§ (1) Sub-section (4) of Section eighty-six of the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910 (which provides for the repayment in certain cases to duly qualified medical practitioners of half the duty on motor-car licences) shall apply to registered veterinary surgeons in like manner as it applies to duly qualified medical practitioners.
§ (2) If any person proves to the satisfaction of the Commissioners of Customsand Excise or the council by whom the licence is granted, by the production of such certificate as the Commissioners may approve, that any motor car kept by him has during any year been used exclusively for the purpose of any Government service, he shall be entitled to the repayment of any duty paid for that year under Section eighty-six of the Finance (1909–10) Act 1910, on the licence for the car.—[Mr. McKenna.}
§ Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read' a second time."
§ Mr. MONTAGU
My right hon. Friend promised that veterinary surgeons should be exempted from a portion of the Motor Licence Duty in the same manner as doctors. Doctors and veterinary surgeons who use motor cars stand in a different position from the members of any other profession. Their object is the saving of suffering and life. Therefore I see no reason, and I believe that the Committee see no reason, for persisting in a differentiation between the two classes. This reform has often been pressed on the Government.
I would like my right hon. Friend to consider, between now and the Report stage, whether some sort of a reduction should not be made in the case of clergymen whose parishes are very widespread. I know several who have got parishes twenty miles in one direction. They cannot possibly visit their parishioners by hackney carriage, even if they 670 could get one. I think that in certain cases of outlying sparsely populated parishes there is a distinct claim.
§ Mr. PETO
I desire to support the hon. Member for Aberdeen and to add this consideration to which I hope the Financial Secretary will give his special attention. I have not a word to say against the extension to veterinary surgeons of the rebate given to doctors, because I have advocated it on every occasion when it was put forward in this House. But I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that both the doctor and the veterinary surgeon, when they make a visit by motor car, are naturally entitled to charge something to the patient, or the owner of the patient in the case of the veterinary surgeon, to whom the visit is paid. But the class of people for whom the hon. Member has just put in a plea, ministers of religion, have to keep a car or motor cycle or some means of getting about these widespread parishes. It is common in the North of Ireland, in Scotland and in many parts of England—the rural parts which I represent. They have to make those visits without any remuneration whatever in addition to their stipend, which is often very little over £100 a year. From that point of view the case is even stronger than that of those professions which, the right hon. Gentleman has already conceded, are entitled to this consideration because they are carrying on their work in order to alleviate suffering or prevent sickness. The right hon. Gentleman made absolutely no mention of Sub-section (2) of the Clause of the Bill, which is a very important part of it. Speeches were made by several Members previous to this new Clause appearing upon the Paper, and they urged that these cars are in many cases almost exclusively or mainly used in connection with Red Cross work, and that some remission should be made. The new Clause, as drafted, does not meet that at all. It only provides where it can be proved that the car is used wholly and exclusively for patriotic service they are entitled to remission. I do not think that is a satisfactory way of meeting the actualities of the case, because if anybody uses a car exclusively, during the whole year, for the Government, presumably the Government would have taken that car over. I ask the Government to see whether the Clause cannot be so framed as to meet these practical points. As the Clause stands on the Paper, there is absolutely nothing in it 671 to meet the case of those people who use their ears for public service without charging the Government at all.
§ Sir W. BEALE
I have an Amendment on the Paper which asks for relief for ministers of religion and others similarly circumstanced, in the form of an abatement on the Spirit Duty. I want in one form or another that in proper cases there may be an abatement or relief both for ministers and others similarly circumstanced. I only mention it now, because I wish to reinforce what has already been said, that adequate relief or partial relief should be given on the Spirit Duty.
