HC Deb 26 April 1926 vol 194 cc1714-5

I come to the final distribution of the proceeds of the tax. Of the £21,600,000, which immense sum is expected to be realised in the coming year from the old duties increased as I have described, the Exchequer will take one third of the yield of the duties on private motor cars and cycles, this proportion being attributed to the luxury or pleasure aspect of motoring. This proportion will be continuous, and it will grow with the general yield of the duties. It amounts in the present year approximately to £3,500,000. The statutory payments to the local authorities in lieu of the old carriage licence duties will continue to draw£600,000 a year. All the rest of the duties, including two-thirds of the duties on private motor cars and cycles, and the whole of the increased yield from the commercial and hackney vehicles, will go to the Road Fund, which will have at its disposal a revenue of £17,500,000 in the coming year. When the increased duties are in full operation next year and the number of vehicles has further increased, as no doubt they will, this revenue will be considerably augmented; but even in the present year, after deducting the £3,500,000 required by the Exchequer, there will be available for the Road Fund out of revenue an amount £600,000 greater than the original estimate for last year, and slightly greater than the total receipts of the Road Fund last year.

In addition, the Fund will have an available balance of nearly £12,000,000 on which it can draw for the execution of its present extensive programme of road and bridge works, and for undertaking new improvements. In all, the amount provided for road purposes in the coming year will be £21,000,000, or £3,500,000 more than was spent on the roads last year. There will, therefore, be no diminution in the programme of expenditure of the Road Department, nor will its resources be rigidly fixed. On the contrary, they will increase with the growth in the wear and tear upon the roads. This wear and tear is tending each year to affect an increased mileage on the roads, especially on roads not hitherto classified. We contemplate in future a steady extension of grants to cover a greater proportion of the total mileage. Last Autumn, I agreed with the Minister Of Transport to make an additional £750,000 available in the present financial year to be distributed amongst authorities essentially rural in their character, as assistance towards the cost of the maintenance of unclassified highways under their charge. On a further review of the position, we have decided that an additional £500,000 should be set aside in like manner for the purpose of making grants towards the maintenance and repair of such unclassified roads in Great Britain. Thus, in dealing with the Road Fund, we have secured, or we are seeking to secure, subject to the assent of the House of Commons, first of all, a fair adjustment of heavy traffic between the roads and railways; secondly, a new source of revenue to the State; thirdly, the largest programme of road development ever undertaken, and fourthly, further special assistance to rural roads.