HC Deb 11 July 1968 vol 768 cc869-85

9.58 p.m.

Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 1968 (S.I., 1968 No. 947) dated 17th June, 1968, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th June, be annulled. This must be one of the most remarkable Instruments to be laid before the House during this period of the present Administration. The first indication we had that it was to be made was on 21st February when the right hon. Lady, who was then the Minister of Transport, said in a statement to the Press that she was reviewing the possibility of increasing the driving test fee from £1 to £1 15s.

It so happens that by the time we come to discuss the Regulations to put the proposal into effect the right hon. Lady is no longer the Minister of Transport but is responsible for the Government's prices and incomes policy, where rumour has it the norm is that no price increase should, if possible, be more than 3 per cent. I would have thought that an increase from £1 to £1 15s. rather violated that norm. This is a proposal, originated by the Minister who is now responsible for the Government's prices and incomes policy, for a 75 per cent. increase in the cost of the driving test. The House will want to know why, in complete contradiction to their own prices and incomes policy, the Government are bringing forward an increase of this proportion.

To justify such an increase the Government must argue that they believe that motorists taking driving tests should, in the form of this fee, meet the full cost of such tests, in which case they will have difficulty in arguing that all the other taxes and fees obtained from motorists should not be used for matters benefiting the motorists. As we know, that is not the position.

Another objection to the Regulations is that it is yet another example of this Government's showing considerable hostility to the motorist. It is yet another increase in the cost of motoring. I would have thought that the Government would be sufficiently satisfied with the enormous increase that they have made in the taxation of motorists without demanding this increase.

The House should be made aware of exactly how much extra the motoring public is being forced to pay, as opposed to what it was paying when the present Government came into office. In 1964 the total revenue from the main forms of taxation of the motor vehicle owner— that is to say, petrol, motor vehicle licences, Purchase Tax and income from driving test fees—amounted to £778 million. Since then the cost of the motor vehicle licence has been increased by no less than £10 a vehicle; the tax on petrol has risen by 1s. 2d.; the Purchase Tax on a motor car has been increased by 50 per cent. as compared with the rate operating in 1964, and in this financial year, instead of raising £778 million from the motorist the Government will raise no less than £1,561 million.

The total taxation burden on the motoring public has doubled in the three-and-a-half years of this Government yet, not satisfied with this, they have decided to impose a 75 per cent. increase in this fee. We must know from the Parliamentary Secretary the reason for this decision. The only reason given is that the current total income from fees for driving tests is not sufficient to meet the cost, and that the deficit currently runs at the rate of £500,000 per year in respect of the cost of administering the driving tests.

The increase proposed will much more than cover this £500,000 deficit; indeed, it has been predicted that by early in the 1970s the deficit of the past few years will have been made up and the Fund will be running into a surplus. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to assure the House that the moment the Fund runs into a surplus in respect of the cost of driving tests he will reduce the fee so that the Fund is exactly in balance. Will he do this?

Secondly, I ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary what justification he has for saying to people who take the driving test in 1969 that they must bear the deficit for those who took the driving test in 1967. I can see no justification for that. It is not a policy which the Government pursue with the railways. If, for example, the Government decided that the fares of 1969 should meet the accumulated deficit of British Railways over the past few years, the fare increases would be even more crippling than those now advocated by the Government. This is a new theme of the present Administration. Not only do they intend to increase fees and taxes to meet the current running cost but they intend to increase them to levels to meet past deficits and then to go into a future surplus position.

There can be no justification for being this mean with the motoring public for, as I said, the Government will get nearly £800 million a year more from the owners of motor vehicles than was being obtained when the Government came into power. To introduce a squalid little regulation to add yet another cost to motoring can only reflect a basic hostility to motoring on the part of the Government. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary mutters to himself "Nonsense". He will have some difficulty in persuading the motorist that a Government who have doubled taxes in three and a half years have a friendly approach or, if that is what the Parliamentary Secretary describes as a friendly approach, the motorist must hope that the friendliness will cease forthwith and that a more hostile attitude will prevail.

Not satisfied with that, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, in reply to a Question recently put in the House, stated that there would be no change in the scope of the driving test. Had the Government announced that after careful consideration they thought that, in the interests of road safety, there was justification for increasing the scope of the driving test and they would therefore make an additional charge, that would have received the sympathy of both sides of the House. There is considerable concern that the driving test is rather narrow in its scope. For example, the learner driver is not even allowed to go on to a motorway, and is in no way tested on whether he has knowledge sufficient for him to drive competently on a motorway. I have always expressed concern that no lessons on night driving are given to a person learning to drive a motor car, and there are no means thereafter for him to be tested in his or her skill at night driving, which requires a different technique.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is getting a little wide of the scope of the Prayer on the Order Paper.

