§ 3.44 p.m.
§ The Chairman
I have a brief statement to make. The advance notice of selections of Amendments that I have made, and caused to be put on the Notice Board, is a courtesy which my predecessors introduced. I have, however, been a little troubled to see hon. Members crowding round the single duplicated copy of the selected Amendments in the "No" Lobby. I have, therefore, today had two copies put in the "No" Lobby and two on the notice board in the Ways and Means corridor. I hope that this will help hon. Members a little, but I must point out that it applies only to the Finance Bill.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin (Wanstead and Woodford)
On a point of order, Dr. King. As this paper is duplicated, would it not be possible to provide sufficient copies for hon. Members each to have one?
§ The Chairman
I have thought of that, too. The difficulty is that it is a matter of courtesy from the Chair to hon. Members. There is no reason why the Chair should not announce the selection as he makes it at the point of time when the Clauses or the Amendments on them are about to be discussed. This is a courtesy. If I went along the lines that the hon. Member has suggested, I would probably be cramping the Chair, because the Chair has to make decisions on selection very often in the morning. It would probably mean that both sides received notice of my selection much later than they receive it under the present arrangement. I think that this is about as far as I can go.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
Further to that point of order, Dr. King. As I know that the Amendments to be moved from this side are all sensible and acceptable, would it not be a good idea if a copy 1674 of the selections appeared in the "Aye" Lobby as well as in the "No" Lobby?
§ The Chairman
Apart from the political quip that the hon. Member makes, there is no place in the "Aye" Lobby—I have examined it.
§ The next Amendment selected is No. 89, and I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if, with that Amendment, we took the following Amendments:
§ Amendment No. 11, in Clause 5, page 3, line 36, at end insert: "except farmers' goods vehicles".
§ Amendment No. 18, in Schedule 5, page 124, leave out lines 17 to 24.
§ Amendment No. 19, in page 124, leave out lines 18 to 24.
§ Amendment No. 90, in page 124, line 39, at end insert:
|4. Dual purpose vehicles (as defined in Construction and Use Regulations 1963)||—||2 tons||17||10||0||—|
§ Amendment No. 91, in page 125, line 15, column 1, after "vehicles", insert "other than farmers' goods vehicles and dual purpose vehicles".
§ Amendment No. 92, in page 125, line 17, at end insert:
|3. Farmers' goods vehicles||—||2½ tons||9||0||0|
|2½ tons||4 tons||13||10||0|
|Dual purpose vehicles||—||2 tons||9||0||0|
§ I am prepared to consider a Division on Amendment No. 90, if hon. Members so desire.
§ Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Cornwall, North)
I beg to move Amendment No. 89, in page 123, line 33, column 4, to leave out "3 15 0" and insert "2 10 0".
As you have said, Dr. King, the Amendments in this group can go happily together because they all deal with agricultural questions and, in particular, with the increased charges which the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer 1675 have imposed on the agricultural industry. These increased charges affect four separate categories. The first consists of tractors, combines, and so on; the second, of farm goods vehicles; the third, of dual purpose vehicles; and the fourth, of trailers.
On the first category, that of tractors and farm machines, the Chancellor has imposed a 50 per cent. rise in duty. This goes up from £2 10s. to £3 15s. Yet these tractors are the absolutely essential "workhorses" of the modern farm. Without a tractor it is impossible for the modern farmer to carry out farming efficiently. I need not remind the Committee of the tremendous increase in productivity which has taken place on our farms in the last decade. To a large extent that has been due to the modern type of machinery on the farms, yet the Chancellor wants to increase the duty on these vehicles by 50 per cent. It is an utterly wrong thing to do, because it means taxing the most important machine which does a great deal of work for the farmer and without which he cannot manage.
I see no point whatever in putting on the extra 50 per cent. charge for something which the farmer has to use as it is an absolute necessity. It is true that there is an exception. If the farmer uses the machine on the public highway to the extent of only 6 miles a week he is excused payment of the duty, but that would apply to so very few farmers and tractors that it is not worth considering. The vast majority of tractors, combines, and so on, are employed to travel more than 6 miles a week on a public road, so the imposition will fall on the majority of farmers.
The result will be a rise in costs of about £1½ million, a rise which those in the industry have no means whatever of recouping. The increased cost may be more than £½ million, but that is the latest figure I have been able to adduce for a financial year. We cannot help wondering why this has been imposed on this section of the community. The whole Committee must agree about the industry's record of productivity. The Chancellor seems to think that there is an excess profit margin to be taken out of the industry and siphoned off. This strange argument must be the basis of the Government's case.
1676 Under the recent Price Review farmers were left with an increased burden of £19 million. Now they are asked to carry this further burden. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that there is no excess profit to be creamed off this industry. Many farmers are living at a low level of income—lower than we should like to see—and nothing has happened in the last few months to give them help.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Mackie)
We have given them considerable encouragement.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
As the Joint Parliamentary Secretary knows, the increased cost was £20 million last year and farmers are left with a burden of £19 million. In addition, there is the increase of at least £½ million. This can be described as a direct tax on the efficiency of the farmer. Do the Government, the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretaries mean what they say when they talk about encouraging farm efficiency and productivity and intend to expand the efficient production? This is a sure way of doing exactly the opposite. This will be no encouragement at all.
By the first Amendment we ask that the level of charge should revert to £2 10s. The second group of Amendments concerns farmers' goods vehicles. In this connection, the Chancellor has done a most extraordinary thing. He has played around with the scale and divided it into different divisions of imposition on goods vehicles, and imposed an addition to the 1961 vehicle tax. The effect of the changes in this sector will be to put an increase on farmers' goods vehicles amounting to just under 60 per cent. Last night we heard of the effect of the savage increases on the road haulage section. There will be a similar effect in this connection, but it will be more severe.
The farmer uses his goods vehicles to a lesser extent than those who have vehicles for public hire. He uses them to carry goods about the farm and also to the market where he is selling goods. Often these vehicles lie idle for a great part of the year not because the farmer is inefficient, but because of the nature of the industry. It is particularly significant that for the type and kind of vehicle 1677 ranging from 12 cwt. to 1¼ tons, such as the majority of farmers have, the increases amount to 60.4 per cent., 58.8 per cent. and 59.3 per cent. This savage rise must be motivated by the Chancellor's wish to siphon off excess profits which, in his theoretical calculations, exist in the farming industry. Of course, that is not so and this charge will have the exactly reverse effect.
Again this will mean a rise of about £½ million, and it may be even more. The farmer who has to pay these increased charges may well hesitate to do so, but, if he turns to the public carrier to take his goods he will find that the costs there have risen and in that case he will have to bear increased charges. This seems to be a pointless kind of rise, right out of proportion to what it should be. On the whole, farmers do not use these vehicles so much as other owners of road vehicles use them. It is, therefore, an even greater burden on the farmer who has no means of recoupment of the cost.
This will be a direct increase in costs and there will be no hope of recouping it until the coming Price Review. If there is still a Socialist Government in power the farmer will then be very lucky if he can get recoupment.
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
My hon. Friend has said that the farmer has no hope of recoupment until next year's Price Review. I should remind him that the great majority of these vehicles belong to horticulturists, who have no hope whatever even after the Price Review.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
My hon. Friend has made a good point. It is quite true that those in the horticulture industry will not have a chance of recouping this cost. They are not having an easy time of it at the moment. This is a bad tax; I can think of nothing to its credit. In our Amendment we suggest reverting to the position as it was under Schedule 6 of the 1962 Act.
The next group of Amendments concerns dual-purpose vehicles. Many farmers have such vehicles as the Land Rover and the Austin Gypsy, and find them most useful. Until the Chancellor imposed this savage cut a farmer had an opportunity of choosing at which rate of duty he should license his vehicle. On 1678 a vehicle weighing 1 ton to 1½ ton the increase is from £13 10s. or £14 5s. to £21 10s.
As it was dual purpose he could, if he chose, license it at the private vehicle rate which, until the Budget, was £15. He had the choice of whichever was the highest and in that case he could use it for either purpose. The majority paid the private vehicle rate of £15 and used their vehicles for both purposes. They were used to take the family about, and at other times were used for carrying farm produce. The effect of the Budget proposal is to raise the rate of tax to £21 10s. for this type of vehicle. The lightest vehicle will cost £20 15s. to license, but the majority will fall in the £21 10s. range. There is no question of being able to license the vehicle at the private rate of £17 10s., because this is lower than the existing rate.
As a result of these provisions, farmers, agriculturists, and horticulturists will not choose the higher rate. They will license their vehicles at the private vehicle rate of £17 10s. They will use their vehicles as private vehicles, and only occasionally attach a trailer to them. This cannot be right, because these dual-purpose vehicles are a tremendous economy. They help the farmer by making it unnecessary for him to have a second vehicle. I think, too, that these provisions will be detrimental to the sale of these dual-purpose vehicles.
Our proposal is not to go back to the pre-Budget position of £15 for a licence, but, as suggested in Amendment No. 90, that the rate of duty for the dual-purpose vehicle should be that for a private vehicle, namely, £17 10s. This seems to be the right level. It will encourage the farmer to continue the existing practice of using dual-purpose vehicles as economically as possible. It is impossible to estimate what the cost will be if the Treasury do not accept the Amendment, because no comparable figures are available.
The last group is that of trailers. It is here that we see the biggest rise of all in the tax impositions that we are discussing. The existing rate for trailers, with the vehicles which tow them, ranges from £25 10s. to £27. That is for towing vehicles between 12 cwt. and 1½ tons, with a trailer of less than 2½tons. The 1679 Chancellor proposes to increase those figures to £39 10s. This is an enormous increase, and amounts to £14 or £12 10s., depending on the type of vehicle involved. If one has a jeep, a Land Rover, or an Austin Gypsy, the increase in the tax to be paid is tremendous, yet trailers are not used every day and all day. By the very nature of farming and horticulture, they are not constantly in use. They are bound to lie idle, just as farmers' goods vehicles lie idle.
