned Friend says that these schemes will be of considerable importance, and I do not deny that. Of course it will be of importance if a village is to get a supply of electricity. But those other Acts to which I have referred dealt with much larger populations than are concerned here and with a greater body of public opinion, and apparently those concerned were perfectly satisfied that the method of informing the local authorities gave them all the notice they required. No suggestion has come to me from the Highlands that they want the cumbersome method proposed in the Bill. It has never been put to me that anybody is going to raise a great noise about this business of running a line along this street or that street in a town and I would beg of my right hon. Friend to reconsider this matter in view of the precedents I have indicated.

I will certainly undertake to have a look at those three Acts to which my hon. Friend has referred and which are new to me. Perhaps I am not to blame in that respect, because they are English and not Scottish Acts. If they suggest any new or better scheme to us we will look into it.

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

Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 8—(Acquisition Of Land)

I beg to move, in page 6, line 6, to leave out "Act," and to insert "section."

This is really a drafting Amendment. The present reference in the Bill is to the Act as a whole, but the matters to which we wish to refer are confined to one Section of the Act. To save people the trouble of looking through the Act as a whole, we think it better to substitute the word "section." It will help those who will have to interpret the law.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 6, line 21, to leave out "have taken possession under," and to insert "are in possession in pursuance of."

This Amendment also is of a drafting character, but I wish to say something about it because there has been some misapprehension about the present form of the Sub-section. It is intended to make clear that the provisions of this Subsection are of a purely temporary character and operate only between the time when the Board takes possession and the time when the Board gets a proper legal title. After that, the powers of the Board will be regulated by the title. In order to remove a misapprehension that the powers given her may have a permanent effect, I think it right to offer that explanation.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move; in page 6, line 22, to leave out from "may," to the end of line 23.

The Sub-section, from which I am moving to omit the words from "may" to the end, reads as follows:
"Land of which the Board have taken possession under this section may, notwithstanding any restriction imposed on the use thereof (whether by any Act or other instrument or otherwise), be used subject to the provisions of the scheme by the Board in such manner as they think expedient for the purpose of carrying out the scheme."
These powers could hardly be more sweeping and might cause serious injury. The Sub-section itself directly calls attention to possible serious injury to amenities. Otherwise it would not have been included. I think the Secretary of State must have felt that when he had these words put in. I fully sympathise with the idea of electrical development in this part of Scotland. It is essential that electricity should be developed as much as possible, but we have to realise that it will not end there. This development will mean the construction of reservoirs, the laying of hydraulic mains, the building of generating stations, pylons and cables, transformer stations and all sorts of other buildings, as well as factories in the future and a whole lot of housing. Although I would enthusiastically support the development of electricity in this part of Scotland, we must be sure that it will not ruin the amenities there. Men in their wisdom in the past have made restrictions, and it is our desire to preserve the natural beauty of this part of the country as far as possible. It can easily become one of the great playgrounds of the country, and now that aircraft travel at 300 miles an hour people will be able to get there in two hours from any part of the island.

Everybody can get there. We are in danger of not only destroying it for ourselves out of jeopardising it for future generations. We should, therefore, take every precaution and be most careful in looking after it. Everybody who knows this district and the development of electrical work knows that it is possible to do the electrical work satisfactorily and at the same time, if proper care is exercised, to preserve a large part of the natural beauty. The Minister has endeavoured to meet us as far as he can, and no one would be worried if we could have the present Minister as the permanent Secretary of State, but when he disappears somebody else will come along, and if these words are still in the Bill, the new Minister will be able to override every condition that has been made to preserve the beauty and the amenities of the Highlands.

I hope I shall be forgiven as a mere South Briton for interfering in a purely Scottish Measure, but in view of the fact that this Amendment concerns the preservation of the amenities of the Highlands, which are of national, indeed, I might say, an international, concern, there is a justification for my intervention. The Amendment will do something towards making it easier to preserve amenities. In the next Clause provision is made for giving to an amenity committee and a fishery committee power to appeal to the Secretary of State for the prevention of any interference with the amenities of the Highlands, but this Clause is drafted in such a way as largely to undo Clause 9. Therefore, the Amendment does something to bring Clause 8 into line with Clause 9. It is a sound principle that in a Measure of this kind, which is planning the electrical and industrial development of the Highlands, we should, before we actually make the plans, decide where we should place the industrial development and where the neutralised areas should be where no industrial development should take place. As one who has frequently been to the Highlands, I have always taken notice of the social and economic conditions of the people, and I have often been horrified at the extreme poverty of large areas of that beautiful country. Therefore, it is the duty of those of us who are not living there to do what we can to assist the people. At the same time, it is possible, side by side with industrial development, to preserve the natural amenities.

I had occasion last August to go on behalf of the Forestry Commission to see the National Forest Park at Ardgarten and to see how far the existing amenities for giving the public access to and enjoyment of the Highlands were being used. In order that I may impress my hon. Friends behind me with the fact that it is not only the people who are engaged in shooting and salmon fishing who are able to use the Highlands. I would point out that all along the side of Loch Long and Loch Eck in the National Forest Park of Ardgarten, and near the great Benmore arboretum, there are a number of little hostels scattered about, all of which were being used in very large numbers by the workers from the Clydeside who go there from Saturday afternoon until Monday to enjoy themselves. There are already arrangements, in which the Forestry Commission has played a part, for providing facilities for camping and living in hostels in those places. There should be no passage in this Bill which might mean that the Board could come along and completely ignore all the arrangements which have been made or are in process of being made for allowing these facilities. I do not doubt that the Secretary of State has got this matter as much in mind and that it is as dear to his heart as it is to most of us, but he may not always be in office, and we must make the Bill watertight. It may be that there are safeguards in other Clauses, but this Amendment would strengthen the Bill.

I rise with considerable temerity as a mere Southerner to add a few words on a Scottish Bill. I reinforce with all the sincerity I can command what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom). There are, perhaps, vested interests behind this Amendment, but they are really the vested interests of the people who have an interest, whether English or Scottish or from other parts of the world, in the beauties of Scotland. We find these words objectionable and, in fact, indefensible, because they are extraordinarily sweeping and allow the Board to disregard work which has been done for the preservation of amenities for the public owners not only by private owners but by such bodies as the National Trust or even, according to the phraseology of the Clause, by Parliament. We feel that this is too wide a power to give to the Board without the overriding responsibility of the Secretary of State and of his responsibility to this House. The Amendment should be read in conjunction with the next Amendment, which will make the position clear, namely, in line 31, at the end, to add:

"but nothing in this Act shall empower the Board to take possession of land already designated in perpetuity for the enjoyment of the public, nor authorise the Board to prevent access to land to which the public have a right of access under the law of Scotland unless the exercise of such rights would be a danger to public safety."
It is not moved in any restrictive or crippling spirit, but is moved with the idea of clarifying the Bill and tidying it up. We seek to fix the responsibility upon somebody who will have an overriding responsibility beyond the Board.

I have no doubt we shall be told that some other over-riding authority, such as a Minister of Town and Country Planning for Scotland, will later on be set up with power over the Board. I contend, however, that that will be legislation by implied reference to an unsubstantial body not instituted and in fact uncreated at present. I notice with great personal regret that the Secretary of State has apparently broken his arm, and I express my sympathy with him in that misfortune, and the sympathy, I am sure, of the Committee, but he will forgive me if I remind him that he might have broken his neck. In that case, as the Lord Advocate pointed out yesterday, we might have had a new Secretary of State, with a totally different point of view. Therefore, it is important to fix the responsibility not upon the Board but upon the Secretary of State, and through him upon this House. The Clause should be framed as though it were the last word that was ever going to be said upon the subject. It should not be left, as it were, in the air for some other theoretical body to over-ride the Board.

We are now dealing with a subject which concerns general legislation, and that is the real reason why so many of us are concerned with the particular question being raised here. I am strongly in favour of the general purpose of this Bill, but one has to consider points which, though they may seem rather irrelevant, may have to be looked after by the Secretary of State for Scotland. Hon. Members, especially those on the other side, who talk so much about private interests and vested interests—I do not want to defend selfish interests—ought to be reminded that there is no such thing as nature in the amenities that we are considering. The countryside which we know is the result of developments over the last 10 centuries. In that period the land has been developed, trees have been imported into the country and cultivated, and various things have been done which have made the forests, the fields and the pastures what they are, made the beauties of this country. Much has been done under various Acts of Parliament which while containing restrictions have at the same time conferred privileges which have always been spoken of by those opposite as though they were selfish privileges. They are not. They are the enshrinement of the principles which have produced all these amenities, and I fear lest these principles should now be swept away by the words contained in this Clause which the Amendment proposes to deal with.

I want the principles on which the future of the people depends, together with their amenities, their comforts and their whole conditions. Those are principles laid down by Parliament, and they can be amended by Parliament at any time, but to do away with them in this sweeping way seems to be very dangerous, and therefore I wish to support the Amendment.

I hope that my hon. Friends from the South of the Border will not persist in these two Amendments. As they know, and as I am sure the hon. Member who moved the Amendment would be the first to acknowledge, the Government have in. this Measure gone to greater lengths in endeavouring to preserve the amenity side of the Highlands of Scotland than in any Act of Parliament hitherto. This Amendment must be read in conjunction with the succeeding one. There it is proposed that any restrictive covenant on land shall be waived only with the consent of the Secretary of State for Scotland. It says the Board are not to have any right to acquire land or to use land with any restrictive covenant on it except with the consent of the Secretary of State for Scotland. But that is in the Bill now. As the Bill stands, the Board cannot proceed with any constructional scheme, cannot stick a spade into the soil, without the consent of the Secretary of State, and, indeed, without the consent, implied at any rate, of both Houses of Parliament. Some hon. Members say that the position might be all right provided that the Secretary of State for Scotland had certain points of view. That is precisely why we have persisted in saying that every constructional scheme shall come to this House, so that it shall not depend on the whim of a Secretary of State for Scotland, but that in the last analysis this House shall be supreme and shall have the right of veto should there be any wanton or unnecessary interference with a beauty spot.

I beg of the hon. Member and his friends to believe me when I say that this was one determination of the Government—that though we all want electrical development, and want to see the amenities of civilisation provided for the people of the North of Scotland, we do not desire to give powers to any Board to interfere wantonly and unnecessarily with one of our great heritages, the beauty and the glory of the North of Scotland. I ask hon. Members to believe me when I say that the Bill as it stands ensures that Parliament will have the right to veto any constructional scheme which should wantonly or foolishly invade any beauty spot. I do not know that such a situation will ever arise, but there might be some instances in which a restrictive covenant had been placed upon a parcel of land which would interfere with the provision of the amenities of civilisation for large tracts of territory. The hon. Member and his friends admit that that might happen in exceptional cases, and in those cases they say they would trust the Secretary of State for Scotland. I say "No, do not trust any Secretary of State for Scotland, but trust to the veto of Parliament." I beg hon. Members not to press their Amendment.

On the assurance of the Secretary of State that this matter will be brought to him and to this House before anything of this sort takes place, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 6, line 31, at the end, to add:

"but nothing in this Act shall empower the Board to take possession of land already designated in perpetuity for the enjoyment of the public, nor authorise the Board to prevent access to land to which the public have a right of access under the law of Scotland unless the exercise of such rights would be a danger to public safety."
The rights of access to property in Scotland are very much appreciated by all who go there, and we feel strongly that under this Bill those rights should not be taken away unless it be necessary for the safety of the public. It was for that reason that the Amendment was put down.

The arguments which I put forward a moment ago apply with equal relevance to this Amendment. So long as both Houses of Parliament must have laid before them any constructional scheme Parliament will have the right of veto.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9—(Amenity Committee And Fisheries Committee)

I beg to move, in page 6, line 41, to leave out from the first "of," to "and," and to insert:

"not less than five persons and including, in the case of the Fisheries Committee, two or more persons appointed after consultation with organisations representative of the owners and occupiers of fishings in the North of Scotland District."
It is satisfactory to see in the Bill that the Board is to be recommended to avoid as far as possible interfering with fisheries in any way, but those interested in fishing in the North of Scotland feel that further protection, if possible, should be provided for their industry. They feel that the best way to achieve that is by strengthening the Fisheries Committee. The Bill makes very indefinite reference to this Committee. Things are left almost entirely within the discretion of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Our Amendment seeks to ensure that the Committee shall be composed of not less than five members, two of them chosen after consultation with the representatives of the fishing industry in the North of Scotland. That is a very reasonable suggestion, and I hope it will commend itself to the Secretary of State for Scotland. He has a great deal of discretionary power under the Bill, and I daresay he will use it discreetly, but he may not always occupy that position and the fishing industry feel they would like a further safeguard inserted in the Bill, so that whoever may be Secretary of State they can he sure that there shall be a strong and efficient Committee composed of people who understand, particularly, the salmon fishing industry. We do not want Civil servants but men who understand the industry. I feel certain that in the first instance these appointments will be of a satisfactory nature, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the suggestion that the Committee should consist of five or more members. The salmon fishing industry is a very important one, important from a food-producing point of view, important as regards the amount of labour it employs and also important as embracing valuable rate-producing properties. It is one of the natural assets of Scotland which the Secretary of State would, I am sure, wish to preserve. I trust, therefore, he will accept the Amendment.

