§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR-WEDDERBURN
I beg to move, in page 11, line 11, at the end, to insert:and as if the paragraphs set out in Parts III and IV of the said Third Schedule were respectively substituted for paragraphs 4 (d) of Part II and 5 (a) of Part III of the Seventh Schedule to the Finance Act, 1933.The purpose of the Amendment, and of the additions to the Schedule which it would involve, is to tax motor vehicles which are used for the carriage of British timber at the same rate as motor vehicles used for the carriage of agricultural produce. A similar Amendment was discussed on the Finance Bill of last year. It is not necessary to enter again into all the arguments used on that occasion, particularly since the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was good enough not long ago to receive a combined deputation representing timber growers and merchants, when this was one of the many requests which were laid before him. The Committee will remember that the Seventh Schedule of the Finance Act, 1933, taxed agricultural vehicles at a lower rate than other vehicles, in order that farmers might not suffer any great increase in transport costs arising from the additional motor taxation which was then imposed. It has always seemed to us something of an anomaly that this preference, which is extended to agriculture, should be withheld from sylviculture; particularly since the problem of transport affects the timber industry perhaps more acutely than any other industry in the country.
It is by no means clear, from the enactments which have been passed within the last 15 years, whether forestry is legally regarded as a branch of agriculture. If there be any justifiable legal distinction, we hope that it will soon be removed by the inclusion of timber within the scope of the Agri- 768 cultural Marketing Act. If it be asserted that a load of timber does a great deal more damage to the road than a load of sugar-beet or a load of turnips, it should be remembered that, while an agricultural crop may be gathered and transported to the market from the same field almost every year, a timber crop from the same piece of ground is felled and transported to the market probably not more than once in a lifetime. The damage done by timber, although it may be more severe, is very much less frequent. Timber is normally felled about once in 80 years. During the whole of the intervening period, the owner of the woods is paying his rates towards the upkeep of the roads, and I would remind the Committee that, although the Exchequer pays a substantial contribution towards the maintenance of first-class roads, the inferior roads, upon which by far the greater part of this damage is inflicted, are maintained by the local authorities.
I shall not delay the Committee by dwelling on the very grave difficulties under which the timber trade is now labouring. No doubt the Committee are already aware that it is impossible at present to obtain an economic price for any sort of timber unless it happens to be in some exceptionally favourable situation, on account of the heavy expense of its carriage; and the Committee must be equally aware of the alarming decline which has taken place within the last three or four years in the numbers of men engaged both in forestry and in all its subsidiary trades. But there is one further consideration which has not, perhaps, always received as much attention as it deserves. The Treasury is itself the ultimate heir to any profits which may be realised from the operations of the Forestry Commission, who already possess some 250,000 acres of woods, and whose woods are increasing ' at the rate of more than 20,000 acres a year. The Treasury pay to the Commission an annual grant of £450,000, which I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not desire to be fruitless, and I think that any loss of revenue which the Treasury might now suffer by the acceptance of this Amendment, or perhaps of some similar but less unskilfully drafted Amendment, would be very small in comparison with the ultimate loss which might be 769 incurred if the Commission were to be prevented by these heavy transport charges from realising an economic price on their timber sales.
I recognise that there are some difficulties in the way of accepting this particular Amendment. When we submit our proposals to the Treasury, we are generally told that we ought to submit them instead to the Ministry of Transport, and when we go to the Ministry of Transport we are told, very naturally, that that Ministry is not concerned with the difference or similarity between one kind of product and another, but only with the means by which those products are transported. I am sure that the Minister is fully alive both to the peculiar difficulties of the timber trade and to the importance of that trade to the country, and, instead of stressing the grievances of those who are engaged in it, I would prefer to examine whether it might not be possible to arrive at some arrangement acceptable to the Ministry to extend the discrimination in favour of vehicles which are fitted with pneumatic tyres, or more particularly to apply that discrimination to pneumatic-tyred tractors, which do not at present enjoy any preference; or perhaps to make some further differentiation in favour of smaller vehicles, or of whatever kind of vehicles may be likely to inflict the least damage on the roads. We have only put down this one Amendment in order that we might be able to raise the highly important question of transport costs, but I think that, if the Minister should be disposed to be sympathetic towards its case, the industry ought to be more anxious to hear what the Government are able or willing to do than to ventilate its own complaints, and should be ready to co-operate in the working of any concession which might be found practicable.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General CLIFTON BROWN
I should like to join with my hon. Friend who has moved this Amendment in asking the Government to give it more favourable consideration than they gave it last year. As my hon. Friend said in the course of his closing remarks, owners of timber never know where they are in regard to this matter; sometimes they are referred to the Treasury, and sometimes to the Ministry of Transport. I do not wish to blame my hon. Friend the 770 Minister of Transport for taking a one-sided view of this question. I cannot help thinking, on reading the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Debate last year, that he was right from his own point of view when he said that:The larger aspects of industrial policy, not only of forestry but of other industries, are beyond my province, and all that I am concerned with is the road user of vehicles which these industries employ."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st June, 1933; col. 2219, Vol. 278.]I submit that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he brings in his Budget, is not concerned with one Department only, but the forestry business point of view gets no chance of being put before him, because he is over-persuaded by one particular Department. If he knew the present amount of employment in forestry, and the development that is now going on in connection with that industry, and if he could realise that the potentialities for employment and development in forestry are greater than in anything else in England at the present time, I think he would put that before the mere use of the roads. After all, even since the Minister spoke last year great improvements have been made in tractors of all sorts. My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment says that he would be quite willing to see regulations introduced whereby all these machines should be rubber-tyred, and I would submit that at the present moment, with the new inventions since last year in connection with rubber tyres, these haulage tractors will not do any more damage than the horses and wagons which are the principal motive power. I am glad that the Minister has consulted with the timber merchants and with the producers of timber, and has gone into that side of the question to which I think more weight ought to be given in the Budget, namely, the business side. If he will refer to the Interim Report of the Inter-Departmental Homegrown Timber Committee, he will see that they say:On many estates, particularly those remote from any centre of population, while good quality logs may still be sold, the output of timber is limited by the cost of transport. This is always a governing factor, particularly in the case of thinnings suitable for colliery purposes, which now cannot reach a market and are left to rot in the woods.Since last year a great advance has been made in the scheme for the 771 organisation of the marketing of timber. Not only producers, but timber merchants and all those interested in forest products are coming together, and they have the good will and the help as far as it can be given of the Forestry Commissioners in getting together, to make a scheme of organised marketing for timber.
