HC Deb 12 December 1911 vol 32 cc2156-63

(1) As from the passing of this Act, Part I. (4) of the Fifth Schedule to the principal Act shall be read as though the words "or veterinary surgeon" were inserted therein after the words "medical practitioner," and Part I. of the said Schedule and Section eighty-five of the principal Act shall be construed and have effect accordingly.

(2) Nothing contained in this Section shall operate to entitle any person to the allowance or repayment of any duty under the principal Act in respect of motor spirit used prior to the date of the passing of this Act.

As from the passing of this Act, Section eighty-six, Sub-section (4), of the principal Act shall be read as though the words "or veterinary surgeon" were inserted therein after the words "medical practitioner."

The object of this Clause is to give duly qualified veterinary surgeons the same privileges and allowances which are now allowed to members of the medical pro- fession under the Finance Act of 1910. Under Section 85 and Section 86, duly qualified members of the medical profession get an allowance to the extent of half the duty they pay upon a licence for their motor-cars, and also an allowance on the duty they pay on motor spirit so long as it is proved to the satisfaction of the authorities that it has been used for a motor-car in connection with their profession. I hope that this Clause will meet with approval in all parts of the House. It cannot be said that in any sense of the word this is a party matter. As far as I know I cannot see any reason for a distinction being drawn between veterinary surgeons and members of the medical profession. Nearly all the members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons are interested in this matter. Before a man can become a member of that college he has to undergo a severe eaxmination. He has to pass a preliminary examination in Latin, English, and other subjects, and he has to spend no less than four years in studying before he can get his diploma.

4.0 P.M.

I will read to the House some of the matters upon which he has to be examined, and then hon. Members will recognise what a serious examination it is. They are examined in biology, physiology, anatomy, chemistry, physics, pathology, bacteriology, and nearly all the other 'ologies there are, and they have, of course, to be competent in the principles and practice of veterinary medicine and surgery. It takes them four years' hard work. They have to pass four examinations, and they have to spend a very considerable sum of money before they can get their diploma. Therefore, I think it is pretty obvious they do become duly qualified people to undertake the duties of their profession. Apart from those who still hold certificates from the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland and those who had been practising for five years before the passing of the Act of 1881, the veterinary surgeons are all members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and there are 289 Fellows and 3,134 members. I think everybody will agree this profession is a noble one. The members of it spend their lives in mitigating the sufferings and curing the sicknesses of dumb animals, and the service they render to the State is by no means inconsiderable, because of the services they render to agriculture and those interested in it. Everyone will agree the life of the veterinary surgeon is an especially hard and strenuous one, particularly in the country districts. He has to go great distances in order to attend to the cases for which he is required. He has to go out at all times of the day, irrespective of the weather and irrespective of his own state of health. Everyone will also agree the remunerations which they receive is by no means excessive. In many cases in the country districts the veterinary surgeons are not very much more than making both ends meet.

The advent of the motor car has been a very serious thing to veterinary surgeons, because they have lost their best paying clients. The country gentleman who used to keep three, and even more horses, has now ceased to keep horses, and is keeping motor cars instead, and therefore the services of the veterinary surgeon are no longer required. He has to go greater distances. He has to make up his living by going further afield and extending his area of operations, and, just as the motor car has reduced his income, so it has become absolutely necessary to him in carrying out the duties of his profession. The loss to the State, if these allowances are made, can be very small indeed, because I do not suppose motor cars will be used by all veterinary surgeons, though they will, I hope, be used by a considerable number. The loss to the Treasury must be infinitesimal as compared with the advantages given to the individual members of the profession, and I do hope the allowances which I propose, which can do no real harm, and which will be of great advantage to the individual members of the profession, who spend their lives in pursuing a noble object, will meet with support from all quarters of the House.


I beg to second the Motion. I should like to do it not merely from the point of view of the practitioner himself, or even from the point of view of the stock-owner in whose services he is working, but from the point of view of the State. I do not think it would be any loss of tax to the State, because it would be a direct inducement to veterinary surgeons who do not keep motor cars to do so in the future. There is nothing which restricts their inclination to keep motor cars more than the somewhat high tax they have to pay if they do so. There is another point of view, from which the public will undoubtedly benefit. A very large number of these serious cases of anthrax, foot-and-mouth disease, and other virulent stock diseases for which the public has to pay a large bill every year, would be prevented from spreading in certain districts if the veterinary surgeon could act promptly and be on the scene of the disease as soon as it broke out. There are many diseases, from the stock-owner's point of view, which it is really not worth attending to at all unless they are attended to promptly. Perhaps the most ordinary disease in dairy farming is milk fever. If it is attended to at once, it is an easily curable disease, but, if it is not attended to for several hours, it is almost inevitably fatal. This is only one of many illustrations of the necessity of stock-owners having the prompt attention of competent veterinary surgeons in order to effect a cure of the contagious diseases of animals.


