HC Deb 26 June 1963 vol 679 cc1395-417

Paragraph (g) of subsection (1) of section 6 of the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1962 (which exempts from duty vehicles which do not exceed six hundredweight in weight unladen and are adapted, and used or kept on a road, for invalids) shall be extended to include such vehicles as are therein mentioned up to fifteen hundredweight in weight unladen; and accordingly the said paragraph shall have effect with the substitution for the word "six" of the word "fifteen".—[Mr. Callaghan.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Callaghan

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

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr.

Mitchison) for drafting this Clause, which arises out of a memorandum which a number of hon. Members have received supplied by the Joint Committee on Mobility for the Disabled, headed, "The case for supplying suitably adapted small cars to the disabled".

I confess that I knew nothing about this subject until I received this memorandum. Hon. Members will agree that sometimes we read these things and sometimes we do not. I am very glad to say that I read this one, which is prepared by a very distinguished group—the British Legion, the British Council for Rehabilitation, the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association, the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, the Invalid Tricycle Association, and many others. I think it makes a very good case on a subject that deserves the attention of the House.

I am relying on this Joint Committee for all my facts, I freely confess. I also confess that I do not know the cost of the concession for which I am now asking, and I do not regard that as any sin. Briefly, according to the Joint Committee, there are at the moment 15,000 tricycles supplied to National Health patients. No charge is made by the Ministry of Health when tricycles are supplied to invalids. The Ministry pays the cost of insuring and taxing them and arranges to pay for repairs and maintenance. It also supplies sheds in which to house the vehicles. In addition, the Ministry supplies 14 gallons of petrol free of charge each year.

If a National Health Service patient has a car the procedure is somewhat different, I understand from the memorandum hon. Members have received. Such a person can, if he unfortunately becomes eligible as a result of a disability or disease, have the controls of his car adapted at a maximum cost of £70. A motor tricycle cannot be issued in addition to meeting the cost of conversion to hand controls and any tricycle or shed he may have had is withdrawn. Nor does the Ministry make any payment towards the insurance, taxing or maintenance and repairs of the car or its conversion.

The case being put by this group of organisations is that the Ministry in these cases supplies cars suitably converted. I will not discuss that matter because I would be out of order on the new Clause. I will, instead, deal with the taxation of these motor vehicles. As I say, the insurance and taxation of the tricycles is paid for by the Ministry. If one has a car which is converted, on the other hand, one must pay the cost oneself. A motor invalid tricycle of under 6 cwt. is exempted from the Road Tax.

Apart from the merits of whether or not cars should be supplied, the group of organisations I have mentioned raises a number of questions. The memorandum states that tricycles are not as reliable as cars. I must be careful about what I say in this context lest I get into trouble with the manufacturers. On second thoughts, perhaps I had better stick my neck out, for I do not suppose that their blows will fall too heavily. The organisations advise me that it is easier to get cars serviced than these rather specialised tricycles. Logically that sounds right, but I do not know for certain. They also argue that the depreciation on tricycles is at a much higher rate than on cars. I suppose that that could be so since one can sell a car more easily than an invalid, tricycle.

It appears that one of these tricycles costs about £325. A B.M.C. 850 c.c. car with adapted hand controls costs £410. There is not a great deal of difference in cost between the two. The Road Tax on a small car is £15 a year. I understand that other countries exempt small cars used by invalids—that is, incapacity caused by industrial disease, war service or simply illness which has resulted in incapacity to use normal vehicle controls—from the payment of Road Tax. My new Clause is designed to test the Government view in whether or not we can do something like that in this country.

I hope that hon. Members opposite as well as my hon. Friends will press the Government on this matter. The new Clause is in no sense a fatuous one. It raises a case which is well worth examining. It might be objected to on the ground that the owner of an invalid tricycle is not as well off as the owner of a car—the question being, why help the car owner? In these cases of need I do not believe that there need be much distinction. Where a man has so lost the use of his faculties that he is required to have a specially adapted hand or foot controlled motor car, it does not appeal to me to think that he may be a little better off than a tricycle owner. I hope that the Government realise that the new Clause is tabled in a serious way and that they will give sympathetic consideration to the possibility of exempting these small cars used by invalids from the Road Tax.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

I have been for many years vice-president of the Association of Invalid Tricycle Users. I have interviewed probably every Minister of Health on this subject since I have been an hon. Member. Nothing has brought so much happiness to handicapped people than the provision of transport under the National Health Service. It is nothing short of extraordinary the way in which this has been able to bring them out of their loneliness and into a communal life.

