By Professor Leslie Hannah
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Extra info for Electricity before Nationalisation: A Study of the Development of the Electricity Supply Industry in Britain to 1948
As the Minister responsible for the 1882 Act, Joseph Chamberlain no doubt had in mind that the difficult course followed earlier in relation to the public control of the gas industry should be avoided in the case of electricity. While Chamberlain did later caution that corporation trading ventures, which had become a source of pride and profit for the ratepayers, should not be indiscriminately extended to other fields which legitimately belonged to private enterprise, he was quite clear that some industries by their nature required public control in order to protect consumers: The supply of gas and of water, electric lighting, and the establishment of tramways [he wrote] must be confined to very few contractors.
Each country had to adapt the technology to suit its own economic requirements and it would be wrong to expect progress in development to occur at a uniform rate everywhere. Charles Merz, himself no laggard when it came to pioneering new technology, argued strongly against some of the simpliste disparaging comparisons which were sometimes made; To begin with [he told the Institution of Electrical Engineers], we must once and for all make up our minds that we cannot argue that something is right for this country because it is done in other countries, or that something is wrong in this country because it is wrong in other countries.
In 1901 four Lancashire municipalities, Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield, formed a Joint Tramways and Electricity Board under private bill procedure and, adopting NESCo's 40 Hz AC standard, opened a large new power-station in 1904 to retail electricity at a price well below that of neighbouring smaller stations. Six boroughs in the Potteries were merged with Stoke-on-Trent in 1910, bringing together common services and thus merging their four electricity works under common ownership.! 0 As their suburbs spread, the bigger cities also frequently extended their municipal boundaries and at the same time the electricity 40 Electricity before Nationalisation franchise was normally extended if no other authority also held rights in the area.