I desire to support this new Clause as a representative of an agricultural district in which a considerable number of veterinary surgeons reside and carry on their profession. I can assure the Government there is considerable hardship under existing conditions, and, as this tax was primarily imposed as a tax on luxuries and not on necessities, I think it would be only just that the same assistance which has been given to members of the medical profession should also be extended to veterinary surgeons in carrying on their work. In the course of their profession veterinary surgeons have to do an enormous amount of travelling. I had a letter from a very well-known veterinary surgeon only a day or so ago, in which he told me he had actually travelled in his motor car about 22,000 miles in one year, and his petrol bill amounted last year to no less than £65. This is a profession which, unfortunately, is not very well paid, and it is also a profession which, with the increasing attention which is rightly given to health matters, is becoming more and more a public one. After all, the veterinary surgeon in London is the inspector of meat, and in the country districts he has to do a vast amount of work inspecting cowsheds and other things, often a long distance from the place where he lives; and if this new Milk Bill which we are promised comes in there is no question whatever his work will be largely extended. It is, as the hon. Member has pointed out, absolutely essential, if these serious diseases of which we have, unfortunately, had an example in Somerset during the last month or so, are to be properly coped with, that the veterinary surgeon should be on the spot at the earliest possible opportunity. I do hope the Government may accept this new Clause, because I think veterinary surgeons are an exceedingly deserving class of professional men. They are not highly paid; their clients in a number of cases are poor people, and the tendency is more and more in the direction of making them public officials. I therefore think they are entitled to the consideration suggested by the Clause proposed by my hon. Friend.


I should like to say a few words in support of this Clause. At present there is a very distinct grievance among veterinary surgeons, because they feel they ought to have the same measure of tolerance as the doctors. The doctors have certain advantages, and the veterinary surgeons feel they might be placed in the same position. It must be borne in mind it is only when a motor is kept by a duly qualified practitioner and while it is being used by him for the purposes of his profession that we demand this concession. It would probably encourage veterinary surgeons to use motor cars, and they will help them to get to the scene of action rapidly, and consequently alleviate pain; and that ought to be the object of every Member of this House. It would cost the Government very little, it would add to the usefulness of these excellent men, and I strongly urge the Government to accept the Amendment without further discussion.


The Chancellor of the Exchequer will remember a similar Motion was made on the Budget, and it was received with sympathy in all quarters. The right hon. Gentleman at that time told us he was afraid if he once allowed any exceptions he would be smothered with them, and the benefit of his tax would be lost to the Exchequer. I would ask him now whether he really has received any other requests for exemptions except for these veterinary surgeons. We have put down no other Amendments to include any other body beyond these deserving people, and I would urge upon him whether, if he has not received the floods of requests he anticipated, he could not grant this small concession.


Of course, although this is a new Clause, it is a very old question. The question was raised on the Finance Bill of 1909–10, and it has been raised since, certainly on one if not on more occasions. The answer is really that these exemptions open the door to very large demands, and there is no particular reason why we should extend the exception from doctors who minister to the needs of humanity to veterinary surgeons, which would not apply to other cases, and we should have a list of exemptions which would be very serious. All these suggestions have something to be said for them, but in the mass they would make very serious inroads upon the revenue, and I regret we are unable to accept this suggestion.


I must express my regret at the decision of the Government. I have somehow got an impression, obviously ill-founded, this was one of the Clauses they were prepared to accept to-day. I do not suggest the Government misled me in any way, but it was rumoured they would give way on this point. I really think there is force in what was said by my hon. Friend who spoke last on this side. I quite understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer, bringing in a tax for the first time, is confronted by every kind of claim for an exemption, and he is extremely reluctant to admit any exceptions, but, when the tax has been in force for some time, things settle down, and the claims, as it were, sort themselves. This is the one claim of all that were made which has survived, and will continue to survive, and I think it differs from any others that could be made, whilst it does

does not differ from one of the exemptions which is made already, namely, the exemption of the medical man. I think my hon. Friend who seconded the new Clause put the proposal on true grounds. This is not one of the cases where our sympathies are specially called for for the individual, but it is in the public interest that we ask that this exemption should be made. I am one of those who think the interests of humanity infinitely superior to the interests of the lower animal creation. But interests may be comparable and the occasions for their exercise are of the same kind. The conditions which govern them are of the same nature, there is the same need for haste and skill and the same long distance to travel. In the case of a veterinary surgeon, a very large proportion of whose business lies in country districts, long distances are normal, and, unless they avail themselves of this mode of traction, they are unable to cover the same radius of country or to arrive in the same space of time, and this not only involves suffering to animals but great loss to one of the primary industries of the country. It is really on the ground that public interest is involved in the interests of that great industry that I support and shall vote for the Clause of my hon. Friend.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 89; Noes, 165.