§ Mr. MORTON
I understood that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to make a general statement when these Clauses came up for consideration. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to make that statement after the verbal assurance which he gave me that he intended to make it? I had a letter from the right hon. Gentleman in which he stated that "the case of ministers in the North of Scotland will not be lost sight of." I have that assurance in writing, and also the verbal assurance given me the other night, and I think I am entitled to ask whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is prepared not to lose sight of the ministers of the North of Scotland a minister in Scotland endeavours on a Sunday to attend to more than one church or chapel, and, consequently, if the distance is great he cannot attend the services unless he has something in the nature of a motor car. Ministers do their best to attend the services where they can. They have very limited incomes; very few of them get large salaries at all, and I do not suppose that many get more than £100 a year. Can the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury tell me whether we are going to have this statement which was promised. Of course if the right hon. Gentleman likes to wait until to-morrow it will come up again in the shape of a Motion by my hon. Friend and also one which stands in my name. It possibly might be urged that if we allowed this Clause now before us to be carried it would shut out the consideration of our Clauses. I would like to know what the right hon. Gentleman intends to do in the matter.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I do not think we have had sufficient opportunity of considering these Clauses. We are now getting into 672 the second Budget, and I would humbly submit to my right hon. Friend that we should be given a little time. I question whether my right hon. Friend has read these Clauses. The right hon. Gentleman very politely offered us some explanation about this Clause, and I listened in the hope that he would give us some information, but I found to my astonishment that he confined himself entirely to the first and least novel and least important part of the Clause. Not a word was said about the latter part of it, that part to which my hon. Friend (Mr. Peto) called attention, about the exemption of Government cars. Really this is a matter which requires a considerable amount of attention before it can be carried into law. Is a car which is doing Government work to be exempted entirely? I believe a great deal of the extravagance and waste of petrol which is complained of, and for which the Government is punishing this House and the people of the country, is taking place on what are called Government cars. [An HON. MEMBER: "They ought to have a licence."] Yes, they ought to have a licence, for in London it is really almost dangerous to go about the streets because of the great risk of being run over by Government cars.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I am extremely obliged to my hon. Friend for that answer, but my difficulty is that he is not the Government, and it is to the Government that I must look in this matter. I humbly ask my right hon. Friend if encouragement may not be given by the Clause to this question of Government cars. I do not want to say a word against the appeal which has been made on behalf of ministers in Scotland, but in Ireland I believe that substantial expenses are allowed by all the Departments to owners of cars, and are they to get the relief of this Clause and at the same time 6d. or 8d. per mile for running the car which the Government has made so cheap. I think we ought to have a good deal of explanation.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
With regard to the first appeal made by the hon. Member for Sutherland (Mr. Morton) for a general statement, I think he was out of the House this afternoon, and I think he was out of the House on Thursday when two statements were made by me—as clear as I could possibly make them—about the new Licence Duty. When we come to the new duty, if he requires any further explanation, I shall be very happy to supply it.
§ Mr. MORTON
Can you give me a reply to the latter part of the letter which I will read again: "The case of ministers in the North of Scotland shall not be lost sight of," and signed, "Yours sincerely R. McKenna."
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I heard and understood it when the hon. Member read it for the first time. I was going to deal with the appeal for the exemption of ministers of religion. We have given very careful consideration to this question; we have not lost sight of it; but I do appeal to the Committee to withstand the appeal from another further exemption. After all, there is nothing very new in the case of clergymen. Their parishes are the same size as they always were; as they were before motor cars were invented. If you give exemption to ministers, then the next case which comes is that of farmers going to market, and that of Members of Parliament, and others. Doctors and veterinary surgeons seem to me to stand in a different category from any other. Their activities are directed directly to the amelioration of suffering and the prevention or loss of life of human beings and of animals. I think we ought to leave the matter there, where we have a clear dividing line between those and other professions. With regard to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington (Mr. Lough), I am very sorry that he was able to point to a part of the Clause which I had omitted to explain. It is not put down out of wanton lightheartedness by the Government. It does not deal with Government motor cars at all, but with motor cars on 674 Government service. It is specially directed to Red Cross cars, cars used for ambulance purposes, and private cars used solely for the discharge of Government duty. The words "solely and exclusively" must be kept in, or we shall open the door very widely. The appeal has been as widely made as that of the veterinary surgeons. It is not a very complicated matter, and I did not think it necessary to detain the Committee by making a long explanation.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
