62. Lieut. - Colonel W. GUINNESS
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that under the Regulations now in force in Ireland the use of motor cars is very seriously restricted, so that many owners are altogether prevented from using their cars; and whether, under these circumstances, he will take steps to postpone the collection of the Motor Tax pending a decision in the matter by the new Irish Parliaments?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY of the MINISTRY of TRANSPORT (Mr. Neal)
I have been asked to answer this question. I am aware of the difficulty 922 referred to and my right hon. Friend has considered whether it is possible to meet the same. My hon. and gallant Friend will realise that no Government Department has the power to remit taxation, and unless some funds are raised by such taxes the local road authorities in Ireland will necessarily be deprived of the benefit of the Grants in Aid, of which they are in need.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the local roads in Ireland are impassable owing to trenches and the felling of trees? Is he further aware that this tax is one which will be transferred to the Irish Parliaments under the Home Rule Act? Can he not arrange administratively for the collection of only one-quarter of the tax, leaving the rest of the tax to be collected, if it seems fit to them, by the new Irish Parliaments?
§ Mr. NEAL
I am aware of the circumstances mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend, as I received a very important deputation on the subject. The matter has been considered in consultation with the Irish Office, and I am very sorry that we are unable to give a more satisfactory reply to my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
Will my hon. Friend communicate with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject?
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Is it not a fact that this tax is only being collected from a very few law-abiding citizens in Ireland, who get little, if any, advantage from the use of their motors, and that a great proportion of the tax is never collected at all?
§ Sir M. DOCKRELL
Is it not the fact that the forms for the collection of this tax have actually been sent over to Ireland?
§ Mr. NEAL
No doubt there is a very great hardship on the users of motor cars in Ireland, who are restricted, both in point of time by the Curfew Regulations, and in point of distance by the Radius 923 Regulations. The whole matter was most carefully considered, having in view these hardships, but no way has been found for dealing with the question. The forms have been sent to Ireland, and the collection has been undertaken by the Irish Office.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this tax is really a breach of faith and was only agreed to in the War as a war measure because Ireland was let off the carriage tax, of which this is the lineal descendant, in view of the Irish being let off the Port and Light dues? Cannot the whole matter be reconsidered in the light of present conditions?