There is no means whereby the farmer or the horticulturist can recoup his costs. He cannot recoup them by making increased use of his trailer, and this is, therefore, a specially heavy burden on the farming industry, and on the horticultural industry as well. We propose that the rate should be cut by 50 per cent. We propose that the rate for dual-purpose vehicles should be £9 if it is to tow a trailer, and that the rate for the ordinary goods vehicle towing a trailer should be that laid down in Amendment No. 92.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (Central Ayrshire)
Can the hon. Gentleman explain why butchers are not included? Surely they should be?
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Member must not follow the red herring which has been dangled across the Floor of the Committee.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
I have yet to see butchers carrying red meat in trailers.
This heavy increase in the duty on vehicles is quite unwarranted, and I suggest that it would be fair and equitable to cut the proposed rate by 50 per cent. There is no doubt that these impositions on the farming community are harsh and unnecessary. What is more important, the industry cannot afford to carry them. It has no possible chance of recouping this increase until the 1966 Price Review, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) pointed out, the horticultural industry has no chance whatever of recouping it. There is just not the margin within the agricultural industry to be able continually to absorb increased costs.
1680 It has had to absorb an increase of £19 million as a result of the last Price Review, and this is the final straw which could break the camel's back. I am glad that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is present. He will know the feeling of disquiet in the farming community. I gather that his right hon. Friend has gone to Devon this afternoon. I am certain that he will be told exactly what Devon farmers think, not only about the £19 million increase, but also, about the increase which the Chancellor is imposing here.
We are discussing an increased burden of between £1½ million and £2 million during a full financial year. This increase is in addition to the increase of £6 million which the industry is being asked to meet in fuel tax. If one bears in mind the burden of £19 million increased costs which has occurred over the last 12 months, one realises that this proposed tax is indeed a bad one.
Just before the Committee rose last night, the Chancellor, when moving that we should report Progress, wondered whether we would find more quotations to prolong the proceedings. I have looked back to discover what members of the party opposite said when last there were increases in the duty on vehicles. The last time this happened was in 1961, and I find that Mr. Mitchison, as he then was, speaking from this Box, said:I now turn to the other classes who are affected by the proposed increase. I take, first, the farmer. It always seems to me that indirect taxes on farmers should be considered closely, for this reason. Often they result in an increase in the farmer's expenditure one way or another and the necessity of the recovery, or partial recovery, of the increase under the Price Review … I suppose that the effect will be to increase the inevitable expenditure on a modern farm of any size and to increase it under the heading of expenditure on tractors or other motor vehicles of one kind or another. An increase of that kind will, in the long run, come back to the ordinary consumer.—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 1st June, 1961: Vol. 641, c. 429.]He went on to argue that it was a bad idea, and should not be done. I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will ponder the wisdom of the words of his noble Friend. This is a bad tax. It will come back to the consumer, who is already being asked to bear enough 1681 by way of rising costs without having this extra burden imposed.
It is a pity that the Government are imposing this tax. The Chancellor won his battle over the Price Review. I am sorry that the Minister of Agriculture did not manage to squeeze a small concession out of him with regard to these taxes. He ought to have obtained an exemption for the agricultural and horticultural industries, and what we are doing is asking the Government to provide such exemptions. We believe that they need it. We believe that in the past they have done a great deal for this country by increasing their productivity. Their productivity and efficiency is now being taxed unfairly. That is why I recommend the Amendments to the Committee.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Niall MacDermot)
I am not attempting to shut out any hon. Members from the debate. The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) introduced the Amendments with brevity, and great force and clarity, and I thought that it might help—if the Committee wishes to proceed with greater despatch—if I were to state the Government's position on the Amendments and so help those who are to follow. I shall be quite ready to listen to the arguments of hon. Members, and, with the leave of the Committee, to speak again.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman take into account the fact that he is prejudging the situation without hearing all the arguments? Out of courtesy to the Committee he should listen to representatives of farming interests for an hour or so and then come to a judgment on what should be done. He should not attempt to prejudge the situation.
§ Mr. MacDermot
I can assure the hon. Member that I shall not do any of those things. I shall listen with the greatest patience to what is said. I sat on this Bench for eight hours non-stop yesterday, and shall be prepared to do the same today. I shall listen to what the hon. Member has to say, and I hope that he may derive some help from what I have to say.
The Amendments which have been proposed ask not that we should grant a concession, but that we should grant a further concession in respect of agricultural 1682 vehicles. We grant a concession by continuing the existing principle which operates in favour of agricultural machinery and farmers' goods vehicles—a concession which is greater than other concessions, such as that which showman's vehicles enjoy.
The hon. Member divided his argument into four parts, and I will follow his order. Generally speaking, my right hon. Friend is proposing to make a 50 per cent. increase in the duties applicable to agricultural machinery and farm vehicles. The hon. Member referred to an increase of 60 per cent. in respect of goods vehicles. In fact, there are increases of 59 per cent. in respect of certain classes of vehicle, but that is not the general order of increase. The difference arises from the fact that we have taken this opportunity to shorten and simplify the scales, and because the new scales rise in 4 cwt. steps to 1 ton, and in 5 cwt. steps thereafter, whereas there were previously 5 cwt. steps throughout, we cannot have exactly the same percentage increases throughout.
The position is that the increases vary between 50 per cent. and 59 per cent. There are cases where it is as much as 59 per cent., namely, where vehicles are between 16 cwt. and 17 cwt. and between 20 cwt. and 22 cwt. In all other cases the increase is either 50 per cent. or 51 per cent.
§ Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)
The hon. and learned Gentleman may be coming to this point, but I wonder whether he can tell the Committee what is the estimated cost of these increases, both to the agricultural and the horticultural industry.
§ Mr. MacDermot
Taking the whole lot, including all vehicles used in the industry, the increase is about £1.8 million. Of that figure, agricultural machinery constitutes about £500,000. That is the agricultural machinery which falls within Part II of Schedule 5. On the first category to which the hon. Member referred there is a 50 per cent. increase on a very modest rate of duty. The duty of £2 10s. has been increased to £3 15s.
I would remind the Committee of the principle underlying this concession. It is not a concession designed to help 1683 agriculture. The principle underlying it is the same as that which applies to showmen's vehicles, namely, that a case has been established on the ground that farmers frequently employ vehicles which have only a very limited road use. A vehicle or certain machinery may be used mostly on a farm but it may be occasionally used on the road, either to go between farms which are separated by a few miles or to bring goods to market, or to fetch stores. There is a complete exemption for vehicles or machinery used for up to a limit of 6 miles per week on the road.
This exemption covers the case only of those farmers whose land lies on two sides of the same road, or whose land is split up into areas lying very close together. Some farmers own areas of land which are several miles apart, which means that their vehicles travel more than six miles a week on the roads. Even there the use of these vehicles on the roads is fairly limited. It was to meet that sort of case, and because of the justice of that case, that the concession was made for agricultural vehicles.
The benefit of this concession, however, extends to vehicles which are used in an entirely different way. This benefit extends throughout horticulture. We know that some horticulturists who operate in a large way send their lorries every night on a long-distance drive to Covent Garden or some other market. These are not agricultural vehicles in the ordinary sense of the term; they are long-distance haulage vehicles. If such a horticulturist were to contract with a haulage contractor to do exactly the same journey a very heavy rate of duty would have to be paid, but if he uses his own vehicles and does his own haulage he enjoys this substantial concession.
I can give an example which is applicable to 4-tonners, but I do not have the figures before me at the moment. The position is, however, that haulage contractors are already protesting at the concession which is being enjoyed by vehicles which really are nothing less than long-distance haulage vehicles. This presents a real problem in our approach to the matter, when we try to see how we can help the farmer—or at least not to put an undue burden upon the farmer—who 1684 is making only a very limited use of his vehicles. I have just been handed the figures. For a 4-tonner a haulage contractor pays a duty of £90, whereas a farmer pays a duty of £32.
§ Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)
Are the mileage figures in any way comparable? Surely that is the question.
§ Mr. MacDermot
That is the case that I am making; the figures are comparable. I know a horticulturist in South Lincolnshire who runs a lorry several times a week to Covent Garden and back. The mileage done by that vehicle must be very substantial. The case is obviously comparable with that of a haulage contractor. I am not suggesting that this applies throughout the industry. That is the problem. A concession which was granted to meet a deserving case extends at the moment into a category of user in such a way as to excite the envy of, and to cause protests from, others in a comparable position.
§ Mr. Hill
With respect, I think that people do not understand the full position. Much time is spent by the Government in seeking ways to help the horticultural industry, as my hon. Friend has mentioned. Surely this is one small way that some help could be given, with no great administrative trouble, to an industry which has no support and no recoupment.
§ Mr. MacDermot
I wish to remind the Committee that it is not the purpose of the concession to single out a particular industry. If we started to do that, as hon. Members will realise, pressure on this or any other Government would be exerted by every sort of industry. The argument would be advanced that they were going through a period of difficulty. The Government would be told, "Because you granted a special concession to farmers to help the farming industry, you ought to grant a special concession to help our industry."
That is not the point. A perfectly proper case may be made out for vehicles on the ground of excise licences, if it is possible to show that a vehicle will be used on the roads to only a very limited extent. That is the case made out by showmen, and in respect of some agricultural vehicles.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman does not wish to mislead the Committee, but surely no efficient agriculturist crops every day of the year. It is wrong to give the impression to the Committee that it happens other than two or three times in 12 months.
§ Mr. MacDermot
I can assure the hon. Member that some of these vehicles travel very considerable distances for many months of the year.
§ Mr. Timothy Kitson (Richmond, Yorks)
I agree that there are a number of vehicles, although it is only a handful which are used every day. It is only a very small percentage. I am sure that the Financial Secretary will agree that it is an infinitesimal percentage which are used every day.
§ Mr. MacDermot
I cannot accept that it is only an infinitesimal percentage of all the vehicles which enjoy this concession and which, strictly speaking, cannot be regarded as having only a limited road use, when one compares them with other commercial vehicles, tradesmen's vehicles—we have had a reference to the butcher's vehicle—which have a limited road use.
