HC Deb 01 July 1958 vol 590 cc1283-6

(1) The purposes for which the holder of a trade licence within the meaning of the Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1949, may be authorised to use the licence by regulations under section ten of that Act shall not include the collection or delivery of mechanically propelled vehicles on or by means of another mechanically propelled vehicle except in connection with activities which would be treated for the purposes of the said section ten as part of his business as a motor trader apart from subsection (5) of section seven of the Finance Act, 1952 (under which in certain circumstances the collection and delivery of motor vehicles is to be treated as itself constituting or forming part of the business of a motor trader).

(2) This section shall not invalidate any regulations made under the said section ten before the coming into force of this section, but the purposes for which they authorise trade licences to be used shall be taken to be limited in accordance with the foregoing subsection.

(3) This section shall come into force on the first day of January, nineteen hundred and fifty-nine, or such later date (if any) as may be appointed by order of the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation made by statutory instrument.—[Mr. Nugent.]

Brought up and read the First time.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. G. R. Nugent)

I beg to move, That the Clause be now read a Second time.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) for his co-operative spirit. I do not think it will take long for me to explain the purpose of the Clause. It is to end an anomaly which has arisen out of Section 7 (5) of the Finance Act, 1952. The purpose of that Section was to allow a person who carries on a business mainly or solely of collecting and delivering mechanically propelled vehicles to use a general trade licence for driving these vehicles on the road. The intention was to enable new motor vehicles to be driven under their own power from factories to ports and inland distributors.

This happened to a considerable extent, but unexpectedly the practice has also developed in a few cases of carrying new vehicles on transporters which carry six or eight new vehicles at a time, but still under a general trade licence, with the result of losing to the revenue the difference between the £100 to £120 per annum cost of the appropriate licence and the £25 per annum cost of a general trade licence, and secondly, admitting the operators concerned into general haulage business without making application to the Licensing Authority for a carrier's licence to carry goods for hire or reward. For some persons to be doing this transporter business under a general trade licence alongside others who are doing it under an A or B licence is highly anomalous. This new Clause will remove that anomaly. The firms concerned must apply for an A or B licence, going through the normal procedure for obtaining a carrier's licence.

1.45 a.m.

Subsection (3) provides that this new provision shall not come into force until 1 January next year, and it gives the Minister power to postpone by Order if necessary. This, we think, gives sufficient time for firms concerned to adjust their affairs to meet these new conditions, and I would like to give an assurance to those concerned. The business of collecting or delivering motor vehicles separately under the general trade licence is not affected, nor is the use of a car transporter by a manufacturer or repairer. This new Clause simply closes an unsuspected loophole in the Finance Act, 1952. That is all.

Mr. Mitchison

As I understand the purpose of this Clause, it is partly to secure the revenue and partly to enforce, would it be, the difference between A and B licence provisions? So far as the revenue is concerned, the position is, if I understand the Parliamentary Secretary correctly, that the collection of vehicles may no longer be carried out under a trade licence where those vehicles are carried on transporters. It may, however, be carried out where the vehicles are collected separately.

Undoubtedly, the Parliamentary Secretary will have made inquiries as to the extent of the practice and will be able to inform the Committee of the revenue loss owing to this practice. Or may I put it the other way round? No doubt he will be able to tell us what is thought to be the revenue gained or recovered as a result of the operation of this new Clause.

Mr. Nugent

I can give the hon. and learned Gentleman only a rough idea.

Mr. Mitchison

I believe I overheard the hon. Gentleman saying he could give only a rough idea. I do not see how he could give more. That is all I am asking for.

I was about to say that, secondly, I notice that this does not come into force for another five or six months. Have steps been taken to make known to the trade the exact limits and effect of these slightly complicated provisions? Is it thought that the traders can reasonably and properly adapt themselves? I gather from what has been said that it is simply a matter of paying rather more duty. I imagine that there will be no difficulty in getting the necessary licences. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how the matter stands?

Mr. Nugent

Our information is that probably some 20 to 30 transporter firms are involved in this anomaly, and it would seem that about £2,000 to £3,000 for the Revenue is at stake. The trade will, of course, be informed that the Committee has approved the Clause, and it will be informed of the exact effect of the Clause. It will then be necessary for those businesses concerned to apply to the licensing authorities for carriers' licences, to make out their case if need be and, if need be, to meet objections. We reckon that the time of five months should be ample and reasonable for that and the businesses will then have to meet the ordinary conditions of the licensing court.

Mr. H. Wilson

In view of the very courteous and helpful way in which the hon. Gentleman has explained the Clause, I am sure that I am speaking for the Committee when I say that his long wait has not been in vain. I am glad that the Chancellor was able to propose this compromise which has enabled us to get through the Clause and make it unnecessary for the hon. Gentleman to sit with us again tomorrow, although, of course, we shall always be very glad to see him. It was extremely gratifying that he was able to give my hon. and learned Friend even a rough answer about the amount of revenue involved.

Since by passing this Clause—as I shall recommend my right hon. and hon. Friends to do—the Chancellor will now be in receipt of additional revenue to the tune of some £2,000 or £3,000, on which a few minutes ago he could not have counted, since this windfall has come to the Revenue, will the Chancellor again consider the whole question of paying firewomen, since this windfall would just about meet the amount involved?

Mr. Amory

I am afraid that there will be some windfalls less for me to incur tomorrow.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.

Mr. Amory

I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

In all the circumstances, we have made very satisfactory progress, for which I thank hon. Members. We have a strenuous day before us tomorrow, and I should like to think that hon. Members will enjoy a few hours' rest and refreshing sleep between now and then.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.