Division No. 443.] AYES. [4.20 p.m.
Aitken, Sir William Max Goulding, E. A. Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Amery, L. C. M. S. Greene, Walter Raymond Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)
Anstruther-Gray, Major William Gretton, John Pole-Carew, Sir R.
Ashley, Wilfrid W. Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Pretyman, Ernest George
Baird, John Lawrence Hamersley, Alfred St. George Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.
Baldwin, Stanley Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Rawson, Col. R. H.
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Barnes, George N. Helmsley, Viscount Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)
Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich) Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.) Sandys, G. J.
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Hills, John Waller Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Beresford, Lord Charles Hoare, S. J. G. Smith, Rt. Hn. F. E. (L'pool, Walton)
Bigland, Alfred Hope, Harry (Bute) Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Bowerman, Charles W. Hume-Williams, W. E. Stanier, Beville
Boyton, James Ingleby, Holcombe Starkey, John Ralph
Bridgeman, William Clive Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East) Staveley-Hill, Henry
Burn, Colonel, C. R. Kerry, Earl of Stewart, Gershom
Campion, W. R. Knight, Capt. E. A. Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle) Talbot, Lord Edmund
Cassel, Felix Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile E[...]d) Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)
Castlereagh, Viscount Lewisham, Viscount Tryon, Captain George Clement
Chaloner, Col. R. G. W. Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Tullibardine, Marquess of
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.) Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey) Valentia, Viscount
Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R. White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)
Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet) Lyttelton, Rt. Hn. A. (St. Geo., Han. S.) Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)
Craik, Sir Henry Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Worthington-Evans, L.
Croft, H. P. Magnus, Sir Philip Yate, Col. C. E.
Du Cros, Arthur Philip Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton) Younger, Sir George
Eyres-Monsell, B. M. Newdegate, F. A.
Falles, Bertram Godfray Newman, John R. P. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Sanderson and Mr. C. Bathurst
Fell, Arthur Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Forster, Henry William Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.
Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour) Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) O'Grady, James
Acland, Francis Dyke Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Palmer, Godfrey Mark
Adamson, William Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Parker, James (Halifax)
Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R. Haworth, Sir Arthur A. Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leeks)
Ainsworth, John Stirling Hayden, John Patrick Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Baker, Harold T. (Accrington) Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.) Power, Patrick Joseph
Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.) Henry, Sir Charles Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)
Barton, William Hodge, John Primrose, Hon. Neil James
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Holt, Richard Durning Raffan, Peter Wilson
Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts, St. George) Hope, John Deans (Haddington) Raphael, Sir Herbert H.
Bentham, George Jackson Horne, C. Silvester (Ipswich) Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Hughes, Spencer Leigh Reddy, Michael
Black, Arthur W. Illingworth, Percy H. Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Boland, John Pius Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus Rendall, Athelstan
Brady, Patrick Joseph Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Byles, Sir William Pollard Jowett, Frederick William Roe, Sir Thomas
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Keating, Matthew Rose, Sir Charles Day
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Kellaway, Frederick George Rowlands, James
Chancellor, Henry George Kennedy, Vincent Paul Rowntree, Arnold
Chapple, Dr. William Allen King, J. (Somerset, N.) Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Clough, William Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Clynes, John R. Levy, Sir Maurice Scanlan, Thomas
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Lewis, John Herbert Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Seely, Colonel Rt. Hon. J. E. B.
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Lundon, Thomas Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)
Cory, Sir Clifford John Lynch, A. A. Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Cotton, William Francis Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester) Spicer, Sir Albert
Crawshay-William, Eliot Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Crooks, William Macpherson, James Ian Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Crumley, Patrick M'Callum, John M. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Thorne, William (West Ham)
Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding) Toulmin, Sir George
Doris, William M'Micking, Major Gilbert Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Marshall, Arthur Harold Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Edwards, Enoch (Hanley) Masterman, C. F. G. Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid) Meehan, Patrick A. (Queens County) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of Menzies, Sir Walter Wason, J. Cathcart (Orkney)
Essex, Richard Walter Molteno, Percy Alport Watt, Henry A.
Esslemont, George Birnie Montagu, Hon. E. S. Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Falconer, James Mooney, John J. White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Ffrench, Peter Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Whitehouse, John Howard
France, G. A. Munro, Robert Wiles, Thomas
Gelder, Sir William Alfred Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd Nannetti, Joseph P. Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Gill, Alfred Henry Needham, Christopher T. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Gladstone, W. G. C. Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster) Winfrey, Richard
Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Nolan, Joseph Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Greig, Colonel J. W. Norton, Capt. Cecil W. Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Hackett, John O'Doherty, Philip TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Gulland and Mr. Geoffrey Howard.
Hancock, John George O'Dowd, John

I beg to move, that the following new Clause be read a second time:—