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Fifth Schedule—(Adaptations And Modifications Of Provisions Of The Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1882 To 1936, And Of The Schedule To The Electric Lighting Clauses Act, 1899)

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 27 May 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move, in page 22, line II, to leave out "sections", and to insert "provisions."

This is a drafting Amendment consequential on the Amendment to the Schedule made in the Committee stage. The word "sections" is not wide enough to cover the Amendment made on the Committee stage.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 23, line 7, at the end, to insert:

"and for the words on an annual salary in the proviso there shall be substituted the words in the performance of administrative, professional, clerical supervisory or technical duties not being a person employed by way of manual labour on a weekly or less than a weekly wage.'"
This is consequential to an Amendment accepted on the Committee stage. We agreed to put in a substitution in one place for the words "on an annual salary". The same words occurred in another place in the legislation, and therefore it is necessary to make the Amendment in the second place to bring it into line.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 24, line 14, to leave out "from time to time."

This Amendment and the following one are to deal with a point which was brought forward on the Committee stage of the Bill. It relates to long-term contracts, making it clear that it is permissible for the new Board to make them.

Amendment agreed to.

Consequential Amendment made.

I beg to move, in page 26, line 8, to leave out be omitted, "and to insert" not apply to the Board."

This Amendment and the one which follows are intended to deal with a point which has been brought to our notice. There are existing controls on the power of authorised undertakets to put up overhead lines. It is not desirable or necessary that those controls should operate in the case of the Board, because the control over the Board under this Bill takes the shape of a construction or a distribution scheme, but it is desirable that the control should continue to operate in the case of any undertaker other than the Board operating in the area, and it is in order to make certain that the controls just come in the right place that these two Amendments are necessary.

Amendment agreed to.

Consequential Amendment made.

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

I think it will be for the convenience of the House for me shortly to move the Third Reading and for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to make his remarks after other hon. Members who desire to address the House have spoken. There is one point I should like to deal with, because my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) has referred to it. I think I can, within the Rules of Order, say this, in considering what is now in the Bill, that the present form of Clause 6 has been scrutinised very carefully in the light of the observations of my hon. Friend. As so often happens, two proposals are made, but they are not very easy to marry, and it is better to have one proposal standing by itself rather than try to incorporate with it something that does not go very well with it. We came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that to adopt any of the suggestions made would not improve but, on the contrary, would rather impair the provisions as they stand in the Bill; but I can assure my hon. Friend that all he said in his speech has been carefuly examined by myself, and I have, of course, consulted my colleague, and in the light of that examination we are of the opinion that it would be better to have the Bill as it stands.

We have now reached the last stage of this Bill in this House, and I think it will be agreed in all quarters of the House that during its progress it has been considerably improved by the Amendments which have been made, but I feel bound to place on record that in the view of some hon. Members and myself it still remains a bad Bill, and in the few remarks I propose to make I will invite the House to agree with me. I think the fact that it is a bad Bill is to some extent due to the unfortunate history of this House itself. This problem as affecting this particular part of Scotland has frequently been before the House in recent years, and I would like to remind hon. Members of what was said in the Cooper Report in reference to the point I am now on. In paragraph 14 it says:

"Since 1922 20 years have passed during which the Highlands have sunk into deepening depression and the greater part of their valuable power resources is still running to waste. The discouragement which has been offered to any further private enterprise or initiative in this field has been very grave, for it is not easy to answer the challenge that the only policy which can be deduced from the action during these 20 years of a succession of Parliaments and of Governments is that they will neither develop the resources themselves nor allow anyone else to do so.
That makes my point, that the record of this House in dealing with this long-outstanding problem is not one of which we can be very proud. There is one other reference in the Cooper Report to which I would draw attention. Criticism has been directed at times and much prejudice created against the Grampian Company, and the Report says this:
"In view of the criticisms which have so frequently been directed against the Grampian Company in the course of their Parliamentary promotions, we feel bound to record our conclusions that they have proved them, selves under conditions of unusual difficulty to be competent planners of electrical development and capable suppliers."
The Report goes on to say:
"The net revenue of the company after deducting working costs and depreciation has averaged over the whole period of the Grampian Company's existence a little over three and a half per cent."
I hope the House will not think it inappropriate if I interpose this: For many years we had a colleague in this House who was the former Member for, Hampstead, the late Mr. George Balfour. He was largely responsible for the development of electricity throughout a large part of Scotland. He possessed a sturdy independence and tenacity of view which may not always have appealed to some Members of the House, but I think the Cooper Report, which he never lived to see, is a complete vindication of the Work he carried out in Scotland, and I hope when it comes to our turn to pass on we shall have a record to leave behind us which is no worse than that of our late colleague.

I have said that this is still a bad Bill, much as it has been improved, and I say that for one or two reasons. In the first place, it still remains a very bureaucratic Measure. Why do I say that? The Electricity. Commissioners are given far wider powers under this Bill than Parliament ever previously granted to them. There are no less than ten circumstances under the Bill in which full authority is left to the Commissioners to make decisions. In Clause 2 (I, b) they are empowered to decide whether the Board or the power company should supply in bulk to an authorised undertaker inside the power company's area. That is a power that was not granted by this House even to the Central Electricity Board when it was set up under the Act, I think, of 1926. The point I want to make is that there is no appeal. Either of the two parties may think it has a grievance which it would like to refer to an independent arbitrator, but there is no appeal whatsoever. In Clause 2 (I, c) the Commissioners are empowered to decide whether the Board or an authorised undertaker may supply large power-users in the hitherto "chartered areas", to use the Secretary of State's term, of the authorised undertakers, and again there is no appeal. Under Clause 4 (2) they have to approve the development scheme. That is one of the appropriate powers. Under Clause 5 (3) they have to approve a construction scheme, but this time they have to obtain the approval of Parliament by the submission of an Order. So here, for once, we do exercise some measure of control.

In Clause 6 (3) they are empowered to approve distribution schemes. I agree that it may be argued that there they should have absolute authority to decide what may or may not be done. When we come to Clause re, we find they are empowered to decide what tariffs should be charged. There may be differences between the Board and the Commissioners, but again there is no appeal. Under Clause 12 they are empowered to decide how capital shall be raised and on what terms. Here there is a Safeguard, because they are subject to Treasury approval, and when it is a question of £30,000,000 and the principal and interest are to be guaranteed by the Treasury, obviously it is only right that the Treasury should have something to say about it. In Clause 18 they are empowered to decide whether the Board may acquire undertakings inside the chartered area of any power company, thus conflicting with the latter's rights conferred upon them by Parliament, and once again there is no appeal. In Clause 19 the Commissioners may decide the terms upon which transmission lines belonging to others may be jointly used, and though there may be a genuine difference of opinion between the two bodies, again there is no appeal.

Finally, under Clause 20, they may decide what economies have been secured by an undertaking taking supplies in bulk from the Board and how that economy should be passed on to the consumers. Although we have passed a greatly improved Clause 20, and therefore I am much more satisfied with it than I was, again I would point out there is no appeal. In six out of the ten instances I have given in which they have complete or almost complete powers under this Bill there is no appeal, although in my view there ought, in common justice, to be a right of appeal from their decisions when serious differences arise.

The next reason why I ask the House to agree that this is a bad Bill is that I doubt very much whether any hon. Member has ever seen a more appalling case of legislation by reference. In the Fifth Schedule no fewer than eight Acts of Parliament are referred to. Some Clauses in those. Acts are to be omitted and others are to be applied, and anyone who tries to ascertain what may or may not be done under this Bill will have to refer to a mass of Acts to make quite sure that the power or the prohibition is there. This type of legislation is novel and bad because it completely ignores all past legislation governing all existing electricity undertakings, and it shows how easy it is to have to bring in appallingly bad legislation when you depart from the Measures which Parliament, in its wisdom, has put on the Statute Book for the guidance of a great industry like this.

There is one almost amusing point to which I would direct the attention of the House. This Bill is backed, as hon. Members will observe, by Mr. Secretary Johnston, supported by Sir John Anderson, Secretary Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Ernest Brown, Sir William Jowitt, and—who comes next?—Major Lloyd George, Minister of Fuel and Power.

The Electricity Commissioners were appointed under Section 35, I think it is, of the Act of 1919, to be under the direction of, and to be responsible to, the Minister of Transport, who now, of course, is replaced by the Minister of Fuel and Power. They are responsible to the Minister of Fuel and Power. Where has he been throughout all these proceedings? Not conspicuous by his presence, but by his absence. I see he is here to-day. The only power I can discover in this Bill which is retained for my right hon. and gallant Friend is a joint power with the Secretary of State for Scotland to appoint the members of this Board. But the Electricity Commissioners will now have two masters. They are responsible under this Bill to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and except in this particular area they will be responsible to the Minister of Fuel and Power throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. "No man can serve two masters." He will despise the one and love the other. I am not quite sure on which Minister the love of the Commissioners will eventually be bestowed. I am still unhappy, very unhappy, about Clause 2 (3), on page 2 of the Bill. I would ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State whether he would look at it. We had some discussion on the Committee stage on this Sub-section. The Secretary of State said that this Subsection was not intended to confer upon the Board any powers other than those dealing with electricity. The view of my hon. Friends and myself was that the Sub-section goes far wider than that, and can be so interpreted. I am referring to Clause 2, Sub-section (3), on page 2.

Yes, line 28. What did the Secretary of State say during the Committee stage on this point? He said this: I am quoting from Column 233 of Hansard of 5th May:

"I do not want to mislead, either intentionally or otherwise."
I am sure the Secretary of State has never made any attempt to do that throughout the whole of the discussions on this Bill. He has been transparently honest with everybody. He went on to say:
"I merely want to say that half the purpose of this Bill is to restore the population to the Highlands, to provide social amenities for the area; and we desire to have some Clause in the Bill providing that this. Board shall be something more than merely, as someone said to-day, a cold-hearted hydro-electric organisation. It is a development Board as well.
"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May, 1943; col. 233, Vol. 389.] That confirms the fears we have about this Sub-section. If I might give a very brief illustration of the fear I have, it is that the Board, under this Clause, might acquire great areas of land in anticipation of future development, pay for it, and get no revenue from it for a number of years. Land is often bought and held, as we all know, and legislation is being considered by this House at the moment for the better control and prevention of that sort of thing. But here they might acquire a considerable amount of land, and if they have to hold it without any material revenue for a number of years—

I am sure the hon. Member does not want intentionally or otherwise to mislead the House. May I draw his attention to the fact that the Board cannot acquire land unless under a constructional scheme, and that a constructional scheme must be approved by the Secretary of State and the House before such proceedings as he envisages can take place.

