§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill he now read a Second time."
§ Mr. ALEXANDER SHAW
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
Although I shall try to be very brief, in moving the rejection of this Bill, I think it is due to the House, as I am taking a somewhat unusual course, that I. should endeavour to make out a case. This is a Bill which comes from another place, and since the Bill came before the Committee of the House of Lords, the whole situation with respect to the supply of electricity in the county of Ayrshire has undergone a radical change. I shall inform the House in a moment what that change has been. May I say, first, what this Bill is and what it seeks to do, and, in the second place, what are the main objections to it? The Bill contains a scheme to procure electrical power by draining Loch Doon, which the House will remember in another connection, and which is situated some 16 miles away from the Burgh of Ayr. The scheme is necessary, in the opinion of the promoters, in order to provide additional electricity for the Burgh of Ayr. The present electrical installation is of an extremely extravagant kind and very limited in its output. The present price of electrical energy, for power purposes, as apart from light and heat, charged by Ayr is about:3½d. per unit, as against 1½d., which is charged by the neighbouring installation of Kilmarnock. One very amazing feature of this Bill is that it actually seeks power to increase this already exorbitant charge which Ayr levies upon its consumers, and it is a singular commentary upon the promises of the promoters of an economical supply that they should find it necessary, in order to carry out their scheme, to provide in the Bill for charges on an even more extravagant basis than the charges already in operation.
In view of the nature of the evidence of authorities on this subject, the power which they seek, to charge a still higher rate, is a wise precaution. They seek to 2163 set up, on an acre of ground only, an installation, using water power, of a capacity of 3,000 kilowatts, and I must at the outset tell the House that, although that is the maximum capacity of the installation proposed, it is an extremely small capacity, and it is not the continuous capacity. In the view of eminent authorities, the continuous capacity, which is really the point in this matter, is some 600 to 700 kilowatts. The cost of installing this new Loch Doon scheme is to be in the neighbourhood, as they estimate, of, £250,000, but I am informed by those who have gone into it that it is much more likely to be £400,000, or even £500,000. Taking it at £250,000, and taking the very extravagant estimate of 3,000 kilowatts, it works out at £80 per kilowatt; and, on the basis of a continuous supply, at an enormously enhanced figure, namely, several hundred pounds per kilowatt. The state of affairs in the Burgh of Ayr, so far as I can find out from the documents available, is that the present population of! the town is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 33,000, and an estimated cost of £250,000 for the scheme is a very serious burden on a burgh of those dimensions. Naturally, the, large users of electricity in the Burgh of Ayr are somewhat apprehensive about the matter, and they have actually presented a petition in the other House against this Bill, to which they are still opposed.
The large users of electricity in the neighbourhood have petitioned against this Bill, and the fears that they entertain have been in no way met. The large users of electricity look rather to a large and comprehensive scheme than to a small and highly expensive local scheme. They look to a large scheme of a kind which will embrace the needs of the whole industrial area of Ayrshire. The remarkable thing about this Bill is that, although this Loch Doon scheme is being fought and persisted in, there is actually available at the present moment a large, comprehensive, and wonderfully economical scheme at their own doors, which, as I submit to the House, would render this Loch Doon scheme absolutely unnecessary. What is that large and economical scheme? It is a scheme situated at the pit's mouth at Kilmarnock, a scheme which now enables fuel, which would be otherwise unsaleable, to 2164 be used at a very low cost indeed. The present price that is being paid in Kilmarnock is from 5s. 3d. to 8s. 6d. per ton, and, I think, if I may say so, that it is a little unfair of those who are responsble for Ayr's case to indicate, in the statement which they have circulated to members, that the Loch Doon scheme will show an economy. The attempt to do that rather broke down before the Committee, for it was demonstrated that their figures were based upon a coal cost at the very top of the market—namely, 30s. or more, whereas to-day the cost is from 5s. 3d. to 8s. 6d., and is expected still further to go down. I am not exaggerating when I say that the Kilmarnock scheme—which is not only a burgh scheme, as I shall point out—is unsurpassed by any undertaking in the country, and it is an absolute fact, which cannot be controverted, that it is the most economical scheme in Scotland. The costs are lower than in any other place in Scotland. The total capacity of the Kilmarnock scheme at present, although it can be very greatly enlarged, is 22,500 kilowatts, and the actual output that is possible now is 38,000,000 Board of Trade units per annum.
