HC Deb 19 October 1915 vol 74 cc1705-13

(1) In addition to the duty of Customs payable on motor spirit imported into Great Britain or Ireland there shall, as from the twenty-second day of September, nineteen hundred and fifteen, until the first day of August, nineteen hundred and sixteen, be charged, levied, and paid an additional duty at the rate of threepence per gallon.

(2) In addition to the duty of Excise payable on motor spirit made in Great Britain or Ireland there shall, as from the twenty-second day of September, nineteen hundred and fifteen, until the first day of August, nineteen hundred and sixteen, be charged, levied, and paid an additional duty at the rate of threepence per gallon.

(3) The like allowances and repayments shall be allowed and made in respect of the additional duties under this Section as are allowed and made in respect of the duties payable under Section eighty-four of the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910.


I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to insert the following new Sub-section:—

"(4) Sub-section (1), Section eighty-five, of the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910, shall apply to any person using motor spirit for any of the purposes mentioned in this Sub-section as it applies to any person using motor spirit for any of the purposes mentioned in Part I. of the Fifth Schedule of that Act, that is to say, for the purpose of supplying motive power to a motor car kept by (a) a clergyman of any religious denomination; (b) a duly qualified engineer in the exclusive employment of a local authority; or (c) a duly qualified veterinary surgeon, while the car is being used by the clergyman, engineer, or veterinary surgeon for the purposes of his ministry or profession, as the case maybe, and the last preceding Sub-section of this Section shall have effect accordingly."


The Amendment of the hon. Member will come better a few lines earlier.


I desire respectfully to accept your suggestion. I foreshadowed this Amendment a few days ago, when I addressed the House on the Second Reading of the Bill. My object is to have extended to certain classes that favourable consideration with regard to motor spirit that has been extended to the medical profession. The Finance Act of 1909–10, which included the Finance Act of 1909, provided that there should be a certain reduction in the tax in the case of motor spirit used for supplying motive power to a motor car used by a duly qualified medical practitioner for the purposes of his profession. I suggested on the Second Beading that veterinary surgeons ought to have the same favourable consideration. This exemption and abatement in the interests of the medical profession no doubt was largely due to the sentimental consideration which we all entertain for those who are engaged in assuaging human suffering. I submit that everything that could be said on behalf of the medical profession can also be said with regard to the veterinary surgeons of the country, for they, too, are engaged in assuaging suffering, not of human beings, but of dumb animals, and no doubt the sympathies of this Committee and of the country go out to all those who are engaged in diminishing the sum total of suffering, whether it be that of the human being or of the dumb beast. We have at the present time this body of men engaged, I will not say exclusively, but in a greater degree now than before, in attending to cattle, and cattle at the present time may be said to be a national asset. Their duties with regard to horses have been considerably diminished by reason of the greater use of motor traction. Horses are not now so generally used, and they will be less used in the future as traction business is more conducted by the motive power coming from spirit. I submit, therefore, that when these professional men are engaged in attending upon cattle they are engaged in attending upon that which is perhaps at the present time one of the greatest national assets.

Their duties arising from the administration of Acts of Parliament have also become very onerous. They have largely to do with the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts. We depend upon them when there are outbreaks of cattle disease, such as rinder pest, and those terrible diseases which troubled us a few years ago. We have to depend upon them to administer all the other Acts relating to cattle, and I am reminded that the Tuberculosis Orders give them a great deal of trouble. Having regard to the fact that these men have to go long distances in order to administer these Acts, their duties can only be performed by the use of motor cars. Railway trains do not always serve their purpose. They do not serve the purpose of anybody engaged in some of the counties of Great Britain and Ireland, which are very extensive. Take, for example, the great county of Yorkshire, divided into three Ridings, Devon- shire, or Cork, divided into two Ridings. The distances are very extensive, and the duties of these men can only be performed by motor car. I submit that these gentlemen ought to be encouraged under the circumstances to provide themselves with motor cars. An extension of the privilege already enjoyed by the medical profession would be to some extent an encouragement to them to get motor cars, and I submit that it is in the very best interests of the country that they should be encouraged to provide themselves with every convenience for the exercise of their profession, from which we derive very great benefits indeed. I had the sympathy of the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) on the Second Reading, when he promised me his support when I moved my Amendment, and I know that I can claim that generous support which he always gives to good causes in this House to-day.