In spite of the warning issued yesterday by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), I venture to support this Amendment. I am taking part in the discussion not as a Member for an English constituency but as a resident in Sutherland, where I have a home.

Why should the hon. and gallant Member apologise for speaking as a Member for an English division?

I have a particular interest in one of the counties largely affected by this Bill, and I was explaining why I ventured to support the Amendment. In peace-time the salmon and sea-trout fishing industry is a very important one. It may be said that the net fisheries employ over 2,000 people directly, and indirectly quite a number more in the production of nets, boats and so on. The rod-fishing industry employs at least as many. Further, salmon and sea-trout fishing is a very popular sport among many thousands.

Lastly, I think this sport probably brings to the Highlands a greater number of visitors than any other. The catering for those visitors, the provision of hotel accommodation and of taxis to take visitors to the fishing, as well as the provision of boats and ghillies, provide in sum total a great deal of seasonal employment. It is fair to say that this industry, although small, is important, and its interests and preservation are very important. I hope that the Secretary of State will observe the lesson to be learned from the Shannon scheme in the South of Ireland. There a large hydro-electric scheme was completed, and, with the completion of the scheme, the fishing industry was finished. I visited the Shannon shortly before the war. In the villages below the darn, men who had been previously employed in the fishing industry were out of work, not only those who were the actual fishermen but those who made the nets or the boats, and even those who were employed in making wooden boxes in which the fish were shipped away.

I hope that the Secretary of State will realise that the suggestion of the membership of the Fisheries Committee being required to have at least two representatives of those interests who know something about the industry is intended to prevent exactly what happened under the Shannon scheme. If the Fisheries Committee giving advice to the Secretary of State is to be of any real value, it must, I suggest, have among its members individuals who really know from firsthand experience something about the conditions. What is really vital is the provision of some form of fish ladder or pass to enable the fish to go up to the spawning grounds, and the provision of some safety device for the young fish in their second year when as smolts they are returning to the sea. Unless they are safeguarded, what happens is that they are swept into the turbines of the hydroelectric scheme and are killed in their thousands. I suggest it would be advisable that members of the Fisheries Committee should have practical experience, both from the point of view of safeguarding access to the spawning grounds and access back to the sea. There is one last reason. Very often in a hydro-electric scheme for some reason the natural course of the stream changes, and then the fish ladder, which previously was perfectly serviceable, is found to be of no use at all. The Fisheries Committee should have the power and the knowledge to be able to recommend that suitable alterations should be made. For all those reasons I suggest that there should be persons with knowledge and experience of the fishery industry upon the Fisheries Committee.

The hon. and gallant Member who seconded the Amendment has indeed no cause to apologise for his interest in this matter. He comes from Sutherland and has very considerable personal knowledge of these matters. We would be delighted to take advice from knowledgeable persons, and certainly no Fisheries Committee will be set up without a most careful examination of the capacity of the personnel. If a Secretary of State ever sets up a Committee which is not of great capacity and knowledge, he would rightly be liable to be shot at in this House. Both hon. and gallant Gentlemen are aware that I had a long and very friendly interview with representatives of the fishing industry in the North of Scotland, and I thought I had convinced them that it was inadvisable to specify the precise number or qualifications of the personnel of the Fisheries Committee. It might be that there would be persons from Dumfriesshire or Ayrshire who had a considerable knowledge of hydro-electric schemes and fisheries. They would be highly desirable members of this Committee and highly acceptable to the interests concerned. I suggested it would be better to leave the thing as it is rather than to tie our hands in advance in such a way as to limit us to choosing a less competent and efficient body than we otherwise would. I entirely agree as to the importance of this industry. I think I am right in saying that there are about 2,000 employees depending upon this industry for their livelihood and that the local authorities are considerably intererested in it. I hope to see the day when the great angling industry will be much more widely open to the general public than it has been in the past.

Not entirely. I will put it that at any rate we hope it will be much more widely open. We can see great changes in that direction. At any rate, we are convinced of the importance of the industry and the absolute necessity to preserve it. Unfortunately there might be occasions when in the national interest it would be necessary to act in some other way, but we must see that most adequate compensation and a square deal are given to the employees as well as to the employers in the industry. I would like the hon. and gallant Gentlemen to accept our assurances that we shall do everything we can to preserve this industry, and I ask them not to tie our hands in the way that the Amendment proposes.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman was entitled to apologise, not for speaking, but for speaking in such an unworthy cause. Nobody need have the slightest fear that the wealthy owners of the fisheries will not be consulted. I had the experience when I was a lad which all the lads of our class had had. We went out to do a bit of fishing with a tin and a string, and the employees who are being talked about just now chased us off the land. I remember how we ran bare foot along the road with all our clothes under our arms, with those employees coming after us for all they were worth. These people will be consulted, and there will be too many of them on the Committee.

We are resisting the Amendment because it may be highly desirable that no interested parties should be on the Committee.

I know it is being resisted, but they will be consulted, and the representatives on the Committee will be too many. They will be the representatives of notorious robbers and stealers of land. Let the Secretary of State for Scotland distribute a copy of his book to show how these people got their land and got their fishing rights, by murder, robbery, and corruption.

Does not the hon. Member realise that the workers of Glasgow come out in their thousands to fish in the waters of Argyllshire, both seawater and freshwater fishing?

I have had many holidays in the Highlands, and I have seen an occasional Glasgow worker coming along with a rod to do a bit of fishing. What the hon. and gallant Member has just said reminds me of what a fellow said OD one occasion when he and I had been speaking at a meeting. He said there had been thousands at the meeting. A sceptical lad asked, "Thousands?" "Well, hundreds." The sceptical lad then asked, "Hundreds?" "Well," was the final estimate "there were 50 or 60 there, anyway." That is something like the sort of exaggeration used by the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll. It is not true that thousands of Glasgow workers go out to the rivers in Argyllshire for fishing.

If the hon. Member will accept my invitation and come to stay with me—if we live till peace-time—he will see on the road going past my house thousands of people from Glasgow on bicycles, each one with a fishing rod tied to the bars of his bicycle.

I will go with the hon. and gallant Member at any time on a holiday in Argyllshire, and I will show him more boys fishing with a string than workers from Glasgow. It is almost incredible that hon. Members should try to put such a suggestion in the form of an Act of Parliament so that the owners should be allowed to put their representatives on to such a Committee.

I welcome English Members taking an interest in Scottish affairs. One of the curses of Scottish Debates is that we come here as a little group rather out of touch with the wider world outside. I often wish we could discuss Scottish housing in a way that would appeal to the people not only in this country but all over the world and let them know how we live in Scotland. We should get some interest in it then. This fishing industry is not merely angling but is in the region of being a commercial business. One company promoted the last Bill on the subject that this House rejected. They had a very heavy financial interest in the salmon fishing. When they took over the land they had to buy the salmon rights as well. The result was, being a first-class business concern, whatever else they might be, they ran the salmon fishing with first-class business ability. On the evidence we heard I was impressed by their manager and his knowledge of the salmon fishing trade.

Regarding this Amendment, I sympathise with the view of the Secretary of State. It is not uncommon in this House, and from our side, to insist that the Trades Union Congress or someone else should be consulted on various matters. I must confess that that kind of thing never quite appeals to me. I think the Secretary of State has taken the right line. I say to him that some of us still believe in politics. I think this House is coming to believe less and less in politics, the way we compliment each other now. That is all boloney and nonsense. I do not sympathise with the view of those who say that the Secretary of State for Scotland is all right but that the next one may be all wrong. That is all nonsense. When the next fellow comes along they will say, "If you had been there, you would have done it much better." I do not take that view about the next Secretary of State at all. I hope that whoever occupies the post, whether the right hon. Gentleman or anybody else, will see to it that somebody with knowledge will be obtained, that they will be men who know something about it. When I heard the evidence I was certainly impressed with the need for knowledge on this particular subject. It is quite true to say that if a hydro-electric scheme has gone through without that knowledge being available, it means an end of salmon fishing. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will take the view that knowledge of the salmon industry, not a knowledge of landlordism or anything else of that kind, but a real business knowledge of its everyday life, is required in whoever is chosen. I do not want the Secretary of State to narrow it down to this little group or that. If the Secretary of State is narrowed by an Act of Parliament like that, very frequently his choice may be limited. I say he should choose the best man, but it frequently happens that the best man for the job may be in conflict with interests. In other words, if it is said that certain people have to be consulted, frequently those interests may not allow the best man to get on because he has quarrelled with those interests, just because he is the best man.

That argument would appear to be based on the assumption that we were asking that there should he no other representation on the Committee. What the Amendment seeks is to have two representatives, so that the Committee shall have the benefit of people with first-class knowledge.

Often the best men succeed in quarrelling with people, because they are the best men, and it may be that for reasons other than that he is the best man interests may say that they do not want him. I think that the Secretary of State for Scotland should be perfectly free to make his choice. I trust that whoever is in command of this Measure will pay respect to a knowledge of the industry and see that whoever is appointed should have first-class knowledge of the industry and should be able to use his capacity in guiding the Committee's decisions on salmon fishing in a proper direction.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 6, line 45, at the end, to insert:

"(3) The Board before submitting any scheme (whether the development scheme or a constructional scheme or a distribution scheme) to the Electricity Commissioners for approval shall send copies of the draft scheme to the Amenity Committee and the Fisheries Committee and shall take into consideration all recommendations made by either of those Committees on the draft scheme within one month from the receipt thereof by the Committees."
This is intended merely as a strengthening Clause to make it perfectly certain that before any scheme is prepared the Amenity Committee and the Fisheries Committee shall be consulted. Personally, I confess to have very much snore interest in the Amenity Committee than in the Fisheries Committee. A great many years ago all the fish in Scotland decided to boycott any worm or fly with which I had anything whatever to do, and I accordingly accepted the decision and have never fished or wanted to fish for a great many years. But in the amenities of Scotland I am very deeply interested, and this Amendment is for the purpose of making it perfectly certain that the Amenity Committee and the Fisheries Committee shall not merely be consulted but shall be given information of what is proposed before any scheme is actually drafted so as to make it more certain that their advice will be thoroughly con- sidered and taken. I do not think it is necessary to elaborate the point.

The purpose of the hon. Gentleman in moving his Amendment is, I take it, to ensure that before any development scheme is confirmed or before any constructional scheme is begun to be operated the appropriate Amenity and Fisheries Committees will be consulted. That is, in effect, what he wants. If he will be good enough to look at the Amendment on the Order Paper following his own he will see that we very largely follow his views in that regard. We propose to move the next Amendment, which will make the Sub-section read:

"The Board shall, before and during the preparation of a constructional scheme, and may at any other time, consult the Amenity Committee and the Fisheries Committee …"

I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his assurance and to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment, which I certainly should not move in competition with a Government Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In page 7, line 1, leave out "in preparing," and insert "before and during the preparation of."—( Mr. Johnston.)

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

Before we leave this Clause I should, if I might, say just one word to ask my right hon. Friend for some slight assurance, that is, that in recent construction carried out by another hydro-electric scheme the Amenity Committee does not seem to have had the necessary power to prevent a certain, what might be called, blot on the countryside which might have been prevented. I refer to the pylons which have been erected over Rannoch Moor from Loch Rannoch to Bridge of Orchy. From Bridge of Orchy westwards wooden poles have been used, and we feel that a great deal of unsightly spoiling of the view might have beat avoided had similar poles been used the whole way across Rannoch Moor. In my part of the Highlands we feel that either the Amenity Committee was not consulted or was overridden. I hope that the Amenity Committee under this new Bill will be sufficiently strong to prevent anything of that sort.

If the hon. and gallant Member wants an assurance that we intend to appoint the strongest possible Amenity Committee and to give every assurance to that Amenity Committee that every reasonable recommendation that they make will be strongly enforced and backed by the Scottish Office, I can cheerfully give him that assurance.

Before we leave this Clause there are two points on which I should like a little guidance, either from the Secretary of State or from the Solicitor-General. The first is purely a drafting one. In my copy of the Bill, Sub-section (7) of this Clause reads:

"Nothing in the provisions of Schedule 6 to the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act, 1868 shall apply …"
Should not that be Schedule G? I shall be very grateful if that can be looked at.

The other point is that under Sub-section (4) there is considerable obscurity, in my mind, on the precise meaning of the words in brackets from lines 15 to 18:

"(Not being a recommendation involving the execution by the Board of any works authorised by a confirmed scheme otherwise than in the manner set forth in the scheme.)"
I take it that those words show what action can be taken by the Secretary of State if the Fisheries Committee, for example, makes a recommendation, and the Board refuses to accept that recommendation. It seems to me that there are three cases in which one of these Committees, either the Fisheries Committee or an Amenity Committee, may be consulted under the terms of this Bill. They may be consulted in the first instance when the Board is preparing a constructional scheme, or, secondly, after the scheme has been made while the Secretary of State is considering it, and, thirdly, according to the words in the Clause, "at any other time." Suppose one of the Committees makes a recommendation under the third heading. These words might possibly prevent the Secretary of State from giving effect to that recommendation. If, for example, after a scheme had been completed and a dam built, it was found that that dam absolutely obstructed the passage of any fish, the Fisheries Committee might make a recommendation that the dam should be removed. That would be a ridiculous situation and quite unreasonable, and these words in Sub-section (4) would in such a case very rightly allow the Secretary of State to refuse to take any action. But suppose the recommendation of the Fisheries Committee was not for the removal of the dam but merely for some slight alteration in the fish pass or ladder which was included in the original scheme but was only a very subsidiary part of the original scheme, more or less tacked on as an afterthought, it is just possible that the same words would prevent the Secretary of State giving effect to a perfectly reasonable recommendation by the Fisheries Committee. I would be very grateful if the Solicitor-General would look into that and see whether those words cannot be redrafted so that a perfectly reasonable change which was recommended would not be rendered inoperative.