The experience the Government have had in this matter shows the danger of making any divergence at all in the Clause which provides that in the case of veterinary surgeons there shall be an exemption. There is not so strong a case, in my opinion, as the right hon. Gentleman makes out. It is a profession which uses motor cars in the same way as other people use them for the purposes of their particular calling, and we have now been led to a demand on behalf of another profession. The same difficulty arises in regard to the remaining part of the Clause. It seems to me that a great deal of difficulty will arise, because it is not only the Commissioners of Customs and Excise who are to have the power of giving the rebate: the council—which, I suppose, means the local council—may also use their discretion, and will have to decide whether a car has been used exclusively for Government service. What is Government service? I cannot for the life of me see why the Treasury should choose this way of subsidising work done for the Government. If a car is lent to the Government, why cannot the Department to which it is lent pay something, instead of having this method of giving rebates from taxation—a method which will give rise to so many difficulties? It is not fair to the local councils, which have quite enough to do already, that they should have thrust upon them the duty of deciding which cars are to escape this duty. The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned Red Cross work and ambulance work. Are they, in fact, Government services? Some people would argue, I think with effect, that neither of them is Government service. I am certain that the desire on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to meet what I confess seems a reasonable demand for a rebate will lead him, and those who have to give effect to this Clause, into a great deal of difficulty, and I am personally sorry that the Government have introduced the Clause.
§ Mr. MORTON
I am not at all satisfied with the reply of the right hon. Gentleman. I am glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now present, and I hope he will treat me in a different way. I will read his letter to him. There is nothing private about it. It is dated "Treasury Chambers Whitehall, S.W., 24th May, 1916." Therefore the Treasury have had plenty of time to consider the matter.My dear Morton,[Laughter.] I thought Members would laugh at that, that is why I read it—I am proposing to make a statement with regard to the increased Licence Duty on motor cars on the Committee stage of the Finance Bill, and meantime I do not think I can usefully say anything except that the case of ministers in the North of Scotland will not be lost sight of.Yours sincerely, R. McKENNA.That is a very polite and courteous letter indeed. I recommend it to other Ministers. But now the Secretary to the Treasury has done the reverse of this promise, because, although we were told that the ministers of the North of Scotland would not be lost sight of, from what the Secretary to the Treasury has now said, they have been lost sight of altogether. Surely I will not be acting; unfairly, or doing wrong, in appealing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer simply to do what he has promised to do—to think of these ministers of religion in the North of Scotland. They travel long distances to conduct services in the church. I am most anxious to meet the ministers who have very small stipends. I want nothing more than I would give to others in similar circumstances.
Sir H. DALZIEL
The Clause, as drawn, would give relief to every veterinary surgeon who happens to be on the register. Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the question of retired veterinary surgeons, of whom there are a very large number, who may still be on the register I How does the Clause apply in the case of doctors who have retired? Is a doctor to have this privilege although he is not in practice, and simply because he happens to be on the Medical Register? The Clause of the right hon. Gentleman, it seems to me, as drawn, would carry us further than the Committee intends to go.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Before the Chancellor of the Exchequer replies I would like a word. I do not quite agree with my hon. Friend opposite who rather cavilled at the idea that veterinary surgeons should be exempted. Extremely useful work is per- 676 formed by veterinary surgeons. They have very great distances to travel to their work, their fees are much lower than those of doctors, and very often they are required to do their work in a very great hurry. I think if there is—as I think undoubtedly there is—a strong case for the exemption of doctors, there is a still stronger case for the exemption of veterinary surgeons, and the veterinary surgeon's charges are quite irrespective of distance. Anyone who lives in the country knows the great advantage it is that when a veterinary surgeon is summoned now that he can get to his destination quickly, instead of as in the old days the people having to wait till he drove a pony ten, twelve, or fifteen miles. I do not quite agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite as to what he said about veterinary surgeons, but I do rather agree with him as to what he said in regard to the second part of the Clause. This part of the Clause may serve a very useful purpose. The intention of it may be very good, but it seems to me that it is drawn very vaguely. There are apparently two different sets of bodies to be consulted. Their decisions may be different in different cases, and may lead to much confusion. If the hon. Gentleman would allow me to support his suggestion, I think the proper course to pursue is not to have another exemption, but that the Government should, if they think that a particular motor car has been used mainly or exclusively in their service, cither to make a payment to defray the expenses, or to cover the amount of the actual licence. This would be saving the extra trouble and expense, and would save time in ultimately having to go to the Post Office and fill up a form asking for a rebate. If the Government think it right and proper to tax people who come forward patriotically to lend their motor cars, let them make those people a small contribution, or, at any rate, meet the cost of their licence. That is, I think, the proper business-like way of doing it, and I propose later to move the omission of Subsection (2).
