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New Clause—(Area Boards To Provide Constant Supply)

Volume 439: debated on Monday 23 June 1947

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From the time when any Area Board commence to supply electricity through any distributing main, they shall maintain a supply of electricity sufficient for the use of all consumers for the time being entitled to be supplied from that distributing main; and that supply shall be constantly maintained without change of polarity in the case of direct current and without change of the neutral conductor in the case of alternating current:

Provided that for the purposes of testing or for any other purposes connected with the efficient working of their undertaking, the supply of energy may be discontinued by the Board for such period as may be necessary subject (except in cases of emergency) to not less than twenty-four hours' notice being given by the Board to all consumers likely to be affected by such discontinuance; and, in the event of any such consumer objecting, the supply of energy shall not be discontinued (other than in cases of emergency) except with the consent of the Electricity Commissioners and subject to such conditions as they may impose:

Provided also that the polarity in the case of direct current and the neutral conductor in the case of alternating current may be changed with the like consent.—[ Sir A. Gridley.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This Clause has an important provision which we are anxious to see embodied in the Bill. This provision is contained in one of the Electricity Com missioners' regulations. The Clause pro: vides that supplies shall be constantly maintained, subject, of course, to the King's enemies, acts of God, and all the rest of it. It provides that supplies shall be constant and delivered at the right voltage, which is of vital importance to many of our industries. Continuity of supply is of first importance in the case of all electro-chemical processes. I would mention the industry which I mentioned in Committee; the electrolytic production of sodium. For this industry there must be a steady supply of electricity, because there must not be the most minute variation in the operation of the needle of the voltmeter. If there was, the whole process would be spoilt. Then there are electric furnaces, which require a constant supply of electricity, and it is almost unnecessary to mention foundries. If the electricity supply is cut off in a foundry it means that a good deal of metal is completely spoilt. It is also important to have a constant supply of electricity to pumps in pits and for winders. In the case of an accident in a pit it might be fatal if there were an interruption in the supply of power to the electric winder. Very important is the question of a constant supply of electricity to a hospital where operations are carried on.

It has been my experience for many years in this industry that in all important power industrial agreements there has been an obligation to maintain a constant supply of electricity, subject to an act of God, or the King's enemies, and such like. There is a definite obligation in the agreement, and that obligation can only be terminated to enable repairs to be carried out. That is invariably done by arrangement between the supplier and consumer. If this provision is not included in the Bill there is the risk that supplies for a certain area might be thought to be sufficient if given by means of a spur line. Where important consumers are concerned they are usually fed by ring main. If the supply breaks down in one part it can be maintained by another route. Safeguards of that kind are absolutely essential. We do not want to see risks run as they were in the early days of the industry, when capital was difficult to raise, and there had to be economy in outlay.

As a result of the technical knowledge I have managed to acquire from the proceedings in Standing Committee, I agree with all the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) has said, but I repeat the answer given on the previous Clause. This is a matter more appropriate to regulations, and I understand that the words contained in the new Clause are in the existing regulations. There may be some slight modifications here and there, but the substance of the words contained in the new Clause will be retained. I hope that with that assurance the hon. Member will not find it necessary to press his Motion.

Once again, I thank the Minister for giving us a very definite assurance. I shall rely on that, and, in view of what he has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.