I think that is a point to be looked into. It would not do to have an alteration of something which had been approved by this House, but the ordinary case, I think, will be where some modifications are called for by the Amenity or Fisheries Committee and there is no obstacle at all to carrying out those works. I see the point that a slight modification of approved work might be somewhat difficult to reconcile with these words, and I will certainly look at those words.

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

Clause 10—(Charges Of Board And General Fund)

I beg to move, in page 7, line 34, to leave out "from time to time."

This is practically a drafting Amendment, but I should like to say one word about the reason why we are proposing the alteration. Clause 10, as the Committee knows, refers to the prices that are to be charged by the Board for the supply of various types of electricity, and as the Clause at present reads it provides that the prices are to be determined by the Board from time to time. It was thought that in some quarters that might prevent the Board from entering into a long-term contract, say, with a large power user at a fixed price. I myself did not share that view as to what this meant, and I do not think that the Board would have been tied in that way, but if we remove the phrase "from time to time," then there will be no reasonable doubt about the matter.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 34, to leave out from the second "time" to "so," in line 36.

This is an occasion where the Government have somewhat met the situation. I put down this Amendment and discovered afterwards that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had put down one to follow in almost precisely the same words. I am grateful for small mercies, and I hope that they will be repeated before the Debate is finished. The reason for this is obvious. The Clause as drafted used the extraordinary and unexampled phrase "one year with another." I referred to this in the course of the Second Reading and pointed out that if this was to be the way in which the Board did its business, by this hand-to-mouth existence, it would be impossible for it to succeed. I pleaded then for a long term view. That is why I ask for changes in Clause 5 and I make the same plea here. No Board and no commercial concern could live from year to year in this way; it must be a long-term arrangement. These words are impossible words. I urge that they should be taken out and that we should substitute for these words more or less the words contained in Section 11 of the Act of 1926, to which we must naturally return so frequently in the course of this discussion. The words are:
"The tariff shall be fixed so that, over a term of years to he approved by the Electricity Commissioners, the receipts may in fact balance the outgoings."
That is what the Secretary of State has accepted, and I am grateful for it, but may I ask for his explanation of another matter directly connected with this? In the Clause it states:
"The prices to be charged by the Board for electricity supplied by them shall be determined by them in accordance with regulations to be made by the Secretary of State after consultation."
There is no precedent, as far as I know, for the word "regulations." There is no such provision in the Act of 1926. The Central Electricity Board is not put under this restriction. The Electricity Commissioners are not required under the Act of 1926 to make regulations. All that is required under that Act is that the Electricity Commissioners lay down the principles, the period, and the estimated margin that is to be allowed to the Board in making its charges, and I cannot see why any change is needed here. If the Electricity Commissioners were to do the same thing for this Board, namely, lay down the principles, the period and the margin, they would be doing all that is necessary. Why hamper this Board any more than necessary with very complicated tariffs? The Central Electricity Board has a simpler task than this Board will have to perform. The Board is not only a manufacturer of electricity but a distributor as well, and therefore it is a much more complicated job. Yesterday the Secretary of State asked, and we agreed, that it should have power to co-operate with the local authorities and the Secretary of State in the economic development of the Highlands. All these many functions of the Board make it necessary to give the Board more and more freedom. I want to know what the regulations are that the Secretary of State intends to lay down. Are they to be tight or loose, or what?

I gather that my hon. Friend is going to withdraw his Amendment, in view of the fact that it is covered by the Amendment put down by the Secretary of State which I shall move presently. But may I give an explanation in answer to my hon. Friend with regard to the necessity for regulations? He may remember that the Cooper Committee made certain recommendations as to the charges that should be made for electricity. For example, they recommended that authorised undertakers in the district should have prices regulated in a certain way and different charges for other people and so on. It would not do to put that kind of thing into an Act of Parliament, and accordingly it is to be done by regulations, which, of course, will come up for the approval of the Secretary of State. If my hon. Friend will look at the next Amendment on the Order Paper, in the name of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Pollok Division of Glasgow (Commander Galbraith), he will see the kind of thing which such regulations are to contain. The regulations are the only place where such matters can be dealt with, and accordingly I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will be satisfied with this xplanation.

Would my hon. and learned Friend say why he prefers his form of Amendment to mine? He has asked me to withdraw my Amendment, and if he can explain why his is a better one, I will withdraw it.

I thought that my hon. Friend was going to withdraw his Amendment, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had put down a similar Amendment. It comes to the same thing.

Does the hon. Member wish to withdraw the Amendment?

There seems to be some misunderstanding as to which Amendment the Committee are discussing. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) was spea4ing to the second of his Amendments—in page 7, line 38, to leave out "equal one year with another," and to insert:

"be such that over a term of years to be approved by the Electricity Commissioners, they will equal."

The hon. Member was undoubtedly out of Order, because that Amendment had not been called. The question before the Committee is that of the first Amendment.

I understand that the Committee has noticed that one is tied up with the other.

The hon. Member's first Amendment cannot surely now be passed, because already my right hon. Friend's Amendment has been adopted by the Committee, and I do not see how they could both be adopted.

My right hon. and learned Friend is quite right, and I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 38, to leave out "one year with another," and to insert:

"over a term of years to be approved by the Electricity Commissioners."
My hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) has already explained the reason for this Amendment, and it conforms with his views and, I hope, with the views of the Committee.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 40, at the end, to insert:

"( ) Such regulations shall contain a provision that the Board shall not supply electricity directly to a large power user for use within the area of supply of any other authorised undertakers at a price less than the price at which the Board would be prepared to furnish a supply to such authorised undertakers either at the generating station of the Board or at a point on any transmission line belonging to or used by the Board."
This Clause, as the Solicitor-General for Scotland has told us, deals with the charges to be made by the Board as determined in accordance with regulations to be made by the Secretary of State, and the Amendment to which I am speaking would follow directly after the first Sub-section of this Clause. As the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) reminded the Committee yesterday, this House has always refused to allow competition in respect of the distribution of electricity, but in this Bill we depart from that principle. In Clause 2 (2, c) of the as amended, there is a duty imposed on the Beard to supply large power users in areas of authorised undertakers, provided always that the authorised undertaker consents, or that the Electricity Commissioners are satisfied that the Board can supply appreciably more economically than can the authorised undertaker. At first sight it appears to be very fair and reasonable that where the Board can, supply appreciably more economically, then the Board should make the supply, and where the authorised undertaker can supply appreciably more economically, then he should supply. But in view of the fact that authorised undertakers can only obtain their supplies of electricity from the Board, that would only be fair if the same initial price was quoted to the authorised undertaker as the Board would be prepared to offer to the large power-user. I suggest that that is the only way under this Bill by which competition can be restricted and authorised undertakers given an opportunity to develop their areas along the most economical lines, which, of course, is very greatly for the benefit of the consumer. From the discussion which took place yesterday on Clause 2, I rather understood, from words used by the Secretary of State or the Lord Advocate, that it might be that they accepted the principle of which I have just spoken and that the only difference would be in the method of putting it into operation.

There are two courses open. Either this can be done by regulation, or it can be included in the text of the Bill itself. I would much prefer to see it included in the Bill, for the reason that an Act of Parliament is much more vital than a regulation. My right hon. Friend may make regulations, but they would in no way be binding on his successors in office. The whole object of the Amendment is to restrict competition and to allow authorised undertakers to develop their areas along economic lines. These matters, the Committee will remember, were very strongly stressed in the report of the McGowan Committee. I ask the Lord Advocate whether he will be good enough to accept this Amendment and place the matter beyond doubt instead of proceeding by regulation, which might be annulled at any time without reference to this House.

Yesterday; when Major Milner was in the Chair, I sought to deal with this Amendment in conjunction with three or four Amendments which were bracketed together for discussion on Clause 2. I do not propose to repeat the arguments I then made for the benefit of the Chair, Mr. Williams, as probably most Members who are present now heard what I said then. I want to explain, however, that we accepted the Government's Amendments on Clause 2 with great reluctance and in the hope that when reaching this Amendment to this Clause we might be met. I want to submit two or three arguments which were not touched upon by my hon. and gallant Friend when he moved the Amendment. I want to emphasise again that it can make little difference to the Board whether they themselves supply a large power user direct or that user takes the supply from an authorised undertaker. The reason is because that supply has to be provided at cost by the Board, and, that being so, I ask the Government to consider, this: What does it matter where a high-load factor industry is situated so long as the generating power comes, as it will, from the Board's hydro station? The Board will get the benefit of the business, whether they supply the transmitted current direct to the new industry or whether they give it to the new industry via an existing authorised undertaking.

There is another point. There is nothing we have so far discussed which makes it clear beyond doubt that if that new high-load factor industry wants to come into an area and take a supply at any point on the existing high tension transmission line and the authorised undertaker is in a position to take a supply from that point on the Board's transmission line, the Board will be under an obligation to quote the same price to the existing authorised undertaker as to the new prospective industry. In other words, wherever a supply has to be taken for the purpose of the new industry it ought to be provided at cost wherever it is to be delivered whether by the Board direct to the new industry or whether the authorised undertaker is to give a supply. These are powerful reasons why I would urge the Government to accept this Amendment, and make it clear in the regulations that they intend to carry out the principle they have already conceded in the Amendments which have been accepted to Clause 2. I think I have made out an overwhelming case for this Amendment, and I press the Government strongly to accept it.

In the course of the discussion on Clause 2 yesterday I indicated that the Government were satisfied that the principle underlying this Amendment is right, because it means fair play as between the Board and the authorised undertaker. I do not feel that we can put this matter into the Bill, but I give a categorical assurance that there will be put into the regulations a provision on the lines of this Amendment. I am not tying myself to the precise wording, but it will be on the lines of this Amendment. The reason why we do not wish to put the matter into the Bill is because this is only one of a number of matters which will have to be dealt with under the regulations, and we feel that it is not at all desirable that one matter should be mentioned in the Bill while others, equally important, are not mentioned. Further than that, on other Clauses we have been pressed to put in black and white into the Bill a number of things which in our view can be more properly dealt with either in the Schedule, the regulations or subsidiary documents. The great difficulty in giving way on one point and letting one Amendment of this character go into the Bill is that we shall have a shoal of others with an equally good case, and I ask my hon. friends to rest assured with the assurance I have given that this matter will be dealt with under the regulations. I cannot imagine any Secretary of State, in the face of that assurance, not inserting this matter in the regulations, as promised.

I am rather disappointed that the Lord Advocate has been unable to accept this Amendment, but in view of the assurance he has given —a very definite assurance—I shall ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. But before doing so, I would ask him if he will make it clear that the supply will be given not only at the generating station but also anywhere on the main transmission line where tapping needs to take place?

Of course, where-ever is the convenient place for the transfer from the Board to the authorised undertaker, that is the proper place at which to fix the price.

I am a little disquieted by part of the argument used by the Lord Advocate, and I respectfully suggest that if I have understood him rightly, the Committee deserves rather more explanation. If I followed him correctly, his argument was that this was a matter appropriate to delegated legislation, to Order, that there were other such matters of equal importance which were not in the Bill and that, therefore, this could not be put into the. Bill. It is an extremely dangerous doctrine that you are not to have in your primary legislation anything which is at all parallel with something else which is kept for delegated legislation. The House has more than once shown its disquiet about this kind of Ministerial view of delegated legislation in the past, and when we have a Bill before the Committee such as we have now, I do not think that kind of argument ought to pass without some comment.

With reference to those observations, I put my argument on a much lower and more practical plane than my hon. Friend's observations. The strongest part of my argument, to my mind, is that a great number of other people have asked for a number of Amendments of a somewhat similar character to be put into the Bill which, in the aggregate, would be very confusing, on balance, to a person reading the Bill. We could not allow one unless we were prepared to allow them all, and I do not believe my. hon. Friend wants to have this Bill complicated by a vast number of citations which are better elsewhere.

Before the Amendment is withdrawn I would like to get a little clarification. I am not certain that I followed the arguments of my hon. Friend or the Lord Advocate and that the machinery my hon. Friends asked for is the machinery they want. When we were discussing Clause 2 I had an Amendment on the Order Paper—which I did not move—which sought to do precisely what they want by the method of using the 1926 Act, with which they are familiar. The Government Amendment which was accepted adopted some of the sense of the words of that Amendment of mine. I want to remind the Committee that there is another provision now in law which might meet the case of my hon. Friends and enable the Lord Advocate, not to accept their Amendment, but to give them what they want. The Lord Advocate, I know, will remember the 1909 Act, Section 6, which enables the Electricity Commissioners to authorise the Central Electricity Board to give electricity to large power users through an undertaker at a special price. That is known in the industry as a fringe Order. I should have thought that that would have met the point my hon. Friends were making. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Does it not? I sympathise with them in that we do not want any method introduced into the Bill in regard to this matter which complicates the business or which breaks away from the established practice of the industry. What we are seeking in substance to secure is the established practice, namely, that the Central Board cannot supply directly to people outside but only through authorised undertakers.

