HC Deb 21 February 1968 vol 759 cc424-6
21. Mr. Galbraith

asked the Minister of Transport on what scientific calculations she bases her proposed wear and tear tax.

Mrs. Castle

Upon the results of research undertaken by my Department and published in the Report on Road Track Costs on 15th February.

Mr. Galbraith

Surely the right hon. Lady cannot be serious in suggesting that this road track cost goes anywhere near justifying her wear and tear tax. Is it not more than ever clear, after reading this, that the tax is an arbitrary Government decision taken to help the railways and that it has no scientific or economic justification behind it?

Mrs. Castle

No. I cannot accept that for a moment. I am not surprised at the attitude of the Opposition in view of the way their recent scientifically assessed document, giving estimates of the costs of my policy, has been shot down in flames.

The track costs report shows that the ratio between revenues and costs is lower for heavy lorries than for most other vehicles, and that is the basis on which we justify the tax. It has nothing to do with the transfer of traffic from road to rail.

Mr. Mapp

Does not the study show that highway costings, excluding environmental costings, are six times greater for the heavy motor vehicle compared with the private car? In view of those now established facts, why is it that the right hon. Lady is recovering only four-sevenths of the additional costs?

Mrs. Castle

Because we have tempered the winds of economic reality to the shorn lamb of the British road haulage industry.

35. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of her proposal to impose a tax on heavy vehicles, she will take steps to reduce taxation on vehicles which cause minimal wear and tear on the roads.

Mr. John Morris

No, Sir. All vehicles cause wear and tear to the roads, and the new charge is intended to offset some of the additional costs imposed by heavy goods vehicles.

Mr. Campbell

Since the Ministry's Report on track costs confirms that, by any calculation, road vehicles, including heavy lorries as a group, pay much more in taxation than their track costs, why will the Minister not now make corresponding adjustments instead of making road transport as a whole more costly?

Mr. Morris

Against a background of a continuing and expanding programme of heavy expenditure on road construction and improvement, no reduction in taxation of other vehicles could be justified. The hon. Member will be aware that there is less imposition as regards licensing on smaller vehicles and that this will be very much welcomed by small vehicle owners.

Mr. Ogden

Since my hon. Friend has accepted the principle of wear and tear, would he not consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to reducing the motor vehicle licence to a minimum fee and transfer that taxation to petrol?

Mr. Morris

I am sure that my hon. Friend will wish to make that point to the Chancellor who has responsibility for these matters.

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