Naturally, the large users of electricity in Ayr, as in other parts of the country, look to a supply from Kilmarnock, and so we find that in the year 1920 negotiations took place between the Town Council of Ayr and the Kilmarnock undertaking. I will not go into those negotiations further than to say that the town council of the Burgh of Ayr visited the Kilmarnock undertaking and inspected their works, and were very much impressed by what they saw. There were certain proceedings there in which refreshments were served. I think a luncheon was held. The town council, as I am informed and believe, unanimously decided to take their whole supply from Kilmarnock. Kilmarnock had ordered a 10,000 kilowatt machine to supply the expanding needs of this great industrial area which they serve, and they turned that into a 12,500 kilowatt machine and actually bought it, acting in good faith, on the understanding which has been arrived at, and installed it and it is there now, capable of supplying all the needs of the Burgh. The difference between the two machines cost Kilmar nock £8,000. The House will be able to compare that capital expenditure of 2165 £8,000, which is, of course, a generating expenditure and does not include the mains, which would be in addition, with the enormous expenditure and deadweight of debt which would be incurred by the totally unnecessary scheme embodied in the Bill. That is what Kilmarnock did. They acted in good faith. They acted on that understanding and installed the machinery and it is available.
What did Ayr do? Someone, I do not know whether he was an engineer or a contractor, suggested Loch Doon, and they found it convenient to discontinue the settlement of the details, which alone remained to be put right before the agreement could be executed, and in a spirit of local patriotism, which is very fine if confined within its proper scope, said, "We will not be beholden to Kilmarnock or any other authority. We will have a patriotic scheme, and will go to Loch Doon and see what we can do there."
§ Mr. SHAW
Misguided and fanatical, but perfectly honest. The town council were far from united on the subject. There was a good deal of pretty hot correspondence in the papers, and there were two parties in Ayr. The situation reminded me very much of what we read in the papers recently about a certain horse. A man was brought up at the police court for working a horse when it was not fit, and very curious veterinary evidence was given, because it was proved, to the mystification of the magistrate, that this was a very peculiar horse. Its front legs badly needed rest, but its hind legs required exercise. That was really the position of the Town Council of Ayr. There was, both in the council and among the ratepayers, a very strong party which said, "Now is no time to launch out into this enormous expense. Give us rest." Those behind cried forward, but those in front cried back. Still they came up with this Bill. Every burgh wants to have its own supply, but economic factors step in as the use of electricity widens, and the economy of providing electricity on a large scale is now generally realised. So it comes about that Kilmarnock is now not on its own as an independent burgh, but is working hand in hand with the county council of Ayr with a view to a joint scheme. I am sorry to see in the promoters' statement a paragraph which can only be intended to leave upon 2166 the minds of Members the impression that the county council of Ayr were in some way favourable to this scheme. That is entirely contrary to the facts. The clerk to the county council is here and denies that. He is here not as the county clerk, but on behalf of the joint authority.
Since the Bill came in the whole situation has completely changed. There were three stages in the change. There were first negotiations. On 12th May there was made on behalf of Kilmarnock to the town of Ayr what I call an extremely fair offer, offering, if the Joint Board, as seemed likely, was brought into operation, to make arrangements to include Ayr Burgh in the Joint Board and give it extremely favourable treatment. That was the first stage. The second stage was a special meeting of the Ayr County Council on 14th June. The County Council has no possible axe to grind in this matter. It has no purpose whatever to serve except to proceed upon the best evidence which it can obtain and to get electrical power from the cheapest possible source, and they unanimously resolved, after considering the whole matter, without a single dissentient voice, that the Ayr Burgh scheme was not good enough and that their duty on behalf of the county was to enter with the Burgh of Kilmarnock into a joint electrical board on the basis of the existing Kilmarnock works, which it would be possible in the future greatly to extend. I see from the report in the "Kilmarnock Standard" that Mr. Turner, a very eminent county councillor, who seconded this resolution, which was proposed by Mr. Jack, said the Committee of the County Council and their electrical expert were satisfied that Ayr could never under any conditions, whether they got their Order through the House of Commons or not, be able to supply electricity, either for lighting or for power purposes, nearly so cheaply as Kilmarnock could supply it. One may prophesy and one may promise, but if it comes to the hard test of the market, there you have the opinion of the man who is a purchaser of electricity, and you have that man choosing the tested and tried scheme which has proved to be economical and rejecting the other which his experts advise him will be extravagant. That complete change has taken place. The Town Council of Kilmarnock unanimously endorsed the proposal for a Joint Board, giving up in the 2167 general public interest their own independence and taking a wider view of the necessities of that great industrial area as a whole. This project for a Joint Board has been welcomed and endorsed by the Electricity Commissioners. The Burgh of Ayr have been invited—and the invitation has been renewed—to come and share the control of the Joint Board and the benefits of the economical supply of electricity, which is assured, and indeed which is actually available at present. If there should be any merits in the Loch Doon scheme, which I am informed is very doubtful indeed, to say the least of it, the Joint Board are quite prepared to carry it out. They have an open mind. All they want is a cheap source of supply, and if they carry it out, instead of the ratepayers of this comparatively small town of Ayr being burdened with an enormous cost they will have lifted off their shoulders a great portion of the capital cost.
