HC Deb 25 May 1933 vol 278 cc1417-28

11.17 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 16, line 36, after the word "shall," to insert the words: (except in so far as it applies to vehicles used by a local authority in the performance of its functions). This Amendment has only one object in view. The Clause places an additional financial burden on local authorities. I need not spend many words in convincing the Chancellor of the Exchequer that local authorities are in a very depressed financial condition, and they can ill afford to bear additional burdens. The Chancellor and the Minister of Transport know that many local authorities have sent deputations seeking financial aid. They have outlined their financial posi- tion, and, on the strength of that, have asked the Government for financial assistance. The Chancellor is compelled to try and balance the National Budget, but it is not a sane method of doing it to make it difficult, if not impossible, for local authorities to balance their local budgets. We feel that the position is so desperate with so many local authorities that their financial burdens ought not to be increased by one penny. During the Budget speech the Chancellor related this tax to the Road and Rail Traffic Bill. He said: I do not think there can be any dispute that in the interests of equity between different forms of transport there is an unanswerable case for an increase of the duties upon the heavier class of road vehicles in the goods class."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, 1933; col. 53, Vol. 277.] We accept that, but we fail to see how the vehicles referred to in the Amendment compete in any way with either road or rail. There is a block of vehicles used for a specific purpose, solely to carry out the functions of the local authorities.

11.19 p.m.


I have an Amendment on the paper in page 16, line 39, at the end, to add the words: Provided that this section- shall not apply to any vehicle used by a local authority for the purposes of their functions relating to the repair and cleansing of highways, the removal of refuse, and other public health services. I do not know if the Committee appreciate how substantial are the increases made on the particular classes of vehicles concerned. As I understand it, the Amendment refers to vehicles of local authorities used for their general functions, whereas my Amendment refers only to certain classes. Apparently the category of vehicles is as set out in page 36 of the Bill, namely, the class of vehicles other than vehicles charged with the duty under other sub-paragraphs. I had the curiosity to compare the duties set out in this Schedule to those charged under the Act of 1920, and I will quote one or two examples. In the case of electrically-propelled vehicles the difference is that under the Act of 1920, vehicles unladen weighing 25 cwt. are only taxed £6, whereas under the Bill a similar vehicle not weighing more than a ton would actually pay £15, which is 2£ times as much. I understand that in the City of Birmingham alone this particular increase on electrically-propelled vehicles would amount to no less than £3,000 a year, a very substantial increase. Take the case of vehicles propelled by steam. Under the existing law a vehicle exceeding 2j tons but not exceeding 3 tons in weight unladen pays a duty of only £25, whereas under the Bill the duty would be £35. In the case of another heavier vehicle, one exceeding 3 tons but not exceeding 4 tons, the present duty is £28, and under the Bill it would be £50. I could give other instances if necessary. I hope the Chancellor will see his way to exempting these vehicles belonging to local authorities. Under the Act of 1920 certain vehicles are exempted altogether. Under Section 13 (4) no duty is payable on vehicles used in the fire brigade service, ambulances or road rollers. I think that the local authorities might properly ask that all their vehicles used in the public service might be equally exempt, but all that the Amendment asks is that they may be exempted from the increased duties proposed in the Bill. The Amendment has the support of the Association of Municipal Corporations, and I understand they have communicated with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the matter, and I hope that he may see his way to accept the Amendment.

11.24 p.m.


May I add a word in support of this Amendment? It seems to me to he altogether undesirable that we should have a new tax taking money away from local authorities when at the same time the Minister of Health is trying to find means of providing money for some of the local authorities. I have figures provided by the Sheffield Municipality, which show that; their total additional payments in respect of these vehicles, a great many of them used by the cleansing and tramway departments, will amount to £6,777, nearly double the amount that is now being paid. If money has to be found to-day to assist the Sheffield Municipality from other sources, as suggested by the Minister of Health, it is quite unreasonable to take from Sheffield nearly £7,000 in additional taxation on the vehicles that are used for cleansing the streets, looking after the re- pairs to the streets and tramways, and for other municipal purposes. I appeal to the Chancellor to give consideration to this matter.

11.23 p.m.