We hope that some powers will be taken to keep out foreigners who undersell the market, but both in transport methods and organised marketing our people have to do their best before they are justified in asking for help against foreign competition. The cost of licences to timber merchants has been put up double and treble in some cases for hauling timber out of the woods. The competition is very unfair. You have the foreigner putting his sawn-up timber straight on to the railway, but the home timber merchant has to get great blocks of sawn timber from his local woods to the nearest rail or to his own timber yard. I hope, therefore, that the Government will look into this matter more closely, and give the English timber merchant and producer in the timber industry a fair chance of competing against the foreigner in transport prices.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
I would like to say a word to back up the appeal which has been made. The main point is that surely there is no real justification for differentiating between forestry and agriculture. I think that all crops ought to be treated the same. After all, trees are crops. It is a thing about which it is sometimes difficult to convince people when they complain that it is proposed to cut down old trees or to plant new ones. They are regarded as permanent features of the landscape with which it is almost treason to interfere. But whether it is a crop of mustard and cress, which reaches maturity in five or six weeks, or an oak tree, which reaches maturity in 150 years, they are all crops, and the average, taking soft and hard wood together, taking pit wood and sawn wood together, is something like what was stated by my hon. Friend, namely, 70 or 80 years. Although, no doubt, a by-road may be damaged a good deal during the time that that wood is being removed, it happens only at very rare 772 intervals. My point is that if, for good and sufficient reasons, a concession is given to tractors engaged in agriculture, there does not seem to be any sufficient reason why it should not be extended to forestry.
I would like to back up what the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite has just said, that the English timber trade and forest owners are trying, quite rightly, to put their own house in order, to make better arrangements with the Forestry Commission with their good will, and, I hope, with their help, for the more orderly marketing of their timber, for avoiding competition among one another, and for getting into amicable relations with timber merchants. One constantly finds that these arrangements are made more difficult, and that the whole envisaging of timber as an economic proposition is being made more difficult. Timber growing ought to be an economic proposition, and not a luxury which only rich people can afford for amenity purposes and that sort of thing. We ought to regard it just as much a business-like industry as agriculture, and therefore to extend to it reasonable facilities with regard to its transport. I beg, therefore, to support the Amendment.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir GEORGE COURTHOPE
I should like to add one word to the appeal which has just been made by my right hon. colleague on the Forestry Commission who has just spoken, that the Minister will give very favourable consideration to this Amendment, or still more to the appeal which lies behind it rather than to the actual Amendment. I think that there is a much better case for a change of this kind to-day even than there was a year ago. I will not repeat the reasons which have been stated, but I will add my assurance that the steps which are being taken among woodland owners and the timber trade to put their house in order are genuine and determined steps.
I want to say a word or two about the importance to the country of making forestry—the growing of trees—a commercially sound proposition. My right hon. Friend who spoke last was the author of a very well-known report which led to the setting up of the Forestry Commission with a very definite task aimed at establishing an insurance fund 773 in timber which would be of the greatest possible value to this country in the event of a great emergency. To achieve that task it is not only essential for the State, acting through the Forestry Commission, to carry out its programme, but that the 3,000,000 acres of woodland which exist in private hands should be put into a proper state of production, which they are not to-day. They cannot be put into a proper state of production to-day because it does not pay to do so, and there is no present prospect of it paying to do so unless there are great market changes or one of the principal difficulties is removed, namely, the cost of transport.
If we are to achieve this great object, I think it is essential that the Government should assist in reducing the cost of transport. I am not proposing that it should be done in such a vague, unconsidered way that all the timber in the country which has to be moved should be moved long distances by road, but I do think that a great deal could be done by a carefully considered and conditioned relief to rubber-tyred tractors hauling timber to encourage the sound commercial production of timber throughout Great Britain. The Forestry Commission itself has now reached a time when it must put on the market year by year a large and increasing volume of thinnings. It is essential to silvi culture that these thinnings should be removed, and it is not necessary for me to prove how essential it is to the Treasury that they should be removed without loss. Transport is the biggest item in the loss, which at present stands in the way of removing and disposing of thinnings. For this and other reasons, I add my appeal to the Minister of Transport to consider this proposition with all the favour he can.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Sir THOMAS ROSBOTHAM
I would like to support the Amendment. I am speaking on behalf of the British timber merchants, but especially on behalf of those who carry on business in the Forest of Dean. One firm when it purchased a tractor had to pay a tax of £25 per annum, and now the tax is £130 per annum, plus special licences, in addition to having had to fix rubber to the wheels. Another firm employs from 60 to 100 persons, and pays £5,000 annually in wages.
774 This firm has been suffering loss for the past three years, and has gone through very difficult times. The native timber business is faced with keen foreign competition. Surely the preservation of the industry and forestry in our country is a national necessity, and so closely allied with the industry of agriculture tnat it seems impossible to separate them. There is no complaint made to-day with regard to the damage done by tractors which are specially fitted with rubber tyres. I trust, therefore, that the Minister will give this Amendment favourable consideration, and that if it is impossible to give any concession to-day, he will kindly consider it on Report.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Lord SCONE
While I associate myself entirely with what has been said by all previous speakers, I wish especially to stress the point that the present situation means a great loss of employment. There can be Very few private estates on which at the present day a profit is shown in forestry year in and year out. The result is that woods which ought to be cut and replanted are left standing, because the wood cannot be marketed, and, even if marketed, it means that either no profit is made or such a small profit that it does not justify the landlords in undertaking the considerable expenditure necessary to replant the area which has been cut down. One of the chief causes, undoubtedly, of this loss of profit is the very heavy transport cost. In my own part of Scotland we have the absurd situation of hundreds of acres of good pit wood getting past the useful stage simply because it does not pay to shift it to the Fife mines not 50 miles away, and it is cheaper to bring in pit wood from the North of Europe. It does not matter how well the industry organises itself; unless some concession is given in the cost of transport, we cannot hope to compete successfully with the foreign wood which is coming in so cheaply. The result, as I have said, is that there is a great loss of employment, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scrymgeour-Wedder-burn) said, the Treasury loses, because there is less Income Tax to be collected 'and more unemployment benefit to be paid out. Therefore, I hope that even if the Government are not prepared to accept this Amendment, or the exact wording of it, this year, they will at least 775 give it very sympathetic consideration, and see if another year they cannot do something to help the timber industry.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLFORD KNIGHT
I merely want to endorse the appeal to the Minister, and I am doing it on behalf of certain interests in my own constituency who have asked me to represent this particular 'aspect of the matter. There is a close analogy between the agricultural industry and the timber industry as they are both concerned with the land, and it is particularly noticeable in areas where both industries are operating over the same ground. On the edge of Nottingham, actually within the confines of the city, there are important timber interests who are engaged in hauling timber, and they are very concerned about this differentiation between the tax on agricultural vehicles and that on their own vehicles engaged in this trade. They ask me to make an appeal, which I do very warmly, to my hon. Friend that as soon as they can the Government should endeavour to remove this differentiation by putting these vehicles engaged in similar tasks on the same footing.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Major HILLS