Mr. Walker

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am arguing that if the Government wish to charge 35s. a time they should give a rather better test than they give at present. It is reasonable to argue that for 35s. a person could be tested on motorway driving and driving at night.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is now relating his remarks to the Prayer; he was not doing so before.

Mr. Walker

In relating my remarks to the Prayer, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give further consideration to the possibility of widening the scope of the driving test, and of seeing that, within the cost of the original test of 35s., there is a provision that for the first year the licence provided if the test is successfully concluded is but a probationary licence and at the end of the first twelve months, if an offence has been committed or an accident has occurred, a further test is given to make absolutely certain that a person is suitable for a full driving licence.

It is with regret that I have to comment that the Government have done nothing imaginative to improve the scope of the driving test and therefore justify the extra charge. This is yet another additional burden upon the motorist, it is a burden which is more than is necessary to meet the current deficit, one which will eventually mean a further surplus of income to the Treasury, adding to the economic surplus which is being obtained as a result of the colossal increases that have taken place through taxation of the motoring public. It is for these reasons that I commend this humble Address to the House tonight.

10.10 p.m.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) gave us the latest of his variations on a well-known theme, if he will excuse me using that phrase. Not only on these Regulations, but on many more, he has consistently tried to make a case proving that my Government are anti-motorist. I am a motorist at times and at other times a pedestrian, but I hope I speak as neither tonight.

He described this as a squalid Regulation, a new tax on motorists. If he wishes to maintain his reputation for strict accuracy, he will agree with me that this is not a tax on motorists but upon pre-motorists, those who are not yet motorists but hope to become so. Part of his case falls down on that count. He surely cannot argue that it is unfair for those who wish to take the driving test to meet the full cost of that test at any one time. He may be on more sound ground when he argues that the cost of the test should vary from time to time to meet the particular amount of money needed by the Ministry to conduct the tests. It may be that instead of having to fall behind in costs, running up a deficit as it were, one should have a more frequent variation in the cost.

No one would disagree that it is time the Regulations were reviewed and revised. They have been in operation for five years and I doubt whether there is any area of activity which has changed so much in that time. It may be that every hon. Member will have different ideas as to what Amendments should be made. These Regulations and Amendments simplify and clarify the existing Regulations.

I have looked up the massive tome in which they are enthroned. If I went into any part of them I would be out of order, and I will limit my remarks to a passing reference. Part III of the 1963 Regulations deals with testing competence and fitness to drive. Section 12(2)(a) and (2)(b) talks of "without danger and with due consideration." That should be the aim of us all, from whatever side of the House we speak. I would ask my hon. Friend how far he thinks these present Amendments do anything to improve upon this objective of competence and fitness to drive without danger and with due consideration.

So far the Minister has not been able to explain what he thinks the Amendments will do. We have had newspaper reports and comments about safety and efficiency. I had heard, contrary to what the hon. Member for Worcester said, that the suggested fees will not meet the full costs, over a long period. It would seem that the Amendments could have been put forward by a Treasury Minister as ably, or with the same justification, as a Transport Minister. I would like my hon. Friend to give us his reasons for including mowing machines, bringing the cost of a driving test for a mowing machine up to 35s. from £1. I do not know whether he has any figures available about the number of people who are tested on such machines, but I drive a fair number of miles in a year and I have never yet seen anyone being tested on a mowing machine. Is it really worth while testing the number of operators of mowing machines cutting road verges?

Next we have tests for pedestrian-controlled vehicles, and I gather that they are the one-man operated milk floats which one sees in our cities. How many of those tests are carried out, and could they not be tested without their having "L" licences? Then we come to invalid carriages, and it occurs to me to ask why these have been included. Are they the old wicker-basket type of vehicle with a two-stroke engine which one still sees occasionally, and, if it has been necessary for administrative reasons to include them in the group which is to pay an increased fee— —

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting out of order. The driving test fee for invalid carriages is the only one not to be increased in the Order, and, therefore, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can discuss it.

Mr. Ogden

The point having been made, perhaps in one way or another we can have the answers to the social security points.

If the cost to the Ministry of a test is not balanced by the cost to the person taking the test, it would appear to be much better to do a much more simple exercise than balancing the figures five years backwards and five years forwards. The proposals, however necessary or desirable they may be, do nothing to increase safety or efficiency. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to say why the amended Regulations do not cover those points. If the object is to get value for money by increasing the cost from £1 to 35s., why not put it up to £2?

I have to declare an interest at this point. It is many years since I took my first test. It so happens that it was on a motor-cycle. It must be the only time that a member of the public has failed a test not for failing to stop at a light but because he lost the examiner. I have a green rejection slip saying that I failed because of my faulty navigation. To take a test on a motor cycle, one is told by the examiner to drive up the road, turn left for three streets and then return. However, to do that in our city is extremely difficult, and it is the easiest thing in the world to lose one's examiner. I did, and I failed.

