HC Deb 09 July 1919 vol 117 cc1975-8

(1) As from the first day of May, nineteen hundred and nineteen, the Excise Duties upon motor spirit made in Great Britain or Ireland, and on the licence to be taken out annually by a manufacturer of motor spirit, shall cease to be chargeable.

(2) As from the seventeenth day of May, nineteen hundred and nineteen, Sections fifteen and sixteen of the Finance Act, 1916, which relate to Motor Spirit Licence Duty shall cease to have effect.

Nothing in this Sub-section shall affect the right of any person to obtain a repayment of duty under the said Section fifteen if he claims repayment before the seventeenth day of August, nineteen hundred and nineteen.

Motion made, and Question proposed.

"That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Captain BENN

I understood from my right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean) that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was good enough to promise that he would not go further than Clause 10 this evening?


To go down to Clause 12, so that we might start to-morrow on the Income Tax, which raises as big questions as any in the Bill.


I understood differently from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles. But I speak from memory, and if the right hon. Gentleman assures me that he is really certain that he arranged to go down to Clause 12 I, of course, accept it.


I should not like to lay myself open to a charge of having broken faith with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean). I do not think I stated the number of the Clause at all. What I said was that I wanted to get down to the Income Tax, to finish with the Customs Bill, so that we may get on to the Income Tax, which raises very big questions, and take that the first thing when we resume. The right hon. Gentleman agreed to that.


I quite accept that explanation.


I should like to ask the reason why the right hon. Gentleman proposes to discontinue the tax upon motor spirit. There will be no corresponding excise. Has it been done to bolster up the Scottish shale oil industry, because I believe it to be more or less correct that that industry is in anything but a prosperous condition. I would not say it is dying, but it has not, I think, been very successful of late. The effect of this Clause will be to give a certain amount of filip to that industry! What has been in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this matter? The Scottish oil industry has also been hit in one of its by-products, wax, which went to Russia. In the Budget Debate the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor also referred to benzol, which, as I understand it, is in exactly the same position for the purpose of this argument as saccharine. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that it was an industry built up during the War and that therefore we must look after it now that the War is over. Benzol may be, but I do not think anyone will argue that saccharine is a key industry.

If it be necessary to aid benzol on the ground that it is to some extent a key industry, then this is not the right way to do it, because by this Clause you are enriching the private pockets at the public expense. We are opposed to that. This is Protection naked and unashamed, and no amount of Coalition camouflage will cloak it. Take this new oil industry in Derbyshire. Personally, I hope it will be nationalised, but if it is going to be worked by private interests this Clause will mean a distinct advantage to private enterprise at the expense of the consumer. There, again, you get Protection. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give us some reasons for dropping the Excise Duty on motor spirit.


I dealt with this subject in my Budget speech, but evidently the hon. Member was not satisfied with my arguments, and I do not think I could satisfy him if I repeated them. The position is that a certain amount of benzol was used before the War as motor spirit, but not being very largely used it was not taxed. It is liable in the terms of the existing Act to the duty. During the War a great benzol production was secured as being vital to our interests in the War. It is undoubted that anybody who examines this industry must conclude that it was of great consequence to the country during the War, because our external supplies were cut off, and we had to develop it. Then the war demand ceased. There were large stocks on Band, and the large capacity for production called for by the need of the Government during the War was developed at the request of the Government.

If the proposal is not passed it might be used to find a market for these products, and this proposal will help to secure a market and help to secure to us an industry, the need for which the experience in the War has strongly demonstrated. The Scottish shale industry will get the benefit also of this proposal. That is not a very promising industry, but I may suggest that the increase of the oil production to the Empire is one of the most important matters to which we can turn our attention. Oil fuel is a motor force, and the higher the price of coal the more interest we have in getting alternative kinds of fuel for traction, naval purposes, and mercantile ships. It is of vast importance, and we need to do everything we can to increase our supplies. I hope the result of our efforts in regard to oil production will meet with the success we anticipate.

CLAUSE 12 (Restriction on Delivery of Goods from Bond) ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read and postponed.

And, it being after half past Eleven of the clock, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Twenty-eight minutes before Twelve o' clock