I should like to say a few words to try to persuade the Minister to do something to help what might be a much bigger industry than' it is. In my lifetime the production of timber has gone through a revolution. Until recent times it was carried on unscientifically and spasmodically and in a way not calculated to produce the best economic returns, but now, under the guidance of the Forestry Commission, a very great advance has been made. After all, our soil is suitable, and we are a small island and our timber ought to be very near the people who want to use it, but the timber trade suffers from a very heavy percentage of cost of haulage. It means that the area of the sale of timber is restricted to a small geographical limit and, the more you reduce the cost of transport and the more you increase that limit, the larger the number of possible consumers of timber you get. I want to see the industry on an economic basis, and, above all, I want to see replanting carried on where necessary. At present it is not being carried on as much as it ought to be, because the 776 timber will not be profitable when it is grown. Surely trees are just as much a crop as corn. They grow out of the land, they are cut down, carried off the land and used in industry. The only distinction that I can see is that they have a longer season, and you have to wait a longer time to reap the crop. I agree that, if the Minister can bold out the hope of a concession, the industry must help him and organise itself. I am told that they are willing to do that, and I hope the Minister will go some way now, if he cannot go the whole way.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Sir JOSEPH LAMB
I should like to support the very admirable appeal that has been made to the Minister. It has been suggested that, if he cannot accept the Amendment, he might be able to give assistance in another year. I should like to appeal to him to give it at some later stage of this Bill without delaying it for a year. One perhaps rather unusual point of view that I should like to put forward is that of the horse. I very much regret the superseding of the horse by mechanical transport, but this is one of the occasions when it is in the interest of the horse that he should be superseded as far as possible. It is necessarily very heavy work which has in the past been done by horses. Those who have worked them have done it with as little cruelty as possible, but it was heavy and undesirable work for a horse. English timber must go by the roads. Foreign timber largely goes on the railway because it comes in at the ports and is carried to where it is sawn up. English timber cannot do that, but must go on the roads, and it is desirable as far as possible that all encouragement should be given to the use of tractors instead of horses.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
I am sure the Committee are grateful to the hon. Member for raising this point and, above all, for the tone in which he moved it; but the Committee will realise that there are other considerations than mere sympathy for the state of an industry which is extremely depressed and the general realisation of the importance of that industry that we have to take into account in dealing with an Amendment which proposes to assist it out of the Road Fund. 777 It would be a widespread extension of the principle that a depressed industry-was entitled to a different rate of licence for the lorries that carry its goods from other industries, and, if it were widely spread, it would break down the licensing system under the Road Fund altogether. Those who stress the resemblance of forestry and agriculture ought to be careful that they carry that resemblance into the Amendments that they move. This Amendment would confer upon forestry a privilege far greater than that enjoyed by agriculture. There seems to be an idea that any vehicle that happens to be carrying agricultural produce pays a special agricultural rate. That, of course, is an entire misapprehension. The special agricultural rate is only enjoyed by a vehicle which is carrying the produce of the owner of the vehicle. Hon. Members would not be content with that privilege. They ask that this should extend to any vehicle that is carrying timber. I am sure those who stress the agricultural argument will realise that they weaken their case that forestry should be put on the same footing as agriculture when in fact they demand that it should be put on a very much better footing.
But it is not only that. It is an entire misunderstanding of the whole principle underlying the system of licensing under the Road Fund to say that a tree is very much like corn and that a vehicle that carries a tree ought to pay the same tax. In determining the tax to be paid by a vehicle, we are not considering what it carries. We are actuated by the knowledge of its user of the road and the damage that it does to the road, and we try to approximate the tax to the damage that the vehicle does to the roads during the year. The concession was not given to agriculture because agricultural vehicles carried wheat or something that grew, but because the vehicles to which the concession applied have a very limited user of the road, and, for that reason, did not do as much damage as the ordinary lorry, and it was felt that, because they did not do as much damage, they should not pay as much tax. The difficulty about the policy that hon. Members urge is that, although it is true that to a certain extent their user of the road is limited, yet it may be generally 778 accepted that during that limited user they do more damage to the roads on which they run than normal vehicles with a much more widely extended user. It is because of the difference in the damage that they do and not because there is any moral, intellectual or legal difference between wood and wheat that we have put forestry into a different position from agriculture.
May I point out what I think is rather a fallacy in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), that you only cut a bit of wood once every seventy years and you cut a bit of corn every year. That may be true, but your forestry vehicles may run over the same bit of road year after year and tear it up. The right hon. Gentleman said that unclassified roads are maintained entirely by local rates, but that is not the case. An annual block grant is given to local authorities from the Road Fund for the maintenance of unclassified roads. It is entirely upon the damage that I believe vehicles do that I base my rejection of this claim. It is a question of fact. I am only too willing to listen to any facts which anyone has to bring to my attention, but I think, in striving to maintain the analogy between the two industries and basing the argument entirely on that, a good deal of argument which might have been of much more practical use has been overlooked.
My hon. Friend has thrown out the suggestion that there are certain types of vehicles fitted with pneumatic tyres which do comparatively little damage to the roads. I do not know how far that is correct, nor do I know the extent to which it is possible to use such vehicles. I confess that I have always understood that the possibility of using them was very limited, and I have not pursued that particular line of inquiry because I thought the result could not be of any great assistance to the forestry users, but, if between now and another stage my hon. Friend would like to bring to my notice any facts in that connection which would show either the extent to which it is possible to make use of vehicles fitted with pneumatic tyres or any proof as to the greater convenience of such vehicles upon the road and the lessening of damage to the roads which they would entail, I should be only too glad to take them into consideration. Of course, I make no promise whatsoever in the 779 matter—until I have seen the facts, I certainly should not be able to do so—but I can assure the Committee that I, in company with everyone else here, feel the utmost sympathy for the industry of afforestation. I have the clearest recognition of its utility and the utmost desire to help it in any way which I do not believe to be destructive to the whole principle upon which Road Fund taxation is built. If, therefore, between now and another stage my hon. Friend has anything of that nature which he would like to bring to my notice, I shall be only too glad to have the opportunity of considering it.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
I have been very interested, because I had a completely open mind in regard to the merits of this proposition, and I have been trying to gather the pros and cons during the course of the Debate. Naturally, one does not blame anybody who brings forward an Amendment of this sort. All the vested interests are getting their dip into the pot, and there seems no reason particularly why this one should not have a turn. It is a rather fascinating argument: Sylviculture is like agriculture; agriculture has had many concessions; therefore, sylviculture ought to have many concessions. And no doubt someone will say that if sylviculture gets a concession, and wood is used for burning, and coal is used for burning, therefore coal must get the concession that sylviculture gets. It seems to be a generally accepted theory as regards concessions to vested interests. The only trouble of the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment seems to be that the Minister of Transport has found a principle, a principle of licensing under the Road Fund, which prevents this particular type of subsidy being a proper and decent thing to be given, and it looks as if his arguments were substantial arguments on that point.