In view of the whole situation, and particularly of the negotiations and the agreement reached within the last few weeks since the matter was before the other House, it would seem most undesirable that the very considerable expense of attendance, perhaps for many days, by Counsel, with expert witnesses brought from Scotland, before the Committee should be undertaken. The electrical needs of a great industrial area like Ayrshire are not neatly divided up by burgh or parish boundaries. The problem is much wider than that, and this House, in the legislation which was passed in 1919, recognised the necessity for a wider outlook and a more comprehensive provision for the needs of industrial areas as a whole. This Board, which has been formed within the last few days, includes in its purview the whole of the County of Ayrshire, including the burghs therein. That agreement creates a new situation, and it would be very unfortunate if, right in the middle of the natural area of the new Joint Authority, there was set up a little separate scheme without hope of expansion. Admittedly there is no hope of expansion, because there is not enough water in Loch Doon for the scheme to expand. At the best, this scheme will prejudge and prejudice the action of the new Joint Board. The Town Council of Ayr is in itself divided about the wisdom 2168 of this expensive scheme, while the division amongst the community of Ayr is still more acute.
It is somewhat remarkable that in a matter of this kind, involving an extremely heavy addition to the dead-weight debt of the Burgh, the ratepayers have never been consulted. There exist the means of doing that, but the Ayr Council have thought it wiser not to consult the ratepayers. They have not consulted the ratepayers either by ballot or by plebiscite. Therefore, I ask this House, before further great expense is incurred, to reject the Bill, if only, in view of the new situation, to give time for consultation, not in the heat of controversy, but in a quiet way, between the representatives of Ayr, the representatives of the County of Ayrshire, the Kilmarnock Authority, and the Joint Board, so that a scheme may be worked out for the advantage of Ayr itself, in co-operation with all the local authorities concerned. I ask the House to reject this scheme, which will hamper the larger provision which is required.
May I sum up the matter briefly? On the one hand, on the side of Kilmarnock, you have an understanding acted upon by Kilmarnock in good faith. On the other hand you have its repudiation. On the one hand you have machinery actually installed and ready to supply the town of Ayr, installed for the purpose and for the only purpose, of supplying the town of Ayr. On the other hand you have plans and promises of contractors and engineers. On the Kilmarnock side you have a moderate capita] cost for the generation of electricity and the supply for Ayr ready and available now, while on the other hand you have this vast burden of liability falling on the Ayr ratepayers. On the one hand you have the scheme of Kilmarnock, tested by experience, and found to be—I challenge anybody to deny it—the most economical in Scotland. On the other hand, you have promises of economy, and prophecies by engineers, some of whom are not without an axe to grind. On the one hand, you have a scheme at Kilmarnock sought for its economy and tried efficiency by the whole of the areas of the County of Ayr, while in the Ayr Burgh Bill you have a scheme which is shunned by the County, and feared because of its possible and probable enor- 2169 mous expense. On the one hand, you have the large view of the area, which unites the area as a whole. On the other hand you have the narrow view, which insists on the sectional treatment of a problem which is not a sectional problem, but which is a problem of a much wider scope. On the, one hand, you have the offer to Ayr of association in a Joint Board, and its resultant economy. On the other hand you have the advisers of my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) insisting on squandering in the bogs of Loch Doon a quarter of a million sterling, which is sorely needed for other purposes, on a scheme which is totally unnecessary, and which I ask the House to reject.
§ Mr. R. McLAREN
I beg to second the Amendment which has been so ably proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock. When I interjected the remark about honest men, knowing Ayr and Ayrshire very well, I had the suggestion in my mind of the linesHonest men and bonnie lasses.Hence the reason why our hon. Friend the Member for the Burgh represents it. In connection with the Loch Doon scheme, I trust that if it goes on, they will be more successful in carrying out the operations than they were in the past. During the time that the scheme was in operation, they set a man to take charge of machinery, and the man who had charge of the machinery, locomotives, was a tailor from London. In the course of operations he forgot to keep sufficient water in the locomotive boilers, and he fused a plug, and in order that he might stop up the hole, he put in a wooden plug, and had the fire underneath. In connection with this scheme, the whole matter rests upon two principal objects. Those of us who have read the evidence must have come to the conclusion that the two principal purposes for carrying out the scheme are those of the civil engineer and the electrical engineer. I have carefully read the evidence of the civil engineer, and I am bound to say that unless something better is substituted than has been suggested, I fear the whole scheme will become a miserable failure. It must be understood that the civil engineer and the electrical engineer are two component parts that cannot be separated, and if the civil engineer fails 2170 in his duty to adopt a proper plan, it is impossible for the scheme to be successful.