The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Mr. Oliver Stanley)

This Amendment, of course, would have the effect of putting the local authorities in a privileged position with regard to taxation. Hon. Members will realise that this Amendment extends to every form of vehicle which is used by a local authority in this country. Municipal electricity undertakings would therefore pay a lower rate of tax than the ordinary commercial undertaking in respect of its vehicles. We can see no justification for such a distinction. It is said that the reason why this concession should be made is that the extra money paid in taxation is to come out of the pockets of the ratepayers. Hon. Members are a little apt to forget what is the destination of this money. The money is paid into the Road Fund, and, although the circumstances of that Fund are a little different, in normal times the whole of the Road Fund is expended in grants to local authorities for upkeep or maintenance of the roads. The whole of the Road Fund, into which this money is paid, goes back to the ratepayers. The result of giving a concession of this kind to a particular set of ratepayers is that you leave in the Road Fund less money available for paying out to others. Owing to the system under which the Road Fund is now governed, the probable effect of this exemption would be to give a benefit to ratepayers in the larger municipality by excusing them from this duty, with a corresponding disadvantage to the county authorities by reducing the amount of money which would be available to them. In these circumstances, my right hon. Friend is unable to accept this Amendment.

11.29 p.m.


I suppose that the refusal of the Minister of Transport to accept the Amendment extends to the other Amendment at the bottom of page 1021, in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for South-east Leeds (Major Milner) and myself—in page 16, line 39, at the end, to add the words; Provided that this section, shall not apply to any vehicle used, by a local authority for the purposes of their functions relating to the repair and cleansing of highways, the removal of refuse, and other public health services. All that I ask in the Amendment is for an exemption that already exists. Under the Act of 1920, fire engines, the fire-brigade wagons, the ambulances and road rollers are exempt. So far as damage to the road is concerned, I should have thought that commercial vehicles did more damage than those that I ask should be exempt, which are vehicles related to the repair and cleansing of highways, removal of refuse and other public services. They are vehicles used largely for assisting in the repair of the roads, and do not, in any event, wear out the roads' very severely.

A further argument, which I think the Minister cannot afford to ignore, is that the justification for these new duties is, I take it, the Salter Report. The Salter Report endeavoured to equalise the charges on rail and road, but there is no competition with rail interests from services which are entirely devoted to attending to the highways and the removal of refuse, nor is there any competition with the other vehicles to which the Minister of Transport referred, and his case did not really apply to the modified form of Amendment which I was proposing to move. This is a very serious charge for local authorities. It will cost the City of Birmingham £3,000 a year, and the City of Sheffield, in the more extended form, £6,700; and all for purposes for which this taxation was not imposed by Parliament. The vehicles included in my Amendment are not within the mischief of the vehicles the inclusion of which is suggested by the Salter Report; they are entirely outside it, and I hope that between now and Report the Minister of Transport will reconsider this question. It is a far bigger question than he appreciates. The articles exempted by my Amendment are not competitive articles, and I cannot see that there is any justification for imposing this taxation on them.

11.33 p.m.


Like the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills), I hope that the Minister will give further consideration to this matter. I agree with the Minister that the Amendment in the form in which it has been moved is wide, but he need not confine himself to the actual words on the Paper, especially in view of the Amendment in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-east Leeds (Major Milner); and, even if that form of words is not agreeable to the Minister, it is always open to him to bring forward on Report what he thinks may be a more apt form of words. As I understand it, he proposes to reject this Amendment on some gr6unds of principle, but no new principle is involved, for the principle of the Amendment has already been admitted by legislation passed by the House. I would refer the Minister of Transport to the Finance Act, 1920, under which no duty is payable in respect of fire engines, vehicles kept by a local authority and used for the purposes of their fire brigade service, ambulances, or road rollers. What is the underlying principle of that exemption? Surely it is that, where a statutory obligation is imposed on a local authority, the local authority shall not be exposed to the expense of taxation by virtue merely of the carrying out of its statutory duties, for neglect of which it would be liable to a penalty. I would urge upon the Minister that on Report he should bring up a form of words which would exempt from taxation vehicles belonging to and used by local authorities in fulfilment of obligations imposed upon them by Parliament.

11.36 p.m.


I should like to say a word in order that the Committee may not be under a misapprehension as regards the purpose for which the tax is being raised. The hon. Gentleman suggested that it was purely for the purpose of going back to the local authorities. That is exactly contrary to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated in his Budget speech. He said: I estimate the yield from these duties to be £1,750,000 in. a full year, and £1,100,000 in 1933. That £1,100,000, of course, does not come direct to the Exchequer, it goes to the Road Fund, but it will accelerate the repayment of advances which have been made by the Exchequer to the Road Fund in the last few years, and I have taken account of this in my estimate of Miscellaneous Receipts.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, 1933; col. 54, Vol. 277.] So that this is going to the Exchequer in the form of quicker repayments and, if this money were paid back to the local authorities, it would only reduce the amount and the speed of repayment for the Exchequer to that extent and it would be a Budget matter not a matter of reducing the fund re-distributable amongst local authorities for the purpose of Toad maintenance.