§ Sir T. WALTERS
I cannot see any adequate reason why private motor cars that are used exclusively in Government service should be exempt. If cars that are used exclusively are exempt, why should not cars which are used during part of their time be partially exempt? It is common knowledge that in most provincial towns hundreds of cars are used 677 for the transport of wounded soldiers between stations and hospitals and to places of various kinds. The owners of these cars very gladly and cheerfully place them at the disposal of local authorities, hospital authorities, and others for these purposes. They do not ask for any exemption. It is one of the privileges of those who own motor cars to place them freely at the disposal of the Government. It is a mean process for those who keep motor cars to ask for total or partial exemption because they lend them to the Government, and I hope the Treasury will not grant any such exemption at all.
§ Mr. PETO
The right lion. Gentleman said that scattered parishes had not grown in size, and what did ministers do before there were any motor cars? The answer to that is quite simple. They necessarily kept a horse and trap of some kind to get about. But sometime ago, and particularly owing to the demand for horses by the Government, they gave up the horse and trap and bought some very cheap motor car—some small and disused car which somebody would not use—in substitution of a horse and trap, which it was not in the interests of the country they should keep. Therefore, it is very unfair to charge the full Licence Duty which is paid by those who keep expensive cars for pleasure purposes. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to listen to that appeal. I would just support what the hon. Baronet for the City of London has said as providing a very simple solution of the difficulty of cars used mainly for Government purposes a great many people are quite able to pay the full Licence Duty, and would not wish to make any claim for remission at all, but there are a great many people who could hardly keep a motor car, but who have been struggling to keep it going because of rendering services to the wounded and so forth. If the right hon. Gentleman will consider the suggestion of the hon. Baronet to omit this Sub-section altogether, and agree that where a claim is put in, because that would only be put in by people to whom the payment of the full Licence Duty might prevent their keeping their car going at all, he will remit the duty, or pay a sum in consideration of the services of the car, which are mainly devoted to Government purposes, which will be roughly commensurate with the amount of the extra Licence Duty. I think that would be a solution of the difficulty, and it would clear away an Amendment I 678 handed in to omit the word "exclusively." But if the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not meet my right hon. Friend's request, I would ask you, Sir, to protect my Amendment when you put the Question.
