HC Deb 28 June 1916 vol 83 cc915-20

For the purpose of giving ministers of religion an allowance or repayment of half the amount of Motor Spirit Duty, whether payable under Section 84 of the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910. or of the Finance (No. 3) Act, 1915, Part I. of the Fifth Schedule to the Finance (1909#x2013l;10) Act, 1910, shall be read as if the following paragraph were added thereto, namely:—

(6) To a motor ear kept by a minister of religion whilst it is being used by him for the purnose of his calling.—[Mr. Peto.]

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

6.0 P.M.

I have no desire to make a long speech, and I am sure I shall keep within the ruling which has just been given. The right hon. Gentleman has already given relief to veterinary surgeons in respect of the Motor Licence Duty, and has put them in the same position as medical practitioners. Under that Act medical practitioners were given relief both in respect of the Motor Licence Duty and the Petrol Duty, whereas we now find that these people are all in different categories. The question whether ministers of religion should be relieved from the Motor Licence Duty was discussed in the House, but I think I am entitled to ask that they should be relieved from the Motor Spirit Duty, because in almost every case the car is only used when they are called out to minister to their parishioners. I cannot see anything that could possibly be more inadvisable, and I would go further and say unjust, than to tax them the whole Motor Spirit Duty, the same as people using their cars to go to race meetings, whilst remitting half of it in the case of doctors on the principle that they are ministering to the health of the people. I speak particularly of Roman Catholic priests. Their parishioners regard their ministrations— I refer to the last Unction—as being of more vital consequence to them than the doctor's visit which might precede death. I have, therefore, got quite a separate argument with regard to the Motor Spirit Duty. I know the right hon. Gentleman has refused to grant remission of the Motor Licence Duty, but he cannot say that he has got only one category, because as I read the Amendment the doctors are in one category by themselves exempt from half Motor Spirit Duty and Motor Licence Duty, the veterinary surgeons are exempt from half Motor Licence Duty, and the ministers of religion are not exempt from anything at all. I ask that they should be exempt from half Motor Spirit Duty, so that they shall not be charged for- all their mileage the same as people who use their petrol for race meetings and other purposes.

Sir J. D. REES

Does my hon. Friend seriously suggest that Roman Catholic priests use motor cars?


Certainly, and in many parts they are absolutely necessary.

Sir J. D. REES

If the ministrations of a Roman Catholic priest are urgently required for the purpose of ministering Extreme. Unction, a car is generally provided. I should not have thought this relief very necessary for Roman Catholic priests, nor do I think that many of the clergymen of the Church of England keep motor cars.



Sir J. D. REES

My hon. Friend is very fortunate in being in such an opulent district.


I am not speaking of Rolls-Royce cars.

Sir J. D. REES

No, I know, but cars which cost less. I do not wish, however, to oppose anything which my hon. Friend puts forward. I thought this Clause was hardly necessary, because, in my experience, the clergymen of the Church of England, and even more Catholic priests, live in honourable poverty, which does them great credit, and they would not be able to avail themselves of the allowance which my hon. Friend proposes.


I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will reconsider this question. The Clause, I understand, would allow the remission to all ministers of religion without regard to their particular creed. I speak more especially for the Presbyterian ministers in my Constituency, where motor cars have been exceedingly useful to them in visiting and in carrying out their duties. There is a very strong feeling in the North of Scotland in regard to this matter, because there are such very long distances to be travelled between one village and another. It would be an advantage to these ministers, whose incomes are very limited indeed, if they were afforded some relief with regard to the Motor Spirit Duty. I am afraid the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not sympathise much with these ministers of the Gospel, but I hope, in the course of time, that we may induce him to do so, and I trust even now the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will be able to tell us that the matter will be reconsidered, and that something will be done to at least put these ministers of religion on the same footing as doctors and veterinary surgeons. I do not object to them having the relief, because I know they require to go long distances, but I do trust that some little relief will be given to ministers of religion with limited incomes who are anxious to visit their friends and those who join with them in worship on every occasion required, and as frequently as possible. Without some such concession it will be impossible for them to properly visit their people.