11.37 p.m.


The effect of the hon. 'Gentleman's statement is that in normal times this money would go to the Road Fund and would, therefore, in a larger measure go back to the local authorities. Assuming that his argument is right, and that the tax, which comes only from

a selected few local authorities which had taxable vehicles, will be distributed over a very much wider area to local authorities which had made no contributions at all because they have no taxable vehicles. I hope he will consider the very heavy burdens on local authorities which are in a necessitous condition and that any benefits will be received by local authorities that need them most.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 59; Noes, 218.

Division No. 197.] AYES. [11.39 p.m.
Banfield, John William Grundy, Thomas W. Maxton, James
Batey, Joseph Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Milner, Major James
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Harris, Sir Percy Nathan, Major H. L.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Hicks, Ernest George Parkinson, John Allen
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Price, Gabriel
Cape, Thomas Hirst, George Henry Rea, Walter Russell
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Holdsworth, Herbert Salt, Edward W.
Cripps, Sir Stafford Janner, Barnett Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Crooke, J. Smedley Jenkins, Sir William Sinclair, Ma). Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)
Daggar, George Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Kirkwood, David Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Tinker, John Joseph
Dobble, William Lawson, John James White, Henry Graham
Edwards, Charles Leckie, J. A. Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Ganzoni, Sir John Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Lunn, William Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) McEntee, Valentine L. Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) TELLERS FOR THE AYES-
Griffith, F. Kingsley(Middlesbro',w). Mainwaring, William Henry Mr. Gordon Macdonald and Mr.
Groves, Thomas E. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot John.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut-Colonel Castlereagh, Viscount Fuller, Captain A. G.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John
Albery, Irving James Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Glossop, C. W. H.
Alexander, sir William Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) Gluckstein, Louis Halle
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Clarry, Reginald George Goff, Sir Park
Aske, Sir Robert William Clayton, Dr. George C. Goldie, Noel B.
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Goodman, Colonel Albert W.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Gower, Sir Robert
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Conant, R. J. E. Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Cook, Thomas A. Graves, Marjorie
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Cooke, Douglas Greene, William P. C.
Balniel, Lord Copeland, Ida Grimston, R. V.
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Courtauld, Major John Sewell Gunston, Captain D. W.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Craven-Ellis, William Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Bateman, A. L. Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Hales, Harold K.
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.) Crossley, A. C. Hanley, Dennis A.
Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn) Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Culverwell, Cyril Tom Hartington, Marquess of
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Hartland, George A.
Bossom, A. C. Duckworth, George A. V. Harvey, George (Lambeth,Kenningt'n)
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Eastwood, John Francis Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)
Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Waller E. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Broadbent, Colonel John Elmley, Viscount Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
Brown,Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y) Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Hepworth, Joseph
Browne, Captain A. C. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Hope, Capt. Hon. S. O. J. (Aston)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)
Burghley, Lord Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Hore-Belisha, Leslie
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Hornby, Frank
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley) Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Horobin, Ian M.
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Horsbrugh, Florence
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Fieldan, Edward Brocklehurst Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.
Carver, Major William H. Fraser, Captain Ian Hudson, Capt. A. U M.(Hackney,N.)
Inskip, Rt. Hon. sir Thomas W. H. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Slater, John
Iveagh, Countess of Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter O.
Jenninge, Roland North, Edward T. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Joel, Dudley J. Barnato O'Connor, Terenca James Somervell, Donald Bradley
Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) O'Donovan, Dr. William James Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Ker, J. Campbell Oman, Sir Charles William C. Soper, Richard
Kerr, Hamilton W, O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Palmer, Francis Noel Southby, Commander Archibald R. J-
Law, Richard K. (Hull. S.w.) Patrick, Colin M. Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Pearson, William G. Spans, William Patrick
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Perkins, Walter R. D. Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Liddall, Walter s. Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bliston) Stevenson, James
Lindsay, Noel Ker Potter, John Stones, James
Liewellin, Major John J. Procter, Major Henry Adam Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (shipley) Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham. Sutcliffe, Harold
Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Tate, Mavis Constance
McCorquodale, M. S. Reid, William Allan (Derby) Thompson, Luke
MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Remer, John R. Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
McEwen, Captain J. H. P. Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U. Touche, Gordon Cosme
McKie, John Hamilton Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecctesall) Turton, Robert Hugh
McLean, Major Sir Alan Robinson, John Roland Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Ropner, Colonel L. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Rosbotham, Sir Samuel Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Ross, Ronald D, Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Marsden, Commander Arthur Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Martin, Thomas B. Runge, Norah Cecil Welle, Sydney Richard
Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy) Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Williams. Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Rutherford, John (Edmonton) Wills, Wilfrid D.
Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Salmon, Sir Isidore Wise, Alfred R.
Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Wragg, Herbert
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Savery, Samuel Servington
Morrison, William Shepherd Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Muirhead, Major A. J. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Sir George Penny and Mr. Blindell.
Nail, Sir Joseph Skelton, Archibald Noel