I always like, if possible, to accept the assurance of a Minister, but we all know that assurances given in Debate cannot be taken into account when lawyers have to consider the effect of an Act of Parliament. Speeches in the House then count for nothing. I have asked the Secretary of State more than once to put in just one word in this Subsection which will remove all doubts, so that the Sub-section would read:

"The Board shall, so far as their powers and duties hereunder permit, …"
The interposition of that one word "hereunder" would satisfy us, and I would ask the Secretary of State whether he would again consider this matter between now and the consideration of the Measure in another place.

There is not much more I want to say, but I want to refer to the Treasury guarantee of £30,000,000 without which the promotion of this scheme would, of course, be utterly impossible, because money could not be raised for it without a guarantee of this kind. The future prospects of the scheme to meet outgoings are at least problematical for some years to come, yet I think that any scheme which is likely to benefit this part of Scotland is one which every Member of this House would like to further. But I want to issue this final word of warning. If there should be any so optimistic as to imagine that this scheme is likely to be in operation three or four years from now, I think they can disabuse their Minds of it; it is most unlikely that this scheme will come into being as an operative measure for five or six years. It will be constructed at a time when civil engineering costs must inevitably be considerably higher than if this scheme had been allowed to proceed in the pre-war years when it was invariably turned down by this House. Therefore the time when income and outgoings will balance may be nine or ten years hence. That does not necessarily mean that the scheme ought not to be proceeded with. I do not say that for a moment. There is not a single power company undertaking in the country that in the earlier pioneering years, which may have been from 6 to 10 years, earned a dividend for its shareholders. It was only after the last war that they got on to their feet and went forward. Let no one think that this is going to be a scheme which will balance itself very speedily. In fact the time may come when some of the original construction cost, because it is more than it would be in normal times, may have to be written down. In that case the Treapry must be prepared to see, with the consent of the House, that extra cost written off. All the same, and though it is a bad Bill, I and those with me give it our blessing and hope it will confer great benefit on this area of Scotland at no distant date.

When this Bill was last before the House I endeavoured to voice the very grave disquiet that was felt by some Members and in some parts of the country, not only in Scotland but throughout Britain, at the doubtful finance contained in it, both as openly revealed in its provisions and as underlying them, and particularly the manner in which it had been made palatable by the incorporation into the promises made, in the speeches introducing the Bill, of what I might call by the very blessed and Mesopotamian word "regeneration." Unfortunately I was ruled out of Order when I tried to make those remarks on the Committee stage, and rightly, but now, on the Third Reading, I cannot let this opportunity pass without making at least one protest against what I consider to be a menace not only to Celtic Scotland but to the general social well-being of the whole of Britain.

Before I proceed very briefly to discuss these points may I explain why a mere Welshman should be so concerned for the fate of Celtic Scotland? It is partly on the analogy of the poor stranger of the Gospel who alone returned to give thanks for the benefits which the natives did not appreciate, and partly because professionally I am concerned with the fate of all Celtic countries, and not Wales alone, and because I am only too well aware of how the old way of life which depends on the survival of the Welsh and the Celtic languages, is regarded by some members of the present generation with contempt and even with hatred.

In the first place, there is the more general matter of the provisions of the Bill, in Clause 2, for the distribution of electricity to Scotland. As I understand it —and I suggest that one cannot understand the Bill without reference to and thorough familiarity with the Cooper Report, that superlative example of a company promoter's prospectus—as I understand it, the heavy industries which are described in the Bill as "large power users" will be enticed 443 the Highlands by the provision of electricity at a specially favourable rate.

I understood the hon. Member to say that the heavy industries would be attracted.

Perhaps my definition of these industries as heavy industries is not a good one; the Cooper Report says that the chemical and metallurgical industries would be attracted.

I should say that the metallurgical industries are fairly heavy. Let me quote the words of the Bill,

"appreciably more economically than the authorised undertakers."
Because the Board is to be sustained by the guarantee of £30,000,000 of public money it will be able—indirectly of course —to place certain industries in such a privileged position that they can command profits impossible elsewhere in Britain, and, while, of course, there is a limit prescribed by the Bill to the profit to be made by the Hydro-Electric Board itself, there is no limit or control of the profits made by those industries which will come in its wake.

Is it not provided in the Bill that the cheapness of the electricity which is obtained from these undertakings must be passed on to the consumer?

No, I am speaking of industrial undertakings, not electricity undertakings. There is no provision in the Bill for dealing with the profits of concerns which come to Scotland because they are attracted by cheaper electricity. At the same time, the one undertaking which is designed to serge the public interest in the matter of electric power, the Grid, is compelled by Clause 16 to buy all the electricity that the Hydro-Electric Board prescribes at a very enhanced rate, the top price of steam-generated' power in Scotland. So industries, in Scotland and elsewhere, drawing their power from the Grid will necessarily be unable to compete with the new favoured industries in this area. In other words, by the authority of Parliament, as expressed in this Bill, these new industries will be able to close the deadly hand of monopoly around the throat of all other enterprises. We have often listened to Members on the other side of the House decrying the killing of private enterprise by State interference. This is not the place to comment on that, but what will the guardians of private enterprise think of a condition in which one private enterprise, uncontrolled and un-scrutinised by the State, is enabled by the help of State interference to strangle all other private enterprise. To describe that, I would borrow Shakespeare's phrase—"A chartered libertine "—if it were not too mild. It seems to me that the only phrase that is adequate to describe such a proceeding is the name given to that discredited form of piracy in the old days—" Letters of Marque."

I come to the benefits that are to accrue to the farmers, the crofters, and the fishermen by the provision of cheap electricity. If there is one matter on which all Members of this House are agreed, it is the necessity of providing cheap electricity for the countryside all over Britain; and if this Bill were designed, as the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State, honestly believes, to make life in the Highlands more comfortable and more abundant for the crofter and the fisherman, there is no man in this House who would not welcome it with acclamation. The Bill, as now amended, contains the words:
"Including isolated areas."
But what can possibly be the value of that guarantee when we know that the Cooper Report drawn, up by the experts has stated unequivocally its opinion, in these words:
"It is, in our view, plain that the general provision of electricity to crofts and fishing hamlets throughout the Highlands for domestic and small-power users is quite impracticable."
And again:
"It has become apparent to us that in certain quarters expectations are entertained as to the possibilities of electrical developments in the remoter areas of rural Scotland."
What is the comment on that?
"— which under no conceivable circumstances can be realised."
No words of mine can be nearly as strong as what is said in that Report. I think these words give the lie direct to the words
"including isolated areas"
now added to the Bill. They dispose, of the contention that life in the Highlands, the traditional manner of living in Celtic Scotland, is going to be benefited by this Bill. What possible value except "made-to-sell" value can be in the futile and disingenuous addition of such words? This Bill, in my view, will not only fail to achieve the objective of regeneration, but it will actually help to destroy what life there is in the Highlands at present, as I hope to show very briefly.

Now we come to the Hydro-Electric Board as a public utility undertaking. I make no apology for claiming that such a concern, especially when backed by vast sums of public money, should fulfil the meaning of both words, "public" and "utility." In other words, it should serve the greatest possible number with the least possible concomitance of private gain. This great undertaking, backed by the nation to the extent of a guarantee of £30,000,000 should be a national concern, and should benefit the Highlands directly and openly, by the provision of cheap national electricity, and not, I maintain, indirectly and covertly by secondary activities which have as their only concern purely private profit, or, to borrow the language of hon. Members on the Labour benches, a vast extension of the capitalistic system and the creation of a vast new ganglion of vested interests. We hear a good deal these days of the black-coated interests of this country; perhaps this is a case which might well be described as the black-vested interests. While the farms, homes and workshops should be able to benefit by the close proximity of electric power, the residue of that power should go to the first and natural claimant, the National Electricity Board, the Grid, so that when similar schemes are brought before Parliament in future they may be adopted by the unanimous welcome of Cornwall as well as Caithness, of Kent as well as Anglesey, of Glasgow as well as London. The product of a public utility company, financed by the Treasury, must go to the benefit of the whole nation.

I need mention only one other similar monopoly, the wireless service, which is common to the whole nation at a uniform rate. The B.B.C., without reluctance and without question, has expended vast sums in bringing its benefits to the more remote areas of Scotland and Wales, where the listeners are very few and the licences make a very small contribution to the B.B.C's revenue. Or, to turn to a case to which a national utility is comparable, no sane person would dream of encouraging new industries to go to other areas by giving those new companies a cheaper telephone rate or a reduction in the cost of stamps because they happened to pitch their factories near where they made telephones or where they manufactured stamps. Such a scheme should be asked to do two things: first, to make a generous provision for the development and betterment of its own countryside—in this case of rural Scotland—and, secondly, to hand over all the rest for the benefit of the country in general. In both ways the Bill fails. The benefit to Scotland is small and problematic, in the light of what the Cooper Report says; and, by its hardly-concealed concession to big business, it is creating a vicious extension of monopoly capitalism. Yet speaker after speaker from the Labour benches has welcomed it as something which offers such outstanding benefits to the Highlands that their principles may for the time being be regarded as conveniently shelvable—a state which I believe the theologians call "interim morals." A wife beater once—

I am not in the least interested in what theologians may think. On Third Reading we must stick absolutely to the Bill.

Not on what the theologians may think. The hon. Member may illustrate what is in the Bill, but not what he thinks ought to be in the Bill—not on Third Reading.

I am dealing with the Bill and with what its provisions fail to do.

That is just the point. The hon. Member may not, on Third Reading, go into what he thinks should be in the Bill. He can deal only with what is actually there.

I thank you for that guidance, Sir. So far I have not referred to what I think ought to be in the Bill. I have tried to address myself to what is actually in the Bill. I was quoting an example. One Labour Member expressed the attitude of the party very clearly when he said that we must accept the industrial development of the Highlands in order to preserve the Highlands. What does "preserving the Highlands" mean? There was a time when "preserving the Highlands" meant denuding them of men and women in order to place deer there instead. The words still, to my ears, bear a very sinister sound. Did that hon. Member suggest seriously that such industrialisation of the Highlands as will follow on this Bill is going to preserve the Highland community, or put back among those desolate mountains the men and women who alone are entitled to the term "Highlanders"? If he did, then I think he believes in modern miracles.

