§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That, in lieu of any Excise duties now payable for motor cars, there shall be charged, both in Great Britain and Ireland, in each year, for every motor bicycle or motor tricycle a duty of one pound, and for every other motor car a duty at the following rates, calculated in accordance with horse-power:—
|Under 6½||Two guineas.|
|6½ but under 12||Three guineas.|
|12 but under 16||Four guineas.|
|16 but under 26||Six guineas.|
|26 but under 33||Eight guineas.|
|33 but under 40||Ten guineas.|
|40 but under 60||Twenty guineas.|
|60 and over||Forty guineas.|
§ "That the duty under this Resolution shall not extend to motor cars which are charged with duties as hackney carriages under the Customs and Inland Revenue Act, 1888, or to motor cars which are not carriages within the meaning of that Act, and that the unit of horse-power for the purpose of the duty shall be calculated in accordance with regulations made by the Treasury for the purpose."—[The Chancellor of the Exchequer.]
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
In rising to speak on the question of the taxes on motor cars, I am afraid I shall not meet with very much sympathy. Speaking on behalf of the owners of motor cars, no doubt I shall be regarded as speaking in favour of luxuries, and it will be held that because they are luxuries they should be taxed. We have been discussing now for 652 some days past different sections of the Budget, and those sitting on the Opposition side have found it necessary to make certain charges in regard to the taxes imposed of penalising certain sections of the community. So far as this tax is concerned I have no political charge of that kind to make. I quite realise that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in need of a certain sum of money, that he has looked round him to find out where that money can be obtained, and in doing so he has seen fit to propose a tax on the owners and users of motor cars. In the first place I object to a tax on motor cars just as I do to a tax on carriages, because it is either proposed as a tax on luxuries or on locomotion. If this tax is proposed as an impost on luxuries you have to prove that first a motor car is a luxury, a contention which I should very strongly contest.
I hold that a motor car has now become almost a necessity, that it is very largely a commercial vehicle, not used, it is true, for carrying goods in that sense, but used by doctors and travellers, and by many people for other than purely pleasure purposes. In that sense I do not think a motor car can be classed as a luxury, and, therefore, should not be taxed as such. If we admit for the moment that a motor car is a luxury, there is no reason why other luxuries should not be equally taxed. I appeal to hon. Members to discuss this question without the prejudice which to some extent attaches to motor cars. I have the honour to be the chairman of the Motor Union, and we do all we can to instil into the members of that body the desirability of moderate and careful driving, so that they should not become a nuisance to the other users of the road. I submit in any case that the Budget should not be used to penalise all motoritsta 653 because some motorists may be road hogs. Let laws be carried as strictly as possible against the road hog, but do not attempt to impose additional taxation on all motorists because of the unpopularity of a certain number of their community. I cannot help thinking that to some extent the higher scale of duty proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite on cars of twenty and forty guineas is an extraordinary rate. The taxation proposed by the Budget is of rather a startling character as far as the increase is concerned; but I must confess that I am bound to protest against the particular scale proposed. If you object to very high-class cars bring in a Bill to prohibit them, but do not use the Budget as a means of penalising them. I have endeavoured to find some figures as to the use of motor cars and the number of accidents. In 1905, which sure the latest figures, there were 2,732 motor cars of the average value of £374. Therefore the fashion is not so very luxurious after all. A very large proportion were small power cars. In 1906 the motor cars travelled 44,352,000 miles, and there were only 16 accidents. Of that number of cars there travelled for pleasure 1,019, and the remainder for business. These figures are somewhat of a revelation. Since 1905 the number of ears used for business purposes by professional men, such as doctors and so forth, has greatly increased; and, so far as I know, fatal accidents have not increased in proportion to the use of the cars. They are used every day for business purposes. The motor car is daily becoming more and more a business carriage. It is used for general business purposes. I wish to tell the Members on the Front Opposition Bench that there is and has been going on a considerable reduction of the horse power of the cars, which will bring the cars within the means of the less wealthy classes of the community. They have become a necessity to a very large class of the community. The great question is not that of accidents or reckless driving, but dust. Local communities have done their best in dealing with that question. Some remedies have been proposed; and it is not a mere possibility, but almost a certainty, that there will be a system of road-making—both road-making and up-keeping—which will render the roads practically dustless. The proposed tax will make it unable to find the necesary funds for carrying on these experiments, and the use of experiments in many roads will be done away. The 654 motor community is not indisposed to the taxation of motors. I admit that motor cars are a source which must be taxed. But the taxation proposed under this Budget is of such a startling character, so far as the increase is concerned, that I shall have to protest, if the Budget goes through, against the particular scale of taxes proposed. I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman got his scale from. I have before me the scale proposed by the Royal Commission which reported two years ago. The Royal Commission proposed a scale of taxation on this basis. Motor cars not exceeding 12cwt. pay 2 guineas on the present basis; it was not proposed to change that. But on motor cars of from 12 to 15cwt., whereas the charge was 2 guineas, the Royal Commission proposed to raise it to 3 guineas, and they went on on that scale until they reached the high-weighted cars. The present taxation on high-weighted motor cars is 4 guineas, and the Royal Commission proposed that it should be 8 guineas. If the Government had confined themselves to the proposals of the Royal Commission I do not think that any particular fault would have been found with them by the representatives of motorists in this House, although even this taxation on the motor cars is far higher than that upon any other class of vehicle.
But we have to realise now that on the ordinary motor car we pay double the taxation upon a horse carriage. We are entitled to say, in considering this question, it has not been proved that motors make dust. I agree it has been abundantly proved that they stir up the dust, but the dust is undoubtedly made by horses' hoofs, and I think it is clear, and has been abundantly proved, that if all horses were eliminated the roads would be much more dustless than they are at the present moment. But for high-weighted cars, travelling at a high rate of speed, the roads would not by reason of the motor traffic, be very much worse than at present. The high-power car exceeding the speed limit undoubtedly does do harm to the roads, but the ordinary motor of 12, 15 and 20 h.p., travelling within the legal limits of speed, does not do so much harm to the fabric of the road as many other vehicles, and if we are to be taxed as is proposed for the upkeep of the roads, I want to say that in theory such a tax is absolutely bad. It is going back to the old time of the turnpike. The old system was that every road-user should pay for the use of the road at every turnpike, 655 and the heavier vehicle paid more than the lighter one. If you are going to tax solely and simply because of the use of the road, I say that in theory it is wrong, because it is a reversal of the policy which was adopted when turnpikes were abolished, and therefore the Chancellor of the Exchequer is taking a retrograde step by the renewal of what practically is the turnpike system throughout the country. There is no more reason why men who use a road should be taxed for the upkeep of the road because they used them than that a man should be allowed to say, "I do not choose to pay for the lighting of a street because I never go out at night." The street is lighted in order that he may have the benefit if he chooses to take advantage of it. A man might say he would not pay for the upkeep of a road because he never uses it, but all these theories have been swept away long since, and yet to-day, in the year 1909, this progressive Chancellor of the Exchequer is going back to the old system of turnpikes—the system of trying to compel the user of the road to pay for the upkeep of the road. To that policy I intend to give my strongest opposition.
I admit that the regret with which the motor car owners have seen this tax proposed is a great deal mitigated by the purpose to which it is to be devoted. It is not to be devoted to the general purposes of taxation in this country. If it were going to be devoted to any of those purposes which we have been debating at length in the last fortnight I should think the motorists would be compelled to object to the imposition of the tax, but they have admitted their willingness to meet the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a small additional tax provided that that additional tax is devoted to the improvement of the roads. I was one of a deputation which waited on the Prime Minister when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer last year to discuss the whole question of an additional tax upon motorists, and we told him frankly that, while in theory we were opposed to additional taxation, we were willing to submit to a moderate tax if the money thereby raised were to be given to a central authority for the purpose of improving the roads of the country. That is the basis upon which the present Chancellor of the Exchequer is seeking to place this extra tax upon us, in order that a central fund may be created for the purpose of improving the 656 roads of the country. No one can deny that, apart altogether from the question of motors and the use they make of the roads, the system of roads in France, where they have national, departmental, and communal roads, is clearly better than the system which obtains in this country, especially when one realises that in this country we have 2,000 bodies who have control of the roads. The Great North road runs through the jurisdiction of some hundreds of local authorities, each jealous of the other's position, and I do feel that the whole community, and not merely the motoring community, will benefit from the establishment of a central organisation to take charge of the duty of improving the roads of the country. If we had had this central organisation a few years ago we should have long since got over the dust difficulty, and the experiments which motorists have been making at their own expense would have had the result that we should have had large stretches of roads made with new and improved material, and the whole community would have been much better for the central administration proposed to be set up by the Government with the proceeds of this particular tax. While we are prepared to pay a slight moderate increase of duty in order that this central department may be set up, we do ask that the Department which is to have charge of the improvement of the roads should not be set up entirely at the expense of the motoring community. The whole community will benefit from it. The farmer and the tradesman will reap the benefit, and we do ask that the Government should devote not merely the increased taxation, say, £260,000, which the Budget will raise, and also £340,000 which the right hon. Gentleman hopes to get, and which I do not think he will get, from the proceeds of the Petrol Tax—this £600,000 which is to be raised for the purposes of the roads should be a general burden, and I would suggest further that out of the overflowing surplus which it is admitted the right hon. Gentleman will have this year, he should give at least £1,000,000 to make the Roads Department really efficient, in order that we may have some means of making our main roads more nearly akin to a great many of the roads on the Continent.
