PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.

Draft Electricity Generators (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991

Draft Scottish Hydro-Electric (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991

Draft Scottish Nuclear Nuclear Limited (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991

Daft Scottish Power PLC (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991

Wednesday 27 February 1991

LONDON: HMSO

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1

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. Michael Morris

Bright, Mr. Graham (Luton, South)

Brown, Mr. Michael (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

Brown, Mr. Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)

Bruce, Mr. Malcolm (Gordon)

Buchanan-Smith, Mr. Alick (Kincardine and Deeside)

Ewing, Mr. Harry (Falkirk, East)

Fairbairn Sir Nicholas (Perth and Kinross)

Graham, Mr. Thomas (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

Hood, Mr. Jimmy (Clydesdale)

Kirkhope, Mr. Timothy (Leeds, North-East)

McMaster, Mr. Gordon (Paisley, South)

Maxton, Mr. John (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Monro, Sir Hector (Dumfries)

Shepherd, Mr. Richard (Aldridge-Brownhills)

Stewart, Mr. Allan (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland)

Walker, Mr. Bill (Tayside, North)

Wardle, Mr. Charles (Bexhill and Battle)

Younger, Mr. George (Ayr)

Mr. M. D. Hamlyn, Committee Clerk

2
3 Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 27 February 1991

[MR MICHAEL MORRIS in the Chair]

Draft Electricity Generators (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991

10.30 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart): I beg to move, "That the Committee has considered the draft Electricity Generators (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991."

The Chairman: With the agreement of the Committee, we shall also consider the draft Scottish Hydro-Electric plc (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991, the draft Scottish Nuclear Limited (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991 and the draft Scottish Power plc (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991.

Mr. Stewart: The orders are technical and, I believe, uncontroversial. The rateable values for the operational property of the various utilities and undertakings are prescribed by the Secretary of State. They require reassessment with effect from 1 April 1990, the date of the general revaluation of all non-domestic properties. I assure hon. Members that the assessments and provisions in the orders are the result of extensive discussions with representatives of the supply industry, independent generators—I am sure that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) will welcome this reassurance—the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Assessors Association. The orders have been the subject of formal consultation. They represent a fair and reasonable assessment for the industry and I commend them to the Committee.

10.32 am

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart): I shall not be quite as brief as the Minister, but I assure the Committee that I shall not detain it for long. I accept that the Minister has discussed the orders with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which assures me that the orders are neutral—they neither add nor remove money from local authorities. There are some rather strange anomalies in the allocation of moneys to local authorities that I do not understand. Argyll and Bute—I do not object to it receiving this revenue—receives £2,392,787 under the Scottish Power plc order and £1,517,157 under the Hydro-Electric plc order. I accept that Argyll and Bute has an extensive network of transmission cables, but 4 that seems a large sum compared with the £4,304,907 received by Glasgow district council, although the headquarters of Scottish Power are located in my constituency. That requires explanation. Local authorities such as Nithsdale, Stewartry and Wigtown receive larger sums than one might expect. Presumably, the reason for that is the interconnector, which is being upgraded, and the transmission cables linked with it. I hope that the generating companies and the Government believe—they certainly expressed this view during the Committee stage of the Electricity Act 1990—that upgrading the interconnector will require the laying of new cables and that they will try to make pylons more environmentally friendly by removing them from the top of hills and placing them in valleys, where they are not so ugly. Do the orders take account of the fact that, to facilitate the laying of those cables, land will have to be purchased and that there will be an overlap before the land on which the existing cable runs is sold? I should like to be informed of the position. I do not intend to stray wide of the orders, but they offer an opportunity for a final discussion on the privatisation of the electricity industry. In the next few months, two public companies will pass into private ownership. When does the Minister expect that sale to take place, and will it have any impact on the orders? Presumably, the price at which the shares are sold makes a marginal difference to the valuations of the properties that we are discussing. Concern has been expressed by English companies about the number of staff who are being laid off. So far, that has not arisen in Scotland, but it is feared that there will be a contraction of the work force in the next few months. Equally, fear has been expressed about a hostile takeover by companies either in the United Kingdom or abroad, whereby the social role of Hydro-Electric plc will be lost. People who live in remote areas will find it extremely expensive to obtain an electric supply, especially if, having paid Hydro-Electric plc to run a wire up a hillside to their croft, they discover that the company refuses to pay rates on that and that they must pay them as well as the bill for its installation. In the longer term, they may face a different charge for electricity. There is a further danger that some of the electricity boards' shops will no longer offer advice and accept payment of bills but will merely sell electrical goods. Those are the points that I wanted to make. We remain opposed to privatisation, but these are technical and neutral orders.

10.38 am

Mr. Stewart: I am grateful to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) for confirming COSLA's view. I assure him that the orders are neutral. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the apportionment to authorities. Argyll and Bute has considerable generating and transmission capacity. The orders do 5 not apply to offices or shops. Cathcart house, which is in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, is valued conventionally by the assessors and entered separately and normally as an office on the valuation roll. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Stewartry and the interconnector. I assure him that the boards will do everything possible to ensure that the changes are as environmentally friendly as possible. I assure the hon. Member for Cathcart that the orders have no impact on whether the assets of the companies are held in the public or private sector. They apply only for 1990–91; new orders would be required to reflect any changes in property holdings.

Mr. Maxton: I am no expert in reading orders—I should be after all these years—but article 3 of the Hydro-Electric plc order mentions shops and office premises.

Mr. Stewart: I am advised that the order applies not to shops and offices but to transmission and generating facilities.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, 6 "That the Committee has considered the draft Electricity Generators (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991.—[Mr. Allan Stewart.]

Draft Scottish Hydro-Electric plc (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991.

Resolved, "That the Committee has considered the draft Scottish Hydro-Electric plc (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991.—[Mr. Allan Stewart.]

Draft Scottish Nuclear Limited (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991

Resolved, "That the Committee has considered the draft Scottish Nuclear Limited (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991.—[Mr. Allan Stewart.]

Draft Scottish Power plc (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991

Resolved, "That the Committee has considered the draft Scottish Power plc (Rateable Values) (Scotland) Order 1991.—[Mr. Allan Stewart.]

Committee rose at eighteen minutes to Eleven o'clock.

THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Morris, Mr. Michael (Chairman)

Brown, Mr. Michael

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas

Graham, Mr.

Kirkhope, Mr.

Maxton, Mr.

Stewart, Mr. Allan

Walker, Mr. Bill

Wardle, Mr. Charles