HC Deb 17 June 1936 vol 313 cc1098-101

For the purpose of facilitating the repair of any mechanically-propelled vehicle the holder of an excise licence taken out for such a vehicle may at any time deposit the licence with the licensing authority by whom it was issued for a period of not less than one month, during which period such vehicle shall not be used upon a road, and the licensing authority shall credit the holder with one-twelfth part of the annual rate of duty payable in respect of such vehicle for every complete month of the remainder of the period during which the licence is in force and is deposited with the licensing authority.—[Mr. A. Reed.]

Brought up, and read the-First time.

8.24 p.m.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." I think I could best explain the proposed Clause by giving a definite example of which I have heard. It was of a motor lorry which was charged for tax at £110 at year. The owner wanted to have it thoroughly overhauled and he surrendered his licence on 31st January for a complete month and then took out a new licence on 1st March, obtaining a rebate of £4 11s. If he had surrendered his licence on 30th November and taken out a new licence on 1st January, he would have received £9 rebate. It seems rather strange that according to the time of the year when the repair is made there should be a difference in the rebate. The matter was not so important when the licences were comparatively inexpensive, but with very heavy licence fees it amounts to a good deal.

There is the danger that a man may continue to work a lorry although it is due for overhaul, in order to get into a period in which he will receive the larger rebate. From that point of view it is advisable that he should be in a position to surrender the licence for a complete month at any time of the year and get back one-twelfth of the duty, provided that the vehicle is in the garage and not being used. The only objection I can see to the proposal is the amount of work which would be involved, but, after all, the staff which looks after these licence duties, while they have one or two very busy months during the year, have at other periods of the year time to spare. I think on all grounds it would be better if such rebates could be spread over the year, and I hope the Committee will accept a proposal which would mean a great deal to many of these transport companies.

8.26 p.m.

Captain HUDSON

I do not think the proposed new Clause is as simple as my hon. Friend has represented. The present law is that the owner of a licence, on surrendering his licence, is entitled to be repaid the appropriate amount of duty in respect of each month of the period of the currency of the licence which is unexpired at the date of surrender. Under the existing law, therefore, a licence may be surrendered and a proportionate refund obtained, irrespective of the reason for surrender. As I understand the proposed new Clause, it aims at securing what might be called a credit to the licensee of a proportion of the duty, provided that his vehicle is under repair. The trouble is that the new Clause would introduce an entirely new principle in dealing with motor vehicle licences, namely the deposit and subsequent restoration of licences, with credits in respect of the periods of deposit.

The first thing I ask the Committee to note is that the new Clause deals with the time during which a vehicle is under repair. It appears to provide that such a credit would only be obtainable while a vehicle was under repair. Therefore, I am afraid that if we accepted it in this form it would be necessary for us to have technical advisers to tell us whether a, vehicle was in fact under repair or not. In practice, however, that would be impossible. You would have to apply what may be called the credit system to anybody who cared to ask for it, on the ground that he was putting his vehicle in for a short period to have repairs done to it. The Committee will recognise the loopholes which would be opened in that way. A licensee would only have to take off a vital portion of the machine or alter the machinery in some way and then claim that the vehicle was under repair.

I ask the Committee not to give a Second Reading to the Clause, first, on the ground of the administrative difficulty which it would create. The proposals would mean keeping an individual account for each licensee and would also involve a much more detailed audit than is necessary at present, because at the end of each year it would be necessary to add up the amounts of the credits which were due. Secondly, it would mean a great deal of extra expenditure. The present expenditure on the collection of motor vehicle duties by local authorities is nearly £600,000 a year and we do not want, if we can avoid it, to add to that expense. I suggest to the Committee that the present system, which has been evolved to enable people who give up their licences to get the appropriate rebate, has worked well. In the last year £1,300,000 was refunded in respect of surrendered licences. To sum up, the administrative difficulties are so great and the advantages to be derived from the proposal seem to be so small that I hope my hon. Friend will not press his Motion.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.