I notice in the Loch Doon scheme that it has been suggested that the amount to be spent will be £220,000. In looking over the table, I find that the figure for labour and supervision is very much underestimated. Too few men are allowed for carrying on a continuous shift of eight hours, which means three shifts in the 24 hours. Too few men are allowed for carrying that work on continuously and successfully, and I assume that the figure of £1,760 per annum for carrying out this work and keeping it going is short by at least £500 or £600. I also find in connection with repairs and maintenance that only 1 per cent has been allowed. Anyone who knows anything about the question would never dream that 1 per cent. is sufficient. To that extent the promoters of the Bill are very far wrong. In connection with this scheme some matters have been properly brought out in cross-examination. The engineer who had charge of the scheme had to admit that in order to get a water supply and to have a continuous supply for continuous work during the whole year it was necessary to raise the dam at least 5 feet, and that he estimated would cost £11,500. That was not taken into account in the first estimate.
I am sure that the cost will be at least £250,000, and perhaps a good deal more. In this matter I am afraid that the estimate has been far too sanguine. Some figures were given in this respect which will interest the Committee. I find, in connection with the electrical power, that the cost of generating 5,641,000 units on an alternating current, required for the Ayr scheme, takes 1,800 kilowatts to carry out, and the cost is given as 89 of one penny. When you take into account the under-estimated items to which I have referred, the cost really amounts to 98 of one penny. If you take the Kilmarnock scheme, then you find that in Kilmarnock we have got plant sufficient to give a very much cheaper rate. Taking the same number of units, we find that the cost amounts to only 77d., and as the output will be increased if the Ayr people take this quantity from the Kilmarnock scheme, the cost will be very much less, and, on the whole, it means that you are saving several thousand pounds, and' that it would be a gain to the people of Ayr, instead of their having to spend 2171 this money on a scheme which may not turn out to be successful.
Everyone knows that on the question of electricity the bigger the output the better, and the less the cost. When the Electricity Bill was before the House the whole cry from these benches was, "In the interests of economy let us have concentration." Here you have in Kilmarnock a huge installation, which can be at once utilised not only for supplying Ayr Burghs, but a district of 350 square miles. In that case it will be a great mistake for the Ayr people to spend a very large amount of money on a scheme which may not be a success. In the interests of economy it is very necessary that time should be given to think the matter over, so that if a scheme is at last required for Ayrshire it will be a great scheme run as one by the Kilmarnock people, the Ayr Burghs people, and the County Council, and if that scheme is required then it would be very much cheaper for the ratepayers as a whole if it is undertaken by this joint board. On these grounds we should get time to consider the whole question, and I trust, therefore, that the House will reject this Bill.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS (Mr. James Hope)
I have listened with great care to the arguments used by the two hon. Members who have just spoken and, having heard them, I think it necessary to offer one or two words of advice to the House. This House has set up a very elaborate system to deal with Private Bills and the various local and technical considerations connected with them. Of course, the House always reserves its right to reject or amend these Bills when any large question of principle arises, but I cannot see there is any such principle in the case of the present Bill. Every one of the arguments that have been adduced, whether they be right or wrong, is exactly the kind of question for which the mechanism set up by this House is thoroughly well adapted, and for which debate in this House is not properly adapted. I pronounce no word of judgment on the merits of this Bill, but I am certain it is impossible to judge of the merits of the arguments which the hon. Members have advanced in opposition to the Bill. They are essentially the kind of arguments that must be judged by the Committee, and 2172 I feel an indisposition—on no ground of principle, but merely on the merits of the scheme—to try to get the judgment of this House on matters as to which the House as a whole will never be properly informed, rather than to trust to the well-tried procedure which the experience of generations has established as proper to these cases. Therefore I say, in the interests of the conditions of Private Bill legislation, that this is emphatically the kind of Measure that ought to go to a Committee, and I would suggest that, without further arguments on the merits, a decision of the House should be taken as to whether the Bill should or should not go to a Committee.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
My right hon. Friend has anticipated exactly what I proposed to say. I have in my hand an enormous mass of information which contradicts absolutely three-fourths of the statements made by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock Burghs (Mr. Shaw). A conflict of statements of that kind can never be settled on the Floor of this House. They are subjects which require an intimate and close inquiry by a Committee. This Bill has been passed by the other place under the presidency of the Marquis of Bristol, an old Member of this House with a Parliamentary experience of 20 years. Everybody knows the high reputation which Committees of the House of Lords hold both in the opinion of this House and of the country. They are more permanent in their composition than our Committees ever can be, as those Noble Lords do not change as we do from time to time, and they have procedure and precedents which guide them in such matters which are of the very highest value. With regard to the statements made by my hon. Friend, one would think that Ayr had no system at all, and that the whole possible future of electrical supply depended on Kilmarnock. This is really a case of jealousy between two neighbouring towns. Ayr is jealous of Kilmarnock, and Kilmarnock is jealous of Ayr, just as Edinburgh is jealous of Glasgow and Greenock is jealous of Paisley. We have got these cases all over Scotland. It is enough for one corporation to propose one thing, for another corporation to oppose it out of pure devilment.