I come next to the views of the Royal Commission on Motor Traffic. The Royal Commission recommended that the revenue from motors should be devoted to roads, 657 and this Central Department is to be formed accordingly. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman when he brings in his Bill, which I presume will be a separate one, apart from the Budget, to consult motoring organisations who are going to provide some portion of the money, and I also hope that in the establishment of the central authority he will include some representative of the motoring organisations. We submit that all taxation upon motor cars, not merely any addition of taxation upon them, and also all taxation from all vehicles, should be carried to the account of this Central Road Department. I think that is a reasonable proposal. When we are asked to assent to larger taxation upon ourselves, it is a reasonable proposal that we make to the Government, that not merely the taxation from ourselves, but from other vehicles, should be carried to the account of this Central Department, which will have to deal with the roads. It is a small matter, but I also venture to suggest—and here my withers are un-wrung, as I have never been hauled before any bench of magistrates—I venture to suggest that those fines which are paid, so willingly and happily by motorists for exceeding the speed limit, should be devoted, not to the districts in which the fines are inflicted, but to the Central Department for Roads. There are reasons for this, although I do not wish to make any aspersions upon these benches of magistrates, who do, I am quite sure, their duty. But at the same time, I have personally conversed with a magistrate in a district near to my own, and he told me, "Yesterday, do you know, we bagged £100 in fines from motor cars," as if it was good sport. That is not the principle on which justice should be administered by our county benches, and I suggest that it might conduce to a little more leniency, and to our being treated with a little more of the milk of human kindness, if the fines went to this central road organisation instead of to the funds of the locality in which they were inflicted. And it might make it more pleasant for motorists to pay these fines.
I want to say a word as to the effect which this tax has already had, and will have with increasing force, with regard to the motoring trade itself. I would say at once, I have no interest in the motor trade. With regard to petrol, upon which I hope to speak next week, I shall at once tell the House that Ihave some small interest for some client. But as to the motor 658 trade, I have no connection whatever with it. We have inquired, and we find that contracts for new cars, which were negotiated a month ago, have been stopped and cancelled. These were contracts, not for ordinary pleasure cars, but for ordinary commercial vehicles. The selling value of cars has been depreciated, and to-day it is almost impossible to dispose of a large second-hand car at the price you could have disposed of it a month ago, before this very high tax on high-priced cars was brought in. A number of people with very large incomes have already given up their cars. In fact, I think that a Member who sits on the Front Bench opposite has, in consequence of this unfortunate Budget, already given his chauffeur notice. If that happens on the Front Ministerial Bench, what is likely to happen in other quarters of the House? But, after all, though the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway may not have an interest as employers of chauffeurs, they have an interest in this matter, because they represent these men, who are a part and parcel of the great working community, and represent a large number of men employed in motor car works, who will feel the strain. If any large tax so great as this is put on, it will prevent men from buying the higher-priced cars, the six-cylinder cars especially, and these are nearly all manufactured in England. I am sorry that the President of the Local Government Board is not here this evening, because he has to do with unemployment, and I believe if he were here, and were asked his opinion, he would tell us that the one trade of England which, during the last two years, though it had not paid high profits to manufacturers or shareholders—the one trade which had increased the number of men employed in it—thei number of high-class artisans, is the motor manufacturing trade, and it is a very serious thing if the Government do anything which would tend, as I think this will tend, to throw out of employment a considerable number of skilled artisans engaged in Coventry and other parts of England where the motor cars are made. Everybody knows that the motor trade has been passing through a very serious crisis in the last two years. I will not mention names, but well-known firms have had to be reconstructed and to obtain additional capital. And yet you are putting this tax on them to-day. I am not saying that a moderate increase would do so, but this almost oppressive increase will undoubtedly tend to decrease the number of cars in use, and 659 therefore to decrease the number of cars manufactured. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was apparently gloating over the fact that his tax on whisky would tend to decrease the consumption of that spirit. Any tax of a serious character must tend to decrease the consumption of an article, and if a tax on whisky tends to decrease the consumption, a tax on high-class cars must decrease the number of them in use. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to tax the cars on the principle proposed by the Royal Automobile Club, which depends upon the measured length of the cylinder and not on the length of the stroke. I know this is a little technical, but I want the Under-Secretary for the Home Office, whom I see opposite, to realise that this will have the effect of stereotyping the class of engine to one of narrow diameter and a very long stroke. This will cause a certain number of manufacturers who have been manufacturing a different type of engine to alter their mode of manufacture, and thereby cause great expenditure. I should also like to ask how the right hon. Gentleman proposes to tax steam and electric cars. Under the present system they are all taxed on weight, and I do not see how he is going to tax them under this proposed Royal Automobile rating. I wish to bring before this Committee also the extraordinary jumps in the right hon. Gentleman's proposed scale. It jumps from 33 to 40 and from 40 to 60 h.p., and that is bound to have a very serious effect upon the makers of some cars.
May I take two kinds of cars, one of 39 h.p. and one of 40 h.p.? Other things being equal, the two cars are practically of identical h.p., and the purchaser to-day takes his choice. The tax is the same. After the Budget is passed he will naturally choose the 39 h.p. rather than the 40, because there will be a considerable extra tax on the latter. The effect will be that the manufacturer of the 39 h.p. car, which is standardised, will have to alter the whole system of manufacture, and establish a fresh system in order to bring it down to 39 h.p. and to get the advantage of this particular tax. There is a great deal to be said in favour of taxing by horse-power. It is simpler, and it is easier. Everyone can take his car and have it weighed on the nearest weighbridge, and, moreover, it is a proposal which is recommended by the Royal Commission, which took a considerable amount 660 of evidence and heard motorists all over the country. Assuming for a moment that motorists are to accept—and I do not think they will lay any very great stress in their opposition to it—a form of taxation by horse-power I suggest rather seriously that the right hon. Gentleman should tax by unit of horse-power, which would be very much better than jumping from 33 to 40 and from 40 to 60. Any man who has a h.p. of just 40 is to be taxed exactly the same as a man with a h.p. of 59. Obviously there is very grave unfairness in that, but if the right hon. Gentleman would agree to tax by unit of h.p., it is perfectly simple when once you have studied the system, because the h.p. would be measured under the provisions of the rating of the Royal Automobile Club to a nicety, and you will not be able to say your motor car is 10 to 20 or 30 to 40 h.p. It will be 28, 29, or whatever it may be exactly. It is not for me to have to say what the units should be, but I want to be in a conciliatory mood to-night, and I want to show the right hon. Gentleman that we are not so totally devoid of all feeling to other road users, and that we are prepared to gracefully concur in any moderate increase of taxation upon ourselves. I suggest as a compromise that half-a-crown per horse-power, with perhaps a minimum for the smaller cars, would be a fair proposal. A 40 h.p. car thus would pay £5 10s., which is higher than at present, and a 60 h.p. car would pay £6 2s. 6d. It is a mode which could be perfectly fairly and perfectly easily worked, and would give no difficulty to the officers of the right hon. Gentleman, and all sections of the motoring community would, I think, agree to it.
While I do not want to force this matter to a Division or to go into the Lobby as an out and out opponent of any further taxation upon motor cars, because I realise the benefit which not merely motorists, but all members of the community, will have from the establishment and the maintenance of this central road authority, I want to say we shall be bound as the Budget goes further through the House to oppose this unless the right hon. Gentleman comes to some fair compromise as to the amount of the tax which he proposes to put on. He must not forget that in addition to the taxation proposed in the Budget there is a tax on petrol, which will be a very heavy additional tax upon all users of motor cars—the private owner, the business owner, the doctor, the veterinary surgeon, and others whose cars are 661 really part and parcel of the carrying on of their business—and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, as we are prepared to meet him in a conciliatory spirit, and to say that we will not oppose tooth and nail any taxation, that before he brings in his Finance Bill he should consult with some representative of the motor users either in this House or out of it. I believe he has consented to receive a deputation which I am afraid may not be able to take place owing to the extraordinary difficulty of his finding time until after Whitsuntide. But I suggest that if he can stave off that deputation by modifying these taxes and making them, as I suggest, half-a-crown per horse-power—and though I have no authority to speak on behalf of all the motorists of the country, I believe the very great majority of them will fall in with some such proposal—we shall be able to save him a very great deal of time and trouble and brain worry in getting this portion of his Budget through the remaining stages.
