HC Deb 07 April 1959 vol 603 cc50-1

First, road passenger transport. During the last few years, mainly as a result of the increase in the number of private cars and motor cycles, which, in turn, is a reflection of our higher standard of living, bus operators have faced increasing difficulty in maintaining their services, particularly in rural areas. With my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, I have been considering this difficult problem, and I am satisfied that the bus operators should be given some tax relief to help them to maintain the rural services. Rural and urban services are very commonly operated by the same concerns, and I have, therefore, come to the conclusion that I must find some way of helping the industry generally.

The most practical step seems to me to be a reduction in the annual Excise duty payable on passenger vehicles with more than eight seats. I propose, therefore, to reduce the Excise duty payable on buses and coaches to about one-third of the present rate, subject to the present minimum of £12. I intend to make this reduction effective from immediately, and for that purpose to provide for refunds of duty on licences which have been taken out at the old rate. Because of this provision for refund on current licences, this concession will cost the Exchequer about £6 million in the present financial year, though the cost will fall to £3½million in subsequent years.

Also in the field of vehicle Excise duty, I am proposing that vehicles left standing on the highway should have to be licensed. I do not know whether hon. Members frequently leave their vehicles unlicensed on the highway. It never occurred to me, but it appears that some people have developed the bad habit of doing so, and we think that it ought to be stopped.