In this particular case, while I have the honour to represent the town of Ayr, I also represent Troon and Irvine, and 2173 these are getting their supply of electricity from Kilmarnock. So I take an unbiased view of the situation. But I have received only one protest from Ayr against this Bill. That, I believe, was composed before the House of Lords' Committee. I have received no protest of any kind from Troon or Irvine against this Bill, although they obtain their supply from Kilmarnock. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, in his very able speech—he always makes very able and persuasive speeches; he knows the trick, and I always listen with the greatest pleasure to him—compelled me to admire the boldness of his statements and his antithetical peroration; but at the same time I contradict flatly some of the statements he made and can give my reasons for doing so. However, in view of what the Chairman of Ways and Means has said, I ought to refrain from detaining the House when it will be kept till the very early morning in discussing the Finance Bill, and I feel that I ought merely to say now that I do not and cannot accept the statements made by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. Those statements are all capable of contradiction. The statement as to the station in Kilmarnock, which he described as being sufficient to supply Ayr, is directly contradicted by the evidence of the Kilmarnock engineer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] If hon. Members say "Oh" I will read the contradiction to them. It is question 1762—Q. Do you mean that if they are to supply us and their own areas they will have to increase the station hereafter?—A. Yes, and they will have to increase it if they are to supply Ayr.In another part of the cross-examination it comes out that if they have not at this moment more than enough water for condensing purposes, they have, at any rate, no supply for the largely increased power which would be required if the Ayr demands had to be supplied. I am bound to consider the advice given by the Chairman of Ways and Means and to refrain from doing more than saying that in a matter of this kind, when a Bill has been thrashed out before a Committee of the House of Lords, and when the county council opposition has been composed by an agreement which I have here, it is unfair that this House should reject the Second Reading of a Measure so very technical in its character.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. J. WALLACE
There is no one here who does not attach very considerable weight to the intervention in this Debate of the Chairman of Ways and Means. I find myself in something of a difficulty after the statement of the last speaker. I have no wish to continue the Debate unnecessarily, but, having promised my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. A. Shaw), after full consideration of this subject, to support him in his objection to the Bill, there is no alternative but to deal with the matter in the ordinary way. I hope that the Chairman of Ways and Means will not interpret my action as disrespectful to his intervention, for, since the inquiry took place in the House of Lords, the position has very sensibly changed. The hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) has told us that the county council withdrew opposition to the Bill. Why did they do so? Because the application of the Bill to the county council was withdrawn, and the county council have since carried out a provisional agreement with the Kilmarnock Corporation for the supply of electricity. I suggest that that changes the whole position, and, having read carefully the statement made, first of all, by the Ayr Corporation, and, secondly, by the Kilmarnock municipal authority, I am forced to the conclusion that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock is absolutely justified in the clear and convincing statement that he gave to the House. I do not pretend to any expert knowledge, but it is surely elementary to say that in all these commercial matters the highest efficiency and the lowest cost can be achieved only by production on a very considerable scale. We have had it clearly explained to us that at Kilmarnock you have a thoroughly up-to-date and well-equipped plant, capable of almost any expansion, and I utterly fail to understand how this fantastic scheme at Looh Doon can be entertained by the Ayr Corporation. It can be explained only on the ground mentioned by the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs. He has told us that it is done merely for devilment. That is not a reason which should appeal to the intelligence of this House, and if it be the only ground upon which Ayr Burghs are proceeding with the Bill in declining to take their supplies from Kilmarnock, I have no doubt about the result of the Division to-night.