§ Mr. Kitson
Has the hon. and learned Gentleman any figures to produce? He says that it is only a small amount, but what are the figures?
§ Sir Martin Redmayne (Rushcliffe)
The hon. and learned Gentleman is putting the Committee in great difficulty. He says that the Government have received complaints from the road hauliers to support the argument he is using. From where have these complaints come? With what figures are they substantiated? I do not see how the right hon. Gentleman can expect to make his point unless he can produce that kind of evidence.
§ Mr. MacDermot
I cannot accept the intervention of the hon. Gentleman. From his experience he will know perfectly well that one gets representations on these natters. It does not follow that one is at liberty to disclose all the discussions. In any event, these questions 1686 may not be capable of statistical proof. One of his hon. Friends conceded the point, which other hon. Members sought to deny, that there are vehicles which are doing a substantial road mileage and in respect of which the owners enjoy the benefit of the concession at present.
The first category of vehicles, agricultural machines, enjoy an enormous concession. They pay a low rate of duty and I do not think that it can be seriously suggested that a 50 per cent. increase from £2 10s. to £3 15s. can be regarded as oppressive, bearing in mind that the requirement for this duty, spread over the whole of vehicle users, is to raise additional revenue in the national interest. It is obviously not right to single out a particular class of vehicle for preference and say to the owners, "You are to enjoy the benefit of no increase in duty when everyone else will pay additional duty". I suggest there is no case in respect of that class of vehicle.
The second class relates to farmers' goods vehicles. This is where the greatest difficulty arises, because it is such a wide and all-embracing class. At one end of the scale it includes vehicles which may be used on the road to only a very small degree; at the other end there may be vehicles used almost constantly; and in the middle a large number of vehicles which have a substantial road use, and in respect of which the owners enjoy the benefit of a concession. I think it doubtful whether there would be a strong case for continuing the concession if the matter were analysed when comparing them with many other road vehicles. There would certainly be no case for increasing the concession, which is what we are being asked to do, by exempting them from the additional duty.
The third group of Amendments deals with dual-purpose vehicles. The practice has always been, in respect of dual-purpose vehicles—things like shooting brakes and Land Rovers—that if the owner wishes to use the vehicle for both purposes, for carrying goods and as a private vehicle, he is free to do so and will have to pay only one duty—whichever is the higher of the two duties for the two uses to which he puts the vehicle. We are applying exactly the same principle. Dual-purpose vehicles 1687 will continue to be subject to the payment of the one duty which is the higher of the two.
Previously, the private use carried the higher rate in respect of many of these vehicles. Now and in future—and, as the Committee may think, more logically—in all cases the goods vehicle user will carry the higher rate. I cannot see that there is any injustice in requiring that if a farmer chooses to have a dual-purpose vehicle, and use it for carrying goods, he should be expected to pay the appropriate goods rate.
When a person carries goods in a trailer behind a dual-purpose vehicle the position is unchanged. Previously, he had to pay the normal trailer addition on top of the duty for the dual-purpose vehicle. He will continue to have to do that—I do not quarrel with the figures given by the hon. Gentleman—subject, broadly speaking again, to a 50 per cent. increase.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins indicated dissent.
§ Mr. MacDermot
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but an increase from £25 10s. to £39 10s. is a little over 50 per cent. and I suggest that there is nothing harsh or oppressive about it.
The hon. Gentleman pointed out that farmers would be free to tow goods in a trailer behind a private vehicle which was not a goods vehicle or a dual-purpose vehicle without attracting any additional trailer duty. There is no change about that. It may seem anomalous, but I will not hold that against anyone.
The real problem—if the National Farmers' Union or anyone else would like to discuss it further I shall be glad to enter into talks to see whether any kind of solution can be found to it—arises in respect of a small farmer who has a goods vehicle which he uses only occasionally on the roads, perhaps to take produce to a local market. I have a great deal of sympathy with the small farmer in this problem. I am prepared to consider this aspect of the question further before the Report stage of the Bill to see whether anything can be done.
From the advice I have had there are real difficulties here, first, in defining the class of vehicle so as to be able to confine 1688 it to vehicles which genuinely fall within the limited use category. There are also many other administrative problems that would arise and the drawing up of appropriate scales. I am certainly not making any promises, because I am aware how, in complicated matters of this kind, hastily considered Amendments only lead to anomalies. If hon. Members can accept what I say, and that I cannot go beyond that, I will gladly bear the case in mind and look further at it.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Is the Financial Secretary saying that he will have talks with the farmers and their organisations about vehicles up to a 1½ tons to see whether a concession can be made to farmers if they do not use their vehicle for all the year? Is this the category that he is talking about?
§ Mr. MacDermot
I do not want to be tied to a particular weight. It is the small class of goods vehicle I have in mind. I would like to see whether it is possible to find a way of defining a category of vehicles which genuinely can be shown to be vehicles which have only a limited road use.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
Is the Financial Secretary saying that he is putting up these rates very considerably because of representations from the Road Haulage Association, as a result of a very small minority of cases where some horticultural farmers compete with road hauliers? It seems to be a complete travesty of justice that the whole of the agricultural industry should suffer a large blow because of that.
§ Mr. MacDermot
It is not because of the arguments of the road haulage industry. We are aware of the situation. It is also a relevant factor that other people are complaining.
§ Mr. Turton
I want to confine myself to the question of farmer's machines, where the Financial Secretary surprisingly says that there is no case at all because he says it is only a small amount. This is a tax on farming implements and that is why it is so very unjust. Not only that, the Financial Secretary glibly says it is only a rise of 50 per cent. It is the kind of penalty we have to pay for having this Government.
1689 This is a rise from 1960 of 700 per cent. in this particular duty. It was raised in the 1961 Finance Act and now it is raised again by 50 per cent. I would point out to him that the overall mileage of these tractors or combines is probably about 100 miles per year. This is putting a penalty on the farmer of about 9d. a mile in excise duty for every mile. Yesterday, the Financial Secretary gave us a lot of figures. The duty on a goods vehicle was 1¼d. a ton mile and on heavy goods vehicles one-tenth of 1d. a mile. The private motorist running at 10,000 miles a year is probably paying at the rate of 1½d. a mile.
That shows that there is something wrong in the taxation of farm implements by this method and on that argument the easiest way is to do away with this increase and keep it at £2 10s. If this is not possible and that argument is defeated I ask the Financial Secretary to consider this question from the point of view of exemption.
The hon. and learned Gentleman says that if they run no more than 6 miles in a week they can claim exemption. That does not work, because during certain weeks of- the year, at harvest time, for example, a tractor is working on the roads for more than 6 miles. Otherwise the harvest cannot be brought in. That is why that exemption provision has never worked properly. I ask the Government to reconsider this matter, because what is really happening is that small farmers in difficult and out of the way districts are being penalised by this particular provision. Their land is more scattered and they are having to go on to the roads whereas farmers in the big arable areas do not have to go on to the roads to the same extent.
I should have thought that the way to tackle this problem would be to grant exemption not for a maximum in any one week, but to say that if a tractor was used outside a radius of, say, 5 miles from the farm, it should have to pay taxation. If it was within the radius of 5 miles then it should not be liable for tax. That would help these small hill farmer; and I think that it is a right way of taxing them.
If we have a measure of exemption of that nature on the Report stage farmers 1690 would then feel that their farm implements were not being so heavily taxed. This is particularly true of combines, which hardly ever use the road, but which, at harvest time, travel more than 6 miles during the week on the road. Although they are used for only three or four weeks in the year they are having to pay tax because during those weeks they are on the roads for more than 6 miles per week.
Farmers' goods vehicles generally could use the exemption or remission. If the farmers goods vehicles were used within a wider radius than 5 miles, say, 15 or 20 miles, then they should have a relief of tax as suggested. I believe that this method of radius is better than looking at any one week in the year and taxing on that basis.
§ Mr. Kitson
I am sorry that the Financial Secretary came into the debate when he did, because I think that he has tended to prolong the debate. On the point of what I said about lorries using the road regularly, I admitted that there were a few which did. I have the largest constituency in England and I do not know of a single constituent of mine whom I could put into that category. It is only a very small percentage.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) dealt with this very well. I thoroughly agree with him. It is most unsatisfactory to have the agricultural industry singled out to bear this substantial additional tax burden, following such an unsatisfactory Price Review. It was only last week that the Minister of Transport came to my constituency and opened a new motorway. I hope that he will bear in mind that every time a new motorway is put down through the country it very often splits farms in half and that farmers are forced to go on to the highways.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) that if we had a radius instead of a 6-mile limit it would be much more satisfactory. It is nonsense that this cannot be properly policed. Any legislation which cannot be seen to be carried out properly is not worth the paper which it is written on. I defy most farmers who are on the borderline to know 1691 whether their tractors run 5½ or 6½ miles on the road from one week to another.
It is unsatisfactory to impose this additional 50 per cent. licence on tractors at this time. I hope that the Government will reconsider this position and accept the Amendment. I am sure that, when the Financial Secretary has heard the arguments to be advanced from this side, he will agree that it is grossly unfair at this time to tax agriculture once more, especially at this very high additional level.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie (Caithness and Sutherland)
I do not want to repeat all the arguments which have been adduced and which will be adduced, about the burden on agriculture of the extra tax on farmers' vehicles. It will be very large. It will be a great aggravation to farmers on top of the Price Review, which farmers consider, rightly in most people's view, to be a very bad one.
I want to bring out another aspect on which the Amendment touches and to which the Financial Secretary should have regard in the light of the Budget. I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is trying to take some money out of the economy, to deflate the economy. It is arguable whether increasing the taxes on heavy goods vehicles will help him. There is no argument at all but that it is ridiculous to raise taxation on farmers' goods vehicles. The Minister of Agriculture and his Parliamentary Secretaries have repeatedly assured us that they stand by the 1947 and 1957 Acts, which state that farmers' increased costs will be taken into account at the Price Review.