§ Mr. W. W. ASHLEY
The hon. Member who has just addressed us stated that these proposals took us back to the old days of turnpikes. I personally think that the old clays of the turnpikes were eminently reasonable and fair to all people concerned. In those days the people who used the roads paid for them. It was undoubtedly disagreeable when riding on the road on a cold winter's evening to have to pull up and fumble your money and pay it out; but still those people who used the roads and raised the dust paid. On the Great Bath Road you can see the place where they got the water to water the road and put down the dust near Slough, just as we have to now when a motor car comes along. Although owing to the greatly increased traffic on the roads and the modern impatience of being kept waiting this system is done away with, still I think it was a very fair system. There is undoubtedly in the country districts, I know there is in Lancashire, grave dissatisfaction and natural dissatisfaction that people who come from London, Manchester, Liverpool, and all the great towns of England whirl through the countryside, cover the fields with dust, destroy the crops and fruit trees, and pay not a single farthing towards the upkeep of the roads which they are using. Under these proposals of the Government I think we have a fair system outlined, namely, that the 662 people who use these touring cars should contribute towards the upkeep of the roads through which they pass, and which the inhabitants, the farmers, and local gentry generally hardly use at all compared with those who come from a distance. But when I come to the scale which is proposed I think on the highest cars the Government is going perhaps rather further than the year justified. Of course, I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer must get money. We cannot ask the Government to increase the Navy and do other necessary things unless we who own motor cars and others are prepared to put our hands in our pockets and find the money. So far as I am personally concerned, I think what is proposed in respect of cars up to 33 h.p. is an eminently fair proposition, but when we come to the proposal with respect to cars of 40 to 60 h.p., namely, 20 guineas, I think the charge might be modified. I think the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is unfair not only to the people who use cars, but also to an industry which, after being long handicapped in this country, and which started long after the French and German industry, has, through the energy of our manufacturers and the skill of our workmen, taken, I shall not say a leading place, but, at any rate, an equal place with the industry as carried on on the Continent. It is proposed here that directly you get to 40 h.p. the duty is to be 20 guineas. Perhaps my withers are wrung in this matter, for I own a 40 h.p. car. It seems to me hard that I should have to pay 20 guineas, while if it was a 39½ h.p. car I should get off with a payment of 10 guineas. After all, that is a minor matter. It may be said that if I choose to have this car I should pay for it. My car is manufactured by an English company who employ entirely British workmen and use British materials. They have standardised the cars at 40 to 60 h.p., and if we are going to put these taxes on practically all their machinery will be useless. They will have to go to great expense in order to provide machinery to build cars of smaller horse-power, and I would ask the Government whether the proposed scale could not be modified in order not to do injustice to a British industry which in the last two or three years has made such tremendous strides. If the Government cannot accept the proposals put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Manchester of so much per unit could 663 they not see their way to adopt such a scale as this?
That would bring practically the same revenue to the Exchequer. Under the scale proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer a 40 h.p. car will pay the same as a 59 h.p. car. If such a proposition as I venture to suggest were adopted the revenue would not be hurt and a sense of injustice would not be created among the owners of motor cars, and, above all, of cars of British manufacture. I am sure we, whatever our views in regard to Tariff Reform or fiscal policy, would not wish to place our manufacturers at a disadvantage under this schedule.
26 to 33 h.p. 8 Guineas 33 to 39 h.p. 10 Guineas 39 to 47 h.p. 12 Guineas 47 to 55 h.p. 14 Guineas 55 to 59 h.p. 18 Guineas 59 to 63 h.p. 20 Guineas Over 63 h.p. 40 Guineas
§ Mr. C. D. ROSE
I wish to congratulate the hon. Member for North-West Manchester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) on the manner in which he has placed the case before the Committee for a modification of the proposed scale of duties payable for motor cars. I should like to say that motor cats have been held responsible for damage done to roads in a way which has not been justified by the facts. The dust is created by the horse traffic and not by motor cars. I attended a conference recently at which this question was discussed, and the evidence brought forward was unanimous that the actual dust is created by the horse traffic. That being so, I think my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Manchester must reconsider the suggestion he made with respect to the cost of maintaining the roads. I should have been glad indeed if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had seen his way not to impose any further taxation on motor cars at all, but I have been compelled to look at this question from the point of view of the financial needs of the country. The right hon. Gentleman is face to face with large requirements. During the last 10 days those connected with every industry which will be affected by the new taxation have been crying out. There have been protests against the increases in the Licence Duties, the Spirit Duty, the Income Tax, and the Death Duties. That being so, it is hardly reasonable to expect that the owners of motor cars should be exempted. The whole question is whether the increased taxation 664 in their case is too severe, or in any way of a vindictive character. I agree with the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. Ashley) that when the Finance Bill is in Committee it would be desirable to have some modification of the scale now proposed. That scale provides for a duty of 10 guineas on cars from 33 to 40 h.p., and 20 guineas on cars of 40 to 60 h.p. That, I think, is too great a jump. I do not know what kind of car my hon. Friend owns.
§ Mr. ROSE
My hon. Friend is a greater authority than I am on the matter of cars. I do not know how that would be classified by the Royal Automobile Club, but his car might come out as high as 60 h.p. It is well known that nearly all these cars called 40 h.p., if really tested, develop up to nearly 60 h.p., so that if my hon. Friend is taxed for a 40 h.p. car he probably ought to be taxed for a 60 h.p. car. I have no doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in framing this schedule has been influenced by the amount of money he requires to raise. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Manchester that the scale proposed is going to injure the motor industry, but I am afraid he will not get very much sympathy from the general public, and perhaps even in this House, in his protest against the high tax proposed to be put on cars of 60 h.p. He will find that the majority of the Members of this House would be very glad if these high-power cars were done away with altogether. Their objection may not be well grounded, but yet I think they would find that it is the case that, taking the actual number of cars of that high power, it would not bring very much revenue to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. With regard to the central authority I hope my hon. Friend will look very carefully into the Bill when the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduces it, and see that this fund is going to be applied towards the maintenance and remaking of the main roads of this country and making them suitable for motor traffic, and I hope that the authority which he is going to create will be vested with ample powers, so that the motor car owners will be able to look to it to have the roads properly repaired. I personally, as a motorist, would be very glad indeed to submit to great sacrifices if the central road authority uses its powers properly and improves our roads so as to make them really suitable for motor traffic, the saving to the users of motor cars on tyres and otherwise 665 will be very much more than the extra tax which is being imposed at the present time. I should be very glad if some slight modification of the scale might be effected, but I am speaking for myself. My hon. Friend opposite spoke as chairman of the Motor Union, a position which I had the honour of occupying a few years ago, but though I am connected with the Automobile Club I am speaking entirely for myself. I have no authority from them. But with some slight modification in the scale, if the central road authority is going to be a practical authority, I certainly support the right hon. Gentleman in this scale of duty.
§ Mr. G. N. BARNES
I need scarcely say "that I do not speak from the point of view of others who have already taken part in the Debate—the users of motors cars. I speak rather from the point of view of the makers of the car. I hope I do not take a selfish view of the matter. Maybe, like other people, my views are affected by the fact of my being an engineer representing engineers; but I hope not. I have regarded this particular tax with somewhat mixed feelings. In the first place, having regard to the fact that motor cars are luxuries, and having regard to the further fact that they are public nuisances, I think they ought to be taxed. On the other hand, I do not like a tax of this sort. Here, is, perhaps, where my selfish motive may come in. I do not like it, because it is a tax upon an industry, and therefore likely to diminish that industry. I do not subscribe to the doctrine that we should not tax any industry. I think we ought to have regard to the character of the industry and what bearing it has not only upon the wealth of the country, but upon the well-being of the people of the country. And I think that this particular industry is one that does employ a large number of people, and I am glad to know a rapidly increasing number of skilled workmen under good conditions of labour at high rates, and therefore it does increase the spending capacity of the mass of the people. Altogether it adds to industrial efficiency and employment, and therefore from that particular point of view I do not like to tax it On the other hand, one must admit a thing of this sort should be taxed, as it is a luxury, and one which, I think, has been used almost to the point of abuse in many cases by having these very high-speed cars and by having the machinery so low down in order to get that speed 666 that it makes a great deal of dust, and is altogether a nuisance on the roadsides, and, I believe, also lessens the fertility in. some districts by deposits on the fields. Therefore I regard the tax with mixed feelings, but, on the whole, I am inclined to accept the principle of the tax, and I am induced to do so to some extent by the fact that those who use the cars have been generous enough to say they are willing to bear a further tax in order that they may use their cars.