§ Sir STEPHEN COLLINS
I wish to put in a plea not only for the ministers in the North of Scotland but for ministers of religion in England and Wales generally. You are granting relief to doctors and veterinary surgeons to whom their profession is more a matter of business, but this is not so with the ministers of religion to whom their profession is more a labour of love. As a rule they are men with very small salaries. When the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was referring to the importance of doctors visiting their patients he did not mean to infer any less importance should be attached to the ministration of ministers of religion and the friends in dire distress whom they go to see. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will seriously consider the importance of his promise to the hon. Member for Suther-landshire (Mr. Morton), and take into consideration the case of ministers of religion.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I would like to ask if there is really any need for this proposal at all. I lent some motor cars, some time ago, to the Government to convey the wounded, and I was informed by the Kent County Council in my district that it was not necessary for me to take any licences out for those cars. I put them at the disposal of the hospital authorities, and surely it is not necessary that I should pay for licences in respect of those cars which are being used for Government purposes only. The Kent County Council informed me that for all cars engaged exclusively on Government work no licences were required, and I have not paid for any licences for those cars. I do not see why you should give exemption to medical men, because they are now earning far more money under the Insurance Act than they were getting before. The men who do require relief are ministers of religion. You have given these medical men enormously increased incomes, and they are far better off than they ever were before, and when you are giving these exemptions right and left you must inevitably extend the principle, not only to veterinary surgeons and doctors, but also to the much more needy class, the ministers of religion. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not 679 dismiss the matter in this light way, but have regard to the interests of this class, seeing that the doctors are much better able to afford to pay this increase than ministers of religion.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
With regard to the question which has been asked me, this Clause as drawn imposes the same condition for veterinary surgeons as for qualified medical practitioners, namely, that the car should be used for the purpose of their profession, and thus in both cases excludes those who have retired from the profession. I have listened to the arguments put forward by various hon. Members on the part of ministers of religion, and the only argument I can use against that proposal is the one which I have already put before the House, namely, that there is a definite and logical reason for the exemption of doctors and veterinary surgeons. The hon. Member for Mansfield suggests that the time has come to take this relief away from the doctors, but I would remind the hon. Baronet of an axiom which is often quoted that, "It is very difficult to take butter out of a dog's mouth." Even if that were not so, I venture to think that at this moment, when doctors are peculiarly scarce, to put any difficulties in the way of a doctor reaching his patients would be very ill advised. That is a quality which the work of doctors and veterinary surgeons has in common that no other profession has. By their activities and ministrations they seek to alleviate bodily suffering and save life. I do not think there is any other class of which that can be said, and it would be dangerous to go any further. With regard to the second part of the Clause, this has been pressed upon us by associations of motor-car owners, and by owners of cars which are working as hundreds of motor car are now working, on Government work. They say, "I have got a car. I am perfectly willing to put it to the exclusive use of the Government, but it seems unfair, when I get no use out of my car at all, that I should have to pay the Licence Duty. The word "exclusively" is most important. As soon as you get away to vague words like "mainly" or "generally," you open the way to all sorts of evasion. a man who uses his car for private purposes will find that by using it for Government purposes a day or two he can avoid the duty. We must stick to the word "exclusively" very rigidly, but if the Committee vote against 680 the second part of the Clause, well, relief to the taxpayer is not dear to the Treasury's heart, and we shall not press it on an unwilling Committee.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I will gladly inquire. I am told that this Clause is necessary. I am surprised at the version of the law which the hon. Baronet has obtained from the local authority concerned. I cannot answer it off-hand. I must take legal advice.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I must point out that the course the discussion is taking will mean that the matter cannot be raised again on the Amendment coming later.
§ Mr. MORTON
That is why I want to get an answer to-night. I have had no answer yet with regard to the promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the ministers in the North of Scotland would not be forgotten. I am entitled to have respect to my Constituents, whom I do my best to represent and to insist on having an answer from these well-paid Gentlemen on the Front Bench.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I can assure my hon. Friend that I did not lose sight of the matter, and that their case has not been neglected. I examined it, as I did many others, but, after consultation with my right hon. Friend, we eventually came to the conclusion that we ought not properly to ask this House to give further exemptions than those we have proposed. We have proposed, as the Committee is aware, to go outside doctors and veterinary surgeons and to include the case of cars exclusively used for public service. That will not cover the case of the car which is used from time to time in taking about wounded soldiers; it applies only to cars which are entirely given up by the owner to the public service. Where the Government has the exclusive use of the cars it would be a great mistake to impose the duty, and the case has been represented to me as follows: a number of these cars are owned by people who have borne all the expense of the cars and have given the whole service of the cars to the State, and 681 if upon the top of that we were still further to tax them for the maintenance of the cars it would be hardly fair, and it has been represented to us that the effect would be that a number of these cars would be withdrawn from the public service, with the consequence that the State would have to obtain cars in substitution for them. Having regard to the use of the word "exclusively," I do not think that the Committee will run any risk in accepting the Clause.