I wish to support this new Clause, and I hope my right hon. Friend will find it possible to give it some consideration. My hon. Friend behind me seems to think that many clergymen, parish priests, and ministers of religion of various sorts, have got motor cars out of their own riches, but, of course, that is not at all true. The truth is that in the country districts ministers of religion, and especially those who have been there a long time, have been given motor cars by their parishioners, and they have really been of the greatest value to them in large and scattered parishes. One hopes that those cars will continue to be used to the advantage of the parishioners, and that their advantage will not be stultified by the expensive upkeep which the proposed motor spirit licence might involve. I noticed, reading the newspapers this afternoon, that taxi-cabs are not going to be subject to this new spirit duty. That means differential treatment against parish priests and ministers in scattered districts compared with those in towns, because those who live in towns and who are suddenly called to minister to their parishioners will take a taxi and have to pay no more for it, whereas those who live in the scattered districts will be at a considerable disadvantage by having to pay this extra spirit Licence Duty. I hope this fact will be taken into consideration by my right hon. Friend, and that he will see that these gentlemen—there cannot be a great number altogether—shall not be in any way penalised because of the particular district in which they happen to have to minister to their parishioners.


I must appeal to the Committee to come to a decision on this point. The hon. Member for Wiltshire (Mr. Peto) has discovered, very ingeniously, a way.round the ordinary rules of order. We have already discussed this question at great length, and I have made the same speed so many times that I am certainly not going to inflict it upon the House again. The hon. Member for Croydon (Mr. Malcolm) was not here yesterday. He seems to think, so far as I can judge from his speech, that this exemption refers to the new Motor Licence Duty included in our Bill yesterday. It does not refer to that at all. That was deliberately disposed of by an Amendment most earnestly and eloquently pressed upon the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutherland (Mr. Morton). We agreed not to exclude them, not because of the differentiation between one district and another, but because the Committee thought that there was no ground for differentiating between ministers of religion and the general public and letting them off. We had the privilege of a convincing speech of just the right length from the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), and I do think, with such a very large number of Clauses on the Paper, that it would be a great pity to spend time on this matter, which was really disposed of yesterday.

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


The next Clause—[Amendment of Section 5 of Finance Act, 1914], standing in the name of the hon. Member for Inverness Burghs (Mr. Bryce)—is apparently, as far as I can judge, covered by the long discussion we had upon the double Income Tax.


This is only one point of it. It is really a lesser point. It does not follow because you decide to maintain a double Income Tax generally that you propose to maintain it in this particular form.


I am prepared to rule very strictly on this Clause that a discussion could only be allowed on the exact difference between it and the Amendment previously discussed. I allowed a free discussion in the last case, because I thought it would appeal to the general sense of the Committee, but I am sure the Committee will understand the position in which it would place itself if a free discussion were allowed here, and if, after disposing of questions upon Amendments in Committee, hon. Members were able to raise the same questions on new Clauses. Unless, therefore, I can see that this Clause has-a- real difference—I do not wish to stop the hon. Member from endeavouring to show it—I shall stop him.


I voted against the hon. Member on the last occasion when the question of double Income Tax was discussed, but I said that if this case were raised I should vote with him, and the hon. Gentleman said that he would raise it. I venture very humbly to submit, therefore, that this is a totally different case.


I am prepared to hear the hon. Member on that point.


If a discussion on an Amendment to a Clause covers the whole of a topic, can an hon. Member, unless something is saved from that topic by the words incorporated in the Clause, at a subsequent stage move a Clause which is designed to cover part of the topic?


I am sure the right hon. Gentleman made himself quite clear to the rest of the Committee, but I did not exactly follow his rather intricate question. I simply say, on broad grounds, there has been a discussion on the general question. It is suggested that this particular point raises some smaller point within the general question which was not settled in the previous discussion. I shall listen very carefully to what is said, and shall not scruple to interrupt hon. Members if they stray beyond the particular point raised by this new Clause.


The point raised by the hon. Member could not have been discussed in connection with the previous Debate—


I will wait and hear what the hon. Member for Inverness has to say in moving it.