HC Deb 22 June 1916 vol 83 cc386-9

Motion made, and Question proposed,

3. "That there shall be charged on a licence to be taken out by any person who desires to be supplied with motor spirit, a duty at the rate of sixpence for every gallon with which he is authorised to be supplied by the licence."


It is upon this Resolution that we propose to found a Clause which will deal with the matter of a licence for the supply of motor spirit. The Resolution, according to practice, does not appear upon the Paper, but it has been drawn up in the shortest and widest form, and the Clause will appear upon the Paper in due course.


I should like to again make a protest against these Resolutions being handed to the Clerk at the Table. This is a simple Resolution, as it happens, but I submit that the sooner we have a Standing Order on the subject of these Resolutions the better it will be. These Resolutions ought to appear upon the Paper in order that they may be seen by Members. I know that the Treasury does not like that, but I would point out that there is such a thing as the convenience of Members of Parliament, who have some rights, and the sooner the Treasury realises that the better. I wish to say a word with regard to this new tax, which is a serious imposition on motoring. Motorists do not hesitate to pay their share of taxation, but we have just passed a Resolution dealing with additional taxation on motor spirit larger than that of last year. The price of motor spirit has now risen nearly 3s. per gallon, and I should like to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Secretary to the Treasury what he is really driving at in this matter. Is it to get more money out of motoring by an additional tax upon the present use of petrol? If it is for the purpose of getting more money I greatly doubt whether it will be successful, for that portion of the community which is concerned in this tax are already taxed sufficiently high. Another point is that motorists are already doing much public work voluntarily, and have been doing it during the last eighteen months. I think there is great possibility that the Government will not be justified in placing a higher tax on petrol, in view of the fact that those who use petrol are already paying more than their share of general taxation.

I want to know whether the real object is to stop the use of petrol. If that is so, I am not quite sure whether this is the proper way to do it. We have heard animadversions upon those who go to race meetings in motor cars, but investigations have been made from which it would appear that a large number of the people who go to race meetings in motor cars hire those motor cars, and it is not the ordinary motorists who go to these meetings. If it is desired to stop people from motoring to races, why not stop the racing itself? There is a very strong feeling on all sides of the House and outside—an almost unanimous feeling—that if you, object to racing in war time you should stop it; but you should not try to do it by stopping motorists from doing what they are entitled to do. As long as racing is in existence anybody who chooses to go may go by train or by motor car, and you have no right to put a special tax on motorists to stop them from going to races while you allow the racing to go on. One important point I want to mention has reference to the commercial use of petrol. I understood from the Secretary to the Treasury yesterday afternoon that it is not quite clear whether the tax is going to apply to commercial motors or simply to motor cars used for pleasure purposes; but if this new special tax on petrol is to-apply to cars used for commercial purposes it will be a very serious matter for the commerce of this country. The object of this tax on petrol is to replace the new Licence Duties which were in the Finance Bill and have been dropped.

These new Licence Duties, as I understand, were to be applied to pleasure cars alone, and would not apply to commercial cars. Therefore, when you are merely substituting a new form of taxation on pleasure cars, you have no right suddenly to rope in the whole of the commercial cars in addition. From what the Secretary to the Treasury told us yesterday, it was not clear how this tax would touch commercial cars. The Committee should know, even at this stage, what motorists are paying. There are 50,000,000 gallons per annum used by commercial cars, the use of petrol having enormously increased during the War, because of the enormous amount of war material carried by commercial vehicles owing to the railways being so blocked. An enormous number of horses have gone, and in consequence the petrol-using commercial car has to carry a great deal of traffic. Fifty million gallons per annum of petrol will mean, when subjected to the new tax, a sum of £625,000 of taxation on the commerce of the country. That is rather a tall order for the right hon. Gentleman to spring upon us in lieu of the Licence Tax on pleasure cars which was given up yesterday. I remember the old saying as to fearing the Greeks when they bring gifts, and I feel that my right hon. Friend would not have given up the Licence Duties if he was not aware that he was going to put on something heavier. I desire to express my disappointment in regard to this matter, and I hope that before the Clause comes up there will be a very serious alteration as to the commercial position, and the difficulties in regard to commercial cars.

Resolution agreed to.