§ Clause read a second time.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2).
I quite, agree with what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just said, that there has been a demand lately to introduce some Clause of this sort, and I think myself that probably something of this sort is necessary, but I also think it would be advisable that the Sub-section should be omitted. The right hon. Gentleman says the word "exclusively" is in the Clause and will protect the Clause, and I agree it is necessary that that word should be inserted. It would not do to make this provision in the case of owners who once or twice a week or once or twice a month lent their cars to the Government. I would point out that the Clause as worded in such a way as to give a great deal of trouble to the person who would claim a reduction. It says: "If any person proves to the satisfaction of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise or the council by whom the licence is granted"—that, I presume, will be the county council in a county and the London County Council in London—and it goes on to say. "by the production of such certificate as the Commissioners may approve." Does that mean that, first of all, the applicant is to fill up a certificate for the Commissioners' approval, and then, having done that, he is to submit a certificate to the Commissioners of Customs and Excise, or the council by whom the licence is granted, and having gone through all these forms, then the remission will be made? I ask whether that is sol The Clause is not 682 clearly drawn, and I think that might be the effect of it. The Commissioners of Customs and Excise and the council by whom the licence is granted may take different views of the evidence that has been brought before them as to whether th car has been or has not been exclusively used, and different decisions may be given. If my proposal is adopted the Government themselves—there are no better judges than the Government themselves—will decide whether the car has or has not been used exclusively for Government purposes. Why at this moment, when it is so difficult to get clerks and other officials, should we go on to create more forms to be filled up and that more clerks and more officials be used, when the Government themselves on the application "being made to them by a certain car owner can say at once, because they know themselves, "the car has been exclusively employed in the service of the State and we will therefore remit such sum as may be necessary to cover your loss." It seems to be much the simplest way. It will give far less trouble to the car owner and to the Government. The only reasons I can conceive why it should not be adopted are that it will not be in an Act of Parliament, so that possibly people will not understand that they have this power, or that the Government might change their minds. It could be arranged with Parliament that the Treasury should be the authority. In that case the Treasury could give an undertaking in the House that they would make some such arrangement and nothing further need be done. Unless there are very strong reasons in favour of the Sub-section which I cannot see, I hope the Government will allow it to be omitted.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I hope the Government will accept this Amendment. I do not wish to repeat the arguments I used when I drew the attention of the Government to what I considered to be the difficulty of giving effect to this Clause, except to emphasise the difficulty of anyone deciding whether or not a car comes within a provision of this kind. I understand the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) to suggest that if a Government Department utilised the services of a car which belonged to a gentleman who could not afford to lend it exclusively to that Department and pay the Licence Duty, it should be open to the Department, if they wanted the car, to make some payment which would enable the Licence Duty to be paid.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I should prefer no exception at all being made in a matter of taxation. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, in dealing with the Excess Profits Tax, made a great point about the danger of differentiation in regard to taxation. That difficulty arises here to a smaller degree. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell the House what he means by "Government service." The Financial Secretary to the Treasury mentioned Red Cross and St. John's Ambulance work. Are you sure that every local authority will take the view that Red Cross work is Government service? In all probability the Red Cross Society itself would say that it is not strictly a Government Department or doing Government service. What is to happen in the case of some one who uses a car for running from a controlled munitions establishment up to Whitehall? He may say his car is used in connection with the making of munitions, and that that is Government service. Who is to decide these questions? If the local authority is given power to decide them, the instance already given by the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Mark-ham) shows that the local authority there has already decided, without this Clause, that a car which was exclusively used in connection with a voluntary hospital has not to pay the duty. Who is going to decide whether a particular voluntary hospital is a hospital which entitles the people who lend their cars to it, to come within this provision? Further, it leads to extravagance in the use of these cars. I am perfectly certain that in many cases, owing to the good nature of the people who lend these cars—one sees it if he looks around—more cars are used, or misused, than are necessary. And if a Government Department, using a car or allows it to be used in its exclusive service, felt that they would have to pay or make some contribution if the owner of the car could not afford to pay the duty and lent them the car, it would be a much sounder system of finance than this method.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I think we ought to have from the Government a more detailed statement of what they intend this Sub-section to apply to. For example, it is very difficult to say when a ear is on Government service. Would it apply to a Cabinet Minister?