This is taking money away from farmers for a period of time to give it back to them at the next Price Review—that is, if the Government mean what they say about standing by the 1957 Act. What is being done is borrowing money from farmers for a year. This is not a logical thing to do, in view of the rise in bank advances to the farming industry. There is an old saying in Scotland, "Ye canna tak the breeks off a Hielander". This is apparently what the Government are doing. They should seriously consider the Amendment, because this increase in tax will ultimately thwart their intentions.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I entirely disagree with the impression which hon. Members opposite are conveying to farmers that they are the farmers' friends. Hon. Members opposite are not the farmers' friends. They are the landlords' friends. I never hear hon. Members opposite asking that farmers should be in any way relieved of the burden of rent. I am still waiting to see an Amendment calculated to help the farmer as against the landlord.
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie) mentioned the Price Review. This series of Amendments would mean less money for the Treasury. If by any chance they were all carried, there would not be any money to pay the farmers at the next Price Review. Where is the £300 million to come from? This shows the sheer irresponsibility of hon. Members opposite. They realise that a large sum of money has to be found for agriculture. I criticised the Price Review, because I believed that not enough was given to dairy farmers. I stand by that contention. We cannot have tax-free farmers. This series of suggested concessions would only create discontent among the agricultural community.
There is the question of anomalies. If a tax concession were given to the farmer, others in the village who distribute agricultural produce would have a case, too. If special concessions were given to farmers, butchers would say, "We have to take part in distributing meat. Have not we a right to concessions?"
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the Financial Secretary that these were special concessions given to farmers?
§ Mr. Hughes
They are special concessions, but there can be special concessions and unreasonable special concessions. Reasonable farmers realise that they are citizens as well and that they have to pay their share of taxation, which is very heavy. The farmers I represent are very concerned about the very heavy taxation it is necessary for farmers to pay to provide the £2,152 million for defence. They say that we are sacrificing green fields to Blue Streaks. A large sum of money has to be paid by the community 1693 as citizens. I believe that the farmer should receive every possible concession. If hon. Members opposite want to prove the genuineness of their concern for farmers, they can start by reducing their rents. When that happens, I shall believe that they are the farmers' friends.
I could make out a special case for the butcher in the main street and the butcher in the village. Indeed, I could put up a special case for the fisherman, for the fish merchant, and for red herrings.
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Gentleman can put up a special case for the butcher, but not on this Amendment. He can argue against the Amendment, but he cannot argue for the butcher.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am not arguing for any concession to the red herring merchant. Unfortunately, I would classify many of the arguments of hon. Members opposite as red herring arguments. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland knows the villages of Scotland. He knows that in the village street there are people selling agricultural produce. There are special concessions for the milkman. If special concessions are to be given to the milkman—the same concessions as are being demanded here—I could argue, if it were in order, for special concessions for the greengrocer.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie
The milkman has not special concessions. His income is guaranteed by the Government on a cost-plus basis.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Gentleman is now introducing another red herring. He is introducing red herrings into the milk. All sorts of very pertinent questions would be asked by the butcher and the milkman. What about the greengrocer? The undertaker might very well ask for concessions. Everybody who used a vehicle in a village community would want to know why this very special concession should be given to farmers.
I agree that agriculture is a very important industry which deserves our support, but I do not think that we are entitled to ask for individual concessions, because, after all, there are very many industries which do not get the tax 1694 concessions on their machinery that the farmer does.
I think, therefore, that hon. Members opposite are irresponsible in making these demands and creating ill-feeling in the countryside against the farmer. There is an anti-farmer complex growing up as a result of Opposition Members overstating their case purely for political purposes.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I have followed in debate the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) on many occasions over many years, but I regret to say that he is just not on form today. He was trying to back up the Government a little and then he suddenly remembered that there were dairy farmers in Ayrshire and he had to say something on their behalf. He has, therefore, had the worst of all the arguments. If the hon. Member makes many more speeches of that kind this week, the farmers, and the distillers, whom we discussed the other day, will have a good deal to say to him when next he goes North.
The Financial Secretary treats the Committee with great courtesy and patience. He has a long way to go yet and I hope that he will retain those qualities to the end, but with great respect to him, as an eminent lawyer, I think that the brief given to him by the Treasury is not a very good one. This is a complicated matter. The 6-mile limit on tractors is a bad thing. The present Government cannot be blamed for it but, as has been said, if the tractors cannot be policed what is the point of having the limit? How many farmers have speedometers on their tractors and know whether the tractor travels 6 or 8 miles on the roads in a week? This is a matter which should be looked into.
There is a very strong case for exempting the tractor from this new impost. The Financial Secretary may find it difficult to differentiate goods vehicles used by farmers from goods vehicles used in other industries but the tractor case is clear-cut. I know a case where a tractor crosses a road once a week and otherwise is never on the public highway at all. The Financial Secretary may say that this is not a great increase from £2 10s. to £3 15s., but at the moment the 1695 small farmers are very hard pushed. They are getting a pretty miserable time at the hands of the Government.
Yesterday, we had 75 farmers from Cheshire meeting us upstairs and I have never before seen them in the mood that they were in. [Laughter.] This is not funny. They are unable to obtain loans or increase overdrafts and their costs are going up. I would tell the hon. Member for South Ayrshire that the difference between the greengrocer and the small farmer is that the greengrocer can charge what he likes whilst the milk producer, for example, has his prices fixed. He is receiving the same price for his milk today as he was receiving 16 years ago, and in some cases less.
Many farmers are having an extremely rough time. They are bearing about a £20 million extra burden. It might be said that £500,000 is not a great deal, but on top of the £20 million it is just that much that hurts. The representatives of the N.F.U. dined with the Prime Minister the other night. The Government would be well advised to say, "We will not do anything more to irritate the farmers." Their production goes up by 5 per cent. year after year, and their labour force goes down.
How does the Financial Secretary think that these farmers will pay increased wages if there is a wage award this year, as probably there will be? They want to pay higher wages, otherwise there will not be any farmworkers left. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will think this matter over and will go a little further than what he has told us about goods vehicles. I am concerned particularly about the tax on tractors. The Chancellor said that he would be reasonable and would listen to the arguments, but we are in the third day of the debate on the Finance Bill this week and we have had no concession yet. Here is an occasion when the Government can help the farmers in a deserving case.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport (Knutsford)
It is always a very difficult task to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) in debate. I am his constituent and I am proud to be one.
§ Sir W. Bromley-Davenport
If I may convey my congratulations to my hon. Friend through you, Dr. King, his was a first-class speech, delivered with devastating effect against a lot of Lobby fodder who did not understand a word of what my hon. Friend was talking about. I have never known the farmers in Cheshire and in my constituency to be so depressed as they are today.
§ Sir W. Bromley-Davenport
If I might recapitulate, I have never known the farmers in my constituency to be so depressed.
§ The Chairman
Order. I must ask the hon. Members to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman the courtesy of listening to him that they have given to everybody else so far.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
On a point of order. Is it not the usual custom in Committee that when an hon. Member takes up a provocative attitude he should have the courtesy to give way?
§ Sir W. Bromley-Davenport
I have never known—this is tedious repetition—[Laughter.] It is all very well to make fun and games over this—but I have never known, and my fellow Members have never known, the farmers in Cheshire——
§ Sir W. Bromley-Davenport
Yes, to be so depressed as a result of the conditions under which they have to live today.
§ Sir W. Bromley-Davenport
Their costs are going up all the time and, what is more, they cannot pass these on to the consumer. They cannot strike for more pay and less work. They and they alone, whilst costs are steadily increasing, have to work harder for less and less 1697 reward. They and they alone do not have a really fair standard of living compared with all the hard work which they have to put in under all sorts of conditions. We have already discussed examples of their great difficulties with increasing costs.
I will not go into each item, but I will mention some of them under separate heads. There is the increased cost in respect of agricultural tractors, motor lorries, dual-purpose vehicles, the import charges, the petrol tax, and the National Insurance contributions. These amount to an extra £4¾ million, and the Bank Rate has been raised. It never ends.
The annual turnover of money in agriculture in this country is greater than the combined agricultural output of Australia and New Zealand. It is greater than the combined turnover of British Railways and the National Coal Board. But, of course, the farmer cannot offset his costs by increased prices to the consumer, such as we see in the nationalised industries—railway fares up, bus fares up, coal that will not burn, electricity costs up, and so on. The poor farmers have to absorb these extra costs without fair increased charges to the consumer.
Why have farmers got these increased costs to bear? I will tell hon. Members opposite and give them the answer straight. We had an example yesterday of what I mean from my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield, and I say again today that, like the Paymaster-General, the Socialist Party hates the farmers. [Laughter.] All right. We had an example of their attitude yesterday; perhaps hon. Members opposite will soon be laughing on the other side of their faces.
Our farmers in Cheshire came 200 miles to see their Conservative Members of Parliament and the Socialists. They were disgusted because the Socialist Party Members, including the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen), would not wait 20 minutes o see them. That is an example of the kind of co-operation which the farmers can expect from Her Majesty's Government.
I ask the Government to reduce the costs to these poor farmers who have never had conditions so hard against them as they have today and to give them a 1698 chance, which they have not got now, to earn a fair living.
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
The Financial Secretary has made quite clear that the matters we are discussing today will add £1.8 million to the burdens being carried by the farmer. Why has this burden been put on the farmer? The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie), in putting the same question to the Financial Secretary, suggested that there was a possibility that it might be recovered through the Price Review, but what both he and supporters of the Government forget is that that is precisely what does not happen under a Labour Government. It is no good saying to the farmers that they will be able to get their £1.8 million back because the 1947 Act said that that would happen, because they know perfectly well from experience that it did not happen before and they have no confidence that it is ever likely to happen under a Labour Government.
When this matter was last discussed by the House, Lord Mitchison, then the hon. and learned Member for Kettering, said that he felt that any price increases would be recovered through the Price Review. But we cannot say that today, and the farmers know that it will not happen. On the other side of the story, of course, there are those who have nothing to do with the Price Review, as my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) has already pointed out. Those who work in horticulture, whatever be the costs which they have to bear, have no prospect of getting anything at all under any Price Review.
