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Clause 22—(Control Of New Generating Stations)

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 6 May 1943

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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.