So far, therefore, as I have to say anything about the matter at all, it is simply to offer a few words in the way of an appeal for leniency upon the owners of the cars. I think—and I speak here with some practical knowledge—that one should be very careful how one interferes with a trade of this sort, especially a trade which my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board knows is a trade which is now standardised. I mean to say in the workshops you have all kinds of things made for every size, and anything that would tend to upset the manufacturer of certain types and sizes would be a very great hindrance to the industry, even more than the amount of tax imposed upon the users of the car, although that is very considerable. I was talking to a man the other day who had been thinking of getting a car, but the increased cost to be put upon him in respect of the use of that car, he told me, had decided him not to get one. So even from the point of view of the increased tax it may have the effect of diminishing the industry. However, I accept the principle of the tax, but I want to add my voice to those who have already spoken in this Debate to ask the Government to be as careful as they can and to lessen the steps of the stairs in such a way as to interfere as little as possible with the carrying on of this industry, which, as I said before, is employing an increasing number at high wages and under comparatively good conditions of labour. In reference to the old toll-bar gates, it seems to me that the time for toll-bar gates has gone. Toll-bar gates and motor cars at 40 miles an hour will not harmonise at all. We have got beyond those days. Therefore, whatever may be done in the way of putting a charge upon the users of cars, I should think it should be done in such a way as at all events to keep the roads quite clear; and I think the idea now put forward by the Chancellor of ear-marking this particular tax for the improvement of the roads, and therefore 667 relieving the local authorities to some extent, is a good one. I accept the principle of the tax, but I ask the Chancellor to be very careful not to interfere unduly or more than is necessary with a highly developed trade, a standardised trade, and a trade which I think is a very great advantage not only to engineers, but to the whole country.
§ Sir HENRY NORMAN
The most noticeable feature of this Debate is the extraordinary change which has come over the spirit in which we are discussing this matter. I am sure many of those present remember the angry passions aroused on both sides in previous Debates, and nobody can fail to be struck with the most remarkable, and, indeed, almost perfect, harmony that reigns on both sides of the House on this question to-night. There seems something remarkable in the influence in this connection of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He must be something of a magician, because if anyone had said two years ago that the representatives, if we may call ourselves, of the motoring interest would be gathering here to accept with great sympathy the Chancellor's proposal to raise something like £600,000 a year from them, he would have been thought at that time to have taken leave of his senses I only rise, like nearly every previous speaker, to express my substantial agreement with almost everything that has already been said. In contradistinction to the hon. Member opposite, but in agreement with the hon. Member for North-West Manchester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks), I hold that to say the users of the roads should pay for the roads is entirely false in principle. I think the roads of the country are as much a national asset as the Army is a national asset, and that there is no philosophical road system except the one which resembles the French road system, under which the main roads are kept up by the State, and the smaller roads are kept up by the local authorities. But that view, unfortunately, has very little support here, largely, I think, owing to the prejudice against motor cars, owing to the nuisance that they undoubtedly are, in most cases, because of the bad condition of our roads. That view receives little acceptance to-day, and therefore we are face to face with the problem of accepting the inevitable, and motorists are face to face with the problem of making the best bargain they can with the Chancellor of 668 the Exchequer. I see the Chancellor of the Exchequer is present. While the duties are so high, his reply, it seems to me, will be perfectly obvious, that if a certain sum of money is to be devoted to the improvement of our national roads it would not be for a moment worth while raising a sum of money unless it were really a substantial sum, which would enable any authority really to deal with this great question in a manner worthy of its importance. These new rates are, of course, very high, and the burden is increased by the tax on petrol. We cannot discuss petrol to-night, but I only refer to it because the cost of petrol to motorists has been in almost every observation I have heard or read on the subject very greatly exaggerated. It has been exaggerated even in this House. Though the rates are very high, yet I have seen almost no objection raised from any quarter by motorists. There have been a few angry criticisms, but, on the whole, these very high rates of taxation, considering the needs to which the funds are to be devoted, are regarded as quite fair and reasonable.
I desire to associate myself very strongly with every preceding speaker—and I beg to call the Chancellor of the Exchequer's attention to this—because so far every speaker has complained of the jump from 40 h.p. to 60 h.p. in a car. The tax on a 39 h.p. car is ten guineas, and on a 40 h.p. car 20 guineas, which is quite obviously unreasonable. I go further, and say that to tax any car 40 guineas is unreasonable, and will not be regarded otherwise than as rather vindictive. Although I may by no means carry everybody with me in the view I am about to express, I think that the 60 h.p. car has exactly as much right to be on the roads of this country as the perambulator has. [Cries of "Oh."] Yes, absolutely the same right. The only thing that a community can properly demand from either the one or the other is that the driver of the 60 h.p. car or the person in charge of the perambulator and baby shall use the road in a proper manner, and always give proper consideration to other road users. There is nothing in right or in law which would justify anybody placing a vindictive tax upon a 60 h.p. car. It by no means follows that the higher power car is likely to be driven to the greater inconvenience of the public any more than the lower power car. If a man for family purposes wants a heavy class of vehicle to carry a larger number of people in silence and without the con- 669 stant nerve-racking shifting of the gear, then he must have a vehicle of greater horse power.
I have drawn up my own little scheme of how this tax should be imposed. I attach no special importance to it in itself. Another hon. Member has also made a scheme. I should suggest that from 40 h.p. to 45 h.p. the tax should be 12 guineas; from 45 h.p. to 50 h.p., 15 guineas; from 50 h.p. to 60 h.p., 20 guineas; and from 61 h.p. and over, 25 guineas. I protest once more that 40 guineas is excessive, and it may be gathered from every hon. Member who has spoken that such a tax would be a great deterrent to very many purchasers, and it would greatly set back the manufacture of that class of vehicle in which certainly this country is leading the way at this moment, namely, the six-cylinder car. I have given a great deal of attention to the question of the rates, and I do not think the figures I have submitted would reduce the Chancellor's receipts by any sum of importance. As to the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for North-West Manchester that these rates in general will act as a set-back to the motor car industry of this country, I do not think that view can be held on consideration, because it has been calculated it is the best calculation available, though of course it is not strictly accurate, that 20 per cent. of the cars of this country come into a class of over 12 to 16 h.p., and they are now to pay four guineas instead of two guineas as before. Nobody supposes that the additional tax of two guineas would prevent the prospective purchaser from carrying out his intentions. Of cars from 16 h.p. to 20 h.p. there is no less a percentage than 30 per cent. of all the cars of the country, and they are to pay six guineas instead of two guineas. Anybody who is going to have a car of that value is certainly not in the position which would lead him to refuse to have it because his licence would cost him four guineas more a year. There is one suggestion I should like to make, although I am sure it will be rather of an unpopular character. It is a suggestion by which the Chancellor of the Exchequer might add slightly to the sums to be derived from the taxation of motor cars. I hope I have as much sympathy with the noble profession of medicine as anybody else has, but for the life of me I see no more reason why a doctor's ear should be exempted from taxation than the car of any other professional man. The builder, the surveyor, the commercial traveller, and, above all others, the vete- 670 rinary surgeon, have certainly as much right to be relieved as the doctor of taxation, and the veterinary surgeon even much more so, because he has always to go to his work, whereas a good deal of the doctor's practice comes to his own front door.
It is true that the medical profession, to their very great honour, give much precious service gratis or for next to nothing, but, on the other hand, the possession of even the smallest car will enable the doctor—if he has the other qualifications—to practically double his practice. Why you should relieve them of a few shillings of the cost, for it will only be a few, on an object which will enable them greatly to increase their incomes, for the life of me I cannot see. A doctor of small means will certainly use a car of under 12 h.p., which is a most serviceable vehicle, and will do very much that the owner of the car can desire. That doctor, under these proposals, would have to pay three guineas instead of two, and if you give him a rebate of one-half, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is making him a present of 10s. 6d. That cannot be said to be any great boon to the poorest members of the medical profession, and it is hardly worth the trouble of giving it. The doctor who uses a valuable car, and a powerful car, which, probably, the ladies of his family use for their own purposes, can well afford to pay the increased licence of six guineas instead of two, which would only mean two visits of two guineas each. If the Chancellor does not see his way to abandon what I venture to describe as unjust and unreasonable relief, I would strongly urge him to limit it to the cars of 12 h.p., because there can be no possible reason for giving any relief to a doctor who can afford to own and use a valuable car.
I need not occupy the time of the Committee in dwelling on our road system, concerning which the hon. Member for North-West Manchester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) spoke so well. Everyone who has looked into it knows that it is grotesque. The Great North Road, of which he spoke, is not controlled by 100 authorities, but. by 72, of whom 46 are active authorities, who exercise actual and practical control over it. Some of them, as the Chancellor reminded us in his Budget speech, control so little of it as a mile or a mile and a-half or two and a-half miles. Many of those authorities work harmoniously together: others work very jealously, and some of them are ludicrously ignorant of the very beginnings of the science of road upkeep.
671 Others of them, as is the case of the county surveyor of Kent, are some of the most scientific road-makers in the world. The whole thing is simply a jumble, and the establishment of a central road authority would be a benefit which is really difficult to exaggerate. I feel that not alone those who take an interest in motors, but that the whole community is under a very great debt to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his recognition of this great national need and the courage with which he has grappled with the problem.