Amendment negatived.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 11—(Application Of Money)

Amendments made:

In page 8, line 2, leave out "they are," and insert "it is."

In line 3, leave out from the beginning, to "and," in line 4, and insert:

"up to the amount required for that purpose, and any excess over that amount.

—[ The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]

I beg to move, in page 8, line 16, to leave out "superannuation allowances and gratuities to," and to insert:

"of, and payments made for the purpose of providing superannuation allowances and gratuities for,"
The necessity for this Amendment arises from the fact that the Board will have the option, instead of paying superannuation allowances direct to its officers and servants, of adopting the Local Government Superannuation Act, and this alteration is necessary to provide for that case.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 12—(Power Of Board To Borrow)

I beg to move, in page 9, line 26, after "subsection" to insert "and the interest thereon."

The Clause already provides for money borrowed by the new Board being secured on the Board's undertaking, but it does not specifically provide for the interest being secured, and, in order to remove any doubt on the matter, I move the insertion of these words.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 9, line 35, at the end, to add:

"Provided that such suspension shall not be for a longer period than five years from the commencement of the financial year next after that in which such expenditure is incurred."
This is merely to limit the period during which the operation of the suspension of the annual provision for the repayment of borrowed money shall last. I understand it has the approval of the Government.

These words are on the same lines as the proviso in Section 27 of the Electricity Act, 1926, and we think they ought to appear in this Bill also.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 13—(Power To Issue Stock)

I beg to move, in page 9, line 38, at the end, to insert:

"(2) Any stock issued by the Board and the interest thereon shall be charged on the undertaking and all the revenues of the Board."
This is also for the removal of doubt. The Bill provides for money borrowed being charged on the undertaking but not stock. It is customary to make both provisions.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 14 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause I5—(Accounts And Audit)

Amendment made: In page 10, line 46, at the end, add:

"and shall place copies thereof on sale at a reasonable price."—[Commander Galbraith.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 16—(Transfer Of Powers Of Central Electricity Board And Relations With That Board)

I beg to move, in page 11, line 3, to leave out Sub-section (1).

During the Second Reading Debate I gave an undertaking that, if it were possible, we should schedule to this Bill what has otherwise been proposed to be done by Order in Council. It proved possible, and accordingly the first Sub-section is now inoperative and unnecessary.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 12, line 25, to leave out "require," and to insert:

Provided that the Central Electricity Board shall not direct the supply of a smaller number of kilowatts in the said period or in any year or of a smaller number of units in any month than the number of kilowatts or,of units notified by the Board under paragraph (a) of this Sub-section in respect of that period, year or month."
This is a provision of a somewhat complicated nature to ensure that the appropriate price is paid by the Central Electricity Board for electricity which they take under Clause i6 from the new Board. The wording has been agreed.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 12, line 32, leave out "an authorised undertaker," and insert "authorised undertakers."—[ The Lord Advocate.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 17—(Boards To Act In Collaboration And Appoint Joint Committee)

I beg to move, in page 13, line 12, at the end, to insert:

"in relation to any matter referred to in the last foregoing Sub-section."
My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) had drawn our attention to the fact that possibly Subsection (2) is rather too widely drawn, and, accordingly, we accept his suggestion that the power to delegate should be specifically limited to the matters referred to in the first part of the Clause.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18—(Acquisition Of Undertakings By Agreement)

I beg to move, in page 13, line 27, at the end, to add:

"Provided that the powers of this Section shall not be exerciscable in respect of the whole or any part of an undertaking which may be purchasable by any other authorised undertakers under existing statutory powers."
We have now arrived at a very important stage of these Amendments, which will require careful consideration, and I hope we shall receive the fullest possible consideration from the Government if we are not forced to divide the Committee. Parliament has granted to the Grampian Company and others statutory powers to acquire by agreement undertakings inside their statutory area of supply, which number about 15 in all, and 10 of these have already been purchased and merged in the Grampian undertaking. Of the remaining five not yet acquired, three are already very closely allied with the Grampian Company by virtue of the fact of their taking supplies in bulk from the Company for the purpose of their local distribution. These are long-term agreements properly approved by the Electricity Commissioners. If, in due course, these remaining five undertakings desire to dispose of their undertakings, as the other 10 have done, they can only do so through the existing Company on conditions which have to be approved by the Electricity Commissioners, and, therefore, there is that safeguard that the terms of sale and purchase are fair, in the opinion of the Commissioners, to both parties. The nearest of these undertakings not yet purchased to any possible supply that might be given by the new Board is something like 80 miles away at present. Apart from that argument, the Clause cuts right across past legislation in two respects. It limits the statutory powers granted to the Company to acquire undertakings inside their area, and it permits competition for the acquisition of such undertakings by another body. Parliament has always said that there should be no competition of that kind. It is quite unnecessary. The terms of acquisition, no matter by whom these smaller undertakings may be acquired, have to be approved by the Electricity Commissioners.

The Government have put down an Amendment which, in the view of my friends and myself, does not meet the objections that I am raising at all. It would allow the new Board to negotiate with the undertaker proposing to, dispose of his undertaking and to enter quite secretly into a provisional agreement, and then they have to submit it to the Electricity Commissioners. The Commissioners then have to send on a copy of the agreement to the Company possessing the statutory right of purchase which Parliament had granted them and give them an opportunity of making any representations thereon. I ask the Government to consider the altogether undesirable situation that might follow this entirely novel method of dealing with a matter of this kind. The power company having the statutory rights might say that the price was too low and that they would offer something more, or that the price was too high and that they did not think anybody ought to pay such a price. Who, then, has the right to decide? That right will be in the power of the Electricity Commissioners.

I ask the Committee to consider this. All the schemes which are to be formulated under this Bill are to be prepared by the Board and then submitted to the Electricity Commissioners for their approval. The Commissioners may, in their wisdom, say, "We do not like this or that part of your scheme; we want you to alter it in this direction or that." Ultimately, when the scheme is approved, it is one which is fathered substantially by the Electricity Commissioners. When it comes to a question of who is to buy these isolated undertakings with which this Amendment deals, it is the Electricity Commissioners, Who are the fathers of the Board's scheme, who will have the right to say, "We think the Board ought to buy this property and not the body to whom Parliament has given the power of purchase." I venture to say with great respect to the Electricity Commissioners, for whom I have a high regard, that this is bureaucracy in excelsis. If the Committee do not accept my Amendment, they are saying, "Parliament so far has had some control over electrical legislation, but we are now going to waive powers which hitherto we have always kept in our own hands and to hand them over to a body which will have complete responsibility for what they do." I hope that the Secretary of State will give full weight to the case I have submitted and that the Government will agree to accept the Amendment. On this point I feel so strongly, and I am so sure the Committee will be making a great mistake if it does not accept my Amendment, that I shall ask the Committee to divide upon it.

The Amendment has undoubtedly some substance behind it, but the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I say that he has proved himself a splendid advocate on one side and has not exactly seen the whole problem. What is involved here, if my information is correct, is that there are two local authority enterprises and one company enterprise still within the ambit of the Grampian Power Company. The Grampian Company have in effect power by agreement, but only by agreement, to acquire these undertakings. Parliament never said that they should have a monopoly and that no one else should ever be able to acquire these undertakings. Parliament did say in the Grampian Company's charter, however, "You shall have the right by agreement to acquire the enterprises of the Buckie and Lossiemouth Councils and the Peterhead Company." That is how the matter stands now. If I understood the hon. Gentleman correctly, he said that there were no precedents for alternative offers of this kind being made available. My information is that there are at least six examples of cases where authorised undertakers possess competitive powers to purchase other undertakings by agreement. In three of these cases the competitive powers are entirely unqualified. They are the Yorkshire Electric Power Company and the Lancashire Electric Power Company; the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Electric Power Company—

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not carry these illustrations in such a way that other hon. Members may feel that they must reply to them.

It is essential for the purpose of the Bill to show that we are not importing any innovation.

I agree, but I do not want the illustrations introduced in any controversial sense. An illustration may be simple without being controversial.

You will surely give me the right to make a brief comment on these illustrations, because there is a complete answer to them?

I will endeavour to be as brief as possible. I am pointing out that there are examples of cases where authorised undertakers now possess competitive powers to purchase other undertakings by agreement, so that it is hardly correct of the hon. Member to say that there are no precedents. It may be perfectly true that some of these local authorities are a considerable distance away from where the power may be created. Unless it can be shown to be advisable that Buckie, for example, or Lossiemouth should in the national interest and the interests of cheap power be taken over by the new Board, there is no case for interfering in the slightest degree with the Grampian Company's rights. They have the rights anyway. I see the force of the hon. Gentleman's comment that the Government's proposed Amendment might mean that the new Board could enter into negotiations secretly with, say, the Buckie Council to the prejudice of the Grampian Company. I can see that some possible guarantees might have to be given under that heading, and I am willing to examine it.

The point I would like to put is this: Here are two local authorities. There is no question at the moment but that they have only one potential buyer, that buyer being the Grampian Company. We are not interfering with the Grampian Company's charter or seeking to say that the Grampian Company shall not be allowed to purchase the local authority undertakings. What we say is that it is improper that Parliament should say that these local authorities shall be bound to only one purchaser and shall have no option of going anywhere else. If the hon. Member envisages circumstances where a connection which had to run from 80 miles away would be highly uneconomic and undesirable, we will be willing to put in any safeguards he likes against any stupid or foolish purchase of that kind. That is the province of the Electricity Commissioners anyway, and they would say that it could not be justified. That would be the end of it. I submit that the Government are right in saying that we ought not to bind two local authorities to only one buyer and that here is a question of competition, it may be between the Grampian Company and the public Board, but that this competition is one for which there are precedents. The hon. Member says that he will have something to say about the terms of those precedents I shall be willing to hear what he has to say about them, but I assure him that this is hypothetical all the way through and that Buckie may not want to sell their undertaking to anyone. We have no knowledge of any potential negotiations. If it were felt in the Highlands that we had passed a Measure which had bound two local authorities to only one purchaser of their undertaking, the Grampian Company, there would be a considerable storm of opposition That would not make for harmonious co-operation in the provision of cheap electricity and the amenities of civilisation in the Highlands between the Grampian Company and the Board, which we are all anxious to promote.

I really think the Secretary of State has not done himself justice in the arguments with which he has tried to convince the Committee. He has admitted that the question of whether the new Board is likely at any time ever to be in a position to purchase these undertakings is extremely remote. He also said that these local authorities might blame Parliament for binding them to one purchaser. Parliament has already bound these undertakings to one purchaser, and hundreds of others like it, all over Great Britain. We are not departing from any sinister behaviour of Parliament in the past. Parliament has carefully considered what powers should be granted for the development of electricity supply throughout the country, and now we are being asked to do something which is entirely novel and to no advantage to those concerns so distant away. It is obvious that the reason for this Clause has nothing to do with the Bill or the circumstances of the undertakers inside the Bill. The only conclusion I can come to is that for other reasons it is desirable to establish a precedent by getting a Clause of this kind into the Bill. I ask the Committee in a case like this to reserve its rights until we come to consider, as we may well have to do, improving the existing legislation which governs the electricity supply of Great Britain. Those of us who arc associated with it are prepared to assist in the reorganisation which we admit to a considerable extent will be necessary. Let us, therefore, keep our hands unfettered as to what we want to do when that time arrives and not find ourselves tied to any precedent which may have anything but a good influence on one side of the House or another when that time comes. The Government have no case whatsoever for this Clause, and unless the Secretary of State is prepared to accept my Amendment or consider the matter further between now and the Report stage, I shall have no alternative but to ask my hon. Friends to go with me to a Division.

May I remind the hon. Member that he promised he would say a word on the question of precedents?

I am sorry I had forgotten that point. The cases to which the Secretary of State has referred in Yorkshire and Lancashire are simply explained in this way. One undertaking, it may be in Yorkshire, desired to buy an undertaking in Lancashire which was on the Lancashire border, but contingent to the Yorkshire supply, where mains were available. They were boundary cases, and it was only common sense that where an undertaking was near the existing mains of another concern powers of purchase should be taken. There is no analogy between those cases and the present one. The other case is that of the Home Counties Joint Electricity Authority. Anybody who goes into the history of that concern will see that it has been a most unfortunate one of legislation on those lines and will, I am bound to say, never be repeated by this House.

I sympathise with the case made by my hon. Friend, although I have had no consultation with him beforehand.