I particularly wanted to intervene, however, in order to comment on a statement which was made by the Noble Lord the Member for Perth (Lord Scone), who said that woods to-day were left standing far beyond their useful period of life, and that indeed some of them were left to stand indefinitely, because they could not be sold at a profit. It was such an extraordinarily interesting example of the fact 780 that timber is only produced as a by-product for profit in this country. Apparently, under our existing system, all this useful timber has to be allowed to rot and not be used for the purposes for which it might be used in the mines and so on because, under our economic methods, unless a profit can be obtained, the timber cannot be produced; and so we find, apparently, a large waste of timber going on in the country, the cutting of which might occupy men most usefully and the carrying of which to the proper places for use would occupy other men most usefully. But we cannot do it. We are prohibited by our system from making use of this material which is standing there waiting to be used, with the men waiting to cut and transport it, and the pits or the other places ready for its reception at the other end. It struck me as so extremely good an example of the futility of the present system, that I took advantage of this opportunity to draw attention to it.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR-WEDDERBURN
I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) has quite understood the position with regard to pitprops. It is not the inability to make a profit which prevents them being cut, but the inability to receive a price which will cover the cost of felling the wood and transporting it to its destination.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR-WEDDERBURN
It is not at all the same thing. To make a profit, it would be necessary to receive a price which would cover not merely the expense of felling and transport, but the cost of planting and growing the wood, which represents the far greater part of the costs of production. If profits were completely abolished, there would be no more likelihood of it being worth while to employ men, nor would it be any less futile to employ men, to cut down the timber and to take it to the mines if its value to the mines were not even equivalent to the value of that labour.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for his reply, and I would also like to thank my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope), who can speak with so much knowledge 781 and authority on the part of the Forestry Commission, for the observations which he made. I entirely appreciate the reasons which have prevented my hon. Friend from accepting the Amendment, and the last thing I wish to do is to emphasise the difficulties of an industry towards which he is already so entirely sympathetic. I can assure him that we shall be prompt to take advantage of the suggestion which he was kind enough to make, and I hope it may be possible to come to some arrangement which will at least ease the situation. In the meantime, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I just wanted to interject that the reason why timber is grown for profit is the same reason why counsel appear in court for fees.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Sir J. LAMB
I beg to move, in page 11, line 11, at the end, to insert:and as if there were inserted at the end of paragraph 5 of the said Second Schedule the following provision:—'For the purposes of this paragraph the expression "trailer" shall not include an appliance not exceeding five hundredweight in weight which is constructed and used solely for the purpose of distributing on the road loose untreated gritting material.'Clause 16 proposes to amend Section 13 of the Finance Act, 1920, in which Act licences for mechanically-propelled vehicles were dealt with, and also the question of trailers which were to be drawn by those mechanically-propelled vehicles. I think the House understood that those trailers would be vehicles which were used for the carrying of merchandise and goods, but unfortunately the definition of the word "trailer" has led to misunderstanding and has been found to include other vehicles which I think it was not the intention of the House at the time to include. The present system of the construction and maintenance of roads has necessitated a good deal of distribution on the surface of the roads of sand and grit for the purpose of giving a footing and of taking 782 away the effects of untreated tar. These trailers, which are being used for that purpose, are small vehicles, or rather I would call them small appliances, which are attached to the back of a vehicle simply for the purpose of distributing this gritting material, and I think it was not the intention of the House at that time that they should be considered as trailers for the purpose of taxation.
Up till last year the tax on one of these things was about £6, but last year, unfortunately, it was increased to £10, £15, or £20 in accordance with the weight of the vehicle which was drawing it, and not of the trailer itself. An Amendment was put down last year, but owing to lack of time it was not called and so was not treated on its merits. The fact, therefore, that it was down last year but did not receive a concession should not affect our decision to-day, because it was purely in consequence of the lack of time that it did not receive consideration. I will not labour the point, because I believe the Minister is going to give my Amendment favourable consideration, but I will conclude by saying that these implements are not. used for transport, but simply for distributing sand and grit in the ordinary construction and maintenance of roads.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. STANLEY
The sole use of the machines to which this Amendment refers is the treating of roads with a view to the avoidance of skidding and so, of course, the avoidance of accidents. In view of the fact that that is their only purpose, and that the weight of the appliances is in practice small and anyhow limited in this Amendment to five cwt., and in view of the further fact that the machine is not adapted to carrying loads and cannot therefore be used for any other purpose than that of spraying the skiddy roads, I think I can recommend the Committee to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Sir ADRIAN BAILLIE
I beg to move, in page 11, line 11, after the words last inserted, to insert:and the said section thirteen and section twenty-five of the Finance Act, 1933, shall have effect as if the sub-paragraph contained in Part III of the Third Schedule to this Act were substituted for sub-paragraph (c) (ii) contained in Part III of the Seventh Schedule to the Finance Act, 1933.783 Before I discuss this Amendment, may I ask your advice, Captain Bourne, as to whether the Amendment which follows it on the Paper—in line 16, at the end, to insert:(3) When determining the weight unladen of vehicles which are constructed or adapted to use coal gas as fuel for the purpose of section thirteen of the Finance Act, 1920, as amended by subsequent Acts including this Act, the weight of the vessels for containing the gas shall be excluded.is to be taken? I realise that there is a certain similarity between the two Amendments, and a certain overlapping, but I would point out that while both deal with gas-propelled vehicles, this first Amendment deals specifically with the rates of licence duty on steam-propelled and gas-propelled vehicles, and the Amendment which follows deals particularly with the ascertainment of the weight of gas-propelled vehicles only, the unladen weight with the weight of cylinders taken into consideration, and it seems to me, while I hope the Minister will accept both Amendments, that it may be possible that he will accept one and not the other.
§ Sir A. BAILLIE
Does that mean that I shall be out of order in addressing myself at all to that Amendment, which is considered in some parts of the country to be of considerable importance?
If the hon. Member wishes to make any remarks on it, I think he can do so on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"
§ Mr. GODFREY NICHOLSON
On a point of Order. Will it be possible to discuss the two Amendments together, as both affect the mining industry?
§ Sir A. BAILLIE
The Amendment which I am now moving seeks in effect to do away with the rates of licence duty in sub-paragraph (c, ii) of the Seventh Schedule to the Finance Act, 1933, and to substitute in its place another rate of licence duty in Part III to the Third Schedule to this Bill, and those rates of duty are to be found on pages 1258 and 1259 of the Order Paper to-day.
784 Our objective in moving this Amendment is the desirability of so revising the duties on heavy vehicles as to encourage as far as possible the use of steam-propelled vehicles on the roads. It may be asked why we desire to maintain, if not to encourage, the use of steam-propelled vehicles. Speaking for myself, it is not because I like at all or am very much enamoured of the looks of the steamer, although the modern steamer, which some of us may have an opportunity of seeing in the vicinity of this House in a few days' time is a very much better looking thing than its predecessor. Our reason for desiring to encourage the use of the steamer is that we desire to maintain and to increase if possible the consumption of coal, or derivatives from British coal. It seems to me that that is not only the policy of the National Government but that it is also a national policy. The depressed condition through which the coal industry has passed, the percentage of unemployment in that industry, and the importance of that industry in our national economy, provide ample justification for pursuing that policy.
The question is, to what extent do these steam-propelled vehicles provide a market for British coal. Here, unfortunately, precise information is difficult to obtain, but a census was taken in 1931 and laid before the Conference on Road and Bail Transport, which showed that in that year licences for 8,845 steam vehicles were in force, and that there were also in force licences for 618 traction engines. It was also estimated that these vehicles consume, approximately, 100 tons of coal per annum each. Therefore, approximately, in 1931 the steam-propelled vehicles consumed 950,000 tons of coal. That is approximately our market for coal in Norway, with which country we have concluded a commercial treaty which, I am glad to say, safeguards our exports of coal to Norway.
The next question is this: Is the consumption of coal by steam-propelled vehicles in this country increasing or declining? We find that it is declining. Again, information is not easy to obtain, but from eight suppliers of road coal in South Wales we learn that there has been a steady decline of road coal sold in the years 1930–1933, and in the present year the decline will be found to be more 785 marked and on a greater scale. What is the reason for that decline? I maintain that so far as the recent and anticipated decline is concerned it is very largely due to the legislation of this Government both as regards licence duties and the more severe and stringent application of certain regulations. It may be argued that since the decline has been continued for some years it may have nothing whatever to do with legislation; that, on the other hand, the steam vehicle may be considered an anachronism, that it may be considered inefficient, that it may be uneconomic, but I do not think that those allegations would really bear close examination.
