§ 17. Mr. Neil Maclean
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, whether he has received the Report of the Commission on the Glen Affric Scheme of the Grampian Electric Supply Company; and whether, in view of the strong feeling in Scotland over this scheme, and the fact that this scheme will not benefit the war effort, he will suspend the consideration of the report until the end of the war?
Yes, Sir, I have received the Report of the Commission, who after inquiry into the Grampian Electricity Supply Order recommend that it should be issued, with certain modifications. I have no power to prevent individuals from promoting Orders nor to prevent Parliament from discussing and deciding upon contentious private legislation. In accordance with my duties under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1936, I shall be required to submit at some convenient date a Confirmation Bill. The responsibility for accepting or rejecting that Bill will then rest upon Parliament.
§ Mr. Maclean
Since it lies within the jurisdiction of the right hon. Gentleman to submit the Bill, will he take care that the Bill is not submitted until the war is finished—if he is then still in his present office?
§ Sir Herbert Williams
Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that, if we had only passed the Caledonian Power Bill, we should be better off to-day?
§ 18. Mr. Maclean
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he can make a statement re the hearing of the case for the Glen Affric plans of the Grampian Electric Supply Company; on whose 1061 authority members of the public were refused admission to the hearing; whether a shorthand verbatim report of the evidence was taken; and whether this will be printed and circulated, as is the rule in other important cases heard by the Commissioners and in which the public is keenly interested?
Yes, Sir. The Defence Regulation 6b provides that, where it is certified by the Secretary of State that it is necessary in the interests of- the Defence of the Realm that an inquiry by Commissioners under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act should not be held in public, the Chairman of the Commissioners is to give directions accordingly, and also to secure that no copy of the evidence is to be supplied except to the Secretary of State or to any party having a locus standi to appear at the inquiry. In the case of this inquiry I was advised that statements were likely to be made not only about the proposed new works but about the position and capacity of existing generating stations and transmission lines and the present and prospective load in the area north of the Forth for domestic, industrial and war needs, and I therefore granted a certificate under the regulation. A shorthand verbatim report of the evidence was taken, and while its publication would be contrary to the Regulation, I am considering means by which Members will have an opportunity of seeing the evidence.
§ Mr. Maclean
Is this not a complete violation of the whole situation in this part of Scotland? Is it not a fact that all that is necessary to be known is already known, and that all this secrecy is causing great unrest in Scotland in regard to the promoters of the Scheme? We should like to know why this matter is being singled out, as it is something which cannot in any degree be of help during the period of the war?
I can only say that the advice given to me was entirely contrary to the statement made by the hon. Gentleman, and that the position and capacity of existing generating stations and transmission lines were likely to be elaborately referred to before the Committee.
§ Mr. Maclean
Are they not already in operation and already known to the public as well as to other countries, and conse- 1062 quently there would be no divulging of secret information; and is it not the case that the right hon. Gentleman has been very badly advised in having this matter held in secret and behind closed doors?
I can only repeat that we must go by the highly specialised technical advice that we receive.
§ Mr. Maclean
Is not such advice sometimes very untechnical? I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter at the first opportunity on the Motion for the Adjournment.