I feel considerable diffidence in objecting to a Scottish Bill which has been welcomed so heartily by all my hon. Friends, but I am heartened to know, however, that one Member—the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan)—did share my apprehensions on this Bill and said so on Second Reading, and I am in complete agreement with what he said. The idea that by introducing large industries or manufactures or what not you can repeople the Highlands with their own natives, or even with Scotsmen, seems to me to be a foolish and dangerous delusion, as we in Wales only too well know, who saw the "repopulation" of the Welsh valleys not by our own sons and daughters, not even by Welshmen, but by masses of hungry hordes from the most backward districts of England. A dead lier method of destroying what remains of Highland life I cannot conceive. It is a method which will end for ever the life and civilisation of the Highlands and substitute for them, not even the life and civilisation of the Connemara cabin; it will be the life and civilisation of the Dublin slum. That has already happened in the rural parts of Scotland and in the Lowlands—

The hon. Member is getting right away from the Bill with these illustrations and I must ask him to keep to the Bill.

I bow to your Ruling, Sir. I gave exactly one illustration, and I intended to give one more, but in accordance with your Ruling, I shall not do so. It is agreed that the main concern of the Secretary of State is a very worthy one; it is based on a desire to regenerate the Highlands, and it is equally clear that he hopes to do so by industrialising them. He intends to do it, I take it, by the financial provisions of this Bill which lend themselves to giving big business what is virtually a bribe to carry on in the Highlands as they have carried on elsewhere. But this might have been done a long time ago when there was a fair population in the Highlands. It is now too late.

Before I sit down I would like the right hon. Gentleman to consider what will be the results of industrialising the Highlands. He will not bring back there those people who speak the Gaelic tongue and whose history, language and literature created a new romance for the whole of Europe during the nineteenth century. Almost the last pibroch has been played through the glens, and almost the last coronach has lamented the sons who will no more return from their world-wide diaspora in lands beyond the sea. We can no longer rebuild the clachans of the Highlands; let us take heed lest we plant there instead the cities of the plain.

I would like to congratulate the Secretary of State for Scotland upon having brought In this Bill to the House and taken it to the stage which it now has reached in this Chamber. I was amazed when I heard an hon. Gentleman opposite say that it was a bad Bill. If anything in the history of Parliament in recent years ever justified a Bill of this kind it was what happened during many years when Electricity Bills were brought forward for the development of water-power in the Highlands. Almost invariably, they were rejected by the House probably for a variety of reasons. As far as I am personally concerned, they were rejected because private people coming forward with Bills, so arranged their designs that they interfered with other people lower down the valleys and had no regard whatever to the interests of those other people. When these Bills went to the Examiners of the House they met the Standing Orders and the procedure of the normal Private Bills, and were rejected for reasons such as these, and possibly for a variety' of other reasons. I do not profess to say what moves the average Member to support or reject a Bill; I know what moved me to vote against particular Bills when they came forward, and it is the reason I have just stated.

This Bill obviates all that sort of thing. It appoints a Board which is to have the duty imposed upon it of developing the Highlands; and money is to be provided whereby it may carry out that development. If it produces a scheme to which local people object, those people have ample opportunity to make objections to the Board in the first instance, and to the Secretary of State for Scotland subsequently, if they so desire, and have the schemes amended. But it is not at all likely that a Board which is specifically set up for the purpose of benefiting the Highlands is likely to do anything that will militate against the interests of any great body of people in the Highlands. It is obvious to me that in a matter of this sort a Board of this kind was required, and I am glad to see that it has reached this stage. The Board will be set up and money will be provided for it to help in the development of the Highlands in the manner to which the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) was objecting a moment or two ago. He objected to the selling of power to the Central Electricity Board at a rate that was equal to that of a steam-run plant. Any manufacturer who comes to the Highlands of Scotland might, possibly, get some cheaper power than he could get in the South of Scotland or elsewhere, because he has to pay in the latter case for steam-generated power, which presumably is dearer than water-developed power. The hon. Member forgets that there is an additional cost to anyone who goes to the Highlands. There is the transport of material to the Highlands and of manufactured products back again. I should be very glad indeed if the Secretary of State for Scotland and this Board would be able, even under the conditions of this Bill, to persuade manufacturers to go to the Highlands.

It is true that large concerns like the carbide producing companies may possibly take advantage of this Bill. But smaller normal power users will make use of it only if they can get some advantage to compensate them for the additional transport to the Highlands and back again to the centres of population where their goods wig be distributed. Is it not most desirable that industries should be, spread as widely as possible throughout the country? It is obvious therefore to me that the Clause which gives the Board the power to supply electricity at the rate at which the steam-generating station can produce it is a right and justifiable suggestion. Any excess profit in the production of their own power from water has to be used in the area itself. The words of the Clause are:
"It would be the duty of the Board to provide supplies of electricity required to meet the demands of ordinary consumers including isolated areas."
I hope that that will be done to the greatest possible extent. I notice that the words "as far as practicable" have been added to the Clause. I regret to see those words there because the Board having an option of developing various areas may neglect others. They may say that to develop the other areas the cost will be so great that it is not practicable, whereas I would like to see, if it were possible, the whole area developed and the cost equally divided over the area concerned. That may not be practicable and it may be for that reason that the words "as far as practicable" are included in the Bill, but I earnestly hope that the instructions that the Secretary of State for Scotland will give to the Board will be to develop the smaller areas to the utmost possible extent. I hope they will spread electricity wherever possible and in that way they will undoubtedly benefit the Highlands and restore to them once again the population which they had many years ago.

Unlike the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) I pin my faith to this Bill which, I believe, will do a great deal for the Highlands and Islands. We can congratulate those responsible, on the skilful piloting of this Measure through a multiplicity of Amendments. It is good to know that it is a State Measure based on service for the good of the community, and not for profits to shareholders. Hence its general acceptance by the Highland counties. The Highlands certainly offer facilities for electricity second to none in Britain, and what has been done in this respect in Switzerland and Scandinavia is now possible in Scotland. By means of this Bill I hope to see development of industrial activity which has hitherto been denied to the Highlands and Islands. Those concerned about amenities and beauty spots will, I hope, now be satisfied with the safeguards provided. But, after all, we want to see the Highlands and Islands something more than a mere holiday resort or a sporting ground for deerstalkers for a few weeks. The tragedy of the Highlands and Islands has been depopulation, and to-day thousands of the descendants of Scottish exiles have returned from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Africa to fight for their mother country.

This Bill promises to be the key to economic and agricultural revival. The Highlands and Islands are a storehouse of non-metallic minerals which could and should be developed. Some concern has been shown about recent land speculation in the Highlands and this is of great importance to this Hydro-Electricity Measure. A glaring case is that of the purchase of 50,000 acres in Invernessshire by Panton Investments Ltd., a company that was formed in 1934 as the Prince of Wales Theatre Products Ltd. These 50,000 acres cover farms, croftings, townships, hill pastures, water-power resources, and light industry sites. What possible interest could such a company have in the Highlands? It certainly could not be to erect theatres. My contention is that a very watchful eye will have to be kept on land speculation of this kind. Electricity development in the Highland must not be plagued by land speculators. In planning for the future this Bill offers something worth having and I wish my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland the best of luck in this great new venture.

As one who has followed closely the progress of this Bill from its inception to the present stage and who had not an opportunity of commenting upon it during the Second Reading Debate, I welcome this chance of making some observations which have been in my mind from the first moment that I saw the. Measure. First, I take this opportunity of paying a very sincere tribute to the exceptionally friendly, courteous and accommodating way in which those particularly interested in the details of this Bill have been treated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Lord Advocate. An outstanding feature of the progress of this Measure has been theft extreme courtesy and consideration towards the many points of view which had to be brought to bear upon it. But for that I suggest that the Bill might have had a much rougher passage. We all know that there were many Amendments down to it which, had they been pressed, might have made the Bill so controversial as to cause its withdrawal by the Government. But all this has been avoided and I think the fact that it has been avoided is almost entirely due to the courtesy, consideration and accommodating spirit which has been shown in the conduct of the Bill.

This Bill is a great experiment and one which I have no intention whatsoever of frustrating. I am glad that the House by an overwhelming majority has obviously accepted the Bill in that spirit but I think it is right at this time that a caveat should be entered, lest certain people in Scotland, notably in the,Highlands, are carried away with enthusiasm for, and great expectations from, the Bill. I would like to quote a remark which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made in one of his Budget Speeches when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer:
"Blessed is he that expecteth little. Verily, he shall not be disappointed."
I feel that an impression has been created in certain minds in Scotland that this Bill will do great things for the Highlands and I think it would be a pity —and I think the Secretary of State himself, enthusiastic as he is for the Bill, would agree—if expectations were raised too high. After all, we have to remember that this Board is not really a Development Board in the true sense of the term. Its functions and collaboration, particularly under Clause 23, are really restricted to the provision of electricity. I sincerely hope, and I think there is every reason to believe, that some new and doubtless very important industries will come to the Highlands of Scotland as a result of this great new development of electrical power, but on the other hand it is important to remember that these industries are likely to be more in the nature of electrical-chemical and electro-metallurgical industries which T understand, although I am no expert, do not employ great numbers of people and are not likely to have a very material effect on employment in the Highlands, although they will use a considerable quantity of electricity and thereby be a substantial profit-making asset to the new Board. That is well and good and the new Board, no doubt, will welcome them with open arms to the Highlands although Highlanders may have mixed feelings when these industries start operations. If they think they will get a large measure of employment as the result, I think, they may be substantially disappointed.

While it is hoped that these industries will be attracted, they will not be attracted solely because of cheap electricity or the provision of abundant hydro-electric power. Other considerations will have to be taken into account, such as transport, the supply of raw materials, local rating, and convenient markets for the goods. Do not let us run away with the idea that the mere provision of this electricity will, automatically, cause a rush of industries to the Highlands of Scotland. While I believe specialised types of industries will be attracted, I think it is important to remember that what we need most of all in Scotland, especially in the Highland areas, is the provision of more light industries. The provision of these industries, in which the Secretary of State is so deeply interested, and which he has done so much to assist already, will depend to some extent on the provision of cheap power. But even then it is not a fundamental factor because I understand that in the total cost of production in light industries electricity, the cost of power as a whole, does not exceed about 3 per cent. So, I emphasise, as the first part of my remarks, that we should not be led' away into great expectations with regard to the advantages we shall get from the Bill from the point of view of employment in the Highlands of Scotland. I do not think we ought to have great expectations with regard to other advantages which the Highlands might get from the provisions of this Bill. In spite of the permissive Clauses in the Bill I do not think that the average glen, Highland village or croft will get very much benefit from the point of view of getting their own electricity unless it pays the Board to supply it. I imagine that it would not pay in many instances and if it does not, I have grave doubts as to whether the Board will supply it.

