HC Deb 10 December 1920 vol 135 cc2629-32

(1) There shall be charged on and issued out of the Consolidated Fund or the growing produce thereof, in accordance with the directions of the Treasury, a sum equal to the proceeds of the said duties and of all other sums paid into the Exchequer under this Act.

(2) Out of the sum to be issued out of the Consolidated Fund under this Section there shall be paid in every year to the Local Taxation Account and the Local Taxation (Scotland) Account the sum of five hundred and thirty-six thousand, nine hundred and fifty-four pounds, eight shillings, and the sum of sixty-four thousand and one pounds, seventeen shillings respectively.

The sum so paid into the Local Taxation Account shall be applied in paying to the councils of counties in England and Wales sums equal to the amounts certified by the Minister of Health to have been collected by those councils respectively during the year ending on the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and nine in respect of the duties on carriage licences, and the sum so paid into the Local Taxation (Scotland) Account shall be distributed in the same manner as the proceeds of the duties on carriage licences collected in Scotland were distributed in the financial year ending the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and twenty.

The Treasury, in conjunction as respects England and Wales with the Minister of Health, and as respects Scotland with the Secretary for Scotland, may make such adjustments in respect of the payments to be made under the foregoing provision for the financial year ending on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and twenty-one as are necessary for securing that local authorities shall, in respect of that year, receive the aforesaid amounts in respect of the duties on carriage licences.

(3) The balance of the sum to be issued out of the Consolidated Fund under this Section after deducting the sums to be paid to the local taxation accounts under this Section shall be paid into the Road Fund to be established under this Act.


I beg to move in Subsection (2) to leave out the words "the sum of five hundred and thirty-six thousand nine hundred and fifty-four pounds, eight shillings, and the sum of sixty-four thousand and one pounds seventeen shillings respectively" and to insert instead thereof the words those sums equal to the amounts collected by the county councils of the Counties of England and Wales for the year ended thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and twenty-one. No doubt this proposal would involve an increased payment to the county councils, but I submit that is only just and fair seeing the great increase in the cost of the roads and the increased taxation in enormously larger licence duties in respect of motor traffic. The sum I would propose to insert would amount to about a million pounds. On 25th March of this year an hon. Member asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer: What sum of money is guaranteed to local authorities in lieu of the carriage licence duties under Section 88 of the Finance Act, 1909…10, and the proceeds of such duties in the year ending 31st March, 1909, and in the last financial year respectively? The reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was: The net amount due to local authorities in Great Britain in lieu of carriage licences is £600,856. That is a larger sum than is stated in this Bill.

The reply continued: The actual net proceeds of the duties in the year 1908…9 were £949,937 6s. 8d. I submit that the county councils are entitled at least to the sum they received in the year 1918…19.

Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS

I hope that the Government will not yield to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member. There is a great volume of opinion that this £600,000 ought not to be diverted from road purposes to general county objects. The hon. and learned Gentleman has been permitted to add to the £536,000 mentioned the sum which is given to Scotland, which, I believe, makes up the £600,000, which is the amount payable to the local authorities under the arrangement come to in 1909. That arrangement was made at a time when a higher licence duty was put on motor vehicles, and it was then considered reasonable that the old Licence Duty, which up to that time was collected chiefly on carriages, should go to the purposes for which it had been allocated under previous legislation. Since that time conditions have changed very much. I hope that the Minister of Transport will give us some indication that this £600,000 diverted from road purposes will eventually, and I hope soon, be put back to the legitimate use of improving roads. The Departmental Committee presided over by Sir Henry May-bury, which went exhaustively into the whole matter, report that this sum of £600,000 paid to the local authorities, not for roads, but for general purposes, should not be taken from the roads if it can be provided from any other source. If it is not possible to do this at present I recommend that the matter should be adjusted without prejudice to the local authorities on the next occasion when the arrangements are revised. We cannot on this occasion expect the right hon. Gentleman to give us any Amendment, but we do ask for a declaration of policy, because the total amount provided by these duties is not transferred to the roads, and it is most necessary that the money should be brought back into the fund from which it was taken.


I am sorry I cannot accept the Amendment. I can adopt without alteration nearly the whole of what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness). This one subject of the Bill is money raised from a particular class of persons for a particular purpose for the maintenance and improvement of the highway. Very great difficulty has arisen as to whether any portion of that money ought to be diverted from that purpose to such purposes as those now under discussion. The Departmental Committee came to the conclusion that, although it was not perhaps strictly just, yet for the present was impracticable to avoid it. Therefore the sum was taken at £600,000, but if the two sums named in the Clause are added together that might continue to be paid out of the special fund for the present until Parliament came to some other conclusion, What the hon. and learned Member is seeking to do is to open one of the most difficult problems, namely, the difference between national and local finance. He is going back upon the whole problem of assessment revenue and stabilisation of sums in the year 1909. Of course, the bargains have not turned out well in many instances for the local authorities, but the hon. and learned Member will appreciate that this is not a convenient opportunity to deal with what, after all, is a very small part of a very large question.


I desire to support the views put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness). We are most anxious that this tax should all go to roads. We are glad to hear that the Parliamentary Secretary is not prepared to accept the Amendment, which I hope will not be allowed to be withdrawn, but will be negatived. The Committee does not wish that these taxes intended for a certain purpose should be frittered away. I am pleased to find that the Ministry of Transport are in sympathy with the recommendations that have been made on the subject. At present the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not see his way, but I hope that we may ask the Minister of Transport to press this view on the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his next Budget so that this tax may be paid in full for the purpose for which it was intended.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.