The value of the new authority will and must depend entirely upon its constitution and the wisdom with which it exercises its control and spends the money which is assigned to it. From that point of view we await with eagerness the explanations and assurances which the Chancellor in due course will give us. There has been, as I think, a considerable misapprehension already upon this point, because I saw the other day, issued from the Liberal Publication Department, a leaflet calling the attention of rural ratepayers to the great benefits with regard to road improvements and the relief which they were going to receive under this particular part of the Budget. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman's intention is that no present rating authority shall be relieved of any of the costs of road upkeep which legitimately fall upon them at present. Therefore, that being so, some of us probably on this side showed a misapprehension of the facts. I read also in an interview in a paper which finds favour with the other side in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was represented as saying that the Central Road Authority would have no power of initiative, that it would sit still until the proposals were brought to it, and if it would agree to them it would carry them out. We all know that a newspaper interview sometimes represents, and occasionally misrepresents, and I feel that in this instance the views of my right hon. Friend were unintentionally misrepresented, because, without initiative, I think everyone will agree, and without somebody at its head to exercise that power of initiative in a very courageous manner, the advantage of a central road authority will be gone. We have every confidence that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not spoil a great scheme of reform by failing to constitute his authority upon a sound and permanent basis, and with powers ample to deal with the great 672 national problem which is committed to their claim. There is one other matter I wish to refer to, and which has already been touched upon by one speaker, and that is with regard to the fines which are at present levied by magistrates for exceeding the speed limit. I do not like to use strong language, but it is a gross parody of justice that takes place. I would go so far as to say in some instances within my own knowledge—
§ Mr. MARKHAM
Is it in order to discuss the question of fines on motors when we have no opportunity of replying?
§ Sir HENRY NORMAN
Upon a point of order, as the Central Road Authority is concerned with this discussion, may I point out—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
We are dealing just now with the imposition of the tax, and the question of the imposition of fines by magistrates is not in order.
§ Sir HENRY NORMAN
Those remarks of mine shall be deferred to another occasion. I would only conclude by saying that I am sure the general public, and the motorists as well, are indebted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his action in this matter, that they will willingly bear the heavy burdens imposed upon them, and that they look to him, in the constitution of the Central Road Authority, to justify in every way their public spirit and confidence which they place' in him in this matter.
§ Mr. HAVILAND-BURKE
The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Henry Norman) begun by telling us that a man has a good a right to go 40 miles an hour in the roadway as a nurse has to push a perambulator. ["No."] He instituted a comparison between a 40 miles an hour car and a perambulator. ["No."] I am afraid that the hon. Baronet is terribly mistaken if he thinks that the resentment of the general public against the motoring community at large has in the least degree died down. Personally I believe it has been keenly intensified, and I have my own ideas and doubts as to some of the more or less fatal accidents which have occurred in connection with motor cars at night within the last few years. As a matter of fact, why should the motoring community dispute this small levy upon its investment 673 in automobile cars? Why should a man who can afford to run a 1,500 or 2,000 guinea automobile complain at being charged 40 guineas a year for it. The wails of the wealthy are always ringing out in this House. Whether it is income tax or a tax on automobiles it is always the same. It is the wealthy man who gets up with tears in his eyes to protest against having to contribute something substantial and according to his means to the funds required for the public service. If the hon. Baronet objects to this tax, he has a very reasonable alternative proposal. He might suggest that all motors for use on public roads should be geared down to a certain maximum speed, and that racing motors should be confined to racing tracks, built at the expense of gentlemen who take an interest in whizzing round the country at 60 miles an hour. These people seem to have no idea of their public responsibilities. They apparently think that the owner of a 1,500 or 2,000 guinea car, with tyres heavily studded and ribbed with steel, tearing up the roads in all directions, has no duty to pay towards the upkeep of the roads which it more or less destroys. In Paris, for instance—a city where I am as much at home as in London or Dublin, and where I have relatives and friends—motor buses have to pay anything from £40 upwards a year as a tax to the Government, which tax is returned to the Municipality of Paris towards the upkeep of the roads.
§ Mr. HAVILAND - BURKE
Certainly not. It is a public act of State that heavy vehicles, weighing tons upon tons, which necessarily, even when most carefully driven, put an extra strain upon the roads, should pay a heavy tax to the State, which is afterwards transmitted to the municipality for the relief of the taxpayers in the maintenance and repair of the roads.
§ Mr. HAVILAND-BURKE
I am satisfied with my statement that the motor buses have to pay a heavy tax towards the upkeep and repair of the roads in Paris. As I have friends and relatives there, and go there every year, I ought to know something about it. Why should the enthusiasts of the motoring world object to this tax? I am not for a moment saying that a large proportion of motorists are not good sportsmen, or do not exercise their 674 cars with every possible care and with attention to public convenience and safety; but in this matter, as in others, Parliament has to legislate not for the people who use their liberty rightfully, but for those who use it wrongfully. There are places round about London where 10 years ago men could take a pleasant country walk on Sunday afternoons, but where one would be a fool now to walk or cycle with the motor traffic as it is at present conducted. On that ground alone I submit that the motor industry honestly owes this tax to the State for the repair and upkeep of the roads, which are only too much and overwhelmingly monopolised by the motoring community at the present time.
§ Mr. H. H. MARKS
I fail utterly to see any indication of the vindictive or penal character of the taxes which the Government propose on motor cars. I do not know whether it has been in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to penalise the owners of motor cars because there have been accidents—maiming, wounding, and even killing—nor do I understand that it is his object to put a penalty upon the proprietors of motor cars because they raise a dust. It is possibly in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman to say "Down with the dust," but not exactly in the sense in which it has been suggested. The right hon. Gentleman wants money, in which respect perhaps he is not peculiar; but he wants it in larger quantities than most of us, and he has better opportunities than most of us for getting it. He has turned his eyes upon motor cars as a source of revenue. ["No.] As a source of revenue in this sense, at any rate, that the money is to go to public purposes. I can think of no institution in the country better entitled to be taxed, and to be more highly taxed than it is now, than the motor car. I speak as one who has had the privilege of driving motor cars since their first introduction into this country. The motor car is a luxury, and it is luxuries which ought to contribute very largely to what is required for public purposes. The tax proposed by the Resolution does not seem to me to be excessive. I admit that the rate of graduation when it gets to the higher figures is a little jumpy, and I should have been disposed myself to have regarded the very high figure imposed upon 60 h.p. automobiles as almost prohibitory, in view of the representation which has been made that these high horse-power cars are for the most part made in England, whereas 675 the lower horse-power cars, which are principally pleasure cars, are made abroad. Frankly, I am bound to say that I should have received these proposals with infinitely more satisfaction if there had been a rebate in favour of cars manufactured in Great Britain. I believe an overwhelming majority of motor car owners in this country would rather pay double a tax if there was a rebate in the case of British-made cars. I am bound also to say that in the Resolution which immediately follows the one under consideration it appears the duty is not to extend to motor cars which are charged with duties as hackney carriages, nor to motor cars which are not carriages within the meaning of the Act. I think that relieves one substantial objection which would otherwise have been urged, and I think urged with reason.
There will be a charge of 40 guineas on a 60 h.p. car. 1s 40 guineas such a terrible rate to pay on a 60 h.p. car? Who is the man that drives a 60 h.p. car? What does it cost him for side-slips and punctures in the course of the year? What does it cost him for fines for rapid driving in the course of the year? What is 40 guineas to the man who owns a 60 h.p. car? Is there a man who has got a 60 h.p. car who has not got two others, or at least another one? For no one goes crawling about the City of London in a 60 h.p. car. No, Sir, I cannot help thinking that the tax to be imposed upon these motor cars is a legitimate tax, a proper tax. I wish it had been made larger, if the making of it larger would have exempted petrol from taxation. But upon that point I may not say more at this stage. It has been suggested that these new imposts are going to ruin the motor car trade. They are going to do nothing of the kind. They are not going to affect it in the slightest degree. Since the introduction of these Budget proposals the shares of motor car manufacturing companies in this country have gone up, and have not gone down. If there is a fair tax proposed by the right hon. Gentleman it is this motor car tax, and I do not think in the course of the Debate this evening there has been a shred or a shadow or a scintilla of argument against it.
§ Mr. ARTHUR B. MARKHAM
I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not weaken in this matter, but will keep to the proposals that he has on the Paper. I would remind him of what my right hon. Friend below me (Sir H. Norman) stated this evening.
676 May I call the attention of the Committee, to a very remarkable article written in the "Contemporary Review" a year or two ago by the hon. Baronet, to the effect that he never went out without exceeding the speed limit. Before that and then, he was chairman of the Departmental Committee inquiring into this question of motor cars. I have always remembered that article. He wrote exactly what everybody knows, that people do not obey the law with respect to the speed limit.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
In that article the hon. Baronet urged (hat the man with the heavy car should not be handicapped. What is the fact? Every time the owner of the 60 h.p. car gets on the roads he breaks the law. If this House passes legislation which is to be treated as nonexistent, and is disobeyed day by day all over the country, then the only way to prevent it is by the imposition of such taxes as are comprised in this schedule, which will be a deterrent to building high power cars. I think it cannot be, argued that 60 h.p. cars have any right to be on the road at all. They are not built, as my hon. Friend has stated, for the purpose of carrying large numbers of passengers in private cars, but are built for the convenience of the road hogs; people who choose, to go about the country to the danger of the public, and simply for their own selfish amusement. I therefore sincerely hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will continue this duty of 40 guineas, and when it reaches the Committee stage I will move an Amendment to increase it. If I am not out of order in moving that increase I will move it now. Can it be said that a 60 h.p. car is built merely for the purpose of carrying passengers and driven up to a speed not exceeding the limit? I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not give way. Great pressure is to be brought to bear on him in all directions to lessen his taxes. But in these proposals we are at rock bottom, and I hope he will not give way—I earnestly appeal to him not to do so—to the motorist community, who are always crying out that they are being hurt by legislation, and who are now protesting against the Death Duties, which are reasonable to a degree. The hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. H. II. Marks) made a speech that was a most reasonable one. A man with a 60 h.p. car pays 2,000 guineas for it—
§ Mr. MARKHAM
Well, I have never owned a car beyond a 40 h.p. one, and that I had a few years ago. Be that as it may, these schedules of rates on motor cars are a minimum.