I have a feeling that the principal people behind this Bill are the Secretary of State—whose enthusiasm for bringing industries to Scotland leaves us in debt to him for what he has already done, and who is providing the stimulus towards this great objective—and the major metallurgical and chemical industries who feel that this will be a great opportunity for them to develop their business and trade, although not necessarily to the great advantage of Scotland. I have a feeling, too, that another of the major parties in this triumvirate are the Electricity Commissioners who are deeply concerned and who should be extremely gratified at the great powers which the House of Commons has given to them in this Bill. I hope and believe that they will use those powers with the greatest possible impartiality, having regard to the essential necessity for safeguarding the interests of all undertakers and because the Board has to see that it does not exercise its powers to the detriment of existing undertakers. It would be most unfortunate if, in this great experiment in which the existing undertakers are willing to co-operate, they should feel that they were, in any way, being crippled, handicapped or overridden by the great powers given to the Board and the still greater powers given to the Electricity Commissioners. I say this deliberately because it is obvious that in this Bill we are setting up a precedent in giving such powers to the Commissioners. I have confidence that those powers will in no way be abused, and that therefore the precedent may stand for the satisfaction of all concerned, but it will be watched very closely by those who are very much concerned with that important point.

I wish now to pass to the finance of the scheme. I have a feeling that there is some danger in assuming that the new board must be self-supporting, and yet the Secretary of State and the Lord Advocate have repeatedly said that it was a fundamental of the Bill that it must be a commercial proposition and must pay its way. That is, of course, sound enough from some points of view, but what the Highlands want, and what industries want if they are to go there, is cheaper electricity, and I am not yet entirely convinced that the Board will be able to provide this cheap electricity, as everyone desires it to do. After all, its profits are really dependent on the results of the supplies to the Central Electricity Board. That is where the main revenue will come from. The earnings and profits from this source are dependent on two speculative factors, the capital cost of construction of hydro electrical schemes and the cost of coal in steam stations. The lower the costs of construction and the higher the cost of coal the more possibility there is of making profit. The whole question of the solvency of the Board and of the cheapness of the supply of electricity depend upon two highly important but essentially speculative factors, so there is no absolute guarantee that the Board will be able to produce the electricity at an economic price which will keep it solvent and, at the same time, enable it to supply electricity at a really cheap cost, which is essential if the Bill is to effect its object.

A further point which it is essential should at least be mentioned, which I know he has not forgotten, and which he will implement, is the question of valuation and rating. He has told us he is going to set up a committee by which the whole question will be examined. I hope it will not be long before that committee is in being. These factors are of very vital moment from the point of view of the cost of electricity. If we can get the rating—

I think I have said enough on the point. With regard to the composition of the Board, I know the right hon. Gentleman will not misunderstand me or take any offence. He is not that kind of Minister, but some of us have been concerned about the final composition of the Board. I think it is absolutely essential—I feel sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree—that the members of the Board should be chosen solely for their commercial, industrial, business and technical knowledge. Any possibility of any accusation that their selection was due to any sort of political prejudice, would be most deplorable. I am convinced that any suspicions that some people may have had in that direction will be proved unworthy by the final action of the Secretary of State. The setting up of this public Board is a great experiment, and I hope that is fully realised. I accept the fact that private enterprise was, probably, not the right agent to conduct this great experiment in the remote areas of the Highlands, but not for a moment would I accept the suggestion that private enterprise has not proved itself capable in every part of the country, and not least in Scotland, to conduct great electricity operations, to the great benefit of the people concerned and with the utmost efficiency.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will not expect me to follow him the whole road. In fact, we are sufficiently friendly for me to say I assume he will be quite glad that I am not going to join with him where he left off, If the economics of the situation were as he asks us to believe they are, there would have been no need for the Secretary of State to undertake this most arduous job of pushing the Bill through the House. I want to congratulate the Minister and thank him for amending the Bill in the fashion that I and several of my hon. Friends suggested he should on the Second Reading. I mean the Amendments to Clause 5 and the consequential ones giving a definite instead of an indefinite period in which objections can be tabled and sustained. I am sure I cannot be misunderstood if I point out that my-argument really was that an indefinite period would have provided a weapon for obstructionists. My right hon. Friend has gone so far as to lay down a definite period of 40 days. I wonder whether he will consider whether that is a sufficiently long period. I see him smile, but if he reads what I said, I in no way suggested that 40 days was too generous a period. Before he amended the Bill the, phrase was, "not less than 40 days," which might have meant 340 days. I know he understands thoroughly the difficulties of local authorities, particularly in such large areas as Inverness-shire, and in counties so badly served with transport as Sutherland. I suggest that he should make it 60 or even 90 days. I hope I shall not be misunderstood in making that point.

I am a trifle disturbed by the pessimism that we have heard expressed from the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley), the qualified pessimism of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, and the greater pessimism of the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd). His has been the only blunt attack on the Bill as amended. I feel inclined to say, although he is not present, that he is no master of the new Bill nor of the Cooper Report, or he would not have made such misstatements as he made and such doubtful inferences. However, I will not pursue that, as he is not present. None of us on this side is in danger of making the mistake against which both the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockport and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) warned us of thinking that this marks the millennium for the Highlands. We know that there is nothing revolutionary in the Bill. We know that it is a masterpiece of accommodation, and most of us have appreciated the efforts the Secretary of State for Scotland had to exert to secure such accommodation. As Scots we respect hard work, and ask Scots to admire the amazing and persistent work my right hon. Friend has put in to get so far with the Bill.

We expect nothing more for the Scottish Highlands than that this great and valuable experiment may become the basis of a new economic life for the North. We are in agreement with the hon. and gallant Gentleman that there is a great deal to be added before there can be any kind of secured and continuous activity for the Northern part of our land. We know also that we have still to tackle the problem of the other light industries and the whole question of transport. I think this is the first defined post-war Measure. We are extremely indebted to the Lord Advocate for the warnings he gave us on the Second Reading that the pace of development and of the operation of the Bill itself will depend upon the composition of this House and upon the pressure Scottish Members particularly are prepared to exert. If our constituents are not aware of that, they will get less than they might get. The question which the hon. and gallant Gentleman posed can only be answered by the same kind of logic. We are prepared to follow the Bill with these ancillary measures which it would be out of Order to discuss on the Third Reading. The hon. Member for Stockport said he had very great fears about Clause 2 (3). His fears are our hopes, and we are confident that we can from this side of the House make those hopes real in the operation of the Bill. I most warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend.

May I refer at the beginning of my remarks to the speech made on Third Reading by the Lord Advocate, in which he referred to the discussion in Committee on Clause 6? In the course of that discussion I pointed out that the machinery laid down with regard to distribution schemes was unduly and exceptionally cumbersome. I showed that in the case of other electricity undertakings in England the company concerned had only to submit its distribution scheme to the Electricity Commissioners, sending a copy to the local authorities in the area, and that was its duty done. Under the Bill there is a very heavy weather procedure laid upon the new Board. They have to offer opportunities, indeed almost to goad individual members of the public to object to the scheme. Throughout the Debates I have been urging the Government to give the Board greater freedom. In this case it is loaded up with regulations which seem quite unnecessary and which I clearly showed are unprecedented. If in years past this House has passed Measure after Measure dealing with the supply of electricity in different parts of the country and has on this very point of distribution provided a very simple procedure, I cannot see why, in the case of Scotland, we should pass away from that simplicity and overload the procedure with bureaucratic methods. I am sorry that the Lord Advocate has offered so few reasons for rejecting the proposal I made. Large parts of England have enjoyed freedom from these restrictions and I cannot understand why the people of the Highlands should not enjoy the same-freedom.

Passing to the more general situation, I of course join with all my hon. Friends in congratulating the Secretary of State upon the energy and enterprise he has shown in translating this great idea, which in other forms some of us have supported consistently in this House for many years, into concrete form. There is difference of opinion as to the wisdom and practicability of the particular form of the machinery set out in this Bill, but on the broad principle underlying the Bill—of a planned, wholesale development in the public interest of the hydro-electric resources of the Highlands—we are all agreed. All Scotland supports it and desires to see it carried through as quickly as possible and to the largest possible extent. The thought uppermost in my mind to-day is therefore to wish this project good luck. But I am bound to say, like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd), that I have my doubts about the effectiveness of the machinery provided; and it is proper that those doubts, which are shared by many highly skilled and competent men in the electricity industry, should be expressed lest the people of the Highlands should imagine that once this Measure, with its £3,000,000 subsidy, passes, prosperity and an easy life lie before them.

It is a pure, unadulterated subsidy. It is a provision intended to support the Board when it cannot pay its way, and if it is not a subsidy, I do not know what it is. Any impression of the kind I have mentioned which is given to the Highlands would be both unreal and dangerous. The only way the Highlands can win prosperity after the war is by hard work on the part of t4e individual dwellers in that area, supported by a sound, enlightened policy carried through with vision here in London. That combination of individual enterprise within the framework of a sound Government scheme is the only hope for Scotland. The provision of electricity, even to every strath and glen in the Highlands, would not touch the fringe of the problem, the age-long problem of bringing life and vitality to these long deserted lands. As hon. Members in many parts of the House have said, much more than this Bill is needed. There must be efforts in 100 other directions with great energy behind them before we can preen ourselves that we have started this mighty job of improving the Highlands.

The question we have to consider to-day is whether this Bill is likely to serve the important but limited purpose for which it is designed. I will not repeat the criticisms that I have made on the Bill in earlier stages, except to say that the more I reflect upon it and discuss its provisions with those who may have some part in working it the more certain I am that the views I have expressed are sound and that they will be found to be sound in the days to come. I have done my best in the ways open to me to improve the Measure, but the Government have not thought fit to accept my suggested amendments. The responsibility now rests on the Government; it does not rest on me. All we can do now is to consider how this new Board will work when it starts operations in the terms laid down in this Measure.