I should like to give some of the known advantages of the steam-propelled vehicle. In the first place, it has the advantage of comparative freedom from temporary mechanical breakdowns and, in the second place, it has the advantage of robustness and durability. It is well recognised that the steam-propelled vehicle when used off the road has a power and elasticity which is denied to the fuel-driven vehicle, when employed in quarries or on sites for building purposes. Here I would mention an important point and one which will appeal to the Minister of Transport, having regard to what he has just said on another Amendment, and that is that the taxation on these vehicles is based on the principle of the damage they do to the roads. If that is the principle upon which the taxation is based, the very fact that a steam vehicle is not driven from a clutch means that such a vehicle has greater flexibility and even more acceleration. It is supplied with steam brakes which, again, give more flexibility in slowing up. Thus, the wear and tear on the road by the steam-propelled vehicle, weight for weight, must be less than that of the vehicle propelled by petrol or heavy fuel oil.
There is one further thing, which also came into the reply which my hon. Friend gave on the previous Amendment, and that is the question of mileage. By the very nature of things the mileage of the steam-propelled vehicle is far less, relatively, per annum than the mileage of a vehicle driven by petrol or fuel oil. My own view is that recent legislation has operated, unwittingly I hope, to the disadvantage of the steam-propelled vehicles in three particular respects. 786 Recent legislation has restricted the speed of the vehicle and the gross weight of the vehicle, and it has also increased the annual licence payable by the owner of such a vehicle. It is no exaggeration to say that to the owner of the older class of steam vehicle recent legislation has been nothing short of disastrous. Perhaps I may be allowed to give an example of what happens to a man who owns a steam wagon, 10 years of age, a four wheeler, solid tyred vehicle, in perfectly good condition and with a long life to go. The weight of such a vehicle will be, say, 7¾ tons. If the owner desires to use the same vehicle again in 1934 this is what will happen to him. The amount of pay load he is allowed to carry will be reduced to 4¾ tons, the speed will be reduced to 12 miles an hour, and the duty he will have to pay will be raised from £60 in 1933 to £160 in 1934.
If he chooses to say: "I will fit pneumatic tyres to my lorry "he will be allowed to go at a speed of 20 miles an hour and that conversion will cost him £200. True, if he does that he can get a reduction of duty from £160 to £120, but he will still be paying double what he was asked to pay in 1933. Furthermore, his maximum pay load will be reduced from 4¾ tons to 3¾ tons. Can anyone be surprised if the owner of such a vehicle decides to take neither of the courses which I have suggested and says: "I am through with steam wagons. I am not to realise the advantage which I had anticipated by buying a robust lorry of durability, and now I shall turn to some petrol-driven vehicle or a vehicle driven by fuel oil." He turns round and he sees employers using lorries of 2½ tons in. weight and hurtling along the roads, swaying from side to side, with a paying load of five tons, completely within the regulations, despite the fact that the manufacturer of that 2½ tons lorry has had placed on the side of the lorry a notice that the maximum safe load for the lorry is 3½ tons.
The owner may say: "I will go out and buy a new light lorry of 2½ tons," but he is deterred because, I am sorry to say, the opinion seems to have grown among the users or the prospective users of steam-propelled vehicles that the Government and the Minister of Transport desire to drive steam lorries off the road. That is a very unfortunate impression, which I hope has no basis in 787 fact. I hope that I have said enough to show that, unwittingly, recent legislation and the greater stringency of the regulations has placed a burden on the owner of the steam-propelled vehicle which is unbearable and unwarranted. I should be doing considerable injustice to the Minister if I suggested that when the regulations were drafted and the rates of taxation were passed that for one moment he thought that they would bear more heavily on this particular kind of vehicle. In practice, however, according to the facts which I have been able to ascertain, that has been the result. If that has been the result and if I have convinced the Minister that that is the result to-day, I hope that he will take the earliest opportunity of amending these penal regulations and penal duties. I should have liked to have urged the Minister to give a special fillip to the use of steam-propelled vehicles, but from what he has said this afternoon on another Amendment I am sure that he will not consider for a moment having favourites. I should like him to relieve the strain to which this particular class of vehicle has been subjected and I do so not in the interests of a particular industry, not in the interests of the users or the manufacturers of a particular vehicle, but in the interests of the coal mining industry and, therefore, in the interests of the country as a whole.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. CONANT
I should like to make a few observations in support of the Amendment in so far as it affects gas-propelled vehicles. The hon. Member has put forward an extraordinarily good case in support of the Amendment so far as it affects vehicles driven by steam. It applies also to those driven by coal gas. It seems to me that once one has established the fact that vehicles driven by coal gas are efficient—and I can assure the Committee that they are; they are made and adapted in my constituency—there is a real case for demanding some assistance from the Government in the competition which they are now facing from imported oil. Coal, one form of gas, has been used for many years and for many purposes, but it has only been in recent times that coal has been used in the form of gas for the purpose of propelling motor vehicles. During the War, 788 hon. Members may remember, motors were converted to use gas when there was a tremendous shortage of petrol. They moved about and carried gas in a balloon attached to the vehicle. It was gas under very low pressure. The real disadvantage of that system and the reason why it made little or no progress, as soon as petrol again became available, was, of course, that the range of these vehicles was very strictly limited. I think the range was about 15 miles.
Interest in the problem of the use of gas for propelling motors was stimulated and a Departmental Committee was set up. It reported in 1919 very strongly in favour of the use of gas for traction. It said that it considered gas as safe as any other system, and considered that the right method of using gas was in high-pressure steel cylinders. Following upon that advice, which came from an authoritative source, many experiments were made. Experiments have particularly been made in my constituency. The Chesterfield Corporation carried out experiments, and by two private firms, one in the construction of steel cylinders and the other in the construction of machinery for compressing gas, and the result is that now steel cylinders are made which can withstand a working pressure of 3,000 lbs., which undergo a test pressure of 4,500 lbs.; and incidentally when a test was made to see at what pressure the cylinders would burst it was found to be 7,000 lbs. So that there is an ample margin of safety. These cylinders are only one-fifth of an inch thick. At the same time they weigh 112 lbs., and it may be asked, why has there not been more progress in the adaptation of motors to running on gas? The reason, of course, is the additional weight of the cylinders.
I think the hon. Member is now trying to anticipate an Amendment which I said I did not select.
§ Mr. CONANT
I apologise if that appears to be the case. I was endeavouring to show that motor vehicles which convert to the use of gas are actually to be at a disadvantage compared with petrol-driven vehicles. I was attempting to point out that their additional weight and the method of assessing them, taking into account the unladen weight and including the cylinders, places that at a disadvantage compared with petrol-driven 789 vehicles, and that, therefore, there was a real justification for demanding a reduction in the present scale of duties. The Amendment seeks to reduce the rate of duty. Goods vehicles at the present time, as opposed to vehicles carrying passengers, are taxed upon their unladen weight, and if they are using gas the unladen weight includes the weight of the 'steel cylinders. Normally a motor vehicle will carry six of these cylinders, so that it will have an additional weight of 6 cwt. to take into account. There is also the additional weight of the fittings which are necessary to convert to gas. So that in every case the vehicle which converts to gas does pay a very much higher rate of duty than the vehicle which remains running on petrol.