Why, at this time, has the Chancellor decided to put an additional £1.8 million on the shoulders of the farmers and horticulturists? After the examples we have already had of the way the Government treat the farmer, one would have thought that quite sufficient harm had been done and there would be no need to take things further and add this additional burden.
There have been references to tractors, but, as several of my hon. Friends still wish to speak, I shall be brief and confine my remarks to goods vehicles. One of the reasons why I am particularly interested in farmers' goods vehicles is that I operate one myself. The vehicle I have in mind was purchased in 1948.
1699 It has been in constant use ever since, but its mileage is now only just over 6,000. If my arithmetic is anything like correct, that is an average of about 350 miles a year. If the Financial Secretary thinks that it is fair to ask someone who is operating on the road for 350 miles a year to pay £31 in tax, he should look at the matter again. He said at the end of his speech that he would consider some of the smaller vehicles, and I press upon him that there is a good case for looking again at the question of farmers' goods vehicles.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) has already referred to what was said in 1961 by the then hon. and learned Member for Kettering. I wish to remind the Financial Secretary of one or two other things which he said. One of them was:I can see no reason whatever why farmers' good vehicles should suffer this increase",and he went on to say that he thought it wasbad policy and bad sense."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st June, 1961; Vol. 641, c. 452–3.]That is precisely what we on this side of the Committee feel today. On the last occasion when the matter came before the House, that is what I felt——
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Stephen Swingler)
Did the hon. Gentleman vote for it?
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
I did not vote for it. I am glad to take this opportunity of telling the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport that I took the precaution of not voting on that occasion, because I did not feel that it was the right thing to do. I still consider that that was the right decision. [HON. MEMBERS: "Better be careful."] I am happy to say that my relationship with my right hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Sir M. Redmayne) is slightly different now from what it was then. I thought at that time that it was bad policy and bad sense, as the then hon. and learned Member for Kettering said. I still think so, and I hope that the Financial Secretary will look at the question again.
§ Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)
The Financial Secretary has gone part of the 1700 way in conceding our argument when he admitted that these burdens would hit small farmers very severely and he has said that he will look into the matter to see whether something can be done. But not only would there be damage to the small farmer—that is accepted—there would also be damage to the farming community generally. These increased burdens would add to farm costs, and there is just no scope for farmers to absorb such costs in other ways.
The point has been made, and there has been no answer to it, that farmers' goods vehicles are used mainly for movements within the farm. Occasionally, they are used for special deliveries of perishable produce, but they cover a very much smaller mileage than commercial vehicles do. These vehicles, which are registered as farmers' goods vehicles, are also used on occasions for the collection of produce for the farm. Inevitably, they are on the road for a far shorter period of time than other vehicles, yet this point has not been answered at all satisfactorily. There is every possible reason why, to avoid further rises in farm costs, these vehicles should be exempted from the Chancellor's proposals.
The Minister of Agriculture spoke in Wiltshire a few weeks ago. Afterwards, I spoke to a number of farmers who went to the meeting. The impression they have is that the right hon. Gentleman is personally not against the farmers and is, perhaps, even quite sympathetic to them. But when they feel, which is the same as we feel, is that he was not able to argue effectively and strongly enough the point of view of the farmers in the Cabinet at the time of the Price Review. Both the farmers and we on this side of the Committee hope very much that the Government will give this minor concession that we now seek, especially after such a severe Price Review.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)
I am particularly concerned about the increase in the licence duties for tractors. As most hon. Gentlemen realise, I speak for many of the small farmers in the South-West and there is no doubt that they are feeling the pinch. It is true to say that this is not a great increase, but must be looked at together with all the other increases that have taken place recently. It is yet another increase put on the backs of the 1701 small farmers, particularly in the South-West.
They have had many extra burdens to bear since the Government took office. I had a list drawn up the other day. Income Tax is up 6d.; employers' contributions up 2s.; petrol up 6d.; car licences up £2 10s.; postage up 1d.; rates up about 14 per cent.; mortgage repayments up and rail fares, electricity and coal up.
All this makes a formidable list. I wonder how much longer the small farmers can bear these extra costs. The tractor is called the maid of all work, and that is true. It is surprising what people use tractors for. The machine has a variety of uses. It has made a vast contribution to increased productivity. It therefore seems particularly hard that this extra licence fee should he imposed. But, of course—and this is the nub of the argument—it becomes much greater when coupled with all the other taxes imposed by the Government.
Let us make no mistake about it, the small farmer is being squeezed. Rationalisation is taking place, and that is inevitable. But surely the job of any Government, of whatever colour, is to cushion those affected until reorganisation takes place amongst the small farmers while they take full advantage of the scheme designed to help them. Until amalgamations can take place, then, of course, any increases hit them very hard.
But if one talks about the Government providing a cushion, then one can only say that, with six months of Socialist Government, a prickly cushion has been given to small farmers to sit on. All the brave words of the last few years about the Socialist wish to help the small farmers have been thrown overboard by increases like this.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;
§ Committee counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)
I have always thought that no case gains anything by exaggeration. I was surprised by the speech of the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills), who 1702 seemed to lay all the difficulties which it is alleged arise in the farming industry at the door of the Government, who have only been in power six months. This is the more surprising when one remembers that the finest thing ever done for British agriculture was the Agriculture Act, 1947, introduced by the then Labour Government.
§ Mr. Wilkins
The hon. Gentleman catalogued a whole list of things which apply to every other member of the community just as they apply to the farmers. His argument was specious because he was, in effect, claiming that the farmers should be exempted from these general charges falling on all other members of the community.
I represent an industrial constituency and I would not like it to go from this Committee that the only people who have any feeling or understanding for agriculture sit on the benches opposite. It is true that I am not a farmer but I have a fair amount of knowledge and experience of farming by small farmers—not the big farmers, who really make the money, but those who do have some difficulty in earning a living.
§ Mr. John Wells
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how long he has been sitting here if he is so interested in the debate?
§ Mr. Wilkins
I have listened to the last four or five speeches. I listened to the diatribe from the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) and to the speeches of the hon. Members for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), Westbury (Mr. Walters), and Rye (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine). Even so, I would not have intervened now had I not been provoked into doing so by the speech of the hon. Member for Torrington.
I have had conversations with a farmer whom I have known for 20 years. I have often spent periods during the Recesses with the family. In fact, if I did not think that we would return on the Tuesday of Whit week I would probably arrange to spend some time with them then. The genuine grounds of complaint by small farmers do not relate so much to the imposition of another 30s. tax on vehicles 1703 as to the marketing of their goods. The argument I hear all the time is, "Why is it that I have to sell a broccoli for 2d., whereas it goes to Covent Garden or elsewhere and when it reaches the shop costs the housewife 2s. or 2s. 6d.?" That is the burden of the argument by the farming community.
It may be that we should have a close look at marketing conditions which are grossly unfair to the farmer. I am certain that the average farmer, even if he be a small farmer, is not really asking us to make special concessions to him on, for instance, licence duty on vehicles.
I have some sympathy with the case put by the hon. Member for Rye, who told us of the mileage of one of his vehicles and the amount of duty he must pay on it. Hon. Members who were here when the House debated the Severn Bridge tolls will recall my reference to this point. Here again is an instance where we need to make a close review of the way in which we levy licence charges on vehicles and on the way in which we raise our revenue.
I completely oppose the present system of raising revenue. I believe that there is only one fair method of taxation, and I am opposed to indirect taxation as such. We need a review, not necessarily to look at farming equipment and the licence duty payable, but to see whether we should not levy licence duty or raise revenue from mechanised machines according to their use. For example, I see no reason why a mini car should have to pay £15 tax when a six-ton lorry, which causes an enormous amount more damage to the roads, and consequently more expense to the taxpayer, pays only a comparatively small amount.
The hon. Member for Torrington and others have included in their accusations against the Government the charge that the Government increased the tax on petrol by 6d. However, if we are to try to reach some sort of equity in the system of levelling taxes on those who use vehicles, on the roads, on the farms or for any other purposes, we have to consider the charge imposed on the fuel which is consumed, because the more miles travelled by a vehicle, the higher will then be the contribution to the Exchequer.
1704 So I do not think that what hon. Members opposite have said has been a fair argument, even on behalf of the small farmers. I am completely sincere in saying that I have always felt that there were great hazards in small farming.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
It is obvious that I could not have made myself clear to the hon. Gentleman. I was trying to show that these taxes had a cumulative effect on the small farmer. That was the whole gist of what I was trying to say.
§ Mr. Wilkins
But the cumulative effect of a reduction of from £3 15s. to £2 10s. would be utterly negligible compared with the farmers' principal concern, which is marketing.
§ Mr. Temple
Would the hon. Gentleman explain how he imagines that a 50 per cent. increase is negligible?
§ Mr. Wilkins
I am speaking in relative terms. I hoped that I was relating that to the enormous difference in the price which the farmer receives for his produce and that received, especially in London, by the middlemen, the people who get the produce back to the shops and who are living on the backs of the farmers, or at least on the backs of the consumers. That is the argument I am trying to make.
That is the cardinal criticism which has been made to me and I believe that the difference between £3 10s. and £2 15s. in this tax will be of little importance to the small farmer in comparison. I shall make a special effort to discover the views of my farmer friend on this subject, but I do not believe that this kind of increase will trouble him. However, I am sure that we should look at marketing arrangements to see what can be done to put the farmer on his feet in that respect.
§ Mr. John Wells
If the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) had been here to listen to the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary, he might have more clearly understood the origins of this concession. We all appreciate what the hon. and learned Gentleman said about the origins, but that is not the point. We are concerned not with historical origins but with the situation as it is today, and the reality of the case is that the farming and horticultural communities enjoy a concession 1705 now. If it is cut off, to that extent they will be worse off.