As I see it the success of this enterprise will depend upon two major factors, one of them incalculable, the other resting within the responsibility of my right hon. Friend. These two factors are the price of coal and the personnel of the Board. What about coal? It is clear from the most cursory examination of the Bill, confirmed by further study, that the main customer of the Board, certainly at the beginning and perhaps all through its life, will be the Central Electricity Board. It will be the bulk buyer, and the new Board will depend not only upon the Central Board for the bulk purchase but for the bulk of its income and the only part of its income which will show a profit. It is essential that the Highlands should grasp that matter. I gather that it is hoped that the Central Electricity Board will pay a price so calculated as to leave a slight margin over the cost of production of the supplies it takes from the Highland Board. Such a margin will be vital to the new Board. Without it it will find it impossible to carry on and will go bankrupt. For, let the House note, there is no other possibility of a margin from the sales of electricity in any other direction.

Take the other possible directions in which the sales of this Board may take place. There is the large electro-chemical industries of which we have heard much. As an hon. Member said, such industries will not look at the proposition of coming to the Highlands unless the electric power they required is offered at the very minimum price. My hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Sir M. MacDonald) knows that better than I do. He made plain the disadvantages of the Highlands to a great industry of that kind—the great distances away from the markets and centres of population, the increased cost of transport, the shortage of ordinary services, the difficulties of obtaining labour and where to house them. These are great commercial difficulties which have discouraged industries from going to the Highlands and they will still discourage them. The only way the new Board can hope to induce them to enter their area is to offer them electricity at the very minimum cost price. Therefore there will be no margin there. And the same considerations will apply to the Co-operative Wholesale Society in Scotland. The shrewd business men who control this organisation will apply precisely the same principles when they are faced with this proposition. They will not go into Highland territory unless they get power at the cheapest possible rate.

The next group of possible purchasers are the authorised undertakers, municipal undertakings, and private companies. But these undertakers are already fully protected under the Electricity Acts. The Board dare not charge them a farthing more than they themselves would pay if they were producing electricity by their own plant. The cost of production to them is also the actual selling price and there is no margin to be had there.

It is inconceivable that private consumers, remembering the excessive costs of transmission and distribution which will be involved in supplying the outlying places, will offer a price that will result in the slightest margin of profit for the Board. The very reverse is more likely to happen. It is more likely that private consumers will be paying less than the cost price. Therefore, it is plain that the Board will depend directly and all the time upon the Central Electricity Board —in other words the great industrial populations of the midlands of Scotland —for their success. That demand from the midlands of Scotland is what will make possible the development of this great scheme. How does the Central Electricity Board fix its price? It is laid down in Clause 16 of the Bill, and it is as well that the Highlands should be reminded of the position It states that
"the price to be charged by the Board for electricity supplied under this subsection to the Central Electricity Board in any year shall … be a sum … equal to the cost of production in that year of a like supply of electricity at the steam generating station operated under the directions of the Central Electricity Board."
It further indicates that it must be the most economic station so operated. In other words, the criterion of the price to be paid by the Central Electricity Board for the bulk of the supplies manufactured by the new Board is the price of coal. If the House can conceive of a great improvement in the scientific production of coal resulting in substantial new economies, and a lowering of the price of coal, the Board's income from the Central Electricity Board will fall and the vital margin from which its daily expenses are financed may possibly go. So we are faced with the strange dilemma that the more we improve the method of producing coal and so reducing the price per ton, the more difficult will it become to offer electricity to the Highlands.

I do not think we can go into the methods of producing coal, except as a short illustration.

I feel that this is the very crux of the matter. I am trying to explain that the bulk of the new Board's supply will be bought by the Central Electricity Board and that their price is based on the cost of coal. I am trying to show how that cost is likely to move, because upon that depends the success or failure of the Board. I feel that if I do not enlarge on it too much I may be in Order.

I was only warning the hon. Gentleman that it would not be right for the Debate to develop into a Debate on the cost of production of coal.

On the other hand, if the House can conceive of another set of circumstances, namely, that the young men of the mining areas will increasingly decline to go underground; or, if they do go, will work only for shorter hours and higher wages, then the price of coal will rise and more money will go into the coffers of the Hydro-Electric Board. In that case the more the Midlands housewife pays for her fire and light the more her opposite number in the Highlands will benefit. But if circumstances are such that after the war the price of coal rises, as it is doing now, is it not very likely that other prices will rise also and that the Board's capital expenditure, on all the things that go into the making of great hydro-electric works, cement, steel, labour and so no, will heavily increase and thus counter-balance the higher income received from the Central Electricity Board? In that event there would be no gain to the new Board. With these possibilities in mind one cannot look ahead with any certainty at all as to the future standing of this Board, and that is why I think the House must address itself to the further factor to which I have referred, the personnel of the Board.

I have already referred to the limitations under which this Board has to work. The Government have declined to bestow on the Board that freedom for which I have pleaded. The Board is going to be tied hand and foot by bureaucratic control in London and Edinburgh and bound to a short-term, scheme-by-scheme policy, unknown to any similar enterprise in the country. It is bound to that system to which I have protested so vigorously, a system which is calculated as I believe to hamper the Board if not to hamstring its efforts in the highly intricate technical work it has to perform. I think on the Second Reading I suggested that the task before the Board was one of the proudest any body of Scotsmen could undertake. I think that is true, but I think it is also the most difficult task any such body could face. We cannot now alter the Bill itself; the time has passed. We have tried, and we have failed. The machinery is laid down under which the Board has to operate. There is only one provision left unspecified and on which the House can exercise its influence, namely, the composition of the Board which is to work this great scheme. In these circumstances it is impossible to exaggerate the importance attaching to the quality of the man appointed to direct it.

At the risk of repetition, let me emphasise again that this great project is a business project. It is no good my right hon. Friend saying it is a development board. There is no doubt it must have regard to the social development of the Highlands; certainly, but to describe it as a development board is fatal to its prospects. It is a business proposition and can only achieve its purposes if it is run on sound, strict, business lines and the Board is inspired by great efficiency and by enterprise and initiative. These are the things that are going to make this Board a success, and it is really vital that the Secretary of State should indicate to us to-day what type of men he is going to appoint. If the men turn out to be duds, the whole show is a failure and we shall have done great harm to the Highlands. It can only succeed if we get the best men available in charge of this mighty, difficult enterprise.

I tried in the Committee stage and put down Amendments to get an opportunity of discussing the personnel of the Board and the qualities of the men. Unfortunately the Chair did not call my Amendment or Amendments of other hon. Members directed towards the same end. Clearly the Vice-Chairman, who is to be the chief executive of this Board, has got to be a first-class business man with sound electricity experience behind him. I would like confirmation of that from my right hon. Friend, and all Scotland is waiting for it. Clearly there should be one member of the Board with wide general experience and, I hope, a good knowledge of the Highlands. I think a man like Mr. Neil Beaton would be excellent for the job. He has wide experience and was brought up as a Highlander and has first-class business ability. Merely. that a man should live in the Highlands is surely a poor qualification. That a man with other qualities should also know the Highlands is a good thing.

There are three other members of this Board to be considered. What sort of men is the right hon. Gentleman going to appoint? I hope politics is not going to enter into this matter.

I do not think it should be a bar, but if it is to be a successful project, political appointments might be the least advantageous to the Highlands. What I seek to see there is a body of practical men with the highest possible experience. I cannot emphasise too much the importance of this fact. Of, course the Secretary of State will be aware of all these considerations but the country is entitled to know and the House is entitled to know if the men are already selected.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend not only upon having done this thing—I do not think it is the best thing he could have done—but having done it I want to thank him also for his courtesy in the course of the proceedings. He has done little for me. I think he accepted one of my Amendments beforehand and another in the course of the Debate. The Lord Advocate did not accept any. But for all that they have both been very polite. I think they have been most unwise to reject some of the proposals made to them, but there it is. This House wishes this new enterprise well, and I share that sentiment.

I have listened to the speeches made here today, and I felt that this Bill on its Third Reading stage was getting a very melancholy start. I asked myself, "Are we celebrating new life or are we gathered around mourning the dead"? and I have a feeling that both are involved, for I remember that the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) said, "This is a bad Bill," and I felt my heart warm to the Bill. I was absolutely amazed to hear the hon. Member for Stockport quote the Cooper Report, in connection with the neglect of private enterprise. Is the hon. Member for Stockport unaware of the fact that private enterprise has had 200 years in Scotland, no one interfering with it, and it has completely depopulated the Highlands and turned Scotland into a derelict area? When I heard him say it was a bad Bill I realised that there was something good in the Bill. Anything that goes against the desires of the hon. Member for Stockport is bound to be in the interests of the people, but I will say to the Secretary of State for Scotland that it would have been a much better Bill had he accepted the Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) and myself. The hon. Member for Stockport is typical of the other side of the House, all good business men. Where there is a shilling to be grasped they will grasp it. But in general they are very dull-witted. The hon. Member for Stockport makes fairly strong criticism of the constitution of this Board because he says the Board will be under two masters. He is correct; at last his eyes are open to the truth, but we had an Amendment down to eliminate the dual control of the Board and have the Board appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Scotland responsible to this House. Where was the hon. Member for Stockport when that Amendment was discussed before the House?

This Board is of the very greatest importance to the people of the Highlands. The hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) said that the Board should be composed of business men and men of experience and there should be no politics entering into it. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) followed up and is even prepared to throw cut a bait in the form of a co-operator in the hope that the rest will be good Tory or Liberal business men. When these people talk about no politics being introduced, they talk about it from the sense of their being members of the Tory Party.

The hon. and gallant Member said he hoped that the members of the Board would be chosen for their business experience—

—and that no politics should be introduced into the question of their selection, but when you get a suggestion of that kind it always conveys, it must convey, the idea of having representatives of capitalist economy. What are our business men to-day but representatives of capitalist economy? If you want a good Board from the point of view of the people of the Highlands and the development of Scotland I can give a list of names, every one of them a Communist. Yes, and it is not good profits that will be the dominating motive of the Board.

I would not mind going on. The Board will be faced with a very difficult task. There are people who will try to use this Bill to exploit the Highlands. We want it to be used for replenishing the Highlands with the population which has been driven away. I am certain that is what the Secretary of State wants. We have in this House and in the country people with a peculiar morality: Anything is permissible, the depopulation of the Highlands, poverty, starvation, anything, as long as the sacred rights of property and profits are secure. That is their morality. It comes out in everything. Never once has the moral fibre of these business men on the other side of the House been disturbed by the power of the Minister of Labour to transfer Scottish girls from Scotland to England, but as soon as the Minister of Aircraft Production interferes with the shares—not the lives—of Shorts—what protests!