I will give two examples from motors which have been adapted in my constituency. The first is a solid-tyred vehicle belonging to a private company. It weighed 3 tons 18 cwt. and was converted to run on coal gas. The tax on the unconverted vehicle at the present rates would have been £66 13s. 4d. The conversion caused an increase of weight to 9 cwt. and brought it into the 4-5 ton class, and automatically increased the tax to £93 Os. 8d., an increase of £27. The other example is rather remarkable, becaues it shows that, although the weight is increased by a larger amount, yet the rate of tax payable was not increased by so much. The other vehicle was a pneumatic-tyred vehicle belonging to the Chesterfield Corporation Highways Department. It was converted and the weight increased by 12 cwt. The tax was increased to £70 from a previous rate of £50, an increase of £20. So that in the first case the increase in weight of 9 cwt. brought an increase of tax of £27, and in the second case an increase of 12 cwt. in weight brought an increase of £20 in tax. Most of these vehicles which are now running upon coal gas have, of course, been adapted from petrol-driven vehicles. When they were originally made they were usually constructed to reach up to the maximum unladen weight for each range of tax, with the result that any additional weight of the cylinders or other fitments almost always places them in a higher category. The present rates of tax and the method of assessment do act as a direct discouragement of this new industry of changing over from petrol, a foreign fuel, to gas, a home- 790 produced fuel. As far as passenger vehicles are concerned they are assessed, of course, on a different basis, on seating capacity. The weight of a vehicle on four wheels is limited by law to 10 tons, including passengers.
I do not think that even if the Amendment were accepted it could possibly affect passenger vehicles.
§ Mr. CONANT
I was under the impression that it applied to all vehicles driven by gas, but perhaps I have said enough to persuade the Minister of the justice of the Amendment. Certainly as far as the gas-driven vehicles are concerned the passenger-carrying vehicles are, in the same way as vehicles carrying goods, placed at a disadvantage compared with petrol-driven vehicles. But I am certain it is not the intention of the Government that taxation should be imposed in such a way as to give discouragement to a change-over to home-produced fuel, or definitely to penalise vehicles which are driven by gas. I can say from the experience of those who are engaged in this business in my constituency, that the change-over to gas at the present time has come to a definite standstill and that no progress is being made. I fear that unless the Amendment is accepted or something on these lines is done for this new industry, we cannot hope for any increase in employment in this direction for many months to come.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. CLARRY
I should like to support my two hon. Friends who have brought forward this Amendment. It has been estimated that a 5-ton lorry running about 17,000 to 18,000 miles per annum will consume the derivatives, in the form of coal gas, of 50 tons of coal per annum. The question of the licence duty may seem to have a comparatively small bearing on the development of this new industry, but I can assure the Minister that it is quite an important item. If we assess the gallonage of an equivalent of petrol in costs, compared with compressed gas, we find, after the number of fairly limited experiments that have been made, that the actual cost of the gas is less than half of the total cost in running as compared with petrol. The capital cost of the compressing plant and running it and the expense of the cylinders count for the other half of the total cost, and the 791 actual licensing of the vehicle accounts for a substantial part of that. The difference on the gallonage basis of the licence under the existing arrangement and the suggested new schedule is equivalent to one halfpenny per gallon of petrol equivalent, which makes all the difference. I am rather afraid that unless some striking technical improvement takes place or some concession is made we can look forward to very little development in compressed coal gas cylinders on motor vehicles in the future.
On the subject of steam-driven vehicles I support the hon. Baronet the Member for Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie). Like him I have no love for steam-driven vehicles on the road, particularly when one meets them in a car, hut such developments have taken place in the last few years that they are no more offensive than a large number of petrol-driven lorries. They have this striking advantage: I believe that they have a very much less adverse effect on the roads than a faster and less steady vehicle. It has been found by research that weight for weight the speed of the wheel travel on the road creates a great deal more damage than a slow moving vehicle of equivalent weight. On that basis, quite outside the question of the clutch, I think the steam-driven vehicle, weight for weight, does a great deal less damage to the road than the petrol-driven vehicle; apart from the necessity, which we all admit, of encouraging in every way we can, an increased consumption of coal. Although I am aware that the Minister last year made some concession in the schedule of licence duties for both steam and gas vehicles, I hope he will favourably consider this Amendment, or a combination of the two Amendments, before we leave the Finance Bill to-day.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
The general case for the Amendment has been so well put by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie) that I do not propose to take up much time, hut I would like to direct attention to the effect that this change, this reduction in the number of steam-propelled vehicles, has had on the coal industry. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment gave some figures.
§ Mr. HALL
I was going to base an argument on them, because they were very striking, but seeing that they have been repudiated by the Minister I shall certainly not use them, except to say that the falling off in the consumption of coal has been something like 750,000 tons. That is making a comparison between the number of steam-driven vehicles in 1931 and the number at the present time.
§ Sir A. BAILLIE
Those were figures which I obtained, and if they are wrong I shall be interested to hear the Minister's authority for other figures. In 1931 there were roughly 9,000 licences for steam-driven vehicles, in September, 1933, there were 5,100, and in February of this year the number had been reduced to 2,750.
§ Mr. HALL
I have not the figures for 1933 but I have the figures for 1931, and for February this year, and, putting the average consumption of coal at 100 tons per annum, I think that the figure arrived at is the one given by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie), namely, that in 1931 the consumption of coal was something like 950,000 tons. If the number of steam vehicles licensed since February this year are down to 2,750, there must be a corresponding reduction in the consumption of coal. It is a very serious matter for the coal industry of this country, and even more serious for the coal industry in South Wales. The depression in the coal industry is much more acute in South Wales than it is in any other coalfield in the country. We have suffered from many causes during the last 10 or 15 years. Oil has made such inroads into the consumption of Welsh coal that the South Wales coalfield has suffered more than any other coalfield as a result of the changes which have taken place from the use of oil fuel.
It can be said—and I am sure the Secretary for Mines will agree—that whatever advantages the Trade Agreements may have brought to the North East Coast, the South Wales coalfield has benefited very little. The fiscal conflict between this country and the Irish Free State has also affected us. The taxation of steam propelled vehicles has seriously affected us. It is estimated that 70 per cent. of the coal used by these vehicles was produced in South Wales, and the 793 Committee will agree that in dealing with that aspect of the question, the matter is very important as far as South Wales is concerned. In my Division, within 200 yards of the house where I live, there is a colliery which had a market for something like 50,000 tons of coal per annum for steam lorries. In another part of my division there is a colliery which, until the middle of last year, scarcely lost a day's work. Sixty per cent. of the coal produced at that colliery was for use in connection with steam propelled vehicles. I am not suggesting, nor would the hon. Baronet who moved the Amendment suggest, that the very great reduction in the number of these vehicles has been caused entirely by taxation which has only recently come into operation. There are other factors to which I trust the Coal Utilisation Council will pay some attention. It must be remembered that since this additional taxation came into operation a number of the users of these vehicles have changed over to other vehicles and that therefore there will be a serious reduction in the course of this year.