With regard to doctors' cars, I hope my right hon. Friend will not change his views about them. There are a great many doctors earning a very small income in country districts, and who work extremely hard for it. A motor is a matter of great convenience to them and to their patients. And so far as that goes I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will stick to his proposal. At all events, he will have my vote as far as all these duties go, and my only regret is that they are not higher in respect to 60 h.p. cars.
§ Mr. ARTHUR DU CROS
My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Manchester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks), when he opposed this Resolution, made it clear that he was in no way associated with the industry we are discussing. I wish to make it clear that I am in an indirect manner interested in the industry, and that I speak with some knowledge upon the subject, although I cannot come within the category defined by the hon. Member for the Tullamore Division of King's County (Mr. Haviland-Burke), who spoke below the Gangway, and who said that the motor community was selfish and presumptuous. I am sorry he takes such a pessimistic view of motorists as a body, but if his view as to them is as happy as his view of the statements made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Sir Henry Norman), who spoke before me, I hope the Committee will not be unduly influenced by his remarks. In reference to the remarks made by the hon. Member as to motor 'buses in Paris, that, as is well known, is an industry which has a State grant, and which, therefore, is in a position to pay any licensing demand. I think I voice the views of all moderate motorists when I say that motorists as a body do not object to the principle of the taxes proposed to be levied in this Resolution, and I hope that hon. Members who have protested against the attitude of motorists will bear in mind (hat no objection has been raised by motorists to the principle of the taxation proposed to be levied. What we object to is the amount of the tax in some cases. I cannot agree with the remark which was made by the hon. Member opposite when 678 he stated that the amount of the tax and the petrol taxes have been generally accepted by motorists. He went on to say that except in one or two obscure trade organs they have been accepted. I cannot agree with that view, because I have very carefully perused all the trade organs in connection with the industries, not obscure and not unimportant organs, and everyone of them agreed with the principle of the tax proposed to be levied, but they objected unanimously to the amount of the tax.
§ Sir HENRY NORMAN
I was not speaking of the petrol tax. I was only referring to taxes of motor cars.
§ Mr. DU CROS
I accept what the hon. Member has said, and as to the scale of the taxes I agree with what he said that up to a point they are not at all unreasonable. It is only when they reach a point where we are dealing with higher power cars that the tax becomes unreasonable. I noticed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget statement pointed out that he did not wish to hamper this industry, but looked forward to the business being developed to a great extent. I think it is an industry that wants help, especially at this moment. It passed through a period of depression, and has not recovered from a very disastrous year of trade. I have in my hand a statement showing the result achieved by five firms, and showing the enormous diminution of profit as between 1907 and 1908. The depreciation of profit amounted to close upon half a million of money. I certainly am of opinion that heavy, unreasonable taxes imposed at this moment will go far to accentuate the depression now existing. It is obvious that all the efforts of manufacturers have been in the direction of cheapening their products, and if you put on a very large tax, such as a 40-guinea tax, it must add enormously to the difficulties of a trade now in a depressed condition. I notice nearly every hon. Member who spoke against what I am defending as the motor industry has alluded to motor cars as a rich man's luxury, and one hon. Member added that they were a public nuisance. That is perfectly true up to a point, but I would ask hon. Members, especially below the Gangway, to bear in mind that behind this rich man's luxury and public nuisance there exists a great and important industry employing many thousands of working men in this country, and I do not think their interest should be passed over in silence by hon. Members 679 who referred to motorists in these terms. I wish hon. Members below the Gangway had seen, as I have seen, thousands of working men pouring out of the factories in London, Coventry, and Birmingham, and if they would bear in mind that any injury done to the trade will fall upon those men, perhaps they would not be so anxious to condemn motorists, especially as we do not object to the tax. We welcome the tax in principle, but we object to the amount of the tax.
The only thing we do protest against is that it is too heavy in its incidence, not throughout the whole scale but throughout certain parts of the scale. What we ask for is modification of this 60 h.p. tax, which I hold is an unreasonable amount, and for reasons which I will make clear. I think this high tax will injure trade, especially in this respect: It will hamper the sale of second-hand cars—a most important consideration. As the hon. Members know, it is the universal custom for men to change their cars, either for the purpose of getting new types or for the purpose of getting higher-power cars, and the sale of second-hand cars reacts immediately upon the sale of new cars. If the second-hand sale is retarded, the output of new cars is limited. I think the strongest case of all against this tax is on behalf of 40 and 60 h.p. cars. I hold no brief for the higher-power car; I do not think I ever sat behind one in this country, but it is a useful car, and it is useful for the purpose for which it is built. It does happen that, in this country, there are many of these cars on the stocks only in a half-completed condition. I leave it to the right hon. Gentleman to say what prospect the makers of these cars have of finishing that stock of cars at the present time if this tax is put on. I did hope when I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's statement, that the 60 h.p. car was not to be in the lower category—he dealt with cars up to 60 h.p. and over 60, but he did not deal with 60, and that is a car which has been specialised in this country—I did hope that he would have something to say in regard to that particular car. Perhaps I could give the right hon. Gentleman one technical piece of information upon that subject which may enlist his sympathy. The so called 60 h.p. car built abroad in reality develops a practical horse-power of 120. They have been built for these very undesirable road races which have been stopped in this country, and in the stoppage of which I have had a very 680 considerable share. But the cars built abroad for these races are specially built to come within a rating of 59 h.p. and a fraction, and they develop on the road 120 h.p. The English car is absolutely 40 h.p. and develops 70 or 80 h.p., so that the result is that the foreign car, which develops this enormous horse power gets to under the low rate.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
Is the hon. Member quite sure that under the tests suggested by the Automobile Club these foreign cars would escape?
§ Mr. DU CROS
Yes. It was upon that basis that I made my remarks. As a matter of fact under the R.A.C. rating these cars would be rated as 59.9 h.p. They are very accurately built, because they must comply with the conditions of these races, whereas the 50 h.p. touring car is actually 60 h.p. For that fraction of a horse power on paper, which on the road disappears, they are going to be penalised to a very large extent. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to give relief to the 40 and 60 h.p. cars. I am not prepared with any scheme, but I hope he will give the points I have raised his very careful consideration.
Another branch which I desire to refer to is the motor cycle branch. That is an industry which is in its infancy in this country. It is a small but a growing industry, and if the poor man in this country is ever to have a motor vehicle of his own it will probably be a motor bicycle. Motor bicycles change hands at something like £10, and the Inland Revenue tax upon them is £1 and the driving licence 5s., and besides this there is the tax on petrol. Upon an article which changes hands at £10 on the first instance, and which ought to be placed within the reach of a poor man, a tax of this kind is quite out of all proportion. If the right hon. Gentleman considers the taxes which he is placing upon motor cars, I think he will at once see that this tax as applied to motor cycles is out of proportion. These motor cycles have a 2 h.p. engine and the machine weighs about 100 pounds, and they have two wheels, and therefore they cannot be said to do a great deal of damage to the roads. I think these points should be specially considered. There are only about 40,000 of these motor cycles in the country at the present time, and the difference to the revenue if the tax was levied at a lower figure would only be about £10,000. The motor cycle industry is one to which in 681 recent years a great deal of attention has been paid. It is one which has experienced a falling off, but manufacturers are now trying to build it up again. Taking the horse-power and the price of the vehicle, I think a tax of 25s. is particularly onerous.