In Northampton our football grounds contain special places where invalid tricycles can be parked. The railways are amazingly helpful in the way of accommodation and fares, and all this has done much to break down the terrible loneliness of incapacity. There is, however, only one seat in these vehicles, A second seat would make an enormous difference, merely because a friend or relative could accompany the disabled driver.

I have come across the argument that we must be careful to provide only for the incapacitated. "We do not want to provide free lifts for people who are not incapacitated. Other people might use the car," I have been told; but it is not a very worthy argument. Another argument I have met from a number of Ministers of Health has been to the effect that the sort of change proposed by the new Clause would be more expensive from the tax point of view. We have heard that there is less than £100 involved between the cost of the two types of vehicle. The depreciation on a tricycle is much higher than on a car and the maintenance costs more.

From the purely financial point of view I am confident—and I have investigated this—that it would cost the Treasury less to provide cars, which are standard and made by B.M.C., than to provide these special tricycles, which are always breaking down, involve heavy maintenance, special agents to do that maintenance, heavy depreciation and the provision of garage space. I have pointed out to successive Ministers of Health that one cannot consider this matter in terms of transferring money from one pocket to another. The tax aspect should not eater into the argument.

The success of this struggle, which has been going on for the last 15 years, to get this sensible and additionally humane change in what has been a great addition to human happiness would be a useful step. There cannot be more than a trivial cost involved to the Exchequer, and I hope that the Government will on this occasion consider the new Clause sympathetically.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Edward du Cann)

We entirely understand the motives of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in tabling this new Clause. It is his wish and anxiety to elicit a reply in general from the Government on the whole subject of invalid vehicles. I will do my best to satisfy him in one particular, and at once, by saying that we have every sympathy with his motives. It is entirely clear that this matter merits serious examination from every point of view. The hon. Gentleman was somewhat modest as to the degree of his own knowledge in the matter, but he has the advantage of having a copy of a memorandum that I have not myself seen. He says that he will give it to me. I shall be very grateful for it, because I shall be interested and pleased, as will be my right hon. Friend, to study it.

There is not an hon. Member who is assiduous in his constituency who is not very well aware of the kind of problem to which the hon. Gentleman and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) have very properly referred. It is entirely and completely true that the introduction of these three-wheeled vehicles—and, in certain cases, as I shall mention later, four-wheeled vehicles—has made a very great deal of difference to the complicated and handicapped lives that these people are otherwise obliged to lead.

I do not wish to speak in general on the subject of concessions for handicapped people. We debated that during the Committee stage, and I think that the House is only too well aware of the intrinsic difficulty there always is in such a situation as this. Inevitably, if we give tax concessions to those who are handicapped in one way or another we have to give the greatest benefit to those who are in receipt of the largest income. Though that may not be a bad thing to do, we have consistently taken the view that it should be the aim of policy to endeavour to help to the greatest possible extent those who are at the bottom end of the scale.

Whatever method is chosen—and, for obvious reasons, to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, we cannot now go very closely into method—there is the common ground between us that it must be the aim of this House, Government and Opposition together, to do whatever we can for handicapped persons. That aim I share. But there are, regrettably, strong practical objections to the method suggested, which is admitted to be a testing suggestion, by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, and I will try to explain them with care.

The effect of the Clause would be to raise the weight limit of invalid vehicles that are exempt from vehicle excise duties from 6 cwts. unladen to 15 cwts. unladen. The present concession is given under Section 6(1g) of the Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1962. That is a rather interesting Section. Among the other vehicles that are given an exemption are fire engines, ambulances and road rollers. Looking at my own driving licence, I observe that I am qualified, as many other hon. Members may be, to drive a road roller. I have always wanted to drive one, but have not yet had the opportunity to do so.

The present weight limit does not extend beyond small single-seat invalid carriages. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton referred to these particularly, and all of us who visit football grounds, orrugby or cricket clubs, have seen the particular trouble to which so many of those organisations go to provide parking space for these vehicles so that the occupants can see something of the game. What a welcome and desirable development that is. Those of us who have seen them there know at once the type of vehicle we are talking about and, in the main, that is the type of vehicle that is covered by this concession. They are, as has been said, purpose-made vehicles. They have brought great benefits, but they also have disadvantages.