The Minister of Transport on a previous Amendment referred to the fact that in dealing with these Amendments he was not so much concerned with the question of the industry, but I would remind him that the taking off the road of three vehicles of this kind means the displacement of one miner. Whatever taxation the hon. Gentleman may get as a result of this imposition, the Treasury or the Government will lose it in other directions from the point of view of the payment of unemployment benefit. The Minister, in dealing with the first Amendment, indicated that if those who were responsible for the Amendment had any information which they could give him as to the damage caused to the roads by the vehicles in question he would be prepared to meet them and consider any representation made to him in the matter. I think that the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry) covers a portion of the ground. He referred to the fact that these vehicles do not do as much damage as some of the oil-driven vehicles. If that is the case I would ask the Minister to have an open mind upon the question, and that he should make the same offer to those who are asking that the present Amendment should be accepted as he gave to 794 those who asked that the first Amendment should be accepted. But I am not basing my plea entirely upon that fact, but I am also basing it upon the effect the reduction of heavy steam-propelled vehicles has upon the coal industry of this country. The loss of 750,000 tons of coal, or even 1,000 tons is a very serious matter to us. We consider this matter of such vital importance that unless we can get the Minister—and I am not using this in any way as a threat—to meet the position reasonably, we shall have to press the matter to a Division.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. STANLEY
As on the occasion of the last Amendment, everybody sympathises with the depression in the coal industry and is anxious to do anything which can be done to help it. No doubt hon. Members regard the change over from steam lorries to petrol lorries just as they regard the change over from coal-burning to oil-burning in ships, but I would point out to the Committee that it is entirely beside the point to attribute the larger part of this reduction to the action of taxation. The increased taxation of which we are talking this afternoon only came into operation on the 1st January, and no figures are yet in existence from which we can tell its effect. Hon. Members will appreciate that from the year 1926, when there were over 9,100 steam vehicles in licence, to the year 1933, when there were only 5,100 in licence, there had been no increase whatever in the taxation of steam-driven vehicles, but there had been in that period no less than three increases in the Petrol Duty. That means that three times the competitive power of the steam vehicle in comparison with the petrol-driven vehicle had been increased by means of taxation, and yet the fall went on steadily uninterrupted by any advantage which it might be thought the Petrol Duty might give. The figures my hon. Friend gave were not quite correct. He said that in 1931 there were nearly 9,000 vehicles. The correct figure is 6,784.
§ Sir A. BAILLIE
The figures which I gave were quoted in the Salter Report. The figures I gave were 8,845 ordinary vehicles, plus 618 other vehicles.
§ Mr. STANLEY
The figure of 5,100 for 1933 is correct, but the figures for this year will not be known until the census 795 is taken in September. The Committee will realise that the increase in the taxation of commercial vehicles was based on the Salter Report, which was the result of a conference between representatives of the railways and representatives of road transport. The report was unanimous, and it cannot be said that the people who produced it were, as my hon. Friend says I am, desirous of driving steam lorries off the road. The fact remains that the Salter Report recommended for steam vehicles a very much higher rate of taxation than that which was finally included in the Budget last year. They proceeded on the principle—I think the perfectly correct principle—that when you are allocating between these different classes of vehicles their proportionate share of the taxation to meet the road expenditure, you must take into account the taxation which a particular vehicle pays upon its fuel as well as the taxation which is paid upon the vehicle itself. It is clear that if you are to ignore the taxation upon fuel, you may merely, by taxation, drive people into a form of vehicle which is not in itself more desirable or more economical, but is just attractive at the moment owing to a discrepancy or divergency in the amount of taxation which is paid, with the result that, if the change continues for any great length, sooner or later, in order to protect the revenue, the disparity has to be reduced, and you have only encouraged an industry finally to dissipate its advantages.
The Salter Committee, owing to the fact that the petrol-driven vehicle was paying a heavy tax upon its fuel and the steam vehicle was paying no tax upon its fuel, put forward a scale of duties for the steam-propelled vehicle which was considerably higher than that for the petrol vehicle. It fell to me before the Budget of last year to review the proposals in the Salter Committee's Report before inclusion in the Budget, and I felt that perhaps not sufficient weight had been given by that committee to exactly the same kind of consideration as had been advanced by hon. Members this afternoon. It seemed to me that the shorter radius of action, and therefore the more limited use of the road, was one which we ought to consider. I also felt that the fact that the fuel of one was home-produced while the fuel of the other was imported was something which, to a limited extent, we 796 were entitled to take into consideration in fixing the duties upon these vehicles. It was because of that fact that I very substantially reduced the scale of duties recommended by the Salter Committee, with the result that the actual duties paid by the steam vehicle are now in no case greater, and in some cases actually less, than the duties paid by the petrol-driven vehicles, although, of course, the petrol-driven vehicles pay a heavy tax as well on fuel, while steam-driven vehicles pay nothing. I felt that it was impossible to go beyond the concession I then made without entirely upsetting the principle that in order to get equality of treatment between the various classes of road vehicles you must take into account, when you fix a tax on the vehicles, the taxation which they are called upon to pay on the fuel. I regret that I have seen nothing which has been brought to my attention which in any way upsets the conclusion I arrived at last year.
With regard to coal gas-driven vehicles, similar considerations apply. Actual scales in the case of coal gas vehicles were not considered by the Salter Committee, because it had hardly become a practicable possibility, but, on the principle enunciated by the Salter Report, coal gas vehicles should have been put in the same category as vehicles driven by heavy oil. There was the same consideration, that as the fuel was British produced rather than foreign it entitled me to give them a preference. Steam-driven vehicles and coal gas-driven vehicles have, in fact, been given a preference because the fuel they use is of British origin. There are limits, however, beyond which it is impossible to extend that preference. You must have in consideration the economic and transport merits of transport vehicles. But, having been given this preference it is now up to the manufacturers of these particular vehicles to show that with this assistance they are able to compete with rival forms of transport.