I am not sure whether the light hon. Gentleman in placing his tax upon 40 and 60 h.p. cars was aiming at the prohibition of excessive speed on our roads. If he was, all I can say is that he will not achieve that object, because, as a matter of fact, motor cars can be built coming under the rating of £4 4s. and £6 6s. which will develop 60 miles an hour on the road. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman before he finally adopts the rate which has been suggested to hear the representations of those who represent the motor car industry upon this subject. Motorists do not wish to evade any portion of this tax, but they do not wish anything done which will unnecessarily hamper the motoring industry. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to keep an open mind on this subject until he has heard the representations which will be made to him by the representatives of the industry itself upon this point. I wish to say a word or two with regard to the objects for which this money is being raised, i.e., the improvement of the roads. That is a matter which the motoring community is very glad that it is now being dealt with, and it ought to have been dealt with long ago. On the other hand, motorists feel that they are not the only users of the road, and they are not the only people who damage the roads. At the Roads Conference which was held last week it was made abundantly clear that other users of the roads damaged them considerably, particularly traction engines, horses' hoofs and narrow iron tyres, and other vehicles. I cannot see the equity of penalising one particular user of the road for the benefit of the whole community. I noticed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer used the words "that the motorists must bear the brunt of the expenses at the beginning." I hope that the meaning of those words is that later on other users of the roads will be taxed for the purposes of maintaining the roads. Motorists do not wish to shirk their liability in this respect, and I contend that they have performed a very useful service to the community, because they have brought home to the road authorities the necessity of constructing our roads on scientific principles. This fact has been demonstrated by the county surveyor of Herts, who has stated that the 682 cost of properly constructed waterproof roads, free from dust in the summer and free from mud in the winter, is not greater than the cost of roads made up on the old system with granite and water. These waterproof dustless surface roads are made at less expense, and they carry heavy motor traffic without any signs of undue wear. When those results have been attained I think it will prove of ultimate permanent benefit to the community, and all users of the roads ought to contribute to the cost. I think we are entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the words he used in his Budget statement have reference to the ultimate possibility of securing contributions from other users of the roads. I think it would be useful if we could get some indication from the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to whether a guarantee will be given that this money will always be applied for this purpose and that these taxes are not likely to be further infringed. That would have a tranquillising effect upon the minds of many motorists if they knew that these taxes are not likely to be increased in the future. I do not know how much money will be raised under this scheme, or how much will go to the local authorities. I think that the total amount to be raised is £410,000. It would be useful to know what proportion of that money will be under the control of the central authority, and how much will be handed to the local authorities. I should like to know how this central authority will be constituted. It has been said that money is coming in, and that it will be spent in the improvement of the roads. Our roads are not to be compared with the roads of other countries. For many years they have been neglected. I think that the principal point to which we attach importance, owing to the present Resolution, relates to 60 h.p. cars.
§ Mr. J. CATHCART WASON
There is one portion of the hon. Member's speech in which I cordially agree, and that is that every user of the road should be called upon to contribute to the cost of the roads. There are cars which break up the roads in competition with our railways. The right hon. Gentleman in his great Budget speech said that this tax was not in any proper sense of the word a tax. At the back of the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is, I think, the idea to meet a great public difficulty. It may astonish some of my hon. Friends to know that when this matter came up some time ago, I said the motor cars had come to stay, 683 and that everything should be done to encourage the industry with due regard to public safety. My right hon. Friend made it clear that the object of this Resolution and this additional impost on motor users should go to the upkeep of the roads. It is no tax in the ordinary acceptation of the term. Those who complain of the tax on high-power cars are not quite reasonable. They ought not to be allowed to exist, but my right hon. Friend has allowed them to exist on paying a high price. No one will do anything to hamper the motor industry. It is a great industry, and one of great importance to the welfare of this country, and it will be a greater industry in the not far distant future. But I can assure the hon. Gentleman who spoke last—a distinguished expert in this matter—that great motor manufacturers prefer to encourage low - power cars. Instead of one motor car worth £2,000 they would prefer a hundred motor cars worth £200 each. I do not think that hon. Members have any right to complain about the heavier tax imposed on high-power cars. The low-power car does not raise the same amount of difficulty. I am sure if we look at the difficulty which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has had, we shall agree it is a Budget for which the whole House of Commons and the public at large ought to be more than grateful in view of the attitude the right hon. Gentleman has adopted with regard to this question, in having tried to ameliorate the conditions in certain cases when he would have been perfectly well justified in leaving the matter to be dealt with by the President of the Local Government Board. I am sure the whole community is more than grateful to him. There is one point to which I wish to draw attention. I think those who know the life of the poor country doctor and the difficulty he has in getting about the country will appreciate this point. I think I may say, as a rule country doctors use very low horse-power cars, and I think he would make no very great sacrifice if he exempted these cars altogether. They are propelled by 16 h.p. They are generally used by doctors, who in Scotland lead a very hard life, and anything whatever the Chancellor of the Exchequer can do to make life easier, both to them and to the poor people whom they visit, will be gratefully received. Question after question has been addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to lightening the burden in other respects, and I think the right hon. Gentle- 684 man will be doing a great public service, both to the doctors and to the poor people in the North, if he can make a concession in regard to these cars. I cordially congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the manner in which he proposes to deal with the roads of the country. They have got into a most parlous state within the last five or six years. In some counties touring cars have done enormous damage to the roads, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman's proposals will be appreciated by those who suffer from the inroads of high-power cars. In the action he has taken I am sure, the right hon. Gentleman will earn the goodwill not only of the House of Commons, but of the community at large.
§ Colonel LOCKWOOD
I honestly confess, as a Member for a rural district, I am anxious on this occasion to give the Chancellor of the Exchequer his due. If the other taxes in his Budget had been equally fair and conveyed equally good news to the rural districts, I should be glad to be found among his supporters. This is a tax which, as a motorist, I am glad to welcome. I have never before felt any gratitude towards the Chancellor for any tax, and I am afraid, on this occasion, by doing so, I shall raise the wrath of my hon. Friend near me. My Constituents in a rural part of Essex, who have suffered some inconvenience, will look upon this tax as having originated in my brain, and I shall have considerable difficulty in proving that it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not myself who started it. It is a tax which I have always advocated, and I think it is thoroughly fair and just. But I should like to have seen the Chancellor of the Exchequer put the English manufacturer on a level with the foreigner; he should have treated this in the same way as he treated German beer. But I know the Chancellor of the Exchequer is young and is not omnipotent, and I know he would have had some difficulty in persuading his Cabinet that this was a fair and just matter. With regard to the rebates to doctors, I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will stick to his guns. It is a very fair rebate, and one which I should be personally sorry to see extended to others. If once you extended it to the veterinary surgeon the parson would claim it, on the ground that he wanted a motor when he was carrying the last consolations of religion to a dying parishioner. I might think I was entitled to it when I was rushing off to see a voter who had previously been on the other political side. But the rebate to the doctor is really fair. I do 685 not want to argue the question of graduation, but I will ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see that this money does really reach the rural villages. I am always afraid, when I hear of a central board, that in our bucolic ignorance we do not get the money, and I hope in the allocation of the money the rural local authority will be remembered, because they have had to bear the nuisance and the expense of repairing the roads. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bear the matter in mind.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
I regret that it was impossible for me to hear the whole of the Debate, as I know that the hon. Member for North-West Manchester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) is an authority on this subject. It is a pleasure to end these proceedings in Committee with a statement from a Gentleman about to be taxed that he is very glad to be taxed and to hear from another Gentleman who is very hard hit by the tax that he welcomes it, except that he said while he accepted it in principle he objected to the amount. That seems to me to be a kind of criticism which I am getting rather accustomed to. It is not so much the principle as the principal of the tax that he objects to. I agree with the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Du Cros) that this tax is sufficient for the purpose. He said something about the nuisance of the motor. I deprecate altogether the idea that the tax is proposed as a kind of attack on motorists. On the contrary, the idea is one of quite a different character. There is no doubt that motors have put up the cost of road repairing very largely. In a Debate initiated by the Noble Lord the Member for Yorkshire (Viscount Helmsley), I think at the beginning of the Session, figures were given with regard to the enormous increase in the highway rates, and it was generally agreed that part of the increased expense was attributable to motors. I am not sure that is altogether a bad thing for the roads, because what it really means is that the advent of the motor has made an improvement of the roads absolutely necessary. The old road will not do now that motor traffic is developing. To that extent we owe a debt of gratitude to the motor. Those of us who live in rather out of the way places, in more or less sparsely populated districts of the country, know the difference the motor has made in that respect since we were satisfied with roads which had not been brought to anything 686 like their present condition, and it is the motor which calls attention to all the bumps and the holes, and the stones in the road. They are all found out by the motor, as anyone who has travelled in parts of Ireland has discovered. All the same, there is no doubt motoring has had the effect of very considerably increasing the highway rate throughout the country, and there is a general feeling that there ought to be a contribution from the motors of the country towards the road expenses.