I have the same right to speak as my hon. Friend opposite, and I intend to exercise it. The hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) has established the fact that the change proposed by the Government is an abnormal change. There is not an established precedent, and it is an important change. I am not arguing the merits of the change to-day, but it is an important change which, if it is accepted, will create a precedent which may well be used in all other parts of the country. Again I say that I do not argue the merits, but a change so important, striking at the very root of the ownership, control and constitution of the great electricity companies, should not be introduced in a Measure applying to only one part of the country. Earlier, either during the Committee stage or on Second Reading, or it may be in a speech outside, my right hon. Friend said this Bill was not the occasion for proposing changes in the constitution of the Electricity Commissioners. I said on Second Reading that I thought it was time the Electricity Commissioners were abolished, and I hold that view strongly, and the reply was that this was not the occasion for a change of that kind, and I say that it is not the occasion, either, for a change of the kind now contemplated. I think the issue here is one to which the Committee should not be asked to address itself on this Bill, and I would ask my right hon. Friend not to put us in the position of having to cause a Division and vote against him on a matter the merits of which I am not prepared to argue but the principle of which, I am quite satisfied, is not one which should be discussed on this Bill.

There is no question of whether the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) should speak, because he has as much right as other hon. Members here to speak, but it is as clear as anything that from the beginning of the discussions on this Bill he has not been speaking for his constituents or the people of Scotland but for vested interests. It is as clear as anything in the bluff he is trying to play on this particular Clause. All that the Clause says is that it shall be lawful for the Board to enter into an agreement for the transfer to the Board of the whole or any part of an undertaking. That is a terrible, an awful change. That is going to determine the whole constitution of this country, according to the hon. Member for East Fife. It is very clear that this is a good and desirable Clause. The hon. Member dare not argue against it, and only says, "While I am not expressing an opinion whether it is good or bad, it is such a fundamental change, the whole character of the Constitution of the country would be so altered if this Clause were passed, that you ought not to pass it." I say that from the very start of this Bill he has been speaking here for vested interests outside and has not been a wee bit concerned about his constituents or Scotland.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 11; Noes, 141.

Division No. 19.


Beit, Sir A. L,Mellor, Sir J. S. P.Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Colegate, W. A.Perkins, W. R. D.
Gates, Major E. E.Salt, E. W.TELLERS FOR THW AYES.—
Gridley, Sir A. B.Thorneycroft, Major G. E. P. (Staffd)Commander Galbraith and
Hurd, Sir P. A.Wells, Sir S. RichardMr. Henderson Stewart.

Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)Helmore, Group Capt. W.Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)
Ammon, C. G.Henderson, T. (Tradeston)Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Higgs, W. F.Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Barr, J.Hill, Prof. A. V.Richards, R.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.Ridley. G.
Beattie, F. (Catheart)Horabin, T. L.Ritson, J.
Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)Horsbrugh, FlorenceRobertson, Rt. Hon. Sir M. A. (M'ham)
Beechman, N. A.Howitt, Dr. A. B.Ross Taylor, W.
Benson, G.Hunter, T.Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Bevin, Rt. Hon. E.Hutchison, Lt.-Com. G. I. C. (E'burgh)Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Blair, Sir R.Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)Sandys, E. D.
Bossom, A. C.Jennings, R.Savory, Professor D. L.
Bower, Norman (Harrow)Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. (Stlg & C'km'n)Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. (Cleveland)Jones, A. C. (Shipley)Sloan, A.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Buchanan, G.Kirkwood, D.Smith, T. (Normanton)
Cadogan, Major Sir E.Lamb, Sir J. Q.Snadden, W. McN.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)Lawson, J. J.Southby, Comd. Sir A. R. J.
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)Leslie, J. R.Spearman, A. C. M.
Charleton, H. C.Lewis, O.Stephen, C.
Cluse, W. S.Little, Dr. J. (Down)Stokes, R. R.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.Lucas, Major Sir J. M.Storey, S.
Cobb, Captain E. C.MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.Studholme, Captain H. G.
Doland, G. F.McCallum, Major D.Sutcliffe, H.
Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)McCorquodale, Malcolm S.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dunn, E.McEntee, V. la T.Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Edmondson, Major Sir J.McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)
Edwards, Walter J. (Whitechapel)McGhee, H. G.Thorne, W.
Etherton, RalphMcNeil, H.Tomlinson, G.
Findlay, Sir E.Makins, Brig.-Can. Sir E.Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.
Foot, D. MManningham-Buller, R. E.Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Fox, Flight- Lieut. Sir G. W. G.Mathers, G.Watkins, F. C.
Frankel, D.Maxton, J.Watson, W. MoL.
Fraser, T. (Hamilton)Medlicott, Colonel FrankWestwood, J.
Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.Mills, Sir F. (Leylon, E.)White, H. (Derby, N.E.)
Gallacher, W.Molson, A. H. E.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)
George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Lloyd (P'b'ke)Montague, F.Wilson, C. H.
Gluckstein, Major L. H.Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)Windsor, W.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Grimston, R. V.Mott-Radclyffe, Capt. C. E.Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.
Guy, W. H.Murray, Sir D. K. (Midlothian, N.)Woodburn, A.
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.Nunn, W.Woods. G. S. (Finsbury)
Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)Palmer, G. E. H.York, Major C.
Hammersley, S. S.Parker, J.Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Hannah, I. C.Peters, Dr. S. J.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Hannon, Sir P. J. H.Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.TELLERS FOR THE NOES. —
Hardie, AgnesPeto, Major B. A. J.Mr. Boulton and Mr. Pym.
Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.Price, M. P
Mr. Boulton and Mr. Pym.

I beg to move, in page 13, line 27, at the end, to add:

"(2) The Electricity Commissioners before approving under the last foregoing sub-section an agreement for the transfer to the Board of any undertaking which any other undertakers ale empowered by or under any Act to acquire shall notify those undertakers that the agreement has been submitted for their approval and shall consider any representations which those undertakers may make."
This Amendment is intended to ensure that before any negotiations are completed between the Hydro Board and any existing undertaker within the ambit of the Grampian Company's purchase rights, the Grampian Company will be informed. I hope that the Committee will accept these words.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 13, line 27, at the end, to add:

"( ) Section fifteen (which relates to compensation for deprivation of employment) of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1926, shall apply and have effect in the case of the transfer to the Board in pursuance of this section of the whole or any part of any such undertaking as is referred to in this section as if such transfer were the acquisition under or in consequence of the said Act of 1926 of a generating station and as if the Board referred to in the said section fifteen wore the Board constituted by this Act."
This Amendment deals with the position of officers and servants of undertakers who may be deprived of their employment by reason of amalgamations or transfers of undertakings which may take place as a result of the Bill. The purpose of the Amendment is to extend to these officers the provisions relating to compensation for loss of office contained in the Electricity Supply Act of 111)26 and in the Acts of 1919 and 1922. These provisions are complicated and I conceive that there is no need for me to enter into the details. It is sufficient to say that these provisions have been the subject of enactment for a number of years and have been found to be satisfactory. The intention of this Amendment is that these provisions should be extended to officers and servants of undertakings who may be deprived of their employment in the same way as they extend to officers and servants deprived of their employment under the earlier Acts.

We are in agreement with the Amendment, but after considering the matter, we are of opinion that it is already covered by the Bill as it stands. My hon. and learned Friend wishes to put into the Bill an adaptation of Section 15 of the Act of 1926. It happens that Section 15 does nothing more than adopt and expand Section 16 of the Act of 1919, and that is the operative provision. We have therefore thought it better to make our amendment by means of a direct addition to the terms of the 1919 Act. If hon. Members care to look at the new Schedule which may be moved later, they will find words which apply those provisions of the 1919 Act to amalgamations under the Bill. I can therefore assure my hon. and learned Friend that the point is met by the present draft.

Before I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, may I ask the Lord Advocate whether he is satisfied that the whole of the provisions of the 1926 Act, including the Fourth Schedule, will extend to amalgamations under this Bill?

I think that has been checked, but as my hon. and learned Friend has raised the matter, I will certainly look into it again and make sure of it.

We ought to be clear about this most extraordinary Schedule. It says in the main what it does not do. Hon. Members will see that it says:

"The Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919. The Section shall not apply to the Board."
That sort of thing is repeated. Nothing does apply to the Board. We want to know what does apply to the Board. The Law Officer has not indicated what particular thing does apply to the Board. It ought to be made clear beyond a doubt.

If hon. Members will look at Clause 18 of the Bill, they will see the words that are imported. It is the only Section applying to matters of this kind. Therefore I think we have covered the point.

This is the most extraordinary form of drafting I have ever seen, and I ask the Committee to look at it. The Schedule proposes to insert into Section 16 of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, the words:

"or Section eighteen of the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Act, 1943."
Accordingly, when anybody in future reads the Act of 1919, as amended, they will see it contains a reference to an Act of Parliament passed 24 years later. That is legislation by reference of the maddest kind I have ever heard of. When the Government are trying to amend a Statute they should not do it by inserting into it something passed 24 years later.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 19—(Joint Use Of Main Trans-Mission Lines)

I beg to move, in page 13, line 30, to leave out "joint."

This is the first of four Amendments, the purpose of which is to make certain that Clause 19 shall work both ways. At present it entitles the Board to make use of the mains belonging to authorised undertakers. It is thought desirable that there should also be power to authorised undertakers to make use of mains belonging to the Board. The provision will be inserted later—I hope it will—to make certain that the original owner is not to be prejudiced by the handing over of surplus capacity. It is obviously highly desirable that in every possible case there should not be duplication of expensive mains. If there is excess capacity in existing mains, it is proper that either way it should be available for use the other owner.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 13, line 31, after "them,"insert" by the other."

In line 31, leave out "the Board," and insert "either of them"

In line 32, leave out "any such undertakers," and insert "the other."—[ The Lord Advocate.]

I beg to move, in page 13, line 33, to leave out "with the consent of the Electricity Commissioners."

As there are other Amendments dealing with very much the same point, perhaps we might discuss them together, Mr. Williams.

Yes. There is a further Amendment by the hon. Member to leave out words in line 35. We can discuss them together.

I have also to refer to the Amendment in the name of the Secretary of State affecting the same line. The reason for my Amendment is to remove power to the Commissioners to determine the terms upon which joint use of electricity transmission lines may be made. If passed in its present form, the Clause would confer on the Board, with the consent of the Electricity Commissioners, the right to use the main transmission lines of any authorised undertakers on any terms the Electricity Commissioners might decide. That would go far beyond existing legislation. The largest Board of this kind is the Central Electricity Board, with its network spread all over the country. Under the Act of 1926, Parliament conferred upon the Central Electricity Board the right to use the joint transmission lines of existing undertakers, by agreement with those undertakers. That arrangement works perfectly. joint use is made all over the country, without the necessity for any other person or authority coming in to decide upon what terms joint use should be made. Under the Bill, we are putting the new Board in the same position as if the Central Electricity Board were to function over the area, and giving them new powers, which the Central Electricity Board has found completely unnecessary. It is difficult for me to understand the inclusion of a Clause the value of which is nil and which cannot possibly be needed in the case of this Board, with its relatively small area in Scotland.

I am bound to repeat that once again Parliament is saying, "The powers we kept in our own hands until now we are no longer worthy to retain. Let us hand them over to a bureaucratic body and absolve ourselves of all responsibility." I shall refer once again to the arguments used by some of my hon. Friends on the other side yesterday. They asked, in long speeches, for everything in this Bill to be under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State.

I think the hon. Member is not only being betrayed but is going back to something which covers a very wide field indeed.

I am sorry if I transgressed. I think you will acquit me, Mr. Williams, of any wilful intention of so doing. The Government have put down an Amendment which provides that before their consent is given the Commissioners are to be satisfied that such use will not interfere with the use made, or likely to be made, of the lines of another party. I do not know whether those of us who hold property, of whatever kind it may be, like the prospect of somebody coming along and saying, "'A' join on with you, 'B,' to have the joint use of this property, and if you cannot agree on terms, we are going to come in and say what these terms will be." We are dealing with a Measure which is thoroughly bureaucratic, and the attendance in the Committee during the discussion of these Clauses has been extremely thin, because so few other than Scottish Members take an interest in Scottish legislation. Therefore there is no real understanding, or hearing indeed, of the arguments put forward for Amendments to Clauses. It seems of very little use to try to keep the Committee right by virtue of the experience one has acquired over a long period of years in the industry. All I can do is to point these things out to the Committee. If, in its lack of understanding, it makes mistakes in legislation, then the responsibility is not mine.

I regret to say that we cannot see our way to accept this Amendment. The purpose of the Amendment appears to be to allow someone who has no particular use for the line himself to refuse access to it by the person who has use for it. [Interruption.] If I understood my hon. Friend, he wants to allow the owner of a line to say to the Board, "You may not have access to this line," because he wants to delete, if I understand him aright, the provision which enables the Board to override the unwillingness of the owner and insist upon having access. I may have misunderstood him.

May I say that what is proposed is that it should be settled by an arbiter appointed by the Secretary of State?

