HC Deb 26 April 1926 vol 194 cc1712-3

I shall propose meanwhile an increase in the taxation on heavy vehicles. The revised scale of these duties will be found in the White Paper, which will be available in the Vote Office in a very little while. In the case of commercial goods vehicles, the new scale is estimated to produce an additional revenue in a full year of about £1,800,000, or an average increase of about one-third of these duties. For the hackney vehicles the new scale will produce an extra £500,000 or an increase of about one-fifth; that is to say, not enough to justify, in our opinion, any raising of the fares, while about £45,000 extra money will be brought in in a full year by the new scale for road locomotives, tractors, etc. As these duties have already been paid on the present scale for the calendar year, the new scale will not be brought into operation until 1st January, 1927. They will yield in a full year a total of £2,300,000, of which about £1,500,000 may be expected to be received in this financial year between 1st January and 31st March. This raises the total estimated revenue from motor vehicle duties in 1926–27 to £21,600,000, while in addition the Road Fund starts the year with practically an extra year's revenue in reserve.

What is to be the share of the Exchequer in these large revenues? That the Exchequer is entitled to a share is unquestionable. I cannot accept the suggestion which has been put forward from time to time that motorists are in a different position from the rest of the citizens of the country; that they have some special right to the whole yield of any taxes imposed upon motor vehicles; that if the yield of these taxes exceeds what is required for the roads, those taxes should be reduced. Any question of contract in matters of taxation between the State and any body of its citizens would be manifestly improper. No contractual relation in this matter of taxation has ever existed, or ought ever to exist, between the State and any particular body or class of taxpayers. The hands of Parliament must be free to deal with all matters of taxation from time to time in the general interest of the whole community. Motor taxes are compulsory like any other taxes, and can be varied, increased, diminished, redistributed, or devoted to any particular purpose or to general purposes as Parliament shall determine. That is unquestionably the legal and constitutional position, and that position is in no way modified, in our judgment, by declarations of policy made in quite different circumstances by particular Ministers or Governments in former Parliaments.