HC Deb 12 December 1939 vol 355 cc1133-6

8.3 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bernays)

I beg to move, That as from the first day of January, nineteen hundred and forty, the duties of Excise chargeable in respect of mechanically-propelled vehicles under paragraph 5 of the Second Schedule to the Finance Act, 1920, as amended by any subsequent enactment (hereafter in this Resolution referred to as 'the relevant paragraph'), shall be varied as follows:—

(1) For the purpose of computing the rate of the duty chargeable under any provision of the relevant paragraph in respect of a goods vehicle, the weight unladen of the vehicle shall, if the vehicle carries a container for holding gas for the propulsion of the vehicle or plant for producing such gas, be reduced—

  1. (a) where the weight unladen exceeds twelve hundredweight but does not exceed three tons, by half a ton;
  2. (b) where the weight unladen exceeds three tons but does not exceed six tons, by three-quarters of a ton;
  3. (c) where the weight unladen exceeds six tons, by one ton;

(2) Notwithstanding that a goods vehicle is used for drawing a trailer, the vehicle shall not be chargeable with duty under sub-paragraph (d) of the relevant paragraph if the trailer is used solely for the carriage of—

  1. (a) a container for holding gas for the propulsion of the vehicle; or
  2. (b) plant and materials for producing such gas;

(3) Sub-paragraph (c) (ii) of the relevant paragraph (which relates to goods vehicles propelled by steam or constructed or adapted to use coal gas as fuel) shall have effect as if the word 'gas' were substituted for the words 'coal gas';

(4) The rates of duty chargeable under the said sub-paragraph (c) (ii), as amended by this Resolution shall, in the case of vehicles not exceeding one-and-a-half tons in weight unladen, be as follows:—

Not exceeding 12 cwt. in weight unladen 10
Exceeding 12 cwt. but not exceeding 1 ton in weight unladen 15
Exceeding 1 ton but not exceeding 1½ tons in weight unladen 20;

(5) for the purpose of this Resolution and the relevant paragraph as amended by this Resolution, the expression 'gas' shall mean any fuel that is wholly gaseous at a temperature of sixty degrees Fahrenheit under a pressure of thirty inches of mercury.

And it is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this Resolution shall have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1913."

For a Parliamentary Secretary to propose a remission of taxation, a privilege which is usually reserved for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, makes this something of a red letter day. The object of the Resolution is to implement one of the concessions with regard to gas-propelled vehicles which was promised by my hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines. It is a concession in respect of the taxation of goods vehicles as it affects additional weight of gas containers or plant. Broadly speaking, this will not count in future in assessing the taxation on unladen weight. The Resolution does three main things, which I will explain very briefly. First of all, where the equipment is carried on the vehicle as opposed to being on a trailer, allowances varying from half a ton to one ton are to be deducted from the unladen weight for the purpose of computing the tax, so as to compensate for the extra weight of the gas-producing equipment. That is paragraph (1) of the Financial Resolution. Secondly, where the equipment is carried on a trailer used solely for this purpose, the normal trailer duty, which varies from £10 to £20, will be waived. That is paragraph (2) of the Resolution. Paragraphs (3) and (5), which make the word "gas" applicable instead of the words "coal gas," are designed to cover all the forms of gas propulsion so far developed. The effect of the Resolution will be to remove the burden of increased taxation that might otherwise arise from the production or the conversion of gas-propelled vehicles. The object is to place these gas-propelled vehicles on the same basis as petrol-driven vehicles, and I am sure the House will agree that it is a step in the right direction.

8.11 p.m.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

So far as I can see, we on these benches agree that the proposal is a good one. The object is to enable vehicles to be run on the product of coal instead of on petrol. In present circumstances it is a reasonable proposal, and the object of the Resolution is to enable it to be done without the cost being greater than it would be for petrol vehicles of the same horse-power. In view of that fact, we offer no opposition to the Resolution.

8.12 p.m.

Mr. Ellis Smith

All that is wrong with this proposal is that it should have been carried out years ago. It should have been done at least at the beginning of the war. Having said that, I congratulate the Department which has been responsible for getting the Chancellor to make this proposal. In France this system has been in being for a considerable time, and, consequently, they have not had the transport difficulties that we have had. I stood for 40 minutes on Saturday night in a long queue in Manchester waiting to board a bus. That is typical of the position in many industrial centres, and I hope that this Resolution will improve matters in that direction. I realise the necessity for rationing petrol, and I hope that this Resolution will lead to an improvement in transport, and that the Minister of Transport will stimulate local authorities and others to adopt the system which the Resolution encourages. On behalf of people living in industrial centres I welcome the Resolution, and hope that transport authorities will take early advantage of it so that they can improve transport facilities.

8.14 p.m.

Mr. Kirkwood

The Resolution deals with trailers, and I would like to know whether the Government have yet decided that there should be a man on every trailer. I have raised this question for several years, and I do not know why it has been turned down. I was informed in the House some time ago that it was embodied in a new Act at that time, but I find that trailers are still being used without men on them. This is not the case on the Continent with all its drawbacks, for it is in operation in Germany, France and Belgium. Has the position been rectified by this Resolution?

The Deputy-Chairman

I did not catch the hon. Member's opening remarks as I was discussing another matter here, but he was getting a little wide of the Resolution before the House in his later remarks. I do not think he can get an answer now, and he must put a question down later.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.