I certainly misunderstood my hon. Friend's reference to the question of agreement being necessary under existing legislation. I understood him to say that he objected to that being altered. I am sorry if I misunderstood him. He now agrees that we are to depart from existing legislation to this extent, that it is no longer to be open to the undertaker, as it is under the existing legislation, to say, "I will not grant any assistance." My hon. Friend agrees that there should be provision for the forcing of access if the owner refuses it, but his only question is what should be the tribunal to decide the issue. We are both departing from existing precedents at that rate, and the question is the narrow one of which should be the tribunal. There would be a great deal to be said for an arbiter being the tribunal if this were only a question of settling finance, settling the amount of compensation, but it is a great deal more than that, because if the Committee accept the Amendment which will shortly be moved the Electricity Commissioners must determine what use, if there is any surplus, can properly be granted to the requesting body. If there are two inquiries, surely it is unnecessarily cumbrous? If I understand the picture aright, there is first to be an inquiry by the Electricity Commissioners as to what surplus capacity there is, and there is to be another decision as to whether that should be handed over and, if so, on what terms. Perhaps the arbiter is to be the person who is to state whether surplus capacity exists?

On a point of Order. Is it possible for a Minister to argue against an Amendment on the ground that there are to be certain words in the Bill which are not yet proposed?

It is permissible to say that an Amendment is not necessary because later we are going to do something else.

Further to that point of Order. The Lord Advocate is arguing that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) is unnecessary because if it is passed there is going to be another Amendment which will result in two tribunals dealing with the one job. Surely that is improper. The Amendment mentioned by the Lord Advocate is not yet part of the Bill, and there is no need that it should be part of the Bill. Therefore he is bringing in a matter of complete prejudice in bringing in something which is not under discussion.

I listened to the hon. Member for Stockport, and I took it that he asked for discussion on these three Amendments when he formally moved his first Amendment. That is a common practice of the Committee, so that we will not repeat the discussion, and also in order that the question may be dealt with in a comprehensive way which would not otherwise be possible. I think the Lord Advocate is simply following that practice.

If we kept to the strict rules of accuracy—and in theory we should never depart from them—the Lord Advocate is wrong, but it is such a small point that it is in the interests of the Bill and of the Committee that we should discuss several points like this. I think he is wise in taking the course he has done.

I have an Amendment on the same point. Is it permissible for me to speak in this general discussion?

Yes, I think it would be a good idea if the hon. Member did so, with the consent of the Committee.

Perhaps I had better finish my remarks on the speech of the hon. Member for Stockport before I deal with anything else. I think we have got so far that we are all agreed there should be some provision in default of the agreement of the parties and the question is what should the tribunal be. I am not sure whether my hon. Friend regards the arbiter mentioned in the second Amendment as the appropriate tribunal for every possible question that can arise under Clause 19 in its present or amended form. If he does, I should disagree with him, because of a great many questions—the prospective Amendment is only one of them—which are of a technical character which no arbiter could solve without a technical assistant or assessor. All those questions are appropriate for the Electricity Commissioners to decide. If the Committee agree with me so far, I submit that it would be unnecessary to bring in an arbiter as a second tribunal to decide part of the issue when the Electricity Commissioners are well qualified to decide the whole issue, and that we should be well advised to leave it all to them.

The Lord Advocate's speech is based on the assumption that this is a coercive Clause. It is not; it is only enabling. It enables two authorised undertakers to enter into an agreement to do something which, at the moment, is, I think, illegal. Then two issues arise. If the one authorised undertaker, the Board, decides to enter into an agreement with another authorised undertaker, in the public interest it may have to be decided that the terms which the existing undertaker demands from the Board are terms which are fair and equitable between all parties concerned. That is the issue dealt with by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley). There is the further issue, a technical one, that if the Board enter into this arrangement with this other authorised undertaker, will the partial use by the Board of the transmission system of the other authorised undertaker prejudice the consumers of the other authorised undertaker? These are two completely separate issues.

The first thing is the terms. A great many people in the electricity supply industry, with which I used to be connected, have very little faith in the Electricity Commissioners, neither the municipal undertakers nor company undertakers. They do not regard them as a very competent body. If you could take a ballot among all the people engaged in the electricity supply industry, Which is two-thirds municipal, as to whether the Commissioners should be continued or wiped out and their powers put directly under a Minister, I believe you would have an overwhelming majority for eliminating the present body of Commissioners. I do not think they are an efficient body. They are dilatory. What a Minister does may be subject to interrogation in this House. As to what the Commissioners do, the degree of interrogation is very limited. I think in these matters, when the terms under which a transmission line may be used which may have the effect of altering the prices at which people buy electricity are determined by Act of Parliament, it should be competent in this House to address questions on the cost to the Minister of Fuel and Power or the Secretary of State for Scotland. If my hon. Friend's Amendment is carried, that would be possible.

As regards the purely technical point, the same investigation could be used on both points, on price or any technical risk involved. It is easy to associate with the arbiter a technical assessor if he is wanted, but I do not think the arbiter would want one. He would hear both sides, and anyone with a grievance, who felt that this transmission was so heavily loaded that it was undesirable that any power should be transferred from it, could put his case, and it would be a matter which anyone with reasonable intelligence could decide. There is a very powerful case for this Amendment and no need at all for the Government Amendment, and I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend will succeed in his proposal.

I am surprised at the attitude of the Mover of the Amendment and his supporter. Yesterday they took an entirely different point of view when hon. Members on this side of the Committee sought to place responsibility on the Secretary of State for Scotland. Even the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley), in his Amendment, places the responsibility on the Secretary of State for the appointment of an arbiter. The Secretary of State in drafting the Bill has already decided upon the arbiter, and that it should be the Electricity Commission. I do not know whether it has occurred to him or not, but that is really the effect of the Bill as it stands. He has appointed the Electricity Commission. The hon. Member does not seem to realise that and is asking him to do it again.

I may be very dull—I do not pretend to be as extraordinarily bright as "The Three Musketeers" over there, but my point is that the Secretary of State is appointing someone to judge his own case. That is the difference between the Commissioners and an independent arbiter.

Under the Amendment any arbiter may be appointed by the Secretary of State.

The Electricity Commission have to approve of schemes and they would, naturally, like to see their views prevail and to give decisions accordingly.

If the Amendment were accepted by the Government it would still be the view of the Minister that the arbiter should be the Electricity Commission. Another point that struck me in the speech of the hon. Member for Stockport was that he was warning us very gravely about the interference with property rights involved in the use of the transmission system of some other undertaker. I wonder at the barefaced audacity of a statement like that from the hon. Member in view of his own record with regard to so much of the legislation that has been passed in the House of Commons. All my constituents, whose property mainly consists of labour power, are having their property directed every day. There is not a separate arbiter for them. There are hardship committees, and the hon. Member voted for them, but when it comes to material property he gets all hot and bothered about it.

I would remind the hon. Member that I deliberately declined to vote for the power to direct labour and I am also supporting the Amendment.

I possibly did not realise the importance of the support of the hon. Member for Stockport in this connection. I apologise to the hon. Member. I did not realise that he was the power behind the throne. The Government are well advised, in dealing with this matter, to leave the decision in the hands of the Electricity Commissioners. As the Lord Advocate has pointed out, many questions will arise and the hon. Member should not be afraid of the possibility of action by the Electricity Commissioners. I hope that the Government will not yield either to the blandishments of the hon. Member for Stockport or the complaints of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams).

There has, apparently, been a great deal of dissension on this matter but underlying all the speeches there is a general measure of agreement. It is generally agreed that, at some point, somebody should act as arbiter, and I think it will be agreed there are two points that the arbiter will have to examine. One is the technical problem of the supply of electricity and the other the problem of financial terms. The Lord Advocate was right in bringing up that point. The Amendment that I have on the Paper—in page 13, line 35, to leave out from "conditions" to the end of the Clause, and add:

"(other than financial terms and conditions) as those Commissioners may determine and on such financial terms and conditions as shall be determined failing agreement by an arbiter appointed by the Secretary of State, and the arbiter may, in any case in which he thinks it expedient to do so, call in the aid of one or more qualified assessors and hear the case wholly or partly with the assistance of such assessors"
—probably meets the general view of the Committee. My suggestion is that as regards the technical problem of electricity supply, the Clause should stand as it is and that the Electricity Commissioners should be the judges, and the Secretary of State should be supported. But on the problem of financial terms, the body concerned should have the same right to apply for arbitration by an outside person as have the various authorised undertakers under many sections of the Act of 1926. Under that Act the authorised users of electricity are given the right in several cases to apply for an arbiter on financial points outside the purview of the Electricity Commissioners. The Lord Advocate will recall Sections 4, 9 and 14 of the Act of 1926 which provide for an arbiter on financial terms giving the companies the right to apply for that method. If Parliament thought it right then to give the companies that power, why is it withdrawn now? I ask that the Government continue the decision made by Parliament in 1926. If it were in order now, I would move. my Amendment In any case I feel that my Amendment covers the ground and represents the widest measure of agreement.

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether he can conceive any circumstances in which the Electricity Commissioners might not be biased if they were arbiters? They are concerned with the preparation of schemes all the way through and have to approve of several things. If a dispute arose we might have a set of circumstances in which they would be biased arbiters, and, if so, ought they to be arbiters instead of having an independent tribunal?

I hardly think that it is possible to conceive of any circumstances which would necessarily imply bias or that the Electricity Commissioners would prejudge the issue, which is probably what my hon. and gallant Friend also has in mind. They are concerned with schemes at many stages. This, however, raises a different issue and it is right that the tribunal which has general responsibilities for the transmission of electricity all over the country, should have to take the responsibility of making what may be a difficult decision. I am not impressed by the criticisms of the Electricity Commissioners as such, for the reason that we have heard a certain amount in favour of the McGowan Report, which not only does not agree with the criticisms, but suggests that the Commissioners should be entrusted with further duties. I take my stand on the fact that the Commissioners are an established body of experts to deal with judicial and quasi-judicial matters in the electrical industry and we should not upset that arrangement in this Bill.

That is the whole point of my Amendment. I am asking that the Commission be not upset. I said that under the Act of 1926, arrangements are made for financial questions to be settled by the arbiter and I am asking that that decision be maintained.

Amendment negatived.

On a point of Order. Do I understand that the Secretary of State is not moving the other Amendment—in page 13, line 35, at the end, to add:

"Provided that the Electricity Commissioners, before giving consent to such use, shall be satisfied that such use will not interfere with the use made or likely to be made by the owners of the transmission line"?

I beg to move, in page 13, line 35, at the end, to add:

"Provided that the Electricity Commissioners, before giving consent to such use, shall be satisfied that such use will not interfere with the use of the transmission line which may from time to time require to be made by the owners thereof in order to meet their requirements."
The Clause, as now amended, gives permission to the Board and authorised undertakers to enter into agreements to use the main transmission lines belonging to either of them and where they cannot reach agreement the district commissioners decide the matter. The object of the Amendment is to secure that the owner of the main transmission line, whether the Board or some other producer, shall have the use of that line if the full capacity is required. I observe from the Amendment put down in the name of the Secretary of State that he is seemingly of the same opinion. The only difference between the two Amendments lies in the fact that the Secretary of State's Amendment says,
"The Electricity Commissioners, before giving consent … shall be satisfied that such use will not interfere with the use made or likely to be made by the owners of the transmission line."
I want to draw attention to those words because that is at the root of the whole matter. It is impossible in a developing undertaking to say at any moment what use is likely to be made of the transmission lines by the owners. You have a large power user—and that is what we are trying to get into this district—suddenly coming into the area and you want to be able to supply a large amount of electrical energy. If the line is being used by some other body as well as yourself you may be unable to give the supply. I think the Committee will agree that the owner of the line should be able to supply anyone coming into his district and that he should have the first use of the line. Instead of the thing being decided once and for all by the Commissioners, the Amendment asks that it may be considered from time to time. A line may be capable of being used by some other party in the meantime, but later conditions may change, and we wish the thing to be reviewed in the light of the circumstances as they are at that date. That is the whole object of the Amendment and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to accept it.

There was no difference at all between our intention in our Amendment and the hon. and gallant Gentleman's Amendment, which we agree makes it clearer that there should be reconsideration from time to time. It is quite right that there ought to be that reconsideration and we are quite prepared to accept his wording instead of ours.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 20—(Consumers To Benefit From Reduction In Charges)

I beg to move, in page 13, line 37, to leave out from "Board," to the end of the Clause, and to add:

"shall not later than the expiry of three months or of such longer period as the Electricity Commissioners may in any case allow after the end of each year of account in which such supply is received make a return to the Commissioners setting out the actual cost of such supply during the preceding year of account, and an estimate of the cost at which the undertakers could themselves have provided a like supply had this Act not been passed and if the aforesaid actual cost is less than the said estimate, after such adjustment thereof, if any, as the Commissioners are satisfied ought to be made the Commissioners may direct that the undertakers shall apply for the benefit of their consumers by a reduction of tariffs or charges, or otherwise the difference between the aforesaid actual cost and estimate as so adjusted except to the extent that the Commissioners are satisfied that the said difference has already been so applied."
This Amendment is an attempt to meet a promise given on the Second Reading of this Bill, which was that where the Board supplies electricity to an authorised undertaker, that electricity should be conveyed in turn by the authorised undertaker to their consumers, without any added profit—in other words, that the electricity is transmitted at cost price plus, of course, cost of transmission. We are informed that Sections 31 and 32 of the Electricity Supply Act, 1926, are very difficult to operate, which means that it is difficult to ensure that supplies are transmitted to consumers by an authorised undertaker without any undue or hidden profit. This Amendment, framed on the best advice we can get, is to make certain that the cheaper electricity which we propose to supply to authorised undertakers shall be transmitted to the ordinary consumers in their areas with the minimum amount of added profit, though, of course, the undertakers are entitled to their ordinary charges for transmission and so on. Long and elaborate calculations are involved in these matters and I do not propose to weary the Committee with them, even if I were capable of explaining them, but; in effect, the Amendment says that within a certain period not later than the expiry of three months, or such longer period as the Electricity Commissioners may in special cases allow, a return shall be made by the authorised undertaker as to the actual cost at which they get this electricity from the new Board and also as to the cost at which they themselves could have provided a like supply had this Act not been passed.