My Amendment has gone a little further than I foreshadowed in my speech on the Second Reading, because I have included clergymen of all religious denominations. I have not much to say about this class. I do not know any clergymen myself who are the happy possessors of motor cars. I do not know any bishops or any ecclesiastics of any class whatever who are wealthy enough to drive a motor car; but this Amendment has been suggested to me by some persons who probably have more extensive acquaintance with the clergy than I can claim myself. It may be that it is a very small matter, but a legal maxim has been used over and over again this evening, and though otherwise I would not have ventured to use it, I crave it in aid of this branch of my Amendment, and say de minimis non curat lcx. I now come to the other branch of my Amendment, which includes a duly qualified engineer in the exclusive employment of a local authority. I think something more can be said for this class than for the clergy. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh!"] Very well, if the Committee are willing that the clergy should be included, I shall be very happy, but I think there are more arguments that can be used on behalf of engineers in the exclusive employment of local authorities, and I am perfectly certain that there are more that can be used for the veterinary surgeons.

Engineers in the exclusive employment of local authorities certainly have a strong claim to this abatement. They have long journeys to perform in such very extensive counties and ridings of counties as I have named, and they cannot use the railway at all times. They have to inspect works of every kind in every part of the county, very often where railway trains do not run. They have very often to go across country and they ought to be encouraged to provide themselves with motor cars, in order to perform their duties with more benefit to the community, and with more convenience and comfort to themselves. I need only mention again those very extensive counties to which I have referred, Yorkshire, Somerset, Devonshire, Cork, and other large counties. I remember distinctly once when I was assisting one of the candidates in the county of Huntingdonshire going from one end of the' county to the other, an enormous distance. The engineers in the exclusive employment of local authorities have to go from one end of these counties to the other, and to do that without the aid of a motor car is rather appaling. I submit, therefore, that they have a strong claim, and that it ought to be considered by the Committee. I trust I have said enough to convince the Committee that there is a good case why the veterinary surgeons should not be separated from the medical profession in respect of this abatement. I hope also that the short arguments that I have used for the extension of the privilege to the bishops and clergy of all denominations will appeal to the Committee, and, finally, I trust that the case I have endeavoured to make for the engineers in the sole employment of local governing bodies throughout the country is well established. I have much pleasure in submitting my Amendment, and I trust that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see that a good case has been made out.


I wish to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend. With regard to the case of engineers, some time ago the county councils in Ireland formulated schemes of steam road rolling, which placed additional work on these men. The councils, in fact, had practically either to double their engineering staff or make grants to the existing officials to cover the cost of keeping a motor car, because it was felt to be necessary for the proper inspection of the roads, and for the development of the country in that respect, that the engineers should have motor cars to enable them to cover their districts. After all, this is practically a national service, and these men ought to receive the concession which has already been given to the doctors. With regard to bishops and clergymen, in my part of Ireland these gentlemen find it very necessary to have some description of a motor vehicle, new or old. They are often called out at all hours of the day and night, and have to perform long journeys, in the same way as doctors, for the purpose of administering spiritual consolation to people who live far away, and they too, therefore, are entitled to this privilege.


I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will accept one portion of the Amendment, namely, that which relates to veterinary surgeons. There is a good deal to be said for allowing these gentlemen the facilities already accorded to doctors. They are both engaged in the healing of sickness and the alleviation of suffering—one in the case of mankind and the other in the case of animals. Indeed, the claim of the veterinary surgeons to be included is almost greater than that of the doctors, because they are paid lower fees than are usually charged by doctors. In country districts they have to travel very great distances, and I cannot conceive I why they should not be allowed this privilege. With regard to the other part of the Amendment, I do not think I need say much. I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman will accept it. I see no reason for including engineers any more than other municipal officials. They are the servants of the ratepayers, and I cannot see why any particular class carrying on their ordinary duties should be exempt. I do not know whether many clergymen have motor cars. I do not think there are many in England, whatever may be the case in parts of Ireland, but I do not see why they should be included. I should not raise much objection to its being done, but, on the whole, I trust the right hon. Gentleman will accept that portion of the Amendment which deals with veterinary surgeons, and I reject the remainder of the proposal.