§ Mr. McKENNA
Certainly not. a Cabinet Minister does not use it exclusively on Government service a Cabinet Minister lives also outside Government service.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The right hon. Gentleman must not say that. He stated the principles himself very fully on Thursday, and applied them to the Government as a whole. He must not make individual charges.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I am glad my right hon. Friend has reminded me of the excellent principles I laid down last Thursday. Will it apply to cars used by the Government? You must in this case depart from the strict line which I laid down on Thursday. It surely is possible under this Clause as drafted for a Minister to say, "When I am travelling from my home in the country to Whitehall to discharge the affairs of the Government, I am on Government service," and it is further possible for him to argue that when he goes for a drive in the country it is for the benefit of his health, and therefore for the benefit of the Government. I take my right hon. Friend's assurance that he speaks on behalf of a united Cabinet and that they in this case claim no exemption. Take the case again of a tax collector. Is he to be able to say that his car is on Government service? I think he ought to, under the Clause. Take the case of a Customs officer or anyone travelling about the country in an official capacity. If he engages the car, as I read the Clause, and then is able to say, "I am a Government official and have used this only on Government service," he is bound to get exemption. I appeal to my right hon. Friend. I think he ought to give us a very definite statement on this point that if it is for the purpose which he intends, I think a very laudable purpose, where anyone gives a car exclusively to hospitals and wounded, it should not go beyond that and should not give a privilege to a Government official, which ho does not enjoy at present.
§ Mr. McKENNA
a small matter like this is not really worth all this discussion. If my hon. Friends do not like this additional exemption I am perfectly willing to abandon it. The history of it is quite simple. It was represented to me on behalf of the Red Cross Society that they 685 have the exclusive use of a number of motor cars lent to them by people who bear the whole cost of upkeep, and they felt that in cases of that kind it would be a very poor return that the State should make money out of the cars which were exclusively used in that way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not limit it?"] There are other cases besides the Red Cross There is the St. John Ambulance Society and other societies of a similar kind which are doing public work. If it is felt so keenly, and certainly if there is supposed to be any suggestion underlying it that Cabinet Ministers are endeavouring to avoid the payment of Licence Duty—
§ Mr. McKENNA
I should certainly ask the Committee to let me abandon this part of the Clause at once. If there is any suggestion that there is any illicit purpose of escaping Motor Licence Duty I can assure the Committee that we have not. I do not think any Government has ever attempted to argue that if he uses a car and goes into the country and is thereby improving his health he is in consequence on Government service. I can answer my hon. Friends that if any of my colleagues made such a suggestion with regard to any tax for which I am responsible I should refuse to listen to him.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LOUGH
The whole of the Committee are with the right hon. Gentleman in what he has said about the Red Cross Society cars, or other cars used for ambulance work. Such cars are being used in every part of the country. The difficulty we are in is that when we read the Clause it does not look as if it covered that case at all; it apparently applies to something quite different.
§ Mr. McKENNA
If the right hon. Gentleman will withdraw his Amendment I will consider proper words between now and the Report stage, and if I find them I will abandon this Clause.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman will see whether or not he can draw up a Clause which will allow cars used by the Red Cross Society and others for ambulance work to be exempted?
§ Mr. McKENNA
Or for public work of that kind. The definition shall be satisfactory to the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be added to the Bill."
§ Mr. McKENNA
I recognise that we have made very great progress to-day, but I would ask my right hon. Friend to look at the subsequent Clauses which stand upon the Paper. I do not propose to ask the Committee to take the Motor Spirit Licence Duty, which has appeared on the Paper for the first time to-day. I think that the other matters will be accepted universally. There will not be the slightest controversy about them. It would be better to finish them.
§ Clause added to the Bill.