We are all extremely grateful to the Financial Secretary for his sort of half promise that he would endeavour to do something about this matter before Report. I hope that he means it and that it is not just another repetition of an offer to listen. If this matter is to be considered before Report, I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will bear in mind especially what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) about horticulture. Nothing can be made up to horticulturists out of the Price Review, and I hope that these recurring words "Price Review", which hon. Member after hon. Member has brought up, will not prevent the difficulties of horticulturists from being borne in mind.
They use their goods vehicles for many purposes besides the straightforward carriage of goods. For instance, in most areas where there are soft fruit pickers they are frequently collected from the local market town early in the morning in the back of a goods vehicle and returned in it to the market town at night. Those vehicles do not do a big mileage and the point which the Financial Secretary made about the origin of the concession being connected with small mileage vehicles is very valid. I hope that he will appreciate the importance of this concession to this section of the farming community and that he will consider it most sympathetically, because, as he rightly said, its main importance is to horticulturists.
I am sorry that he did not collect some figures about the amount of long-distance haulage which is undertaken. I was in Covent Garden at about six o' clock this morning talking to a grower from Kent who has a stall in the market and who is a gentleman who, while not a constituent of mine, is well known to me. He told me that he occupied his stall in the market for only a very few weeks in the year and then sub-let it. If the Financial Secretary were to take statistics this morning, or tomorrow morning, he would probably find my friend's vehicle waiting outside the stall and he might conclude that here was a grower using his own vehicle to bring his goods all the way to 1706 Covent Garden. However, if he took his statistics in six months' time, when that stall was sub-let to some other occupant, he would probably not find a grower's vehicle there. I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether before Report he can endeavour to get some statistics, because, after all, there are probably only about 7,000 vehicles in the market during the day or night, so it would be quite a simple matter to get the figures.
I suggest that it is done as quickly as possible, tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after, and then again on the brink of the Report stage. The figures could then be averaged and might then reveal a situation different from what might be supposed from the first set of figures.
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for half promising us a concession, but I hope that he will consider it in the way which I have suggested.
§ Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)
I should like to add my voice in protest against the whole tenor of the Finance Bill and, in particular, against these extra impositions. They have been enumerated on several occasions and it is not necessary to go through them again. However, I should like to comment on what was said by the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins), because it was good to hear an hon. Member opposite speaking about an agricultural matter and doing so with obvious sympathy. As a whole, hon. Members opposite do not have much sympathy for agriculture.
There was one matter on which the hon. Gentleman was completely wrong. The industrial worker or the industrialist can sell his labour or his goods at a price which will show him a profit because there are no restrictions on the price at which he can sell. On the other hand, the farmer is tied to Price Review prices in most cases. That is why, immediately after a Price Review, farmers are considerably disturbed by these extra cost impositions.
I wish to mention three respects in which farmers' costs will be increased. I refer, first, to the trucking of store cattle from the rearing grounds of the West and North to the finishing areas in the east of England, particularly in Norfolk, 1707 where my constituency is situated. Nearly all the cattle unloading rail points in our area have been done away with. We now rely almost entirely on road transport. This will put up the cost of fattening cattle quite considerably. Secondly, owing to these increased costs, any addition which have been put on sugar beet—a very bulky crop—in the Price Review will be lost. Thirdly, vegetables such as carrots, celery, chicory, potatoes, cabbages and brussels sprouts do not come under the Price Review and, therefore, producers have no chance of recovering the costs involved in those items. Many farmers have bought vehicles to do these jobs, but they are not used for more than three months of the year on average. Many of them are used for a shorter period. Few of the growers of root crops are covered by the Price Review.
The Financial Times today said, quite rightly, that the Government are laying down a double standard—one for the public sector and nationalised industries and the other for the private sector. Government supporters, on every possible occasion, have shown that they have a double standard—one for town industries and another for agriculture. Agriculture is one of the greatest industries in the land and in the private sector. It has received a series of savage blows since the Government came to power. All the blows which we have been talking about have been struck during the last six or seven months. For this reason, I hope that these Amendments, which attempt to redress the balance slightly, will be accepted.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)
I listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins). My remarks are based, not on the knowledge of just one particular friend, but on the knowledge of what many hundreds and, indeed, thousands of farmers in Scotland feel about the Government's proposals in the Finance Bill. Therefore, what I propose to say will be a much truer reflection of the feelings of the farming community, particularly in Scotland.
I understand from a reply which I received from the Secretary of State for Scotland that these increases in road tax 1708 will amount in a full year to £250,000 for agriculture in Scotland—a not insubstantial amount.
Reference was made earlier to the tremendous contribution which agriculture has made in increasing productivity. Columns 1448 and 1449 of yesterday's HANSARD show that over the last four years productivity in agriculture has increased at the rate of 9 per cent., 2 per cent., 10 per cent., 6 per cent., and it is forecast that the increase for the current year will be 10 per cent. These figures are to be compared with an average increase of 3 per cent. in industry. This tremendous record in productivity has been achieved through a greatly increased use of machinery, much of which is of the type which is taxed and which we are discussing. One of the most unfortunate effects of these increases in tax is that they put the brake on increased productivity in agriculture.
I should like to refer to two points which have been raised this afternoon. I deal, first, with the comparison which has been made between a farmer or a horticultural grower using his vehicle to send his own goods to markets such as Covent Garden, and a road haulier who could also carry these goods. I point out to the Financial Secretary that these are not comparable cases, because it is not easy for the horticultural grower to get a return load for his lorry unless he carries something back for his own purposes, whereas a road haulier is able to get a load for the return journey. Therefore, the horticultural producer's costs are very much greater and there is a strong economic argument for a concession being made.
Secondly, I reinforce the argument put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) about tax exemption for vehicles which use the roads to only a very small extent. I appreciate that exemption is available if the agricultural vehicle does not cover more than six miles in a week. This applies to most farm tractors. But there are short periods in the year when distances far in excess of six miles are covered. I would put in a very strong plea that the laying down of a radius of operation would be a much more fair and equitable means of deciding the exemption limit.
1709 There is precedent for this in the case of farm vehicles which can quality for exemption from road fuel tax. Although I have not had time to check this, I believe that if a vehicle does not operate for other than farm purposes and out-with a radius of 15 miles from the farm it is possible for the owner to be exempted from paying the tax. Perhaps the Financial Secretary will confirm this. If that is so, it might be possible to extend a similar exemption to the road licence tax.
Finally, I reinforce the argument which has been put forward about comparisons with other trades and industries, particularly the distributive trades, such as greengrocers and fishmongers. The vital point which I hope the Financial Secretary understands is that other trades have it in their power to raise their prices and to recoup the extra costs put on them. This is not so with agriculture. Farmers are unable to put up their prices and recoup the extra costs. This can be done only through the Price Review. To this extent they are completely at the mercy of the Government. Following on this year's Price Review, it is this factor more than any other which causes to much concern among the farming community.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
I wish to underline one point which has been made already, and that is the burden which this tax places on productive industry. An increase of £1 million in costs has been placed on productive industry, and I fear that, in addition to the £19 million burden which has already been placed on the shoulders of the farmer, this will tend to be inflationary and not deflationary. It will push up costs and not lower them, which should be the intention of the Treasury. I therefore hope that the Financial Secretary will consider this very carefully when he thinks again about some of these taxes.
Secondly, I wish to emphasise very strongly what my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) said. I have a constituency on the other side of England which is very similar to his and I have to deal with county council smallholders and small farmers. When the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) was speaking, I almost invited him to meet some of my county council smallholders because, being a very 1710 human man, I was sure that he would understand the pressure which the Government have placed on small farmers. The accumulation of these costs has made the farmers in my constituency more depressed than I have known them since the end of the war—petrol tax, increased National Insurance contributions, the surcharge, and now this tax on tractors, goods vehicles, and the rest.
I do not often speak in these agricultural debates. I have felt previously that the farmers have been able to look after themselves, but, under the heavy hand of this Socialist Government and although the farmers have increased their productivity, I find them becoming depressed and not having the incentive and the drive necessary to continue their great work for the country as they have done in the past.
I hope that the Financial Secretary will pay attention to the horticultural aspect, because horticulture does not get recouped in the Price Review. Here, too, the Socialist Government have placed a further imposition on the farming community, because these present proposals mean placing an additional burden on an industry that is producing the country's wealth. I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to pay attention to what has been said.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
When the Minister of Agriculture visited the West Country just before the last election he gave the farmers there the quite definite and firm impression that he supported the National Farmers' Union policy of increasing net farm incomes by £100 million a year over three years. Not only has the Price Review not honoured that very direct impression but it has actually cut back net farming incomes by £1.5 million. That has left people with a great sense of betrayal.
To talk of recoupment in the next Price Review is nonsense. The Price Review deals with the year ahead, not with the year that has passed. What is lost between the imposition of this tax and the next Price Review will never be recouped. This is a cut for all time in the farming community's net remuneration.
§ Mr. MacDermot
A number of hon. Members opposite have made a general attack on this duty on the basis that the 1711 agricultural industry requires assistance and that it could be assisted by concessions. As I made clear at the outset, I cannot accept that as a valid argument in approaching the incidence of this duty. I have good support and precedent for saying that. Concessions in respect of this duty are related to the nature of the duty itself. A concession has been made where a case has been made out that the vehicles in question are vehicles with a very limited road use, so that it would be unfair to charge the whole duty. It would be opening a completely new door very widely, and would produce a completely different approach to the question of concessions in relation to the duty, if we decided it on the basis of "Here is an industry deserving in general of support and assistance".
The way in which and the time at which the Government enter into negotiations and discussions with the industry is the Price Review. All these matters, including vehicle excise duty, are taken into account then. A number of hon. Members have made the valid point that the Price Review does not extend to horticulture, but I think that the cases for special concessions for farm goods vehicles occur far less in relation to horticultural vehicles than to those used in what is more narrowly thought of as farming. It is because the courts have construed "agriculture" very widely that this concession extends very widely. I believe that it extends to mink farming, which I do not think that most of us would ordinarily regard as being a branch of agriculture.