Question put, and agreed to.

11.47 p.m.

Colonel SHUTE

I beg to move, in page 16, line 39, at the end, to add the words: Provided that the duties of excise payable in respect of mechanically-propelled vehicles which—

  1. (1) come within the descriptions stated in sub-paragraph (e) (ii) of paragraph 4 set out in Part II. of the Seventh Schedule to this Act or within sub-paragraphs (c) and (d) of paragraph 5 set out in Part III. of that Schedule; and
  2. (2) are employed exclusively for haulage or for the carriage of goods within a port area; and
  3. (3) exceed four tons in weight unladen, shall be thirty-three and one-third per centum less than the respective rates of duties set out in those sub-paragraphs respectively.
In this section 'port area' means any area within the vicinity of a harbour (as defined in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894) which may be prescribed by the Minister of Transport as a port area for the purposes of this proviso. I do not intend to take up the time of the Committee at this late hour more than a few moments to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be good enough to accept the Amendment. I can speak on this subject relating to the taxation of motor vehicles in dock areas, because it has reference to vehicles used in the dock area of the Port of Liverpool. I spoke on the question when the original Resolution was before the House, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he would consider the matter. The imposition of this extra taxation on heavy vehicles in Liverpool would be a distinct and definite charge on the carriage of goods and I do not believe that it can be supported either in equity, justice or even worked out mathematically, from the point of view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as bringing in extra revenue. So far as we are able to judge, the result of advancing the rate of duty on these heavy vehicles in Liverpool will be to drive many of our motor vehicles to horse transport. The matter is well understood by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We also had the privilege of having a deputation received by the Minister of Transport. If he can see his way to make this concession, it would be advantageous to him and advantageous in Liverpool to the business all these transport vehicles carry on.

11.50 p.m.


This question was first raised by my hon. and gallant Friend at an earlier stage of the Finance Bill. I have Since then given the matter my most careful consideration in view of the importance which I know he attaches to it, but I am afraid that it is not possible for me to accept his Amendment. Hon. Members will realise that my hon. Friend is not asking for relief from the increased duties for vehicles running on roads in the area of dock properly and maintained by the dock authorities, but for vehicles which in fact run on roads made at the expense of the ratepayer and the taxpayer. There is really no distinction in practice to be drawn between the position of, say, a dock authority which wishes to run its vehicles outside its own property to warehouses in the neighbourhood and that of a railway company which wants to run vehicles from its stations to warehouses in a short delivery radius.

It would be impossible therefore to confine the sort of concession for which my hon. Friend asks to port areas. In fact, that was recommended in the Salter Report and the traders concerned agreed with the concession as long as it was conceded to every other form of trading concern in that area which would demand the same concession. Indeed, if hon. Members will look at the actual form of the Amendment they will see the difficulty. The obvious way of defining a port area is the property of the port authority, but that is no good, and therefore my hon. Friend has left the Minister of Transport himself to prescribe what a port area is to mean in any port. It would be possible for me, if the Amendment were to pass and I happened to be a Minister of Transport who had any connection with Liverpool, to define a port area in Liverpool as the whole city, or, if there happened to be a Minister of Transport who had no connection with Liverpool he might define it as that part which is the property of the dock authority—which would not bring that relief which the hon. and gallant Gentleman desires. The difficulty which he has had in framing his Amendment shows the inherent difficulty of the proposal. Although I have got sympathy with him I fear it would be impossible to accept the Amendment without at the same time being under the obligation of giving similar relief to other bodies similarly situated, which would largely destroy the value of the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.