The difference between the two amounts is the amount which the Commissioners may direct a company or a local authority to apply by way of reduction of tariffs to consumers. The difference between the price at which they get electricity and the price at which they themselves could have provided a like supply of electricity is the amount which, under the terms of this Amendment, we say should be passed on to the consumers by way of reduction of tariffs. I take it that everyone agrees with the purpose of this Amendment; that we should not supply electricity at cost price to concerns which, in turn, would make a profit from the distribution of that electricity. Our desire is that electricity shall be produced and supplied in the Highland areas at the lowest possible price and this Amendment is an attempt to make clear—

I am telling the hon. Member; at any rate, I am doing my best. This is an attempt to make it clear that we 'shall supply electricity at cost price and take whatever actuarial means are at our disposal to ensure that it shall be transmitted to the consumers of the authorised undertakers at the price at which we supply it, plus the ordinary cost of transmission.

I should like to be quite clear on this point. I think I understand the general principle which the Secretary of State has enunciated, but what I am not quite clear about is whether the reduction which will be brought about as a result of this Amendment, will apply to all consumers who are supplied by a particular authority, or whether it will apply to particular consumers who are being served by an additional supply. Is additional supply to be given in bulk at the centres of the organisation, or in a way particularly applicable to certain areas? What I supposed—probably wrongly—was that there was a certain area belonging to an original authority which could better be served by a public authority than by the original authority and I wanted to make sure that a particularly expensive area would not have to pay the original high rates and that the benefit brought about by the allocation of areas would accrue to the out-of-the-way districts to which the new supply was being brought.

Let us take the hypothetical case of an authorised undertaker who has a large area of supply. The new Board sells to this authorised undertaker 10,000 kilowatts or whatever the number may be at x price. If it would have cost the undertakers more than x to provide that supply themselves the difference must be applied to all their ordinary consumers. That is to say they are not to apply the benefit of this cheap electricity to one section of their consumers alone; they have to reduce their tariffs to all consumers.

But an authorised undertaking may be electricity producers. That being so might it not happen that you would have two prices for electricity? Take the case of Fort William. They now supply electricity. This Board may supply them with electricity in bulk at a fixed price. Fort William may be selling their own electricity at a higher price. You would say to them "This electricity must be sold at the price at which you bought it, plus the cost of distribution." But Fort William would be selling electricity made by themselves to another consumer at another price.

This matter is extraordinarily difficult. I have sweated over this thing for a long time and I do not pretend to be able to make it crystal clear. Indeed, I am sure hon. Members engaged, in the industry often find great difficulty sometimes in understanding the implications of Sections 31 and 32 of the 1926 Act. Let me reply to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). The Board sells at x price to the authorised undertaker and the amount of the difference between x price and the price at which Fort William would be able to manufacture a like supply of electricity themselves, must be applied in a general reduction to all Fort William consumers.

I am not quite satisfied, possibly because I do not understand the matter, but I visualise a Highland district which is rather expensive to supply. In order to enable that district to get electricity at a reasonable price the Board comes in and gives an additional supply to the existing authority. The Secretary of State seemed anxious to prove that that new area was not to get a special advantage. I was rather anxious that the area should get that advantage; otherwise that supply to that particular out-of-the-way area might be prohibitive. If means were given to the existing authority to enable them to supply an out-of-the-way area that out-of-the-way area should get a considerable benefit from that new supply. It seems to me that the provision specially made by which there would be no special advantage given to the new area, might defeat the object for which the extra supply was being given.

Is my right hon. Friend dealing with territories inside the Grampian area alone?

That is a different matter from the construction schemes outside the Grampian Company's area which we envisaged under this Bill, and in which these conditions do not obtain. I now understand that my right hon. Friend is referring to isolated areas inside the Grampian Company's territory.

Then I ought to make it perfectly clear that we are not interfering in this Clause at all with the Grampian Company's tariffs, except in so far as the total amount of the difference between the cost of the cheap supply we are giving the Grampian company and the cost at which the company could have themselves produced that supply, must be applied all over their tariffs and all over their areas. Is that clear?

It is clear, but is it a satisfactory solution? Here you have certain areas inside the Grampian Company's authority which do not get the electricity at present because it is difficult to supply them. What I hoped was that special reduction of tariff in those areas would be achieved. I understand that this Amendment is to prevent that. I may have misunderstood the position but I hoped that that would have been the result.

With the best intentions in the world I am not quite able to follow my right hon. Friend's explanation. The Commissioners, as far as I can see, are going to have some job if they have to separate the different sources of power and find out where a reduction in cost has to come in. In the first place, it seems to me there must be a fairly large amount of transmission before it will have the slightest effect upon the production of any undertaking. I think the Amendment means nothing at all to the undertakings which are having electricity transmitted to them. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us how they will separate their own production from that which is being taken in and let us know exactly where the consumers are to get the benefit from the concession that is being made by the Amendment.

I think it is clear that it would be a sensible course for the Government to take this Clause out of the Bill for the time being and think the matter over before Report. Consider the position of the Grampian Company. They have their own hydro-electric station. In the course of the next three or four years they will presumably be connected up to the new Board's hydro station and be taking a considerable supply from that source. They are also connected up to the Central Electricity Board, with whom they have agreements, and therefore there will be pumping into the area of the Grampian Company very shortly, three different sources of supply, which may vary from time to time. It sometimes happens that there is a serious breakdown, and the Glasgow Corporation or the Clyde Valley Company, whose mains are all interlinked with the grid, will be the actual suppliers of current through the grid up to the North of Scotland. There have been breakdowns in Glasgow which have been met by transmitting from Yorkshire. It is impossible to say where and in what quantity, and at what load factor, you may be taking your supply from these three or four sources, or which consumers are actually getting the benefit of these supplies from alternative sources. It is a most complicated and cumbersome and absurd Clause.

Surely the commonsense way of dealing with the handing on of the benefit which comes from a very economic source of generation—water power—is to provide that the undertaking, if it is a company which is taking the supply, should have its dividends 'limited pro rata with its charges. There you have effective control and if the company, by virtue of getting a cheaper supply from the new Board's stations, is able to save £10,000 or £15,000 a year, which enables it at the end of the year to have a larger sum available for distribution, you can limit the dividends that it can distribute unless it makes a certain reduction in its tariffs. That is better than using a terrific steam hammer to crack what really ought to be a thin-shelled nut. The Commissioners are to be supplied annually by the undertaker with the cost of the supply taken and, having furnished the Commissioners with a hypothetical estimate of the amount for which they could put down a new station, and obtain current from the station, the Commissioners are then to decide whether that estimate is right or wrong, and once again the authorised undertaker is in the hands of the Electricity Commissioners. If all these duties are to be put on the Commissioners, not only with regard to this undertaking but scores of others, the staffs will have to be multiplied ten times to enable them to deal with all these matters. I urge the Government, in their own interest, to withdraw the Clause and apply their minds to a far simpler method of achieving the same result.

This is a cumbersome Clause, difficult of administration, and one wonders whether it will work. One does not want to see Clauses which are of no use at all, particularly in an Act of Parliament which is to bring a new experiment to the Highlands. I see nothing but difficulty here. The Committee would agree on the principle that the supply of electricity, particularly if it is abundant, should not be used by any other undertaking as a means of financial gain. It should be used for the general benefit of the consumers, and not of picked consumers. It will be most difficult to apportion the supplies obtained from different sources, and it may prove not to be worth the investigation. It would be better for us if my right hon. Friend could adopt a simpler method. He is worthy of commendation and not of criticism for trying to do this. He would have been subject to much more criticism if he had done nothing. But I am not sure that this method is the best. I would ask him to look at it again and see whether there could not be an improvement on his Amendment.

I share the hon. Member's feeling that the Secretary of State should be commended for his effort to pass on the benefit of a cheaper supply to consumers, but the Clause is so complicated that his object cannot possibly he achieved by it. There is a very simple test. Is it the type of 'agreement which any two private companies would enter into if a similar situation arose? Of course not. No one with commercial or industrial experience would negotiate or sign an agreement of this type. I urge that further consideration should be given to the matter and to alternative methods of passing on the benefits of the cheaper source of supply. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) mentioned the limitation of dividends. That has worked extremely successfully with a large num- ber of gas companies. A gas company working under that arrangement cannot increase its dividends except in so far as it decreases its charges to consumers. That is not a theoretical or highly complicated arrangement of the type set out in the Amendment, but it is a method which has worked successfully with great advantage to the consumer and has been a great incentive to efficiency on the part of the producers for a great many years. I would urge the Secretary of State to reconsider this matter and to see whether he cannot adopt that method of passing on the benefit of reduced charges to the consumer. It is a method I should like to see extended to many industries.

I hope that the Secretary of State will respond to the appeals that have been made to him. I am trying to visualise how this will work. You have the actual cost, and then you go into the hypothetical cost—always a little difficult for those administering the existing Act so far as their relations with the Electricity Board are concerned. Having established that the hypothetical cost is lower than the actual cost, a lump sum payment will be made by the Board to the undertaking concerned. They find that they have, say, £5,000 which they did not expect. They then have to look at the whole of their accounts. They may have 20,000 or 30,000 consumers, and they must find out what each consumer's share is, go through all their accounts, and make out 30,000 cheques in order in some cases to return 2s. 6d. The cost of administration will be greater than the cost of the benefit, and it seems the most cumbersome method I have ever heard of. Not many people realise how costly these clerical operations are. The B.B.C. licence, for instance, costs is. to issue. It costs 8d. to cash a cheque. What will be the cost of sending a cheque for 2s. 6d.? It will cost Is. 2d. if you take postage, clerical work and the rest of it. It is a most cumbersome method, and it would be much better to let the money be carried forward into the next year and have some readjustment nr come method of adjusting dividends 'as has been suggested.

It seems to be the general view of the Committee that if any other method could be found, it would be wise to find it. Examples have been given of precedents in the case of. gas companies which might well be adopted. Precedents are to be found also in the electrical industry, and the method of dealing with it is found in the Act of 1926, which has frequently been referred to. The Committee which dealt with that Act deserves the admiration of the House. It went into this Matter with minute attention, and it envisaged such a situation as we have here. In Sections 31 and 32 of that Act we have the whole thing placed before us. The consumer is completely safeguarded. We have to ensure that by the introduction of this new Board companies which take its supply do not make excessive profits but will pass them on to the consumer. Everybody is agreed about that. What we are trying to do is to find a way of ensuring it. My right hon. Friend produces a new provision which looks politically very attractive, but it is not necessary. It is window-dressing. Section 31 and 32 of the 1926 Act are by the Schedules incorporated in this Bill. Section 31 says:

"On a power company commencing to receive a supply of electricity from the Board, the Minister of Transport may revise the maximum prices authorised under the special Act of the company to be charged by the company for supplies, other than supplies in bulk to authorised undertakers, and may revise the standard prices fixed by such Act and on such revision in determining the maximum and standard prices regard shall be had to any change in the cost of electricity to the company attributable to this Act."
Is not that completely analogous? Section 32 says:
"Where any company, being authorised undertakers and not being a power company receive a supply of electricity either directly or indirectly from the Board, the Electricity Commissioners may, if, having regard to any change in the cost of electricity to the company attributable to this Act, they think it expedient, by a special order … make provision as to the relation between the charges to be made for electricity and the dividends to be paid by the company, etc."
In the first case we have the consumers' position safeguarded, and in the second we have the assurance that the company is not to make excess profits. What more can we ask, and why bother us with this cumbersome and unworkable Amendment?

If it were all as easy as my hon. Friend seeks to explain it, I would not have moved this Amendment. We are not only dealing with the Grampian Company; we are dealing with authorised undertakers and with local authorities. In the case of local authorities there is no question of dividends.

Surely my right hon. Friend is not going to suggest that the local authorities will take advantage of their position and refuse a reduction to their consumers?

That is what I am trying to explain. We are dealing not only with a company which earns and pays dividends, but with local authorities. We cannot, therefore, get a formula which applies readily equally to these types of producers. It is not so easy to relate any reduction in price to standard dividends. For example, the Grampian Company has, as the Cooper Report stated, been paying on an average only about 3⅘ths per cent., but their standard dividend, fixed by Section 10 of the Scottish Highlands Electricity Supply Order, 1932, is 8 per cent. Are we, therefore, to assume that before any advantage in prices is to be passed on to the consumer in the Grampian area the standard dividend of 8 per cent. is to be paid? If it were all so easy and could be boiled down to a simple formula we would have done it.