2175 The hon. Member for Kilmarnock mentioned something about a lunch, the precise significance of which I failed to understand, but in future, when the distinguished municipal authorities from Kilmarnock and Ayr meet to discuss business, I would respectfully suggest that they do so over a cup of tea—that cup which cheers but which does not inebriate. I am convinced from my hon. Friend's statement that there has been only one case put before the House, and if I required any further argument in support of that view I have it in the statement issued by the Ayr Burgh municipal authority. A less convincing, statement I have seldom read. I shall refer to only one point in it. They make various statements as to what has been said before the Electricity Commissioners, but all they can say in recommendation of the Loch Doon scheme, which is to cost £250,000, is that is "a possible source of supply." If £250,000 is to be spent to-day on "a possible source of supply," when, indeed, the supply is bound to be intermittent, the west country people have lost some of that sagacity and desire for economy with which their name is always associated. I almost apologise for intervening in a west country quarrel, but I hone that in this case a dispassionate voice from the east may not be without a little effect in inducing Members to reject what I believe to he a Bill for incurring totally unnecessary expenditure.
§ Mr. STURROCK
I hope the House will reject the Bill. We have been told we may be kept up until all hours of the morning on the Finance Bill and, accordingly, I shall not develop all the arguments that might be brought against it. If one had time to do so, it would be very simple to show that the proposal of the Bill is one of the most fundamentally drastic that was ever submitted to the consideration of the House of Commons. Here we have the community of Ayr with an ample supply of electricity at only a very few miles distant, which can be developed to almost any extent imaginable, having in view all the requirements of the burgh. Bearing that in mind, it seems astounding that in a time when we are told all economy must be practised, not merely as regards the taxpayer but as regard the ratepayer— 2176 that at a time like this, when economy is the watchword and to some extent the catchword of everyone, a proposal should be brought to the consideration of the House which involves an enormous capital expenditure and which is obviously not justified on the facts which have been placed before the House. There was a discussion in the House a few weeks ago about the Grampian electric scheme. Here we have a suggestion that a comparatively small station should be put up at a very high cost to supply a limited area containing something like 45,000 inhabitants. I yield to no one in my admiration for the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger), but I do not feel convinced by his statement nor, with all due respect, do I feel convinced by the statement of the Chairman of Ways and Means.
He said this Bill had gone through the usual Private Bill procedure. Of course it has done so. I have had the honour of taking part in the transaction of private Bill business and I fail to see why it should affect this House in any degree. This House is the ultimate authority which must declare its purpose upon all these proposals, and the mere fact that this Bill has received the assent of a Committee is no conclusive reason why it should receive our approval without discussion or objection. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs said this represented jealousy between two towns I felt all the more that it was high time for those who had economy at heart to oppose any proposal of the sort which was going to laud the ratepayers of any community in an almost unlimited obligation of expenditure upon which they had never been consulted. I feel strongly that this House, whether from the point of view of the taxpayer or the ratepayer, must look after every suggestion of expenditure in the closest possible fashion. It is conclusively clear to anyone who knows the local circumstances of the case that there is no reason for the setting up of a new station at Ayr to take any part of the business from Kilmarnock, and for these reasons I feel no doubt whatever in supporting my hon. Friend who has moved the rejection of the Bill.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Baird)
I ask the House to give me its attention for one or two moments on 2177 purely personal grounds and speaking in a purely personal capacity. I am not speaking in this matter as Under-Secretary for the Home Department, but I happen to know the district and have been acquainted with it for some time. It does seem rather curious that Ayr should have its affairs arranged by Dunfermline, Montrose and Kilmarnock. When the British House of Commons considers a Measure of this kind are we not to take into account whether the Measure is for the benefit of the particular district concerned? It so happens that this Bill is backed and promoted by the Provost and council of the town itself, and also by the hon. Member for the Burgh. Primâ facie I do suggest that this to the mind of the ordinary average man outweighs the reasons which hon. Members have endeavoured to put before the House in opposition to the Bill. Here is a question deeply concerning the town of Ayr. The town of Ayr, through its Provost and council, have made up their minds to develop a water supply with which I personally am well acquainted, and which, according to expert advice, is capable of producing the electricity they desire. Kilmarnock says "No, you shall not develop that water supply. We shall force you to take electricity from us." The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. A. Shaw) says they are going to be represented on the Board. What representation are they going to have on the Board. Are they going to be a majority of the Board. They will be represented, I suppose, in accordance with the amount of electricity which they will use, and that will be an infinitesimal proportion of the amount generated at Kilmarnock. I have followed far enough the path of my hon. Friends who have preceded me and I do not wish to proceed upon it further. I merely wish to support what has been said by the Chairman of Ways and Means. We have provided machinery for dealing with these questions. That machinery has been used to the extent that a Committee of the other place has sat, not for a few moments but for seven days, and considered this question, and after having heard the evidence has come to the conclusion that the Measure is desirable. I suggest we should put this Bill through the rest of the machinery which is provided for the purpose, and that we really should not, after a perfunctory discussion, 2178 deprive Ayr of the advantage which it is felt will be derived by putting this scheme into operation.