The Finance Act, 1920, Second Schedule, paragraph (5), shall be amended by the addition of the following words:—
Vehicles exceeding two tons and over, but fitted wholly with pneumatic tyres, shall be liable to only fifty per cent. of the above-mentioned duties.—[Lieut. Colonel Moore-Brabazon.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Lieut.-Colone MOORE-BRABAZON
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This is such a good Clause that I very much doubt whether it will be accepted. The taxes derived from motor vehicles do not go to the Exchequer, but to the Road Fund. The object of the Clause is to diminish the damage done to roads by heavy vehicles. It is undoubtedly the fact that the chief damage done to roads is through heavy vehicles with solid tyres pounding away at high speed over foundations which are very inadequate to carry such vehicles. If you give encouragement to motor vehicles to fit pneumatic tyres the damage to the roads will be considerably less. That is the point of the Clause I am moving. The giant pneumatic tyre in this country is very little known, not because it is not good, but because no encouragement is given for any motor vehicle to use it at all. It has enormous advantages, first, from the point of view of comfort to the passengers, and from the point of view of the lessening of the damage to goods carried. The Government will lose very little revenue in the diminution of the tax, and they would save by that more than 10 per cent. with regard to the damage at present done to the roads by vehicles of this type. I know very well that if I had moved this Amendment about a year ago I should have had the very cordial support of the present 203 Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Not only should I have had his support, but I could have induced him to also speak on behalf of this particular Clause. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not shift the burden of replying to this Clause on to some other Minister, but will reply himself. I hope, also, that he will not adopt a negative position and become the stony-hearted individual which he has so often been accused of being.
§ Viscount CURZON
I beg to second the Motion.
There is very little for me to add in support of what my hon. and gallant Friend has said, other than to point out that the problem of the roads is one of the most serious we have to face to-day. Road expenditure is going up, and it is doubtful whether the sources of revenue designed to meet the expenditure will be sufficient in years to come if the cost goes on increasing as it is doing now. I therefore trust that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give this Clause his favourable and sympathetic consideration, and that we may hope that real encouragement will be given to manufacturers to fix these giant, pneumatic tyres on their vehicles.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of TRANSPORT (Colonel Ashley)
I am sorry to have to disappoint my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rochester (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon), and also myself, as I have to be sacrificed on the altar of his wrath, by speaking instead of the Financial Secretary. I have very considerable sympathy with the new Clause of my hon. and gallant Friend. We all want to encourage the use of these pneumatic tyres, as distinct from the heavy tyres, because the latter do contribute to the wear and tear of the roads, which is a very severe burden on the finance of the rural authorities and of the Road Fund. I would point out, however, that the Departmental Committee of the Ministry of Transport is still sitting. They have not yet reported on the fuel tax, or whether we shall be compelled to continue the present basis of taxation. If they report that the present basis of taxation is to be continued, undoubtedly they would then proceed to give quite a considerable number of recommendations and references on the present cases, and this particular point will be very seriously 204 considered by them. It is not quite certain that what the hon. and gallant Member desires would be better arrived at by a lowering of the taxation; it might very well be achieved by giving an increased speed to those heavy vehicles which have pneumatic tyres. We have at the present moment very little experience as to what would be the effect on the giant pneumatic tyres if they were used, as they would be, on six-ton lorries, or even more. They might easily burst, and the lorry driver might be killed.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
There is also the danger, if once you have given a licence to a man having a pneumatic tyre, that he would go back to a solid tyre. Finally, there is the difficulty of defining what a pneumatic tyre is. I have every sympathy with the Clause, and in due time I will consider it.
§ Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.