The hon. Member for Hastings, and I think the hon. Member for South Wolverhampton, pressed me very hard with regard to the allocation of the money. They are very anxious, naturally, on behalf of the motorists of the country, that whatever money is spent should be spent on work which is referable to the motor traffic, and that it shall not be used merely for the general purposes of keeping down the highway rate and not merely for the improvement of roads, but for improvements which may be directly attributable to the necessities and exigencies of motor traffic.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
That is what I mean. I think they ought to be devoted solely to the use of the highway authorities of the country. It is intended to be used for the purpose of improving the roads and to make better motor roads. Naturally, no doubt that that will have an effect on the local charges, for the simple reason that a good many local authorities now spend huge sums of money in making roads fit for motors, and to that extent grants must reduce the rates in districts where considerable sums of money are spent. My hon. Friend wanted an assurance that the authority to be set up would have some initiative. At present my view is that the initiative ought to rest with the local authority, but I am quite open to conviction on that point. This is a matter I should like to discuss with the representatives of local authorities and of the motor industry as well. My view is that the local authorities ought rather to submit schemes for the improvement of the roads. For instance, you might have a county where there was a great deal of motor traffic. The local authorities know the roads; they know the dangerous parts of the roads, they know where the sharp curves are, they know where the roads are 687 narrow, and where at present they are not fit for motor traffic. They can prepare schemes for the general improvement of the roads in their county, such as cutting off corners, making roads straighter and wider in places where they are too narrow, and very likely in having diversions made round villages, where at the present moment some of the worst accidents happen. There are many villages where something of that nature is required. Most of the saddest accidents have happened in cases of that kind, and I can well understand a road authority having as part of its general scheme for the improvement of the roads of the county the construction of a road round a village. My idea rather was that the local authority having knowledge of this sort should submit its scheme to the central authority and ask for a grant.
I do not propose that the central authority should prepare schemes, but that they should have the power of making suggestions. They should suggest alterations and improvements on a scheme, and they should be able to say, "We will not give a grant for this scheme because we do not think it will suit the purpose; but we suggest improvements and alterations, and if you see your way to adopt them, we will make a grant." My idea was that the money should be spent on schemes approved by the central authority. I should like to see the central authority go further than that, and I think the time has come for new road making, especially in some parts of the country. At the present moment you get a very fine road up to a certain point. Then it seems to get lost, and it may emerge 50 or 100 miles further on. You get even old Roman roads in this country which have been left more or less derelict, and which would be exceedingly useful as connecting roads between one county and another. I think the time has come really for getting great national roads as in France. Hon. Members are well aware that we are behind some of our Continental rivals in that respect. I believe it would be worth the central authority's while to set apart a portion of this fund for the purpose of constructing new roads. I do not say that you could construct roads at £150,000 or £200,000 a year, but you want borrowing powers for that purpose. After all, it is permanent work, and, therefore, a good deal of road could be constructed with something that would represent the capital value of £150,000 or £200,000 a year. That 688 is the sort of problem which I would rather like to refer to the central authority. I agree with my hon. Friend that the success of the scheme must depend on the road authority; but the success of every scheme depends on the kind of men you get to work it. The idea may be an excellent one, but if you do not set up a good strong authority to work it out it will be an absolute failure. Therefore I think that the success of this must depend entirely upon having a really good, sound, strong authority which will be perfectly impartial between the local authorities and the users of the roads, and would be strong enough to decide judicially the problems that have to be dealt with; that was rather the idea that I had.
I cannot now go into the question of petrol, because it would be out of order; but when I come to deal with that question I will have something to say as to why we divided the contribution between petrol and a direct tax on motors. I should like to say a word or two on some of the minor points raised in the course of the Debate. A good deal of criticism has been indulged in about the jump from 40 to 60 h.p. I may say that I am quite unconvinced at the present moment by anything I have heard that we have not made the right proposal. I am not attacking in any way the 60 h.p. car. It is a very delightful experience to go on a 60 h.p. car through the country—except when there is a constable on the road. I do not propose it from the point of view of attacking the 60 h.p. car; but I should have thought that it was the most damaging vehicle as far as the road was concerned—and I have purely regarded it from that point of view—and that the difference in the damage done by the 40 and the 60 h.p. cars is a great deal more than the difference in the charges which I am making. But it is not merely that. When you get to the 60 h.p. car you reach a different class of men, men who are able to afford to pay for it. I do not want to do any harm to the motor industry, and I agree with the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Du Cros) that it has passed through a time of depression; but that is not confined to this country. It has passed through a very dad crisis in France. I am not sure that it is not a worse crisis than it has passed through in this country. As the hon. Member for Newmarket (Mr. Rose) has pointed out in Italy it ' has passed through a bad time. I believe that it will be much better as trade improves, not 689 merely in this country but throughout the world, with America and Germany as well as here; I believe that there will be a considerable accession of prosperity to the motor industry. [An HON. MEMDEH: "You are going to take our money."] The very paltry taxes which I propose to impose upon those who motor will not make the slightest difference to them. On the contrary, it will make them all the more anxious to have some sort of relaxation from the anxieties of the Budget. Having heard so much about it, they will want to travel more for their health. I do not think there would be very serious objection. It really comes to this: that, in the improved condition of trade, if people are doing well, they will not think much of the taxes, however heavy they are. Therefore I do not think there is really a very strong case for abating the duty on the 60 h.p. car. As a rule it belongs to the man who can afford to pay. He is a sort of super-tax man; he is a super man; the 60 h.p. man is a super motorist, and I think he can very well afford the tax. The hon. Member went from the 60 h.p. man down to the doctor's small car. The reason why we have excepted the doctor is rather of a humanitarian nature. I think it is very desirable that there should be a difference in his case from the point of view of the person who lives in a remote district, where they have to travel four, five or ten miles for a doctor, and where the difference of an hour in his arrival may mean the difference between life and death, or the alleviation of pain and misery. Therefore I think the doctor is entitled to some exemption, and, if necessary, it should be substantial. That is really why I have not been able to consider the other claims for abatement which have been put before me in regard to others who do not come into the same category as the doctor.
I would remind the Committee that, after all, this is not a tax for revenue; it is purely a tax which comes back to the community. All the exemptions which reduce the tax will simply limit the sum available for the improvement of roads. There will be all sorts of applications for abatements and reductions, but I hope the Committee will not forget that every abatement means a loss of money for the improvement of the roads. Here again I think if it is worth while at all we should get a substantial sum. If you reduce it to a mere minimum it will not be of the slightest use to the local authorities; there 690 will not be enough for them to look at, and there will not be enough to effect any real improvement in the roads. Something has been said about the taxation of other vehicles not quite of the same character. Take traction engines. After all, as a rule they are owned by ratepayers in the district. ["No."] As a rule they are. But the motorist is a man who may be paying rates in London and tearing up the roads in Shetland. He is not quite in the same category. You could not take a traction engine so far. I am not so sure, however, that there is not a ease for putting a heavier charge on traction engines, because any one who has experience of the roads in country districts knows perfectly well how they tear up the roads. But some of the best authorities on the subject say that, on the whole, the roads in the country are infinitely better after a few years of motor traction, because it has the effect of solidifying them. I do not, however, lay stress on that. I think I have dealt with all the points. I must express my indebtedness to the Automobile Club for the assistance which they gave me in the matter, and to the hon. Member for Newmarket (Mr. Rose) and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Sir Henry Norman), who have been exceedingly helpful to me in perfecting this scale. I had to depend on them very largely for the advice that was given with regard to the method of fixing the horsepower. I am very glad that the hon. Member for North-West Manchester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) in his speech approved of the tests of the Automobile Club as to horse-power. I shall deal later on with the method of spending the money when we come to the question of development. In the meantime I quite respond to the appeal of the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Du Cros) as to the motor manufacturers, and I shall be glad to have any considerations they would like to put before me. The sooner they do so the better. I have seen the motorists, and I quite understand that the motor industry should have something to say.
§ Colonel LOCKWOOD
Will the right hon. Gentleman say if we have any cause to hope for a tax on foreign motor cars?
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
Without committing myself to every detail, I desire to express my thanks to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the differentiation in favour of the doctor. Many of my Constituents feel very strongly on that point, 691 and I trust, as the Bill proceeds, we may he able to soften his heart in connection with the Petrol Tax in the same direction. The only other observation I have to make is in reference to the expenditure of the money. I do feel myself—I may be very old-fashioned—very great anxiety as to this new departure of making grants from a central authority for public works to be executed in various districts. It is all very well to say that the money is to be paid out for works which everybody desires. Anyone who has lived in the country knows that the local authorities always desire, and very properly, to carry out improvements in their roads and everything else. I confess it seems to me to be a dangerous precedent to put into the hands of a central authority, or really into the hands of the Minister of the day, because ultimately it must be that—I see great danger in the proposal. We have seen the bitter indignation of hon. Members opposite in connection with even such a matter as the appointment of magistrates. That is a much smaller matter, and one which really excites much less interest in a locality than the expenditure on the roads. Every Liberal Government which has ever existed has had some moments of acute fear lest they will be shattered because the Lord Chancellor of the day has not seen fit to remember the views of hon. Members opposite. The same will happen with regard to these roads. Applications will be made by Members on all sides for expenditure in their districts.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I think the right hon. Gentleman will find it impossible not to have some Minister in Parliament responsible for the moneys, which, after all, come from the taxpayers, and that Minister will necessarily have to have the last word in the expenditure. Therefore it will ultimately be some Minister who will have the expenditure of the money. I know that the right hon. Gentleman hopes to be able to establish what he regards as a semi-judicial authority. I have very little trust in semi-judicial authorities. Judicial authorities are admirable institutions, and Ministerial authorities are all very well, but semi-judicial and semi-Ministerial authorities are generally much more Ministerial than judicial. I trust the Committee will not commit itself in 692 favour of the proposal until they have seen the details and have considered very carefully how they will work in practice.