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I think the right hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger), for whom I have great respect, has supplied unconsciously the best possible reason for rejecting the Bill. He referred to local jealousy as between different towns, and he spoke about jealousy as between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
The jealousy is on the part of those opposing the Bill, not on the part of those who are promoting it.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
The jealousies are mutual. I say this town has no business, even though they have a Provost and town council, to come up here to this House and spend the ratepayers' money on futile litigation. I hope, for the sake of the future prospective candidate for the Ayr Burghs, that the Bill does not become law before the next Election, with the accompanying expenditure of a quarter of a million. I think by that time, if it has come into force, and the Ayr ratepayers are looking at their electric lights, they will be inclined to sing a modified version of the immortal song of the bard who himself resided near Ayr. They will sing in regard to Loch Doon what was written about the river of Doon—Ye banks and braes o' bonny Doon, How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair, How can ye shine ye little bulbs, And we sae weary, fu' o' care!On general principles, no one will charge me with being a man who is in favour of great combinations in municipal enterprise, but if you are going to have individualistic enterprise, you must have these large combinations for the generating of electricity. Nothing could be worse than particularism in these matters, and nothing would choke up the development of this country more than having a number of small electrical enterprises dotted up and down the country. One of my great ambitions is to see a well-developed scheme of electricity supply in this country, and if you are going to have cheap electricity, to my mind, the proper carriers and the proper generators of it are the railway companies. They would make the power for their own railways, and they would supply it to the districts through which 2179 they run as a side line, and their overhead charges are already provided for. You will never get cheap electricity till you get some such scheme as that in operation. In the proposal that is now being considered, you will have double overhead charges, you will have separate engineers and separate managers, and you will have this little, circumscribed scheme for what is, I admit, this immortal town of Ayr. An hon. Member says it would be cheaper, but if a small electricity scheme is cheaper than a large one, it is for the first time in the history of electrical enterprise. Have we any certainty that there will be water in this Loch Doon scheme? It is very doubtful. At all events, what we know—and we have got. it confessed by the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger)—is, that this is a little, mutual, municipal jealousy.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
But I heard the hon. Member say it. All that we heard was that. Ayr could not condescend to take its electricity from Kilmarnock. In my view, they ought to go to the large county scheme there, and there ought to be one central supply for all these areas. This Bill is cutting into that principle of combination which has built up all our large enterprises, and, therefore, I think we should have no hesitation in rejecting it, and in days to come, when the temper of the two communities has died down a bit, I feel sure they will thank this impartial House of Commons that it had the good sense to save them from wasting their money.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
When my attention was first called to this scheme, and to the opposition to it of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. A. Shaw), I was rather sympathetic towards his attitude. I know both Ayr and Kilmarnock well. I live on the border of the County of Ayr, and I know that the Kilmarnock people are a very enterprising people, and all the accounts that I have heard of its electricity supply scheme are in its favour, but I must confess that I do not think this House would be justified in rejecting this Bill. There have been many points brought before us to-night that can only be sufficiently explored by a Committee upstairs, and I think this House would 2180 be on safer lines if, instead of interposing any obstacle in the way of this Bill, they should follow the usual procedure of allowing the Bill to go before a Committee upstairs, and allowing all those engineering details to be threshed out thoroughly. I must confess that what has been said about a joint scheme for the whole County of Ayr makes an appeal to one, but I take it that that would be taken into consideration by the Committee when they have considered the evidence on behalf of the Burgh of Ayr, and Ayr will have to establish and justify its case before the Committee. I do not think we would be doing our duty, either to ourselves or to the scheme contained in the Bill, if we ventured to interpose any barrier in the way of this Bill being thoroughly threshed out by a proper Committee, and so, not having any interest either in Ayr or in Kilmarnock, but largely influenced by what the Chairman of Ways and Means has said to us to-night, I think we would be doing a grave injustice if we prevented the Bill from going to a Committee. I therefore oppose the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill.