The proposed Clause would bring in light cars such as the Morris Mini-Minor, the Hillman Imp, the two-door Morris 1000, perhaps the Austin Cooper, and the Ford Anglia, if they were adapted for invalids. There is a long catalogue of what are ordinarily regarded as popular cars that would be included if this new Clause were approved.

6.45 p.m.

From the description I have given, I hope that the House will appreciate that the present weight limit of 6 cwts. is so low that it is unlikely to lead to abuse of the concession. The vehicles for which the concession is at present given are readily identifiable, and can be used by only one person. I cannot imagine any hon. Member or member of the public buying one to use for ordinary journeys. The vehicles covered are small and low powered, and not attractive to the ordinary road user. The taxation authorities have very little difficulty in administering the present exemption, because the applicants are almost certainly invalids who intend to use the vehicles themselves.

On the other hand, while we appreciate what the hon. and learned Gentleman said on a point that I wish to develop—and I beg the House to take this with great seriousness—we feel that if Mini-Minors and other popular family saloons were brought in there would be a far greater incentive to abuse, which neither the taxation authorities nor the police would be able to check without making inquiries about the degree of incapacity and the circumstances of the proposed use of the vehicle.

I must justify what I say, so it might help the House if I explain in detail the way in which abuse might arise if this Clause were incorporated in the Bill, The Clause does not define what constitutes a vehicle adapted for an invalid. Those words do not necessarily mean that the vehicle must have special controls so that the invalid can drive it himself. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East made that point, but the fact is that a vehicle would not, by this new Clause, need to be adapted in the way he had in mind.

That is the serious demerit of the new Clause. It could cover a car that had had the front seat beside the driver removed and some form of leg rest put in so that an invalid with a stiff leg could sit in the back and be driven around. The Clause also does not make any provision for the amount of time the vehicle must be used for conveying the invalid. It would therefore be possible to adapt a vehicle in a fairly simple way and, in fact, use it very rarely for conveying the invalid but use it for most of the time for the normal purposes of private motoring. That would be a severe abuse, and unacceptable.

Perhaps I might give a further if extreme example, but it is a valid example. Very many private cars these days have reclining front seats which, as the Clause is at present drafted, could count as an adaptation. I am sure that the House will appreciate at once the difficulties and dangers which that would involve.

In theory, the way to prevent such abuse would be to make a further Amendment to the Vehicles (Excise) Act so as to lay down a definition of the way in which a vehicle had to be adapted in order to qualify for an exempt licence. But even if we introduced a rigid definition which limited the granting of exempt licences to vehicles which had substantially modified controls so that an invalid who, for example, had limited use of his legs could drive, we should not thereby be preventing able-bodied members of his family, or his friends, from using the vehicle in place of an ordinary car which would be subject to tax. I am sure that it would not matter if the additional use were limited; the difficulty and danger is that one could not cater for it, or be certain of it. We should not be preventing people who did not need special controls from buying invalid cars and driving them around tax free.

We must therefore draw the conclusion—

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

Before the Economic Secretary passes from that part of the document in his reading, I would point out that the Section provides that the vehicles must be used for invalids. All these difficulties seem to be purely questions of enforcement, and no more.

Mr. du Cann

Indeed, they are questions of enforcement, but they are very important questions of enforcement, and I am coming to that matter in a moment. I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) twits me with reading from a document. The reason for that is very simple. This is a most important and somewhat complex matter and I am most anxious to give the fullest and most careful reply I can. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, I am perfectly ready at any time, either in this House or elsewhere, to speak without notes, but I thought that this was an important subject. I am saying that I think that we must draw the conclusion that we should have to go on and introduce further Amendments to the Vehicles (Excise) Act.

In the first place, we should have to provide that only invalids incapacitated in certain sorts of ways, namely ways which would create the need for adaptation of the vehicle in the manner laid down in the Act, would be eligible for an exempt licence. The problem of drawing up a definition sufficiently precise to provide the basis for administering the concession would be formidable. We should also have to place on the licensing authorities a new administrative burden of checking that the conditions of the concession in this respect were fulfilled. But this is not all. To be fair to the ordinary taxpayer, we should have to amend the Act so as to restrict the use of a vehicle for which exemption had been granted to occasions when the invalid was driving himself.