I wish to support that part of the Amendment which deals with the case of veterinary surgeons. I rather agree with my hon. Friend that no very strong case has been made out for the engineers, and I do not know whether there will be any great object in extending the privilege to the clergy. But there is a strong case for the veterinary surgeons. In normal times there are not very many of these gentlemen in many parts of the country. Now, however, a great many have gone to the Front. They have joined various units of the Forces, and are doing Government work, and the consequence is that, although as a body they never were very numerous, they are now still more scarce, and farmers find it much more difficult than in ordinary times to get the assistance of veterinary surgeons sufficiently quickly perhaps to save the lives of valuable animals. Veterinary surgeons have now a much larger area of country to cover than at ordinary times, and as this difficulty has arisen directly out of the War it is only fair, this being war taxation, that men who are doing such valuable work for the agricultural community should obtain every facility that can possibly be given to enable them to carry on their profession. There is an additional reason which is really complementary to what I have already stated. At the present time it is exceedingly difficult to get horses, and if a veterinary surgeon, who has been in the habit of using a motor car finds that as a consequence of the additional taxation, he cannot afford the expense, he can hardly bring out the old obsolete gig, because horses are very difficult to get, and can only be obtained for such work at ruinous prices. It is only a matter of justice that this concession should be granted to them, for, although they deal with different classes of disease, they, are still a part of the medical profession, and should be treated on the same footing. I do not think anyone would urge this on the Chancellor of the Exchequer if it involved the sacrifice of any considerable amount of revenue. I do not know exactly to how many individuals the concession if made would apply, but I should say it would be a very small number indeed, and therefore we may, with all the more confidence, appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to meet us in this matter.


I can assure my hon. Friends that one is placed in a very difficult position when, after listening to forcible arguments extremely well put in support of a particular Amendment, he is obliged to advance a case on the other side. We all like to make concessions. It is a much pleasanter thing to do than to refuse them. But still it is for me to make out a case against this Amendment. What is the position with regard to veterinary surgeons, clergymen, engineers, or any other class of persons for whom this exception is sought? I will take the case of the veterinary surgeon. He has to choose in the course of the exercise of his profession whether he will use a horse and trap for purposes of locomotion, or whether he will adopt the motor car. If he takes the latter course, it is because he finds he can do his business better with it, presumably it is more profitable than a horse and cart. But he does not, therefore, make any reduction in the fees he charges. He makes greater profits.


And what about the doctor?


The dialectical acuteness of the hon. Baronet leads me to another point. The doctor already has the concession by virtue of statute. I am asked to extend it to the veterinary surgeon who is saving money by adopting the motor car, and does not make any reduction in his fee.


He gets more speedily to the assistance of suffering animals.


That is another point. I am dealing with the commercial aspect of the question. My argument is evidently a good one, and I hope my hon. Friends will allow me to complete it. In the case of the veterinary surgeon, it is a trade expense. It is a question for him whether he will use one form of locomotion or another, and I submit to the Committee that on that ground no good reason is shown for extending the extension to him. The same is true of the clergyman and of the engineer. They have to make their choice of methods of locomotion. We are not forcing them to use motor cars. It is a matter within their own choice. As I expected, I have been asked how one is to distinguish between the doctor and the veterinary surgeon. The argument upon which the doctor was given the exemption was, not that he ought to get his petrol cheaper, but that it would place him in a position to reach his patient more quickly. It was a social advantage in the relief of sickness and the saving of life that he should be induced to use a motor car rather than a horse and cart. That was the argument, and I think it is an argument which is good for the veterinary surgeon as well. If my hon. Friend will agree to drop any other claims for any other classes to whom that argument will not apply, I should be willing, on Report, to consider the admission of veterinary surgeons to this abatement. But I beg that that inclusion, founded on that argument, shall not be made a ground for suggesting new concessions.


I have listened with very great pleasure to the sympathetic observations of the right hon. Gentleman, and I readily and willingly accept his suggestion. I am perfectly prepared to drop the other portions of the Clause, if he will give the concession to veterinary surgeons.


On Report.




I want to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for this concession to veterinary surgeons. For five years I have, in connection with the Finance Bill, put down Clauses with this object which have not met with the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am very glad that at this moment, instead of imposing fresh burdens on these men, and making it more difficult for them to relieve suffering among animals, besides doing their regular work for the community, he has seen his way to make this concession.

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.