HC Deb 07 April 1965 vol 710 cc480-1
32. Mr. George Y. Mackie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he proposes to take in the light of the adverse effect on the economy of the Highlands of the petrol tax increase.

Mr. Ross

The prosperity of the Highlands is linked with the national economy which the increase in petrol tax is designed to safeguard. Moreover, the Highlands have for many years needed much more radical measures than could be afforded by marginal reliefs in petrol tax, even if this were practicable. These radical measures are now being provided in the Highland Development Bill and in our policies for national and regional development.

Mr. Mackie

May I draw the Secretary of State's attention to the fact that transport is absolutely basic to development here; and that he should be considering schemes to help even in small ways: that a rebate scheme would be possible in the Highlands on a basis of a rebate, perhaps, in relation to commercial vehicles; that it will be some time before the Highland Development Board comes in, and that, in the meantime, costs are rising, and will rise further with the addition to vehicle licences?

Mr. Ross

I can see in the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question a very good speech on the Budget.

Mr. MacArthur

There is a serious matter here. The Secretary of State must be aware that this steep increase in petrol duty has been followed by a swingeing increase in the duty payable on commercial vehicles and tractors. Is he not aware that this places a particularly heavy burden on the Scottish economy? Is he not aware that this is a further continual increase in taxes on transport, which is basic to Scotland's progress and needs? Is he further aware that this is yet another flagrant breach of his party's election pledges—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Secretary of State had better express his awareness or unawareness as far as we have got.

Mr. Ross

I must confess that the hon. Gentleman was so synthetically indignant that I just could not hear what he was saying.