From the point of view of all those on the other side a good business man is one who can show a profit on the balance-sheet and a good dividend, not a man who can show a good profit in the health and the well-being of the people. The people may be perishing—but how is the balance-sheet, is there a good dividend? Members on the other side from Scotland who are watching this Bill have all their lives been concerned with the question, "What sort of dividend are we getting?" while all around them in Scotland and in the Highlands people were being driven from their homes, people were living in the most unspeakable poverty. A former Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) said in this House that conditions in the countryside in Scotland and in the Highlands of Scotland were absolutely shocking, a disgrace to civilisation. It was the business men of Scotland which produced that Scotland, and now they come along and say, "Let us see that we get business men on this Board." It is a very important.Board. I say that business men should not be chosen. Business men should be kept off the Board. One can imagine after listening to the hon. Member for Stockport what a boon and a blessing he would be to the people of Scotland if he were on the Board. He would wither up any of the green stuff that is left. As well have a flock of locusts going into Scotland. One has only to listen to him to realise where his mind is, what he is concerned with, what is his morality.

Have hon. Members any idea of how the people of Scotland were living before the war—the horrible housing conditions, the lack of food, the lack of clothing, the lack of anything in the nature of amenities? The hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Francis Beattie) may shake his head, but it is true. It is the business men, who were concerned with profits, who have robbed and looted and brought Scotland to the condition in which she is at the present time. Do not try to put the blame on the Scottish people. I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland once again to hand round copies of that famous book "Our Noble Families," in order that they may see how it started—the robbery, the wholesale, open robbery, the corruption of the courts. These are the men—

I am very sorry. I have been concentrating on this question of the composition of the Board. There are many points in the Bill which I feel are of the greatest importance, and I was pointing out that now that we have possibilities of development we get these sweet and courteous suggestions that the Board must be composed of good business men. There is not such a thing as a good business man, except in the relative sense, in the sense of being able to get profits. In relation to the welfare of the people there is not such a thing as a good business man.

In Scotland. Mr. GallaPher: Of course, I do not expect hon. Members on the other side to understand or appreciate that, but it is the actual fact that the business man is the enemy of the people. He lives on the robbery of the people. The great problem is how to utilise this Bill not for the purpose of exploiting the Highlands but to help the Highlands and bring back at least some of their population. Is that something for a business man to do? Not at all. That is something for politicians. If we get Tory politicians or Tory business men or Liberal business men on the Board we shall get no real progress. If we get on the Board Labour or Communist politicians—the united front—who understand how the crisis in Scotland has developed, who understand the economic basis of the crisis, who understand the politics of the situation, we shall get the very best results from this Bill. Therefore, I want to impress upon the Secretary of State for Scotland and upon the Minister of Fuel and Power—because the two of them have responsibility for the Board, the Board is appointed by two Ministers instead of one—the very great importance of making a correct and effective selection of members of the Board. If it is a Board that is progressive, it will come into the closest association with and give the greatest encouragement to the Co-operative movement in the development of the industries in the Highlands, and that will have the greatest value. If it is a progressive Board, it will gradually work towards taking over the independent undertakings. Of course, the hon. Member for Stockport will not like that, but the people of Scotland will, and it will not. matter very much what his reactions will be. We want a Board of that kind, a progressive Board that sees here the opportunity for bringing all the best forces in Scotland into association with the life of the Highlands for the purpose of developing and expanding the life of the Highlands.

The Secretary of State for Scotland has put in much work, time, energy, and patience in connection with this Bill. I must say—I have said it before maybe—that I do not know when there was a Secretary of State for Scotland who had so many well-wishers, and so much ready support in this House. I am glad that he has brought in this Bill. I am glad he has carried it to the present stage but regret that he did not accepts our assistance. It would have been to his advantage to have done so I hope above everything else that the selection of this Board will be of a character to launch the Act in such a way that there will be special benefit for the people of the Highlands and advantage to the people throughout the whole of Scotland.

May I add my tribute to the congratulations already expressed in this Debate so far to the work of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and of the Lord Advocate, in pressing this Bill through to its present stage? Like one or two other hon. Members who have just spoken, I also put down one or two Amendments which were also not accepted. Nevertheless I know that those I represent realise that nobody could have been more painstaking and more sincere in his desire to meet the wishes and points of view of the Highlanders in particular than was the Secretary of State outside this Chamber. I know something of the meetings he has had, and the local authorities he has met, the individual associations and groups, industries, etc., he has met and discussed this matter with, and thrashed it out. Nobody could have taken more pains or, I am quite convinced, produced a more satisfactory Measure under the present circumstances than has the Secretary of State in this Bill. I would therefore like to say that we in that part of the Highlands from which I come welcome most gratefully what we hope will very soon be the changing of this Bill into an Act.

The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) both seemed concerned about the membership of the new Board, and there seemed to be some desire that the Board should be composed entirely of politicians. I would like to speak for my part of the Highlands to say that I hope that no politics will be allowed to enter into this Board in any way. What its members' particular political views may be will, I hope, be kept in the background, and not be subject to debate in this House or debate at their various meetings. I am quite convinced that the Secretary of State, whether my right hon. Friend who holds that office now or his successors, and advisers will be certain to adopt and nominate sound, experienced men. I was one of those who advocated in the Committee stage that one of the members of the Board should have some Highland qualifications. I did not advocate, as the hon. Member for East Fife said, that he should live in the Highlands. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) insisted that rather than that he should be a Highlander the particular member should be a good experienced man in the electrical industry. I quite agree. I hope that all the Board will be men who will be business men, technical men, that whatever their status may be, they will be experienced men, and we hope also will know something of the Highlands. In view of the assurances given by, I think, the Lord Advocate and the Secretary of State I feel quite convinced we can safely leave the choice of that Board to the Secretary of State and his near advisers.

There has, I think, been rather a misconception about the whole fundamental basis of this Bill. I have heard it said, both in this House and outside, that here is a sum of £30,000,000 to be spent on the Highlands, so why go and spend it all on electricity? It is rather as though this was a tip given by a beneficent Treasury to us poor Highlanders. Surely that is entirely a complete misunderstanding of the position. I think from what I have heard my right hon. Friend say that it may quite possibly be that the Board may never have to go to the Treasury to draw any of the £30,000,000, that this is merely a Treasury guarantee towards the success of this Measure. In spite of the criticisms, technical criticisms, I have heard to-day and in the Committee stage, we believe that in the course of time this will prove to be a most beneficial Measure. We do not believe it will cure all our evils; we do not believe it will bring back thousands, hundreds of thousands, of population to live in the Highlands, but we do believe and are quite convinced that this is a fundamental issue which must first of all be set right before any other development. The improvement of other matters which we are not allowed to refer to can only take place on the basis of the development of this scheme.

We look forward, not in five years' time nor in ten years' time, but that in decades to come when those of us here have passed away great benefits will have accrued to the Highlands, and that we shall see the Highlands redeveloped and with an increased population. It is quite impossible, I am convinced, that any Measure passed through this House is going to have immediate effect on the position in the Highlands. We know the difficulties there are to be overcome, but we feel that my right hon. Friend who at present holds the reins in the Scottish Office has our interests at heart and that this is only the first, we hope, of Measures he is going to bring forward to help set the Highlands going again, so that our children and our children's children will not be able constantly to fling the criticism in our faces that the Highlands are one of the depressed areas of the country Therefore, in conclusion I congratulate my right hon. Friend and wecome the passage of this Bill most heartily.

The question of the development of electricity in the Highlands has had a rather chequered career in this House. Many are the private Measures that have been brought in; and many were the fights and the Debates we had over them. We had splits in all parties. I differed from many of my colleagues on the issue. I always voted for those private Bills, and I was annoyed because always at the end of the day there stood the Highlands, in all its gauntness, and nothing was done. Then we had that Board in Edinburgh, on which I sat. I wondered whether the same thing was not going to happen again; whether another Measure would be promoted to get power to the Highlands, whether it would again be defeated, and again nothing done. I always felt that no matter what scheme you brought forward, there were always overwhelming arguments in favour of it, but at the end the argument for doing nothing succeeded. This Measure at least sets out to accomplish something by Act of Parliament for the Highlands, and all of us should seize this opportunity and prevent any attempt to defeat the Bill. If that happened, all hope of obtaining an electricity supply in the Highlands would be gone for some considerable time.

This Measure should be welcomed because it is an effort to harness the water power of the Highlands for the development of electricity, although I am not going to throw up my arms and say that this is a great Measure. I want to say one thing to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who is not now in his place—he has developed a political technique now; he delivers a speech, and then can barely wait any longer. Judged by his standards, this Bill is bad. He is bound to be on the side of the Jeremiahs, who say that the Bill must fail. He said that it would not succeed because business men would be put on the Board. I know that the Secretary of State will put business men on it, and I know that it will not fail because he does so. But I deprecate this growing tendency in this House to say that politicians should not do this or do that. It is wrong. One of the greatest things that Scotland possesses is its judicial system. It is a clean system and a capable system; I do not think anybody would say that it is corrupt. In the main the great judges to-day have been drawn from the ranks of the politicians. Why should we be ashamed of the fact tha we have served our country in this House of Commons?

The great judges are appointed to their office not because they are politicians, but because they are good lawyers.

But the suggestion is that you should go further, and make the fact that a man has been a politician a bar. All the great judges I have known have been no worse for having been here: in fact, they have become greater through their apprenticeship in the House of Commons. When I sat on that Board in Edinburgh, who but a Member of Parliament was the mainspring behind the Bill which the hon. and gallant Member supported? The late Mr. George Balfour was the driving force. I say that this idea that the fact that a man has been in the House of Commons is something to be ashamed of, is wrong; it is something to be proud of. I hope that the Secretary of State will not make it a bar. A man should be judged on his merits, but the fact that he has been in the House of Commons should be an additional qualification. When people come to me and say that they have no politics, I know what they mean—they mean that they are going to vote against me. I admit that a great deal depends on the terms of appointment of the Board. But I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not apply any test other than he would apply were he running a business of his own and wanting it to succeed for the welfare of the people. I want capable people, who are fit to sit on the Board, but I trust that in the selection human qualities will not be left out of consideration. Human problems and the development of the Highlands have to be considered if this scheme is to be a success.