The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) urged me to ignore pressures or representations from any other outside bodies, be they hauliers or other forms of industry. It is not right that I or the Government should, in approaching tax matters, try to look at one section of the community alone. One of the essential features of any tax system must be to try to get equality of treatment, fairness and justice between different classes of taxpayer. If exceptions and distinctions are to be made, there must be a clear basis in principle for making them. The right hon. Gentleman may not have been here last night when one of his hon. Friends made an impassioned speech in which he said that 1712 the second greatest number of bankruptcies of any category were amongst road hauliers. We must remember today what we heard yesterday.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked me to examine the possibility of using a radius test for agricultural vehicles instead of the 6-mile limit test. As there is no Amendment on the Notice Paper, I have not been able to study the suggestion in any detail, but I will certainly look into it. I believe that there are real difficulties in it, certainly in regard to farm goods vehicles. When dealing with, say, a tractor which, by its nature, has not to go long distances, it is relatively easy to supervise and police it on a radius basis, but one has only to imagine trucks, vans, lorries,, and so on, to appreciate that the task would be almost impossible. One has only to remember the difficulties we ran into with the radius test for A and B licences—and I am not sure that there was not a radius test, at one time, for C licences. Real difficulties were encountered, but I shall certainly look at the matter again.
While I am on that subject, I may mention that the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) raised the question of a 15-mile radius. That arrangement operates for agricultural machines—roughly speaking, agricultural tractors—which are used for hauling, within 15 miles of a farm, fuel, amongst other things, required for any purpose on that farm. That is possibly the exception that the hon. Gentleman had in mind, but it is confined to those agricultural machines, which makes it easier to police the arrangement.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I had in mind a precedent of that kind, and wondered whether it could be repeated in the case of agricultural tractors and other forms of farm machinery.
§ Mr. MacDermot
Yes. If hon. Members who have special knowledge of these matters write to me putting specific proposals and suggestions of what might be workable here, I shall certainly look at them, but my own preliminary inquiries suggest that there are practical difficulties.
The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), in one of his usual very 1713 persuasive speeches—he certainly seems to have persuaded his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport)—asked me to concentrate on the question of the tractor, which he suggested was a very clear-cut case. I understood him to envisage something on the same lines as suggested by his right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton—the possibility of a radius test in that connection.
The hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine) instanced a vehicle which he owned himself and which, he said, has done on average over the years he has had it only 350 miles a year, and he said he would have to pay £31 in tax for it. He did not make clear what kind of vehicle it is. To qualify for £31 tax it must a 3½-ton vehicle. If it is doing such a very low mileage as that one wonders if it is being used consistently over a whole year or only part of a year. If he is using it only part of a year he does not need to tax it for a whole year. I do not know how the hon. Member works it out, and it is difficult to comment without having the details of the case. He asked me to look again carefully at this matter, and I certainly agree to do that, without making any kind of commitment or promise.
The hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) invited me to do that which I have already made clear I cannot do, which is to ignore the origin and basis of the concessions which do exist in this field. We must stick to that. If there are any cases in particular or particular difficulties the hon. Member thinks arise for horticulturists, I shall be glad if he will bring them to my attention and I will certainly gladly look at them.
I think that those were the specific points which I was asked to consider. I do not wish to take up time by responding to the temptation of a more wide and general debate on Government policy towards agriculture.
§ Mr. Temple
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether he agrees with his hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) that a 50 per cent. increase in these duties is a modest increase?
§ Mr. MacDermot
I do not think my hon. Friend said it was a modest increase as a percentage increase. What he said was that since the sum on which 50 per cent. is being added is a small sum the result is that, as an amount, it is a modest increase.
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
I just wanted to assist him by saying that the cattle truck to which I was referring was travelling three miles each way perhaps once every six weeks.
§ Sir M. Redmayne
That is where I would start the few words I want to say. I really must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to be more understanding about these problems. We are not trying to put forward a case that the farming industry needs some special charity. What we are trying to get across is based on hard experience on this side of the Cornmittee—I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman will accept that—and that is that there are in farming and in horticulture a number of ways in which vehicles necessarily have only limited use. For example, when the hon. and learned Gentleman says to my hon. Friend that if he uses his vehicle for a quarter of the year only he ought to have a licence for a quarter of a year, that does not pay tribute to the hon. and learned Gentleman's intelligence at all, for if one uses a vehicle once a week all the year it must be licensed for all the year.
Equally, on the other points which were made to him about the use of agricultural and horticultural lorries, points put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) and my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr Hawkins), who has a great deal of experience in a variety of agricultural trades, while each one of those speeches was brief because we undertook to be brief on this matter, each speech has helped to highlight the fact that really, without being hypercritical of the Financial Secretary, he has not shown himself in this debate even willing, I think, to try to see that these 1715 are special cases which need proper consideration.
The hon. and learned Gentleman based his argument on the fact that representations have been made to him by the road haulage industry. I should like to know what part of the road haulage industry. I just wonder whether they came from British Road Services and whether this Government are listening a little too carefully to representations from that source. However, wherever they come from, and on whatever figures they have been based—and we have had no figures to help prove the Minister's point—I ask him to give equal weight to the very powerful points which have been made by my hon. Friends.
We pricked up our ears quite a bit when the hon. and learned Gentleman embarked so early in this debate, because we thought that he would say that he would make concessions. He did say that he would listen to representations if they should be made to him by the National Farmers' Union. I would remind him that this is a topical word: "listen" is the operative word.
I ask him, therefore, just to reaffirm that, in fact, he is perfectly prepared to receive from the farmers' unions—any of them—further advice on these matters, and, without, as he said—I accept that—giving any promise, to be ready to come forward on Report with an Amendment which really will help to meet some of the points we have made here today and which will certainly be made to him by the farming unions.
I shall not deal with any of the other points. I must say I am tempted to go on a long time because one or two hon Members on the other side—the one or two hon. Members on that side who have taken any interest—have tried us a little hard, but I would merely say this, that I was rather interested in the
§ speech of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie), who seemed to me to show not quite enough faith in the ability of his hon. Friend, his brother, to push his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture—if he is still there next year—into doing anything to recoup the farming industry for its rise in costs; but perhaps the hon. Gentleman knows his brother as well as I do.
§ I am going to advise my hon. Friends to divide the Committee on this Amendment, and on the other one, Mr. Hynd, on which we have a right to divide, because I feel this about it. I have great respect for the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, but he is, after all, only a lawyer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] He is, after all, a lawyer. I amend the remark. I ask him in this matter to put himself in the shoes of the farming industry and, between now and Report, really to get hold of the facts upon which we base our case. We shall divide the Committee also because we are a little tired of a Minister of Agriculture who seems to be incapable of fighting for the farmers' case in the Government.
§ We had this over the Price Review. We know perfectly well that the Minister of Agriculture was pushed around by the Cabinet. In the country he says—and he has said it really too often—that he will not be intimidated by threats. I would remind him that he ought not to be intimidated by threats or persuasion by the Cabinet or by the Treasury. It is for these reasons that we shall divide, first to mark the powerful arguments which have been adduced in this debate by hon. Friends, and, secondly, to show our dissatisfaction that agriculture is once again being treated in a shabby way.
§ Question put, That "3 15 0" stand part of the Schedule:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 184, Noes 176.1719
|Division No. 121.]||AYES||[6.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Albu, Austen||Boston, T. G.||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Chapman, Donald|
|Alldritt, Walter||Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S.W.)||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Boyden, James||Cronin, John|
|Atkinson, Norman||Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Crosland, Anthony|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.|
|Beaney, Alan||Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Dalyell, Tam|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Dell, Edmund|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Diamond, John|
|Bishop, E. S.||Carmichael, Neil||Dodds, Norman|
|Doig, Peter||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Driberg, Tom||Lawson, George||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Leadbitter, Ted||Robinson, Rt.Hn.K.(St. Pancras, N.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Ledger, Ron||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|English, Michael||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Ensor, David||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Rowland, Christopher|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||Lipton, Marcus||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Lomas, Kenneth||Short,Rt.Hn.E.(N'c'tle-on-Tyne,C.)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Loughlin, Charles||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||McBride, Neil||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)|
|Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||McCann, J.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||MacColl, James||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||MacDermot, Niall||Small, William|
|Freeson, Reginald||McInnes, James||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Garrow, A.||Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)||Snow, Julian|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Mapp, Charles||Solomons, Henry|
|Ginsburg, David||Marsh, Richard||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mason, Roy||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Maxwell, Robert||Stonehouse, John|
|Grey, Charles||Mayhew, Christopher||Stones, William|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Mendelson, J. J.||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Mikardo, Ian||Summerskill, Dr. Shirley|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Millan, Bruce||Swingler, Stephen|
|Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)||Molloy, William||Taverne, Dick|
|Hannan, William||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Murray, Albert||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Hazell, Bert||Newens, Stan||Thornton, Ernest|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Tinn, James|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Norwood Christopher||Tomney, Frank|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Ogden, Eric||Tuck, Raphael|
|Holman, Percy||O'Malley, Brian||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Horner, John||Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Orbach, Maurice||Wallace, George|
|Howie, W.||Paget, R. T.||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Hoy, James||Palmer, Arthur||Whitlock, William|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S.E.)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)||Parker, John||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Parkin, B. T.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pavitt, Laurence||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Jackson, Colin||Perry, Ernest G.||Woof, Robert|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Popplewell, Ernest||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Prentice, R. E.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n & St.P'cras,S.)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Rankin, John|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Redhead, Edward||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rees, Merlyn||Mrs. Harriet Slater and|
|Jones,Rt.Hn.SirElwyn(W. Ham,S.)||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Mr. Harper.|
|Agnaw, Commander Sir Peter||Bryan, Paul||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Buck, Antony||Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Buxton, Ronald||Gardner, Edward|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Chichester-Clark, R.||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Astor, John||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Goodhart, Philip|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Grant, Anthony|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Cooke, Robert||Gresham-Cooke, R.|
|Balniel, Lord||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Corfield, F. V.||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.|
|Batsford, Brian||Costain, A. P.||Gurden, Harold|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Bell, Ronald||Crawley, Aidan||Hall-Davies, A. G. F.|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Crowder, F. P.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Curran, Charles||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Dance, James||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)||Harvie Anderson, Miss|
|Blaker, Peter||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hawkins, Paul|
|Bossom, Hn. Clive||Dean, Paul||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Box, Donald||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt, Hn. J.||Elliott,R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Hiley, Joseph|
|Braine, Bernard||Emery, Peter||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Brewis, John||Eyre, Reginald||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Fell, Anthony||Hooson, H. E.|
|Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Fisher, Nigel||Hornby, Richard|
|Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P.|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Foster, Sir John||Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone;||Hunt, John (Bromley)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Talbot, John E.|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Johnson Smith, G. (East Grinstead)||Neave, Airey||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,Catheart)|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Teeling, Sir William|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Temple, John M.|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Kitson, Timothy||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Lagden, Godfrey||Peyton, John||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Pitt, Dame Edith||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter|
|Litchfield, Capt. John||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Pym, Francis||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Longbottom, Charles||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Loveys, Walter H.||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin||Walder, David (High Peak)|
|Lubbock, Eric||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Walters, Dennis|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Ridsdale, Julian||Ward, Dame Irene|
|McMaster, Stanley||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|McNair-Wilson, Patrick||Roots, William||Webster, David|
|Maitland, Sir John||Russell, Sir Ronald||Whitelaw, William|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Scott-Hopkins, James||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Mathew, Robert||Sharples, Richard||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Maude, Angus||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Mawby, Ray||Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Woodhouse, Hon. Christopher|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Summers, Sir Spencer||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Mr. McLaren aud Mr. More.|
Question, That "£30" stand part of the Clause, put and agreed to.