Mr. Paget

It is no more difficult to provide that a car should be used only when there is an invalid in it, but who is not necessarily driving himself, without any other provision with regard to the driving licence. As to the question of who should be allowed to do it, under the National Health Act only certain invalids are qualified to obtain the invalid carriage provided for them. Could it not be arranged that the right to tax exemption was based on precisely the same qualifications as the right to obtain an invalid carriage? I do not see the difficulties.

Mr. du Cann

I am just coming on to deal with the hon. and learned Member's first point. In reply to the second point, I thought that I had explained that the vehicles which are currently in the main being issued to handicapped people are three-wheeled vehicles of a rather special, purpose-made type. I think that we would all agree that it is thoroughly unlikely that any ordinary purchaser would wish to buy one of these vehicles and use it for ordinary motoring purposes. In the case of the four-wheeled vehicles of which I read a list, and suggested that there were others, it would be true to say that different considerations apply.

To deal with the first point that the hon. and learned Member raised, to enable the police to check up on such a provision we should need a special pattern of licence which could be recognised, and we should have to place on the police the obligation of occasionally checking up that the driver was the person to whom the exempt licence had been issued. I agree that it would be possible to devise such a system, but we have a feeling that it would not be easy for the police, and I suggest that the House should take that consideration very seriously.

Mr. Mitchison

I am sorry to interrupt again, but I noticed that this Act contains a specifically general power to make regulations. Section 23(1) of it reads: Regulations under this Act may be made generally for the purpose of carrying this Act into effect… and it contains a "without prejudice" reservation at the end. Therefore, it seems that if any of these administrative points constitute the serious objection to doing the right thing they could be met by appropriate regulations.

Mr. du Cann

Yes, I was not going to suggest that that was not the position. I say that there are objections to the new Clause, which I am endeavouring to retail to the House.

We also feel that there are perhaps objections in general to dealing with the matter in this way. Indeed, whether it is dealt with under the terms of the new Clause, or regulations are introduced, that general point is still valid. We have considered whether it would be appropriate for the Government to introduce Amendments to the Vehicles (Excise) Act, possibly in the manner suggested, in order to permit this concession to be made. We have come to the conclusion, however, that the extra work placed on the licensing authorities and on the police would not be justifiable. We are not convinced that abuse could be prevented and that a definition of disablement could be worked out which would be thought to be fair and also sufficiently precise to provide a firm basis for administration. That is the position at present.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, on the other hand, referred to cases where vehicles are currently provided by the Ministry of Health. He has his figures just about right. The Ministry of Health supplies about 16,000 tricycles, which are mostly lighter than 6 cwt., to National Health Service patients, and about 4,000 mini-cars to certain severely disabled war pensioners under Royal Warrant—avery satisfactory form of proceeding as I think the House has agreed. The hon. Member said that the Ministry pays the tax, if any, and the insurance, so that a tax concession is not necessary in those cases.

I said that I would not speak of method and I will not do so at length, but it certainly seems to us that the existing method is being followed with success. I noticed that hon. Members opposite were nodding agreement when I described it as very successful. I question whether the best method by which to proceed to help these people is not perhaps by an extension of the existing method over a period of time rather than by tax exemption methods of this sort. Certainly it would be true to say that the most seriously disabled people of all very often have cars which are not adapted in any way but which are driven by fit persons. This is one of the snags.

There are about 60,000 heart and lung cases who cannot drive themselves and this new Clause will not help them. This is why I say that we are not satisfied, for a variety of reasons, that the Clause would be necessarily the right way to set about it. Perhaps the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East will allow me to say that it is probably true that the Clause does not cover cases which he would particularly wish to cover, especially the 60,000 whom I have mentioned.

I referred earlier to the discussion which we had in Committee on allowances in general. I think that the Committee, as it then was, understood the point that we have by no means closed minds on allowances in general. We shall certainly pay serious attention to what has been said by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton and, through interventions, by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering. We should like to have a fuller and better look at this whole subject but, although our sympathies with those who are disabled are as strong as the sympathies of those who have spoken in the debate, we feel with regret that the new Clause would not be the way to deal with the subject. However, we certainly wish to help in any practical way that we can find.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

I hope that after that speech the Economic Secretary, and indeed the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will extend their sympathy and bring some practical result from it. As I listened to my hon. Friend the Member far Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), I felt that the Clause might go a little way towards alleviating great hardship, though it did not go nearly far enough to benefit people who greatly need to be benefited.

The Economic Secretary has said that 4,000 mini-cars are given to the seriously war disabled. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East said that the difference in cost between a mini-car and an invalid carriage was about £100 since the Treasury already bears the burden, if it can be called a burden, of the licensing and the tax. We would have been more ready to accept the case made by the Economic Secretary if he had given us a definite assurance that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was willing to have discussions with the Minister of Health on this matter. We would then have felt that we were not only getting protestations of sympathy but that something would follow those protestations.

7.0 p.m.

I want to add a little to what has been said about the great difference which is made to the life of a disabled person if he has a mini-car instead of a tricycle. I represent the kind of constituency where every day I see in the streets people in those three-wheeled carriages. They are the seriously industrially disabled, and continually they make approaches to me in an effort to have a mini-car instead of a tricycle. A short time ago in an interview that I had with one of the most seriously disabled and his wife, I asked whether he had come to me in his three-wheeled car and whether his wife had come by bus. He said "No, I am afraid we broke the rule. It was very uncomfortable, but we both came in my tricycle." They could not go very far in that manner, and yet so often these men who want to go out visiting and who need the assistance of their wives or friends are prevented from enjoying those social amenities to which we all have a right, because they have to choose between going out on their own or staying at home with their wives.

If the Economic Secretary were to tell us that as a result of this debate and of the representations that have been made from various organisations, he is going to have serious talks with the Minister of Health in order to devise some arrangement whereby the seriously industrially disabled may be given mini-cars—something for which many of us have asked for a long tune—I would be prepared not to press this proposed Clause; but if not, then in order to register my feeling I should want to vote upon it.

Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)

I should not like to let this occasion pass without a few words being uttered from the back benches on this side of the House. I have listened to the whole discussion of this Clause with considerable sympathy. I think that any hon. Member who has much to do with his constituents must have come across problems affecting incapacitated people in this unfortunate position.

When I first saw this new Clause I tried to find out how many people might be so involved in the greater Croydon area, which I am privileged to represent with two other hon. Members. I was given to understand that in an area which, after all, has a population of about 250,000, only 20 to 25 people would be involved. Bringing that down to practical facts, and having listened carefully to what my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary told us—and here I should like to say that I respect his views very much because I know how sincere they are—I cannot see that this difficulty cannot be tackled in some way or other.

Obviously easier systems could be provided if necessary by the local authority, but I am assured by the police in the Croydon area that they know pretty well all the people concerned in their district. Therefore, it appears that even the local police would not expect much trouble in ensuring that abuses were avoided.

I therefore ask the Economic Secretary, while fully respecting his views about the complications and possibilities of difficulty, if he will appreciate that there is a real feeling on the part of almost every hon. Member that something should be done to remedy this situation. The concession may not be much, but if we can give some little assistance in this direction we shall bring happiness and contentment to people who are very unfavourably placed, and we should therefore like the Government to try to give a concession of this kind.

I strongly support the view that has been expressed by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison). Would my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary give an assurance that he will look into this matter further with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and, in particular, with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to see whether the present excellent scheme could be extended so as to give satisfaction not only to hon. Members but to a comparatively few people in almost every town and village? If this could be done, those people would feel that this Finance Bill had produced a worth while concession.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I wish to speak in this debate for a few minutes because, in addition, to having the normal quota of disabled men in my constituency, I also have the Thistle Foundation, which successive Ministers of Pensions and their Parliamentary Secretaries always visit within a short time of taking office.

In the Thistle Foundation there are about 100 families, the male members of which are more or less seriously disabled. About half those men have cars, and quite a number have tricycles. I can assure the Economic Secretary that this is a serious source of concern. The general feeling amongst the disabled men is that the tricycle, while it is most valuable, is in fact a very selfish thing because it means that only the man is able to go out. It means, too, that he does not get a full family life for he cannot take his wife and children with him. The man resents this fact very much, and in fact it tends to kill his desire to go out. Very often a man would go out but he stays at home simply because he is unable to take his wife and children with him. This is a burning question with these disabled men.

I agree that it is very necessary to extend the provision of four-wheeled cars through the Ministry of Health. But it would also help if the concession which is proposed in this Clause could be given, and I am not sure that it would be so difficult to administer. If the Ministry of Health can administer a scheme covering cars which are provided free to certain people whose numbers are vigorously controlled, I cannot see how we could not extend the scheme to a category which, while not receiving the cars free, would enjoy great benefit. Surely the same machinery will operate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) made the right suggestion when she said that this proposal ought to be tackled in co-operation with the Ministry of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, who should inquire into the possibility of extending this concession to cover a wider range of people than are at present covered, even though those people might have to buy the vehicles. I have spent many hours in the Thistle Foundation in Edinburgh and I know what a burning question this is and what a difference a concession of this kind would make to the lives of these people. The provision of a car makes quite different men of them. I have known these people for years. I have known them to grumble even when they have had a tricycle, but as soon as they have acquired a car it is surprising how happy this has made the whole family. The degree of happiness is enormous, as the difference it makes to the man.

I was disappointed by the Economic Secretary's reply. Although I fully understand the arguments which he advanced and I appreciate that there are administrative difficulties, I feel that, if this matter were approached through the Ministry of Health and the Scottish Department of Health, an answer could be found to make it possible for people paying for their cars to enjoy the benefits proposed in the Clause.

Mr. Callaghan

May I ask a question of the Economic Secretary?

Mr. Speaker

It is a little difficult, in the middle of no speech by the Economic Secretary, and with others seeking to speak. Perhaps some other opportunity would be more convenient.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

While the Economic Secretary was speaking, I could not help feeling that it is a pity that he has such an unprepossessing title for the office which he holds. It seemed to me that he felt, with the rest of the House, that here was something which, in the name of humanity, ought to be done, yet he had to raise the kind of objections which we know have to be met.

I know one man in my constituency who has benefited, after a struggle to get himself included, under the Ministry of Health scheme. The difference this has made to that man and to his family is almost beyond belief. We are here concerned with a group of very unfortunate people. It should be possible to alleviate their misfortunes a little if we can only find a way of dealing with the quite legitimate objections which the Economic Secretary raised to the new Clause. I can only hope that I have not said anything to hinder his sympathy in the matter. I hope that those whom he has to consult will realise that the House has today been most impressed by the case which has been put and that we think that this is one of those cases in which economics ought not to have the last word and in which even police regulations ought occasionally to err on the side of humanity.

Mr. Dalyell

The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) spoke of his own constituency and said that the number of people involved there was about 20 or 25. In the mining areas such as those represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) and myself, there is no doubt that the number would be six or seven times that, probably 150 or even 200. It is equally true that, just as the number of cases is multiplied, so the possibilities of abuse are multiplied, but I am certain that the whole argument about abuse is really chimerical and illusory. In fact, if people in the mining villages did abuse the concession in regard to mini-cars, they would certainly be reported to the police, if the police did not know already. The "grape vine" works very quickly. In this case, the "grape vine" would be concerned with justice, and it would work very efficiently. I am certain that the argument about abuse in the heavy industrial areas would fall very quickly, for understandable human reasons.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. du Cann. I can now be less unhelpful. Perhaps there will be an opportunity for the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) to ask his question.

Mr. du Cann

If I may have the leave of the House, I am ready, so to speak, to expose myself to radiation from the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). I shall be very brief. I do not wish to weary the House again with the arguments I attempted to put a few minutes ago. I believe that they are valid arguments, but I see no reason to rehearse them now.

I say at once to the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that he did not offend me. I do not think that there is anything he could say which would offend me; I have great admiration for him, as he knows. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. I feel these matters as keenly as anyone in the House, but it is my anxiety and my duty as Economic Secretary to the Treasury—I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the title—to try to ensure that we adopt the best and wisest method in the interests of the people themselves, in the interests of good administration and in the interests of the taxpayer. That is my sole concern.

7.15 p.m.

The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris), the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) and the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) all made additional points and stressed the problems which these people have. Of course, every constituency Member is very well aware of these things, and I fully share the anxiety expressed.

I willingly undertake to the House to discuss the whole question with the Minister of Health. That was, in any case, my intention as a result of the debate; indeed, I intended to do so when I saw the new Clause on the Notice Paper. There are problems for the Minister of Health. He has to get his priorities right, and so forth—I will not go on about it—but I am very ready to discuss the matter with him, and at once.

I reiterate what I endeavoured to put earlier. The House will have noted that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor heard the greater part of the discussion. We shall pay strict attention to what has been said by all who have spoken in the debate. We are grateful to those who have spoken for the points which they have made and we are very ready to study carefully what has been said. The House will understand that there are difficulties in going beyond that, but, in giving both those undertakings, I fully mean what I say.

Mr. Callaghan

I think that the Economic Secretary has, with the leave of the House, almost answered the question which I wanted to put to him, but I wonder whether I can take him a little further. He said in his original comments—I think that I have his words—"I question whether the best method of helping is not by additional allowances". When he used the words "I question whether", I wondered whether he would go on to answer his own question. Is he saying that it is better to do it in this way? Having given us an assurance that he will discuss the matter, will he discuss it with a view to getting some easement of the situation to which the new Clause is directed? Otherwise, we should take the view, I think, that it is not impossible for him, under the new Clause as drafted, to take the steps necessary for the enforcement upon which he laid so much emphasis.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), who is for me the source of all wisdom in these matters, tells me that it is quite possible for the Economic Secretary to make regulations under the new Clause, if it were written into the Bill, which would enable him to draw up a register and provide for marks of identification on the cars, or whatever it might be.

I think that not many people would care to be convicted of driving an invalid's car. There is a certain amount of decency in this country, thank God, and I do not think that people would particularly want to be hauled before the courts on an offence of that sort for an abuse of tax regulations. I believe that there is merit in what my hon. and learned Friend says. It would be possible to devise regulations to deal with this problem, even though it would be dealt with only partially by regulations.

I want the Economic Secretary to go a little further. The Chancellor is back with us. Will they undertake, in their discussions with the Ministry of Health, to try to find a solution to this problem by way of allowances if we do not now press the Clause in regard to taxation?

Mr. du Cann

I think that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was, in fact, interrupting me before I had quite completed my second reply. Presumably, therefore, it is in order for me to answer the question which he has asked. We shall be very willing—I am sorry if I did not make it entirely clear—to consider all the suggestions which have been made during the debate, including the particular point put by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). I shall certainly raise this in our discussions with the Minister of Health, and we in the Treasury also shall pay attention to it. I hope that I have given the hon. Gentleman an exact answer, because it is my sincere wish to do so.

Mr. Callaghan

In the light of what the Economic Secretary has said, and as I understand that it is intended to try to solve this problem one way or another, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.


  1. (1) subject to the provisions of this section, if in any year of assessment the amount carried to the credit of a local authority Housing Revenue Account exceed the amount debited to that Account, the local authority shall be entitled to a deduction from the amount of any income tax with which they are chargeable equal to tax at the standard rate on that excess.
  2. (2) Subsection (3) of section 4 of the Housing Act 1961 (which provides for the disallowance for accounting purposes of excessive transfers from a Housing Revenue Account to a Housing Repairs Account) shall apply for the purposes of this section as it applies for the purposes of that section.
  3. (3) For the purposes of this section sums carried from a Housing Account to the credit of a Housing Equalisation Account or from a Housing Equalisation Account to a Housing Revenue Account shall be disregarded.—[Mr. Callaghan.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time: —

The House divided: Ayes 157, Noes 188.

Division No. 148.] AYES [7.20 p.m.
Abse, Leo Harper, Joseph Padley, W. E.
Ainsley, William Hart, Mrs. Judith Parker, John
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Hayman, F. H. Parkin, B. T.
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central) Healey, Denis Pavitt, Laurence
Bacon, Miss Alice Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Barnett, Guy Herbison, Miss Margaret Peart, Frederick
Bence, Cyril Hill, J. (Midlothian) Prentice, R. E.
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Holman, Percy Probert, Arthur
Benson, Sir George Hooson, H. E. Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Blackburn, F. Houghton, Douglas Rankin, John
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Hoy, James H. Redhead, E. C.
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Reynolds, G. W.
Boyden, James Hunter, A. E. Rhodes, H.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Bradley, Tom Janner, Sir Barnett Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Ross, William
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Royle, Charles (Salford, West)
Callaghan, James Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Carmichael, Neil Kelley, Richard Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Chapman, Donald Kenyon, Clifford Sorensen, R. W.
Collick, Percy Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Corbet, Mrs. Freda King, Dr. Horace Spriggs, Leslie
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lawson, George Steele, Thomas
Cronin, John Lee, Frederick (Newton) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Crossman, R. H. S. Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Stones, William
Dalyell, Tam Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Loughlin, Charles Swingler, Stephen
Davies, Ifor (Cower) Lubbock, Eric Taverne, D.
Deer, George McBride, N. Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Dempsay, James MacColl, James Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Diamond, John MacDermot, Niall Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermilne)
Dodds, Norman McInnes, James Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. McKay, John (Wallsend) Thornton, Ernest
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mahon, Simon Thorpe, Jeremy
Edwards, Walter, (Stepney) Mallalieu. J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Tomney, Frank
Fernyhough, E. Manuel, Archie Wade, Donald
Fitch, Alan Mapp, Charles Watkins, Tudor
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Marsh, Richard Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Forman, J. C. Mason, Roy Whitlock, William
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mayhew, Christopher Wilkins, W. A.
Galpern. Sir Myer Mendelson, J. J. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
George, Lady MeganLloyd(Crmrthn) Millan, Bruce Williams, LI. (Abertillery)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Milne, Edward Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Gourlay, Harry Mitchison, G. R. Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Greenwood, Anthony Monslow, walter Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Griffiths, w. (Exchange) Moody, A, S. Winterbottom, R. E.
Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Morris, John Woof, Robert
Gunter, Ray Moyle, Arthur Wyatt, Woodrow
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) O'Malley, B. K. Zilliacus, K.
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Oram, A. E.
Hannan, William Oswald, Thomas TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Grey and Mr. McCann.
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)
Allason, James Burden, F. A. Emery, Peter
Arbuthnot, John Butcher, Sir Herbert Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn
Ashton, Sir Hubert Cary, Sir Robert Errington, Sir Eric
Atkins, Humphrey Chataway, Christopher Farey-Jones, F. W.
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Chichester-Clark, R. Fell, Anthony
Barber, Anthony Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Finlay, Graeme
Barlow, Sir John Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Fisher, Nigel
Barter, John Clarke, Brig. Terence(Portsmth, W.) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Batsford, Brian Cleaver, Leonard Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)
Bell, Ronald Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Freeth, Denzil
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Gammans, Lady
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Corfield, F. V. Gardner, Edward
Biffen, John Coulson, Michael Gibson-Watt, David
Biggs-Davison, John Crawley, Aidan Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk. Central)
Bingham, R. M. Currie, G. B. H. Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)
Bishop, F. P. Dalkeith, Earl of Glover, Sir Douglas
Bourne-Arton, A. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Goodhew, Victor
Brewis, John Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Gower, Raymond
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Drayson, G. B. Green, Alan
Browne, Percy (Torrington) du Cann, Edward Gresham Cooke, R.
Bryan, Paul Eden, Sir John Grosvenor, Lord Robert
Gurden, Harold MacArthur, Ian Sharples, Richard
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) McLaren, Martin Shepherd, William
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Skeet, T. H. H.
Harris, Reader (Heston) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Maclean,SirFitzroy(Bute&N.Ayrs) Smithers, Peter
Hastings, Stephen Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.) Speir, Rupert
Hay, John McMaster, Stanley R. Stevens, Geoffrey
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Maitland, Sir John Stodart, J. A.
Hollingworth, John Marshall, Sir Douglas Storey, Sir Samuel
Hornby, R. P. Matthews, Cordon (Meriden) Summers, Sir Spencer
Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Hughes-Young, Michael Mawby, Ray Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Hurd, Sir Anthony Mills, Stratton Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Iremonger, T. L. Miscampbell, Norman Teeling, Sir William
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) More, Jasper (Ludlow) Temple, John M.
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Morgan, William Thomas, sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Neave, Airey Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Page, John (Harrow, West) Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Page, Graham (Crosby) Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale) Turner, Colin
Kaberry, Sir Donald Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Peel, John van Straubenzee, W. R.
Kerby, Capt. Henry Percival, Ian Vane, W. M. F.
Kershaw, Anthony Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Vickers, Miss Joan
Kitson, Timothy Pilkington, Sir Richard Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Lambton, Viscount Pitman, Sir James Wakefield, Sir Wavell
Leavey, J. A. Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Walker, Peter
Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Prior, J. M. L. Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho Wall, Patrick
Linstead, Sir Hugh Rawlinson, Sir Peter Whitelaw, William
Litchfield, Capt. John Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Lloyd,Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Ridsdale, Julian Woodnutt, Mark
Longbottom, Charles Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool,S.) Woollam, John
Longden, Gilbert Robson Brown, Sir William Worsley, Marcus
Loveys, Walter H. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn Roots. William TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Scott-Hopkins James Mr. Hugh Rees and Mr. Pym.
McAdden, Sir Stephen Seymour, Leslie