I have a rooted aversion to this idea of congratulating the Secretary of State. I have noticed that everybody congratulates the man who is in office, and then when he goes out of office nobody takes any more notice of him. I never congratulate people for doing what they are paid to do. I think the Secretary of State has done the job he is paid for doing, and that is the end of it as far as I am concerned. I hope that the Bill will be a success, for the sake of the people of Scotland, and particularly of the Highlands. The Highlands is a difficult country for anybody to undertake anything in. This scheme is an experiment. It may be a great success, and it may well fail. If it fails, I shall not blame the Secretary of State.

I would sooner he made an experiment and failed than that he should never have tried at all. That experiment may bring about the conditions that opponents have to say about it, and, if it does, the right hon. Gentleman will not be to blame. He is accepting the situation and deciding that in future the thing must be done, and to that extent he has done his job and done it decently. I hope that the Bill will succeed. There is no certainty. There are many things in the Bill in respect of which one cannot foresee the future. It depends on future development as to whether the experiment is to become an absolute certainty. But at least the right hon. Gentleman has done what I hope Secretaries of State for Scotland will do in the future and what they have not done in the past. He has experimented. Some of us are too afraid of failure to experiment. As far as this is an experiment to try and develop the Highlands, I welcome it, and I trust that it will be successful in its operation.

The Secretary of State for Scotland has done a number of big things in his life, but I think this is the biggest thing he has ever done. It is something of which he has every reason to be proud, to have secured, for a part of the Highlands at least, control over water power, but evidently his task is not finished. He has still to appoint his Board. If he has been listening—and I daresay he has—to the advice which he has been given from various sides of the House, he will realise that his biggest task still lies in front of him. When he has examined all the business men who are not business men, according to the information we have, and who are incapable of being trusted, and he is reduced to examining the Communist Party for the membership of the Board, he will have the biggest and toughest job he has ever had in his life. I do not envy him the task when he is reduced to selecting his Board from the Communist Party. At the same time, I agree with my hon. Friend, the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that, if a man has the necessary qualifications, the mere fact that he is a politician should not debar him from membership of the Board. I do not think that in any of the previous discussions on this matter when previous Bills were introduced that anyone questioned the capabilities of knowledge of the late Mr. Balfour, formerly Member for Hampstead. He knew his business, and no one questioned his business capacity. The mere fact that he was a politician should not have prevented him from being a member of any electricity board, because he knew his subject, even if he was a business man.

I have witnessed all the battles that have raged over the question of electrical development in the Highlands of Scotland, and the Secretary of State has by some means or other had a pleasanter task and a quieter time than on previous occasions. I remember the previous occasions to which my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals has already referred when, particularly on Second Reading Debates, we had the whole House and parties divided. I also remember an occasion when I even voted for one of these private enterprise Bills, not because it was a private enterprise Bill, but because I wanted to see something done to develop the Highlands of Scotland. I believed that it was a means of bringing new life to the Highlands, and I was prepared to sacrifice principles that I held very dear in order to give a better opportunity to the Highlands of Scotland. I hope the result of the passing of this Bill will be that we shall have new life in the Highlands and see new industries suitable to the Highlands of Scotland springing up which will not disfigure the Highlands. We have heard a good deal from the other side of the House and on previous occasions when the Bill has been before the House about what private enterprise has done. It has nothing upon which to congratulate itself so far as development in the Highlands is concerned or upon what it has done for the Highlands. It has disfigured the Highlands to a considerable extent.

How could it do anything when the House turned down both schemes?

I am referring to private enterprise works already established there. I am dealing with the amenity question. We have had objections to this Measure on the ground that it was going to spoil the beautiful scenery of the Highlands of Scotland. You only require to come and see what private enterprise has already done in the Highlands of Scotland to see what it can do in destroying amenities. I am certain that under this Measure the Amenity Committee to be appointed by the Secretary of State will see that due consideration is given to preserving as much of the amenities of the areas that will be affected as possible. No Scotsman can look upon a matter of this kind with indifference, and ever since the first Measure was introduced after I came to this House I have taken the very greatest interest in these particular Measures. What happened before that time? Government after Government—Liberal Government and Tory Govern- ment, because we had no Labour Governments at that time—came to this House year after year with a Budget with provision for a few thousand pounds ear-marked for the Highlands of Scotland, and this House considered that it was doing its duty if it passed these few thousand pounds for doing something to help the Highlands or the Islands of Scotland. No big Measure was introduced that went to the root of the matter.

I am prepared to admit the development which has already taken place in parts of the Highlands of Scotland; the Grampian scheme and the other schemes developed so far have all been to the advantage of part of the Highlands. This Bill is the last part which has been preserved from private enterprise. We have complaints from the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) that this little part has been kept from private enterprise, although private enterprise, unfortunately, will have its opportunity even under this scheme. Private enterprise will come along after the juice is available. All private manufacturers and those who think that they can develop little schemes in the Highlands of Scotland will come along with their proposals, and private enterprise will get the juice which is necessary in order to go on with their works. First of all this scheme itself will have to be undertaken, but in the meantime I hope manufacturers will be looking around for posbbitities in the Highlands of Scotland. In these modern days there need be no difficulties with regard to distance and transport, as there have been in the past. This war has opened our eyes to great possibilities, and manufacturers who establish factories in Scotland should have no difficulty in getting to markets.

I hope that as a result of this Bill there will be big developments in the Highlands of Scotland. If there are, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State can congratulate himself on the work he has already done in connection with this Measure. The Bill was described by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) as being tied up, bound and over-burdened with bureaucracy and regulations. All I would say to him is this: I have supported this Measure, even with all the imperfections he has described, much more heartily than any other Measure which has come before this House for electrical development in the Highlands. This, at any rate, is something to be going on with, and even if these regulations should prove burdensome to the Board, so that they cannot carry on, there is nothing to prevent the Secretary of State from coming back to the House and asking that they should be dispensed with or modified so that the Board can have more freedom than is already permitted. I am prepared to accept the Bill as a landmark in the history of the Highlands of Scotland and as something which will provide a great opportunity for development in that area.

I did not have an opportunity of taking part in the discussion on the Second Reading of this Bill, owing to the number of Scottish Members who wished to take part, and I welcome the opportunity of saying a few words now, on the Third Reading. I am very much in agreement with what was said by the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). This Bill, which has aroused a good deal of expectation in Scotland, has been subjected to a good deal of criticism. There has been the fear that we would lose the beauties of Scotland, and an attempt has been made in the Bill to deal with any possibilities of destroying the amenities of our Scottish Highlands. I have met people who have said that it would be a great pity to do anything that would interfere with the wonderful grandeur and beauty of our Scottish Highlands. It is so nice to have them for Englishmen to visit; it gives Englishmen an opportunity of wearing the kilt in the seclusion of the Highlands.

But I think the Scottish Highlands are most notable, not for their beauty, but for the men and women they have produced in the centuries that have gone by. The Highlands have produced a vigorous people, but the population there has been steadily on the decline for many years. I welcome this Bill, therefore, because there are potentialities in it for the development of the resources of the Highlands, and with that development I think there will be opportunities for the people who have left the Highlands to go back from industrial centres and enjoy their Highland homes. The Bill is an attempt to utilise the water resources of Scotland, and I hope that it will have great success in contributing to the development of our country. At the same time I am not unduly optimistic; the fruits of this Measure will depend upon many factors. One factor which aroused my willing support was the fact that the Treasury have guaranteed an expenditure of £30,000,000. I want to see that money expended in Scotland, because Scotland needs large sums of money in order that it should have its appropriate development.

In connection with the speech made by the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd), I see no reason why there should not be agricultural and industrial development in the Highlands of our country. The time is long overdue, and I hope the Board will use their powers to see that there will be available power supplies in all parts of the Highlands at a cheap rate which will enable people to develop the resources of that area and also provide for the growth of the population and the bringing back of the vigour of that part of Scotland.

There has been a certain amount of criticism and advice given to Ministers as to who shall constitute the Electricity Board. I am not going to give the right hon. Gentleman advice, because I do not think he would take it, and I do not think that he will take the advice that has been offered to him. That is very much a foregone conclusion. I have a great deal of sympathy with what was said by the hon. Member for Gorbals with regard to the ruling out of the Members of the Commons House of Parliament. Think of it. The business of the country is being run in large measure by Members of the Commons House of Parliament. A man is in the Government one week and out of it the next, and ever so many big businesses are waiting on his doorstep pleading with him to join their board. I remember one Member of the House who could get on to any board in the country. The idea that this will prevent corruption is preposterous nonsense. I think however that the success of the Bill will depend not only upon the Board but upon Scottish opinion and activity in looking after its interests. One of the great defects of the Measure, to my mind, is that while all these powers are being handed to the Board, there are not along with them powers which would enable the Scottish people to have more control over it and over the resources of their country. I believe the only way of making this Measure a real success is through the transfer of power from London to Scotland through the institution of a real Scottish Government to develop the resources of our country and give our people the real opportunity that they should have.

We are now getting very near the end of the road as far as this Bill is concerned, and as one who has taken a fairly lively interest in it I should like to say one word. I have been warned by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that in his opinion it is not right to congratulate the Secretary of State for doing what he is paid to do. I am not going to do that, but our thanks are due from all of us to him, the Lord Advocate and those who have been associated with them for the very courteous way in which they have met us on all occasions and for the very open-minded manner in which they have listened to what we have put before them, and I should like to place that on record.

I do not rise to make a detailed analysis of the provisions of the Bill, but before we finally pass it I think it is only proper and fitting that two words should be said from this Bench with regard to it. The first will be one of blessing. We believe that it is necessary and that in many respects it is in accordance with what a Bill dealing with this vast subject ought to be. We have had in years gone by several Bills brought before the House which have been thrown out for many reasons. One is that the House did not consider it proper that on a large-scale public utility of this kind private enterprise, with all the dangers that lurk in it, should be the means of exploiting it. This Bill gives controlling power to a public body appointed by the Secretary of State and in many of its largest decisions responsible to this House. We believe that when it comes to fruition it will bring a ray of hope to the Highlands population. Those who listened to the lugubrious speech of the hon. Member for the Welsh University (Professor Gruffydd), if they had not been aware of the facts in the Highlands, might have supposed that that area was one of extreme prosperity which the nefarious designs of the Secretary of State were going to injure and bring to nothing. We all know that the exact reverse is the case. On the other hand we must not put our expectations too high. Neither for better nor for worse, for good nor for ill is this Bill going to bring a humming hive of industrial activity to the Highlands. The most that can be said may be that it will bring some more contacts with the outside world and prevent the isolation of this area which has existed up to the present, and some ray of hope to the Highlanders. In addition to that, we believe that it will do something for other areas of Scotland at the same time. We hope it will provide them with electricity for power and light at a price which is not too extravagant to make it of real, practical value.

