HC Deb 06 July 1920 vol 131 cc1339-44

(1) Any excise duty which is chargeable at the commencement of this Act in respect of any vehicle which is chargeable with duty as a mechanically propelled vehicle under this Section shall cease to be chargeable as from the first day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, and on and after that date there shall be charged, levied, and paid in Great Britain and Ireland in respect of mechanically propelled vehicles duties of excise at the rates specified in the Second Schedule to this Act.

(2) The duties charged under this Section shall be paid annually upon licences to be taken out by the person keeping the vehicle: Provided that—

  1. (a) a licence may be taken out in respect of any mechanically propelled vehicle (other than a cycle, or a tramcar, or a vehicle on which a duty of five shillings is chargeable under this Section) for one-quarter of the year only beginning on the first day of January, the first day of April, the first day of July, or the first day of October, and in the case of any licence so taken out the duty shall be thirty per cent. of the full annual duty; and
  2. (b)where a person commences to keep or use a vehicle to which the foregoing proviso does not apply on or after the first day of October in any year, he shall, on delivering a declaration in writing signed by him to that effect, be entitled to take out a licence for that vehicle in payment of one-half of the full annual duty.

(3) The unit of horse-power for the purpose of any rate of duty under the Second Schedule to this Act shall be calculated in accordance with Regulations made by the Minister of Transport for the purpose.

(4) No duty shall be payable under this Section in respect of fire-engines, vehicles kept by a local authority while they are used for the purposes of their fire-brigade service, ambulances, or road rollers.

(5) The Minister of Transport may make regulations providing for the total or partial exemption for a limited period from the duty payable under this Section of any vehicle brought into the United Kingdom by persons making only a temporary stay in the United Kingdom.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (2a), to leave out the words "first day of April," and to insert instead thereof the words "twenty-fifth day of March"

The part of the Clause with which we are dealing gives a concession in respect of certain owners of vehicles, enabling them to take out quarterly licences at a little higher charge. The rates, which are mentioned in the Clause as it at present stands, are January, April, July, and October. The reason for suggesting the charge from 1st April is not an imaginary but a real one. The fact is, that Easter comes particularly early next year, Easter Monday being 28th March, and representations having been made to the Ministry that there may be owners of vehicles who desire to use them, particularly hackney carriage vehicles, for the Easter holidays, they would not be able to take out the appropriate quarterly licence if it stood at 1st April. This will not occur again till 1940, when it is believed the present Minister will not be troubled with the matter.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move in Sub-section (2, b) to leave out the words "vehicle to which the foregoing proviso does not apply" and to insert instead thereof the words "cycle or tramcar."

The effect of the Amendment is to prevent there being a reduction of the 5s. duty by one-half. The Clause enables persons who own vehicles for the first time in the latter half of the financial year to take up a licence at half duty. The 5s. duty is only really the registration fee, and it is not thought that it would be right to reduce that to 2s. 6d.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."


Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the collection is to be by the local authorities? If so, will consideration be given to the local authorities? Considerable grievance is felt by the local authorities, county councils and others, regarding the cost of collection of licence duties, and if this cost is to be added to it, it is urgently necessary that some consideration should be given to them.


The question is one of considerable importance. The collet tion throughout will be by the local authorities, and every penny of the cost of collection will be refunded. That has been allowed for in the figures which have been given.


How will it be repaid?


Out of the proceeds of the taxes.


Will it be paid without delay, because in many cases the county councils have to finance the Government out of their own money for some time and at the present time when rates are very high and the balances of the county council are very low it is important that there should be as little delay as possible in repayment.


Certainly they will be repaid with as little delay as possible, and, having regard to the extensive and close relations which exist between the Department and the local authorities, I do not think there can be very much ground for complaint. We feel that the amount which has been allowed is adequate to cover the expenses.


I should like to know whether under Sub-section (3) the power which is given to the Ministry of Transport to make Regulations for determining the unit of horse-power upon which the tax is to be levied is unlimited. Is there any limit to the Regulations which the right hon. Gentleman might make, because it is quite within his power under this Sub-section to alter the formula on which horse-power is calculated, and he might if he wished actually double the tax levied by this Finance Bill. That is too wide a power to give to any Government Department. There is no accounting for what the Government Department will do at any time, and we ought not to allow them to be able to make a very material increase in the horse-power and thereby increase the tax levied by this House.


I quite agree that my hon. Friend's point is important. There was an Amendment down which dealt with this point, but it has not been moved. The powers that are given here are identically the powers which have hitherto been held by the Treasury, and they are unlimited. Whereas the Treasury tax was a very much lower one the power was correspondingly less, and had the Amendment which deals with this point been moved I was going to suggest that it would be obvious to the Committee that we cannot deal with this tax without legislation after the recess, because we have to have an administrative Bill as well as this Finance Bill. There are a great many things that have to be done for which administrative authority will have to be given. I shall propose there that we should arrange some procedure by which reasonable safeguards might be introduced. There might be compulsory consultation with the Advi- sory Committee before any change is made. For the hon. Member's satisfaction I may say that I should deplore in the interests of the motor trade of the country any interference for a considerable time with the method of assessing horse-power because it would upset the whole of the manufacturing industry.

Captain W. BENN

I understand that we are now changing the method of collection of these duties and that involves laying on the local authorities the duty of collecting them, and the charges that they have to meet in collecting the taxes will be refunded. Has the Chancellor of the Exchequer considered in making this change the question of Ireland. We know quite well that in a large number of counties in Ireland it is to be feared that the local authorities will refuse to collect these taxes. If that be the case what steps can the right hon. Gentleman take or what steps will he take? Even in that disturbed country it is easier to collect taxes in the old form, not that I approve of it. You have to collect this duty through the medium of the local authorities and something like 29 out of Hie 33 county councils have refused service in this and in other respects.


The difficulty is one which I believe will solve itself. I am glad to say that even in the disturbed condition of Ireland there has been one bright spot and that is, that since the Ministry of Transport was formed, we have got on well with the local authorities. That may be a justification for the Ministry of Transport. The chief reason why I have not much fear about the collection of these taxes is that if the local authorities refuse to collect them they will not get any grant for their roads. They are to collect money which is to be distributed amongst them, and if they do not collect it, obviously, they will not get any grant. If any local authorities in Ireland refuse to collect the money they cannot expect any grants, and I think that will solve the difficulty.