We are told that we shall have an opportunity of seeing new forms of transport, and in my opinion the possibility of some new and improved mechanical form of steam-propelled vehicle is much more likely to restore the competitive position of steam vehicles, increase the use of coal as fuel, and give employment to miners, than any relief which, if given, must be of the small character asked for 797 in the Amendment. I felt entitled, without unfairness to other forms of vehicle, to give this particular class a preference, and I hope that with the assistance of this preference they will now demonstrate, what I am sure the Committee must insist on as the only real criterion for a continued use of these vehicles in this country, that they can be economically and efficiently used in competition with their rivals.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The explanation of the Minister of Transport is not very clear. He has told us that he desires to apply the principle of equality of treatment. That is to say, that he does not regard any particular type of vehicle as more desirable than another, and does not intend, by reason of the incidence of licence duties, to encourage or discourage any type of vehicle. But he also told us that last year he applied the principle of preference to these particular vehicles. Why? He does not desire to encourage or discourage either type of vehicle, but he admitted last year that it was desirable to give a preference.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I told the Committee that although in logic it might be wrong and might be mere sentimentality, still I felt that to a limited extent I was entitled to depart from the strict letter of the principle and give a preference to vehicles which use British coal. The hon. and learned Member for Bristol, East (Sir S. Cripps), who pays more attention to the form than the substance of the principle, disagrees with me, but I think the Committee as a whole will pardon my lapse from strict logic and will welcome the preference given on behalf of British workpeople.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The Minister of Transport will find that it is he who prefers the form to the substance. His main argument was that although he departed from the principle last year it was only a little departure, and that he is sticking to the substance of the principle. Really he is relying on the form of the principle. It is hardly worth while, in view of the action of other Members of His Majesty's Government, to rely on the form of the principle. What is the good of paying a large subsidy for the purpose of manufacturing oil from coal when by a much less subsidy the expensive operation of 798 transforming oil into coal may be avoided and it may be used direct in a steam vehicle? It is hardly logical on the one hand to subsidise the transformation of coal into oil and at the same time to take away another use of coal and make them use a more expensive substitute, oil. That is the objective, to change coal into oil. So long as there are vehicles which in themselves are desirable and which can use coal direct is it not more economical to use coal direct in the vehicle instead of transforming it into oil, or purchasing oil from abroad? The Government have long ago abandoned the principle of equal treatment for industries, because its intention, obviously, in introducing tariffs is not to give equal treatment but to encourage those industries which it thinks ought to be encouraged. That is a principle of capitalist planning. If the Minister of Transport thinks steam vehicles are good and desirable here is an opportunity for him. consciously, to work for their use in this country as against the petrol-driven vehicle.
It is not helpful for him to try and make things so equal between the two that some incidental will determine whether the one or the other is to be used. When the Minister of Transport talks of the economic merits of a vehicle they depend on what it costs to run the vehicle, and that is determined by the licence duty it has to pay, the amount of the tax on its fuel, or the cost of its fuel. All these factors come in; you cannot divorce economic merits from factors of taxation, as the hon. Member is trying to do. He is trying to equalise taxation and then allow the public to choose which vehicle they desire. If it is desirable to burn coal as a matter of national interest, if these vehicles are as good to the roads and as useful to the community as petrol-driven vehicles, this is an opportunity for consciously planning the use of steam vehicles in this-country. There is no excuse for a Government which has always adopted the-attitude of diverting trade into particular channels through taxation and quotas to say that they cannot do it as regards this industry. I should have thought that this was an admirable opportunity to do it, and if the Minister of Transport believes these are good vehicles and that it is desirable they should burn coal as much as possible he is missing an oppor- 799 tunity of doing something really useful. We shall certainly support the Amendment in the Lobby.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Sir A. BAILLIE
I find it hard to resist the logic of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), but I will not pursue the matter. My colleagues and I appreciate the way in which the Minister has dealt with the Amendment and the arguments in support of it. We were encouraged when we heard that he was a little sentimental last year. I wish he had been a little more sentimental. It reminds me of the man who when he was asked if he spoke French said, "Yes, a little." I cannot say that I am entirely satisfied with the reply of the Minister of Transport. There are two specific points upon which we may be able to supply him with fresh data, first, the damage to the roads and secondly the question of the pay load. We recognise the concession which he made last year, but that has been
§ entirely over-ridden by the fact that this type of vehicle has to carry coal and water and their pay load. Their profit is somewhat reduced. These two considerations have not been taken into full account, and when they are added to the question of mileage I still feel that our case has not been properly answered. I hope the Minister of Transport will give us the same consideration as he did on a previous Amendment and allow us to put before him any further data which we think might be useful to him.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I am certainly prepared to see my hon. Friends at any time on any subject, and will listen to anything they have to say.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 49; Noes, 294.801
|Division No. 268.]||AYES.||[5.43 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Dobble, William||Leonard, William|
|Attlee. Clement Richard||Edwards, Charles||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Lunn, William|
|Banfield, John William||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Batey, Joseph||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Grentell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Cape, Thomas||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Thorne, William James|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Grundy, Thomas W.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||West, F. R.|
|Conant, Ft. J. E.||Hicks, Ernest George||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Cove, William G.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jenkins, Sir William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Daggar, George||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Wilmot, John|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, David|
|Dickie, John P.||Lawson, John James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Mr. John and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Borodale, Viscount.||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)|
|Agnew, Lieut. Com. P. G.||Bossom, A. C.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)|
|Albery, Irving James||Boulton, W. W.||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Allen, Lt.-col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Bracken, Brendan||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Clayton, Sir Christopher|
|Applin. Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Brass, Captain Sir William||Clydesdale, Marquess of|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Broadbent, Colonel John||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Astbury. Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd, Hexham)||Colfox, Major William Philip|
|Atholl. Duchess of||Brown, Brig. -Gen. H. C (Berks., Newb'y)||Cook, Thomas A.|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Browne, Captain A. C.||Cooke, Douglas|
|Baldwin. Rt. Hon. Stanley||Buchan, John||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Burnett, John George||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Craven-Ellis, William|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H,|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Crooke, J. Smedley|
|Bernays, Robert||Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Carver, Major William H.||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)|
|Bilndell. James||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Croom. Johnson, R. P.|
|Cross, R. H.||Jamleson, Douglas||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Dalkelth, Earl of||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Davies, Edward C, (Montgomery)||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tslde)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Ker, J Campbell||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Kimball, Lawrence||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Denville, Alfred||Knox, Sir Alfred||Salmon, Sir lsidore|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Donner, P. w.||Law, Sir Alfred||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Drewe, Cedric||Leckle, J. A,||Scone, Lord|
|Duckworth. George A. V.||Lees-Jones, John||Selley, Harry R.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Levy, Thomas||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Eales, John Frederick||Llewellin, Major John J.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir Albert||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Shute, Colonel J. J.|
|Ellis, Sir ft. Geoffrey||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Emrys- Evans, P. V.||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Loftus, Pierce C.||Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine, C.)|
|Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Mabane, William||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Flint, Abraham John||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Soper, Richard|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||McKie, John Hamilton||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Spens, William Patrick|
|Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Ganzonl Sir John||Maitland, Adam||Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Stevenson, James|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Gluckstein, Louts Halle||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Goff, Sir Park||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Granville, Edgar||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Meller, Sir Richard James||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Graves, Marjorie||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Milne, Charles||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.(P'dd'gt'n,S.)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Morgan, Robert H.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Hales, Harold K.||Moss, Captain H. J.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Hamilton, Sir George (llford)||Munro, Patrick||Train, John|
|Hamilton. Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Tree, Ronald|
|Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hammersley, Samuel S.||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Hanbury, Cecil||O'Connor, Terence James||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Harbord, Arthur||Patrick, Colin M.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Percy, Lord Eustace||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Petherick, M.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Harvey. Major S. E. (Devon, Tot[...]s)||Peto. Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n. Bllst'n)||Wells, Sidney Richard|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Pike, Cecil F.||White, Henry Graham|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Pybus, Sir Percy John||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Radford, E. A||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hepworth, Joseph||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Rathbone, Eleanor||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Hornby, Frank||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Rea, Walter Russell||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Windsor-Clive. Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Howitt. Dr. Alfred B.||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Reid. William Allan (Derby)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Remer, John R.|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Hurd, Sir Percy||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Sir George Penny and Lieut.-|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.|
|James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.||Ross, Ronald D.|
Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.