§ Mr. G. BALFOUR
On the merits of the scheme submitted by the promoters, and from the information which I have been able to gather from the two parties concerned in this matter, I am opposed to the scheme. Supposing for a moment that I was indeed the principal opponent of the scheme, whereas in fact I have no interest in it, I should, nevertheless, say that it was utterly wrong for this House to-night to refuse to allow this matter to go to a Committee and thereby upset one of our most valuable institutions in Private Bill procedure, as in this House it is quite impossible to give proper and adequate consideration to a Measure such as this, particularly as it has already occupied seven days in a Lords' Committee. I therefore think it is only right, even in the interests of the opponents, that the Bill should go before a Committee, where they can have their objections properly considered.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
May I suggest that, having passed an Electricity Bill two or three years ago setting up Electricity Commissioners, we are surely entitled to some guidance from them before coming to a decision on this point? The idea of that Bill, I understand, was 2181 to appoint Commissioners who should have charge of these very problems which are before the House at the present time. They were responsible for that coordination which various hon. Members have referred to as being desirable, and I think it is only right that the House should have some guidance on the broad, general principle from the Minister in charge.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of TRANSPORT (Mr. Neal)
I wish to join in the request made by the Chairman of Ways and Means that this Bill should have a Second Reading. It is quite true that, under the Electricity Act, 1919, an area has been provisionally delimited by the Commissioners much larger than the County of Ayr. In fact, it includes the City of Glasgow—a very large area—but the Commissioners have advised the Minister, and the Minister, in his Report to the other House, has said that he has no objection to the scheme on its merits. I do not wish to suggest that there are not necessary Amendments that could be made in Committee of this House, if the House he pleased to give the Bill a Second Reading. On the question as to the utilisation of the waters of Loch Doon for the purpose of this electricity supply, I would remind the House that
§ the Water Power Resources Committee, which was presided over by Sir John Snell, who happens also to be the chief Electricity Commissioner, did themselves recommend that as one of the waterpower schemes that might usefully be entertained. Without wishing to say more, because the matter will require detailed consideration at the hands of a Committee of the House, I respectfully suggest that this is a case in which the House is quite incapable, in the course of a discussion of this description, of fully considering its pros and cons. In answer to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson), I may say that the Electricity Commissioners see no insuperable difficulties in the scheme. It will in no way prevent the development of the area which they have deliminated, and I propose to go into the Division Lobby in support of the Bill.
§ Several hon. Members having risen—
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 129; Noes, 75.2183
|Division No. 185.]||AYES.||[9.25 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)|
|Armitage, Robert||Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||McCurdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Elveden, Viscount||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray|
|Banton, George||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Fell, Sir Arthur||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Foot, Isaac||Manville, Edward|
|Barnes. Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Mason, Robert|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Galbraith, Samuel||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.|
|Barrand, A. R.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Cougar (Banff)||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Hamar||Myers, Thomas|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Neal, Arthur|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Heyday, Arthur||Pennefather, De Fonblangue|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn'n,W.)||Perring, William George|
|Cairns, John||Hope, Rt. Hon. J. F. (Sheffield, C.)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Preston, Sir W. R.|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Hopkins, John W. W.||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hurd, Percy A.||Renwick, Sir George|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Clough, Sir Robert||Irving, Dan||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Jephcott, A. R.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir. J. H.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Kenyon, Barnet||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lawson, John James||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Simm, M. T.||Turton, Edmund Russborough||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbrdge)|
|Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Col. L. O. (R'ding)|
|Stanton, Charles Butt||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Strauss, Edward Anthony||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Sugden, W. H.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Taylor, J.||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)||Wignall, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Williams, C. (Tavistock)||Sir George Younger and Mr. Johnstone.|
|Townley, Maximilian G.||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Remer, J. R.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Hamilton, Sir George C.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Hayward, Evan||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Henderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)||Seddon, J. A.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hinds, John||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Briant, Frank||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Moseley)||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Bromfield, William||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Swan, J. E.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Kidd, James||Wallace, J.|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Cope, Major William||Lindsay, William Arthur||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Davies, A (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Lort-Williams, J.||Watts-Morgan. Lieut.-Col. D|
|Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Entwistle, Major C. F||Macquisten, F. A.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Evans, Ernest||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Finney, Samuel||Nall, Major Joseph||Wise, Frederick|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Yes, Sir Alfred William|
|Gould, James C.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward A.||Prescott, Major Sir W. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Rae, Sir Henry N.||Mr. A. Shaw and Mr. R. McLaren.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed.