HC Deb 17 June 1964 vol 696 cc1283-5

3.32 p.m.

Sir John Langford-Holt (Shrewsbury)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to exclude the revenue from parking meters from liability to taxation. The House is to continue an important debate shortly, and I shall, therefore, confine my remarks to the bare minimum and be as quick as I can in the interests of hon. Members.

The first matter to examine on this Motion is the purpose of Parliament and the Government in providing parking meters. Different people have different views, but, within certain limits, the purposes of Parliament and the Government are, in my view identical; first, that the highway should not be used as a long-term parking place; secondly, that a charge should be made to discourage this habit; and, thirdly, that the money thus provided should be used for the purpose of providing off-street parking places.

When we look more closely at the problem we find that it is the aim of the Government, by classing parking meter operations as trading, and by taxing the net income of those operations, to force local authorities into creating losses by spending money on building garages. In 1959, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) was Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, he said: The present structure is such that there is the greatest possible incentive for local authorities which are collecting motor revenue to build some off-street garages …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1959, Vol. 608, c. 412.] This was a fairly clear statement of what the Government had in mind. My right hon. Friend referred to "off-street garages" and at some appropriate time I should be interested to know his definition of an off-street garage.

The results of this policy have been very nearly nonsensical. Out of every 6d. which goes into a parking meter 1⅓d. is expended on the setting up and maintaining of the scheme, loan charges on meters, their size and carriageway markings. I am quoting from a Ministry of Transport Press notice. Another 1d. goes on administration expenses and 1⅔d. goes on enforcement—the wages of the attendants and wardens. Thus, 4d. is expended on these necessary expenses. Of the 2d. which is left, ½d. is taken by the Inland Revenue as tax. That means that if Income Tax were not deducted, there would be an increase in the revenue by one-third from the present level.

I could quote examples from London's boroughs to show that the result of all this has been that off-street parking facilities are not being provided, as was intended. What happens is that local authorities notice that the Government take 25 per cent. of the net income and accept the fact that it will take just that much longer to provide the off-street parking facilities that Parliament intended should be provided from the revenue; with the alternative that the authorities could create large financial liabilities for themselves and for their ratepayers.

Up to a point, the aim of Parliament was the same as that of the Government. We had in mind that the highway was not a place where long-term parking could be permitted; that a charge should be made to discourage it and that the net income should go to provide off-street parking. From inquiries which I have made I am certain that hon. Members never thought that the revenue would be subject to taxation. It was thought that all the net income from parking meters would be devoted to the provision of off-street parking facilities. This, in my view, was a condition of the support of hon. Members for the scheme and of motoring organisations as well, grudging though that support may have been.

Parliament intended, and still intends, I submit, that this should be done. It never intended that the meters should feed the Inland Revenue. In parenthesis, I might say that Parliament would probably be more reluctant to approve increasing meter charges if it were known that a greater proportion of that increase would be devoted to benefiting the tax man. If I am wrong in my view about what Parliament thought, then I hope that permission to introduce my Bill will be denied to me. If I am right, I hope that the House will grant me that right.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir J. Langford-Holt, Mr. Maude, Sir H. Linstead, Mr. Hocking, and Sir R. Russell.