The other word that I want to say is a word of caution and warning. It would be absurd to place extravagant hopes on the results of the Bill. At the most it is only a substructure upon which future prosperity may or may not afterwards be built. I do not think any of us, even the Secretary of State himself, can put his hand on his heart and say he knows exactly what the Bill is going to do and how it is going to work out. It is possible that it may not work out as well as some of us anticipate. For instance, if it were to mean that the beauties of the Highlands were substantially and materially disfigured, if it were to mean that those who toil in the Highlands were not to get the advantages which the scheme proposes to develop, if it were to mean that something like black industrialism were to spread over areas that ought to be sacred from such development, if it were to mean that no benefits came to Scotland by the creation and use of this water power but that all the benefits were going to some Central Electricity Board, as the hon. Member for East Fife {Mr. Henderson Stewart) seems to think, most of us would be disappointed. I am sure that no one would be more disappointed than the Secretary of State himself. It is because neither I nor my friends take that pessimistic view of the prospects of this Bill that we hope the House will give it a unanimous Third Reading and we wish the Bill and the Secretary of State in promoting it "God speed."

We have had a fairly exhaustive and very agreeable discussion upon the Third Reading of this Measure. With what has fallen from several hon. Members, the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last being one of them, to the effect that we need not exaggerate or paint too rosy a vision of what may eventuate from this Bill, I whole-heartedly agree. This is only an instalment. This is only one step in what may be called the planning and utilisation of the energies and resources of the Highlands for a better day. There are other Measures we can think of, some of which indeed ought to have had priority. For my part, I am pretty certain that before we can have security and decent conditions of life in the Highlands we shall require to see something in the nature of the Post Office principle of equalised rates in transport.

This Bill is the Government's Measure for the utilisation and the selling of a great asset, a great commercial asset if you like to put it that way, which the Highlands have hitherto allowed to go to waste. Parliament in times past has quarrelled about how that asset should be marketed. Previous Measures have said that it should be marketed by private enterprise, and Parliament, the Highlands, the Scottish Press and everybody quarrelled violently over that solution. Some hon. Members said that we were getting nowhere, every year these resources were going waste, the population was leaving the Highlands and there was nothing but despair and apathy. The Cooper Committee sat to consider the problem. It gave us a unanimous recommendation. That recommendation was to the effect that all future hydro-electric development in the Highlands should be run by a non-profit making corporation, a public services corporation. That is the essential feature of this Bill. The Government adopted it with alacrity and speed. As hon. Members will have seen, on the back of this Measure are the names of some seven or eight Cabinet Ministers, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to show that there is no partisanship here. Liberal, Conservative and Labour Members of the Cabinet decided to back this idea and put it forward in the hope that we should get good will and a general concurrence and at long last get rid of this struggle and strife in which everybody, and particularly everybody in the Highlands, was the loser. Nobody is more conscious of the fact that the Bill is not perfect than I am. My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate and myself have had to compromise time and time again in this matter because we wanted a Bill that would work. Nobody gets everything he wants in this world, and when my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) recited a catalogue of what he called defects in the Bill, I could have added some more to his list. That is not the point. The point is, Will this Bill work? It may work with some creaking, hut it will he capable of amendment, and if it works, I am sure that the House of Commons will have contributed something of real value to our Highland populations—by this day's work.

I will not go over the dozens of points that were made in the Debate to-day. I will refer to only two of them. Most hon. Members, even when they spent most of their time cursing the Bill, ended by blessing it. The hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) began by saying it was a bad Bill and ended by giving it his blessing. The only hon. Member whose speech was one long, lugubrious monologue of despair was a gentleman from Wales. I rather gathered from his speech that he did not like the Bill. Against his view may I say that there were no Amendments to the Measure from the local authorities? That is a remarkable fact. There were no Amendments on the Order Paper which were taken to a Division by the amenity interests. They were withdrawn. There was no opposition from the Highland Press. There was no opposition from the Co-operative organisations in Scotland to the extent for which they can speak for the Highland populations. There was no opposition from the Trades Union Congress in Scotland. They backed the Bill. There has been no opposition whatever from any Highland Member of Parliament. They have all backed the Bill. I am entitled to say that there bps rarely been an occasion in this House, in my memory at any rate, in which there were such cordial unanimity and good will bestowed upon a major Measure of this kind.

I beg my hon. Friends not to say that. The good will and the cordiality lie in the essence of this Bill. Since we are talking about good will, it would ill-become me to allow this Measure to go from this House without my asserting in public the great tribute which I ought to pay to my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate. His services have been most invaluable on a hundred difficult points. There is only one thing I want to say in conclusion. It is about the composition of the Board. Having gone so far, would we not be fools if we appointed a Board—somebody suggested members of the Communist Party, somebody suggested party men and somebody suggested that only Highlanders should be members—but would we not be fools if we did not give this Board the greatest possible start with good will? We must see to it that that good will is maintained, and, as my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power and I can be shot at in this House if we appoint second-raters or men who cannot carry the confidence of the people of Scotland, we would be great fools if we did so.

I think the House may take it that, having gone so far and having put in so much hard labour in trying to get concurrence and agreement on this matter, the members of the Government responsible for the composition of the Board will take the utmost care to ensure that the Board will be such as will carry the confidence of the people of Scotland. I do hope, trust and believe that we have done a good day's work for the Highlands of Scotland, and however much this Bill may require amendment, it is something to be said for the co-operative spirit presently abroad that we can unite on agreeing that a great national asset of our country should henceforth be developed on a nonprofit making basis for the benefit of the people.

The Secretary of State has, I think, left us in no doubt that he is as keen as any Member in any part of the House that this Bill should become a workable proposition, and he has left us in no doubt at all that he is as fully alive as any other bon. Member to the fact that the passage of this Bill will not place any magician's wand in the hands of himself or of any successive Secretary of State. I am sorry I was unable to be here at the earlier part of the Debate, but I am sure many Members who have spoken have stressed the point that the Secretary of State and all associated with him should take the utmost possible care in operating the vast powers which the Bill will place in their hands and see to it that the amenities question, which is a very vital matter as far as the Highlands of Scotland are concerned, shall be given the due consideration which it so richly deserves.

In talking about the post-war world and the conditions we hope to bring in, the point has again and again been raised of this great national asset. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has frequently called attention to the great natural asset we have for attracting tourists to this small Island of Great Britain. In the post-war world we hope to see, particularly from the United States of America, increasingly large numbers of tourists visiting this Island and going to see the beauties of the Highlands of Scotland, there to enjoy relaxation amidst beautiful scenic surroundings, and I may add that in the past none have been louder in praise of the scenic beauties of the Highlands than those who speak the same language 3,000 miles away across the wastes of the Atlantic Ocean.

In the past there has been another great asset, not a very popular one with hon. Members above the Gangway who have sought to represent that those of us who speak on behalf of the scenic beauties of the Highlands are merely using this as a camouflage or smokescreen for what they call a sportman's paradise. I do not speak on behalf of that at all, but do not let us forget what in the past sportsmen have done for Scotland, the amount of employment they have given in the autumn months—indeed, I might say it has been a veritable harvest for those who have lived in the depressed areas in the Highlands—the amount of work forthcoming in that direction. Do not let us minimise it, do let us be very careful. I know the present Secretary of State for Scotland, and hope his successors, will see to it that the scenic beauties of the Highlands are safeguarded and preserved in every possible way, that the least interference with these wonderful scenic surroundings shall be made as a result of the passage of this Bill.

I stand here in a sense as a repentent sinner, because on previous occasions—I must make a clean breast of it—I opposed every one of these Measures, even the last one. Notably I opposed the Bill which was sponsored by the present Lord Chief Justice when he was Minister for the Coordination of Defence. I am sure many of us, if he had been able to stand at that Box and say he was fully armed with all the blessings and power that the then Government could give him and that this was a vital necessity, it might have gone without a Division or the majority against the Measure would have been very much smaller than on that occasion.

The hon. Member was responsible for killing the Bill.

I do not want to enter into any contentions on this Measure, because the Secretary of State in winding up said that after all the strife and stormy seas that Measures of this kind have encountered here at long last we have almost complete unanimity.

As representing a constituency which has had a hydro-electric scheme, the Galloway water power scheme, operating for some 12 or 14 years, I am bound to say that if the 70 schemes this Bill envisages or any one of them are carried through with as little disturbance to the scenic beauties of the Highlands as was the case in the Southern Highlands of Galloway, then I do not think anyone in this House or outside has much cause to fear that our priceless treasure is likely to be bartered away. I know that the Secretary of State mentioned the Clatteringsliaws dam in his speech on Second Reading, and so did the present Lord Chief Justice. That dam and the loch which is now behind it are on ground which formerly belonged to me and which I parted with to the promoters of the Galloway water power scheme. I only wish it had come a little later, because I could have obtained a very much better price. The House is in a congratulatory mood, and the Secretary of State has said that he has secured practically a unanimous Measure. He has said also that he is alive to the defects in the Bill, and the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) called attention to the fact that we must not run away with the idea that it will cure overnight the ills of the Highlands. On Second Reading the Secretary of State talked about similar schemes in Norway and in Fire. Of course, the Norwegian scheme did not cure the ills of Norway. There are something like 3,000,000 people in Norway, and there are—

The Norwegian position may be interesting, but it does not arise on the Third Reading of this Bill.

With very great respect, Sir, I was only speaking of Norway by way of illustration. I was pointing out that Hydro-electric power schemes there had not improved the emigration problem of Norway, and I do not think that the Irish schemes have abolished the ills of Southern Ireland. In the old days I knew the counties of Galway arid Mayo very well indeed, long before the present egime in Southern Ireland, but it would be quite out of Order for me to say anything about conditions there. Certainly the Shannon scheme, fine though it was, has not cured the congested land question in those counties or in any of the other Southern counties of Ireland, so far as I am aware. I merely mention those cases to bring out in a concrete way the point that was made by the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh. We are delighted that the Secretary of State has secured this practical unanimity to-day, and we wish him God speed with the Bill, and at the same time I am sure that he will be alive to the slight apprehensions which have been expressed from some quarters.

Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.