§ Mr. Temple
I beg to move, Amendment No. 20, in page 124, line 25, to leave out "Showmen's goods vehicles".
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)
I suggest that it would be convenient for the Committee to discuss, at the same time, the following Amendments: Amendment No. 21, in, page 124, line 39, at end insert:
|4. Show men's goods vehicles||—||12 cwt.||15||0||0||—|
|12 cwt.||16 cwt.||16||10||0||—|
|16 cwt.||1 ton||18||0||0||—|
|1 ton||2 tons||18||0||0||1||10||0|
|2 tons||3 tons||23||10||0||1||15||0|
|3 tons||4 tons||30||10||0||1||10||0|
|4 tons||6 tons||36||0||0||1||15||0|
|6 tons||8 tons||50||0||0||1||10||0|
§ Amendment No. 208, in page 125, line 11, leave out "Showmen's goods vehicles".
§ Amendment No. 209, in line 17, at end insert:
|3. Showmen's good's vehicles||—||—||15||0||0|
§ Mr. Temple
I agree, Mr. Hynd, that it would be convenient to take those Amendments with the one I have moved.
I was extraordinarily heartened, when the Financial Secretary was replying to 1720 the previous Amendment, when he made reference to the fact that he recognised that there was a very special case in respect of showmen's vehicles. Not for the first time am I speaking on behalf of the members of the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain. I remember that a few years ago, when the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act, 1960, was going through Parliament, the special position of showmen was recognised and that the then Conservative Government made a concession in regard to the special position of winter harbours for showmen's vehicles. Tonight, I am moving an Amendment which, if accepted, would reduce the amount of duty paid on showmen's vehicles by 50 per cent. below the figure proposed by the Government in the new Schedules.
I wish to treat both Front Benches alike. I remember the occasion, when moving an Amendment, when the former Conservative Government were in power, when I made my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, who was in charge of the Measure to which I referred, the sporting offer that I would sit down extraordinarily quickly if there was an indication that my Amendment would not necessarily be accepted in detail, but that it would be accepted in principle. I now extend the courtesy of that sporting offer to the Front Bench opposite. If it is accepted I will be breakinig fresh ground on this Finance Bill.
§ Mr. Temple
I agree with my hon. Friend, but I have just received a little nod from the direction of the Front Bench opposite, which slightly encourages me.
I draw even more encouragement from the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, speaking in Parliament on 1st June, 1961, moved an Amendment which was more or less the same as the one I am moving. Although my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) had proposed a mere 20 per cent. increase in vehicle duties at that time, without any briefing whatever from the Showman's Guild—the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister, if my recollection is correct, thought that he was going to get a brief from the Guild, although the Showmen's Guild thought on that occasion that the Conservative Government's proposed increase was reasonable and moderate—the present Prime Minister took the view that the proposed 20 per cent. increase was excessive on showmen and he proposed that it should be halved.
Tonight, I am merely repeating that proposal in more or less the same form, although it would have more effect now because the increase proposed is 50 per cent. I hope that the Government will take the line which, as the Opposition, they advocated in 1961, when their present Leader took the course I have indicated.
I believe that the situation which I have mentioned, plus the fact that showmen's vehicles travel only about 600 to 700 miles a year—that is, heavy vehicles; the lighter vehicles travel about 1,000 miles a year—should enable the Government to make this concession. There are no exceptions to that rule because showmen travel only one circuit of the country each year. When the Financial Secretary was replying to the previous Amendment he said that there were exceptions in the horticultural industry in that some vehicles did very large mileages while other vehicles did smaller mileages. It is accepted on both sides of the Committee that showmen's vehicles do this tour only once a year and that, therefore, they are in a very exceptional position.
1722 Believing that my case is immensely strong, and knowing that the Showmen's Guild is respected by all hon. Members, I move the Amendment in the hope and expectation that it will receive sympathetic consideration by the Government.
§ Mr. MacDermot
The hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) persuades not only by his natural persuasiveness, but also by the extreme brevity with which he moves Amendments of this kind. As he rightly pointed out, I did refer to showmen when discussing the last series of Amendments.
I am impressed by the general line of argument; that where it is established that a class of vehicle has a really limited road use and is, for that reason, the subject of a concession then if one applies the same strict percentage increase for them as one does for other vehicles the resultant effect would be a greater percentage effect on them than on a vehicle which has a normal road use. In other words, if one judges it in terms of operating costs, the effect of the higher increase in excise duty would be greater on a vehicle with a limited road use than on a normal vehicle. This is the strong argument underlying the Amendment.
I have already pointed out the difficulty which I felt in applying that in the very wide sphere of agricultural vehicles. What we are dealing with now is a much narrower sphere where perhaps the matter is clearer. I have not had time to see or check the figures which the hon. Member for the City of Chester put forward about the mileages of these vehicles and what the effect of these increases would be on their costs. I would, therefore, like an opportunity to look at and check the figures and if the case, the principle of which I accept, can clearly be made out for these vehicles, I would be prepared to put down, in the name of my right hon. Friend, some Amendments at a later stage to give effect to it.
I cannot undertake now to accept the percentage asked for or that it should necessarily be 25 per cent. as opposed to 50 per cent., but I do concede the principle of the argument and, if the hon. Gentleman is prepared to withdraw his Amendment and allow us to consider the matter further, we will see what can be done.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. William Clark (Nottingham, South)
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) will be grateful for the concession which the Financial Secretary has given. We hope that after his deliberations he will be able to put down Amendments at a later stage to give effect to the principle underlying my hon. Friend's Amendment.
My hon. Friend moved his Amendment with great brevity and clarity. I hope that what has happened may be taken as a precedent—that if my hon. Friends and I move other Amendments with brevity and clarity we will get similar concessions. This is the first concession we have had during the three days we have been discussing the Bill. I hope that this augers well for the future. We are willing to promise the Chancellor, the Financial Secretary, the First Secretary and anyone else that if brevity and clarity will get concessions from the Government, we will move our Amendments in like fashion.
§ Sir D. Glover
Should we not realise tha the Government are willing to give priority to performing elephants rather than to the horticultural and agricultural industries?
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I do not propose to deploy all the arguments which I had intended to adduce, since the Financial Secretary has been so generous in his remarks. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that he should consider the matter further and I hope that in due course Amendments will be tabled by the Government to give effect to the Amendment we are discussing. I sincerely hope that on Report we will get the appropriate Amendment from the Government.
It is extremely important to realise that these showmen can earn money only when they are standing still and not using the roads. It is not profitable for these men to use the roads too much. They get money with which to pay the tax only when their vehicles are standing still. Theirs is, I suggest, a respectable industry and one which is making quite a contribution to the social life of the community. I sincerely hope that we shall 1724 have from the Government the Amendment which it sounds as though we may fully expect.
§ Mr. Temple
I am extremely grateful to the Financial Secretary for giving his undertaking. I hardly thought that he could do otherwise in view of what his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had said in 1961. I will, therefore, give the hon. and learned Gentleman one or two figures so that he can get his Department to look into the matter.
I understand that the heavy 5 to 8-ton vehicles of showmen travel between 500 and 700 miles a year and that the lighter vehicles do 1,000 to 1,200 miles a year. It was to establish this very point about the cost per mile of the vehicle duty that I asked the Financial Secretary during last night's debate a question, because I wanted to know the normal mileage on which he based the figures which he gave during the debate yesterday.
The hon. and learned Gentleman was not able to give me the figure last night, but I hazard a guess that the normal commercial vehicle would do 15 times the mileage of the showmen's vehicles, if not 30 times as much. If a commercial vehicle did 15 times the mileage, the cost per mile of the vehicle duty alone would be four times as much for a showman's vehicle as the similar cost of an ordinary commercial vehicle. In other words, the showman's vehicle would cost 2s. a mile in vehicle duty as opposed to 6d. a mile for the ordinary commercial vehicle on the basis of 15,000 miles a year. As, however, the normal commercial vehicle does more than 15,000 miles a year, the relativities are slightly more in favour of the commercial vehicle.
I am grateful to the Government and extraordinarily pleased that I have had the privilege of making, perhaps, the first dent in the Bill. I hope that it will be the first of many concessions which will be given by the Government. We are faced with an immense task in following the complications of the Bill. I wish the Government Front Bench good fortune and hope that they will be accommodating on many occasions to come. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule agreed to.