I agree that this form is not the last word to be said on the matter. We have had the advice of the Electricity Commissioners and of skilled accountants, and we have discussed it with the Grampian Company and everybody concerned. To the best of our knowledge and belief we can calculate the price at which we supply electricity to an authorised undertaker. There may be differences of opinion and calculation as to the cost at which a like supply of electricity could be produced by authorised undertakings, but we are assured by accountants that that is not impossible. We say that the difference between the cost at which the supply can be produced and the cheaper price at which it can be given ought to be transmitted to the consumers. I am willing in the light of anything that has been said to see between now and the Report stage whether there can be any possible Amendment that would be of advantage. We are all agreed on the principle. The sole point about which we have to make tip our minds is how to get a formula that is more or less watertight and that will apply equally to authorised undertakers and local authorities. We admit the difficulties; we openly announce the difficulties; but we say that this is the best that we have been able to do up to now. We think it is watertight, but we do not guarantee it. It is the best we can do, but if between now and the Report stage we can get anything better, we will certainly get it.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 21—(Application Of Electricity Supply Acts To Board)

I beg to move, in page 14, line 5, after the first "Act," to insert:

and any scheme approved and confirmed thereunder."
This might be described as a drafting Amendment, but I should like to give a word of explanation about it. Throughout the Electricity Supply Acts there are references from time to time to special Acts of Parliament. These are special Acts conferring powers upon local authorities, companies and so on to produce and distribute electricity. In these specials Acts the detailed construction schemes and so forth are set out, whereas in the present Bill the details are left to the schemes which are to be approved of. The object of the Amendment is to secure that any reference to special Acts will apply not only to this Bill when it becomes an Act but to the distribution and construction schemes which are established under it.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 14, line 8, to leave out from "1899," to the end of the Clause, and to add:

"(2) The provisions of the aforesaid Acts and Schedule as they apply to Scotland shall in relation to the North of Scotland District have effect subject to the adaptations and modifications set forth in the Fifth Schedule to this Act."
The object of this Amendment is to carry out an undertaking given on Second Reading by the Lord Advocate that the modifications and adaptations of the Electricity Supply Acts which are to be incorporated in this Bill and applied to this Board should be laid down in a Schedule instead of being made by Regulations.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 22—(Control Of New Generating Stations)

I beg to move, in page 4, line 14, to leave out "other than the Board."

This Clause deals with the control of further generating stations or the extension of existing generating stations in the Board's area. As the Clause stands, there is a prohibition against erecting any new generating station of more than 50 kilowatts unless the consent of the Electricity Commissioners is obtained. We have come to the conclusion that there is no reason why that prohibition should be so wide. The whole object of this Clause is to safeguard the future operations of the Board. The Board is primarily a hydroelectric board, and therefore it is very necessary to provide that no one is to jump-in in front of the Board and make use of hydro-electric capacity which the Board might ultimately want, but there is not the same reason why the Board should be the only body to make new steam stations. Accordingly, the purpose of this Amendment and the two others which follow it is to take out of Clause 22 all reference to steam or non-hydro stations and to keep the Clause strictly to its proper functions, namely, the control of further utilisation of water power in the Highlands.

The Board have power under the scheme to schedule the water which they require or which they may require, but supposing there is a company which wants to generate electricity from water which the Board have decided they do not propose to use. Why should we prevent that private company from generating electricity from water with a plant beyond a rating of 50 kilowatts? Why tie them down? Surely that would be very unfair.

The Electricity Commissioners would certainly be misapprehending their functions if they refused consent under this Clause for some other reason than the protection of the Board's future activities, and if it should turn out, as the hon. Member suggests, that it is clear that the Board have no interest in a particular source of waterpower the Commissioners ought to have no hesitation in giving their consent. I hope that that explanation of their functions is adequate.

There is no necessity to secure the permission of the Electricity Commissioners provided the undertaking is under 50 kilowatts, and if the Board are not going to use the water in that area why should it be necessary to retain that restriction as to 50 kilowatts?

The concession that a 50-kilowatt station can be erected is given because a station of that size in a place where the Board were ultimately going to develop hydro-electric power would not be so very embarrassing, but if there were a bigger station in a place where the Board were ultimately going to operate it would be embarrassing and hampering.

As I said, if they go to the Commissioners and ask for permission to put up a large water-power station in a place where it is plain the Board have no interest then it would be the duty of the Commissioners to give their consent.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 14, line 15, leave out "generating station," and insert:

"private generating station operated by water and."

In line 16, leave out "generating station," and insert

"private generating station so operated."—[The Lord Advocate.]

I beg to move, in page 14, line r8, at the end, to add:

"This restriction shall not apply to the establishment or extension of a private generating station.
Provided that, in the case of the establishment of a new private generating station, the owner thereof shall comply with any regulation made by the Electricity Commissioners as to the type of current, frequency and pressure to be used, but such regulations shall be so framed as not to interfere with the economical and efficient working of the business for which the supply is generated."

I think it might be for the convenience of the Committee if this Amendment were discussed in conjunction with the following Amendment: In page 14, line 18, at the end, to add:

"Provided that the Electricity Commissioners shall not refuse or withhold their consent to the establishment of any such new generating station or to the extension of any existing generating station as aforesaid in any case where such establishment or extension would having regard to all the circumstances be the most economic means of supplying the electricity required."

The objects which I had in putting down my Amendment have practically been met by the Amendments introduced by the Secretary of State and by the remarks he made in answer to one of my hon. Friends behind me. I should like to make the position clear before I ask leave, if necessary, to withdraw the Amendment. The object of the Amendment originally was to safeguard what I may call modern technical processes. If one is using steam, naturally one ought to get every ounce of value out of it, and modern technical processes nearly always require one to make by-products. That side of the case has been met, because the Government Amendments provide that the restriction applies only to electricity generated by water power; but there is one point left in connection with electricity developed from water power which arises out of the prohibition on stations exceeding 50 kilowatts. If you are generating electricity by water-power, it is as necessary as in the case of steam to use the whole of the power available at a particular place. If there is water-power which would produce 250 kilowatts, it is not economical to take from it only 50 kilowatts, thus preventing the other 200 kilowatts being utilised. However, if I understand the Lord Advocate aright, where water-power has not been specifically scheduled for use by the new Board and somebody proposes to use that water-power to generate electricity, he will have no difficulty in obtaining the consent of the Commissioners to produce not merely 50 but even 250 kilowatts for his own purpose from that particular source of water-power. I understood from the Lord Advocate that unless the water-power was specifically scheduled—

No, I do not say that. I say that if it could be shown that the Board had no interest in the future development of this place—and obviously the Commissioners would find out from the Board whether they were interested and if they said they were interested no doubt they would be asked to explain why—the Commissioners he wrong to withhn1,4 their sent.

I think that meets my point. I put it positively, but I should have put it negatively, and said that if it is shown that the Board has no reasonable interest in the source of supply, then there would be nothing to prevent a person exploiting that water supply and exploiting it to its full value, providing he does not attempt to sell the current elsewhere but for his own purposes. I understand that the limitation about 50 kilowatts is not likely to apply, and that the Commissioners will not unreasonably withhold consent for him to develop the whole water-power available to him when the Board have said they have no interest in it. Could the Lord Advocate confirm that?

Amendment negatived.

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

I should like to ask whether, in the case of existing generating stations, they will be allowed to extend only to the maximum of 50 kilowatts, or could they extend to, say, 70 kilowatts?

I confess it is a little difficult to give an answer in the period of a second, but what the Clause says is that, except with the consent of the Commissioners, it will be unlawful to erect

"a new generating station having plant with a rating exceeding fifty kilowatts or to extend any existing generating station in the said district by the installation of plant with a rating exceeding fifty kilowatts."
I think that grammatically the 50 refers to the plant now to be installed, and though I do not want to tie myself, I think the answer would be 70.

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

Clause 23 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 24—(Local Inquiries)

I beg to move, in page 14, line 28, to leave out "Where," and to insert:

"The provisions of the Sixth Schedule to this Act shall apply to any inquiry held."
This Amendment, and the Amendment which follows—in line 28, to leave out from "Act" to the end of the Clause—will, I feel sure, commend themselves to the Committee, particularly to my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies. The Clause as it stands provides for the procedure at local inquiries, and makes reference to the detailed procedure set forth in an Act of Parliament which applies only to England. Accordingly, it anyone were holding a local inquiry, he would have to refer to this English Statute to find out the procedure. The object of the Amendment is to set up in a Schedule the procedure to be followed at these local inquiries, so that anyone wishing to ascertain the procedure will be able to look it up in the Schedule instead of going to an Act of Parliament which applies only south of the Tweed.

I can see the force of having this provision in the Bill, but hon. Members have complained all along that too little was in the Bill and too much was referred to other Statutes. I agree it is a simpler and handier method to have it in the Bill. I understand that it is the English Act which determines the procedure at the inquiry. That does not mean that it is bad; but is there not a form of inquiry in Scotland? What is the method now, and what is the objection to making the Act which covers present inquiries cover the inquiries under the Bill?

The procedure for local inquiries in Scotland is rather out of date just now and really requires to be brought up to date. The hon. Member may be assured that, so far as any local inquiry becomes necessary under the Bill, the procedure will be up to date because it is to be set out in the Schedule. It corresponds, with certain exceptions, to the procedure detailed under the English Act of 1933, which is comparatively recent. By adopting, subject to certain modifications which are appropriate to the Bill, the proceedings set out in the 1933 English Act, we shall have a code for holding local inquiries under this Measure which will be very much more up to date than anything we have had in former inquiries.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 14, line 28, leave out from "Act" to the end of the Clause.—[ The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 25—(Power To Conduct Experiments)

I beg to move, in page 14, line 40, after "generation," to insert "transmission."

The word "transmission" appears to have been left out by mistake. Surely it should be included.

The word has been deliberately kept out. I will explain the reason why we should still prefer it to be kept out. There has been criticism about the whole of Clause 25 on the ground that, in so far as a large number of experiments have been conducted in other parts of the country it was unnecessary to have duplication. We say that there are special conditions and circumstances in the North of Scotland which require special experiments, with the approval of the Commissioners but not for transmission. There may be no duplication. We think that the Amendment which we shall next propose will meet the whole case.

Does the Minister mean that the word "transmission" was left out on the ground that experiments in transmission are carried out already?

If that is the considered view, of course that is the end of it. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 14, line 41, after "electricity" to insert:

"in the special conditions and circumstances in the North of Scotland District."

I have an Amendment down about the same matter, but, with your permission, Major Milner, I will say what I have to say now and save the time of the Committee. On an earlier Clause the Minister attempted to give an assurance that certain conditions about wind power would be laid down as part of the activities of the new Board, but he was ruled out of Order by the Chair. I would like to say why the North-West and North part of the Highlands want to emphasise this matter of wind power. Hon. Members who have visited the Northern islands of Scotland will know that the terrain is such that the development of water power may be impossible. On the other hand, in islands like Tiree or Coll or some of those in the constituency of the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan), bordering on the Atlantic, with Atlantic gales more frequent even than breezes, it may be possible that the Board can experiment with wind power and perhaps be able to generate sufficient electrical power in those islands to furnish the islands with electricity and so save considerable expense to toe Board in making surveys and finding ways and means of adapting water power. I believe that the Secretary of State has conducted experiments of this kind in his own private way. I hope therefore that members of the Board, even though they may not know the islands as well as some of us—

I only wanted to say to the hon. and gallant Member that his Amendment is unnecessary. 4-Power is implied in Clause 25 to enable the Board to conduct experiments in wind power. For my part, I agree with him entirely as to the absolute importance of these experiments being conducted. I happen to know, from some experiments I have conducted myself, that it is possible to light a small cottage by wind power. I happen to know also that there are certain organisations in England which are willing to sell plant when the war is over at a very cheap price. Of course, there are some experiments still to be conducted about how to prevent overcharging of batteries and how prevailing winds can have their special force abated. All these matters are vital to certain parts of the Highlands.

And Islands, of course. It is obvious that there are parts of the Highlands and Islands where hydro-electricity will not be available for a good many years to come; where, indeed, wind-driven electricity might be a much cheaper proposition. For those reasons I suggest that the hon. and gallant Member need not move his Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 14, to leave out line 42 and to add "they may think fit."

This is a small point. The Clause enables the Board to carry out experiments, but is it not remarkable that this Board, which will be composed of very remarkable people, cannot carry out these experiments in wind power without coming up to Westminster and asking whether they can do so? The Board should be left to do this experimenting in the way they think fit. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to agree with me for once that this is bureaucracy gone a little mad.

There is not very much in this matter, and theoretically, what the hon. Gentleman says is probably correct. I would endeavour to enlighten him as to the varied interests that have been struggling in this matter. There are the interests which say, "Please do not conduct any experiments at all, because you will incur expense, which will mean less money for other areas and fat the authorised undertakers." We have had to steer very carefully in these matters. We were advised that on these technical matters the Electricity Commissioners have very considerable experience and information which they will readily make available to the new Hydro Board. I do not think there is very much in the matter either way, but I am sure that it will placate other sections if the words proposed by the hon. Member are not put in.

The Board will be composed of men of common sense. Members of the Government are constantly asking that the Board should have some liberty in these matters. Let us give them some kind of freedom in the way suggested that there is not much in it. the Board might feel a little tied them clown in this matter. [HON MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]