It occurs to me that these amending Regulations may lead to a review of the whole driving test system and that the new fee of 35s. will give would-be drivers the opportunity to take a real test. Surely it would be simpler to ask a person being tested to drive from point A to point B, so ensuring that he gets value for money.

These Regulations will simplify matters, but I hope that very soon we shall have further, wider and more helpful Regulations.

10.18 p.m.

Sir Clive Bossom (Leominster)

I appreciate the reason for reviewing the present fee. It has remained unchanged for the past 11 years. But what worries the ordinary motorist is that there is a ever-widening gap between the income from motoring taxation and Government's expenditure on facilities relating to the use of motor vehicles. I understand that recent taxation increases alone expected to produce more than £200 million revenue in the coming year. The motorist will not get value for money out of that.

I understand, too, that there are 2 million driving tests each year. Increasing the fee by 15s. will produce an income greatly in excess of the amount required to meet the current deficit, which is said to be just over £500,000. I see that the Minister does not agree with that. Perhaps he can correct the figures if I am wrong.

How do the Government propose to help the motorist from the extra revenue? Will it be used to improve the testing service with mechanical auto-testers. If it is not, the increase is not at all fair.

Mr. Anthony Berry (Southgate)

I approach the matter in much the same spirit as that adopted by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden), having in mind the need for motorists to drive without causing danger and with due consideration for others. I welcome this opportunity to discuss the tests and to consider whether the large increase, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) has rightly drawn attention, is justified. My view is that it is not justified unless we hear from the Parliamentary Secretary a detailed explanation of how the extra money is to be used and in what way motorists are to benefit from it. We are concerned lest it will all be lost in the Exchequer. We know how parking meter money is now going elsewhere. It is likely that other moneys raised from motorists in the future will not be used for purposes connected with roads and the driving of motor vehicles.

If the increase is to go through, there must be improvements in the test and in the teaching of drivers. The scope ought to be widened. If matters are improved in the way which I suggest, perhaps the increase, though large in proportion—75 per cent.—will nevertheless be justified.

I take, first, the form of application which a would-be test taker in the London area has to complete. I imagine that it is the same elsewhere. I obtained this copy of the form this morning. It is a complicated document and on it one finds, for example, item (k) which tells one that the would-be test taker has to turn right-hand and left-hand corners "without dewiring". At the bottom of the form, one finds that this applies only to someone driving a trolley vehicle. There cannot be many people taking tests in trolley vehicles nowadays, and it seems obvious that the form could be brought up to date and simplified considerably.

At the head of the form is an important note: If you have not read the pamphlet DL 68, 'Your Driving Test', please do so. It will help you". So indeed it does. But there are a number of ways in which the pamphlet could be brought up to date.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am a driver, too, and I share the hon. Gentleman's anxiety; but tonight we are deciding merely whether the fee should be increased from £1 to £1 15s.

Mr. Berry

I am arguing that if the fee is to be increased certain improvements should be made, and I am making suggestions for improvement which, perhaps, would justify the increase. If I may pursue the matter for a moment—and hope for the best, Mr. Speaker—the first point I make is that there is no reference in the pamphlet to indicate that there are cars on which the gears do not have to be changed manually. I do not know what proportion of cars today have automatic gearboxes, but a good many do, and the number is increasing all the time. There is no hint in the pamphlet that anyone may take a test on a car with an automatic gearbox, and I suggest that, perhaps, 1s. of the increase could be used to put that matter right.

There is a reference to direction indicators and the need to give indications in good time. That is all to the good, but the time has come when the Government ought to take into account—perhaps another 1s. of the money could be used for this purpose—the need to have flashing indicators on all cars. One cannot go back over too many years, but seat belts have recently been made compulsory in cars produced after a certain date, and, in my view, flashing light indicators are of great importance, too.

The use of seat belts has become important in driving today. But there is no mention in the pamphlet of seat belts. Since the Government have rightly made such an important point of using seat belts when driving, I should have thought that another shilling of the increase could well be used on mentioning them.

Mr. Peter Walker

I must remind my hon. Friend that we are praying against the increase.

Mr. Berry

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I hope to leave at least 6d. at the end in order to support the Prayer against the increase.

I am also concerned about the use of hand signals. I know that they are important, but since all cars today have indicators and brake lights, I believe that too much play is made of the use of the hand signal in driving tests.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must put a price on hand signals or he will be out of order.

Mr. Berry

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I think perhaps 6d. for hand signals, in order to leave myself something in hand in case I find some more points later on.

Many times when following a learner driver I have very much wished that he or she had had both hands on the wheel and not one stretched out of the window.

There is quite rightly mention in the pamphlet of crossings and what one should do at halt signs, but halt signs are now almost entirely—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Price or no price, it is about time we returned to the regulations, which raise the fee from £1 to £1 15s.

Mr. Berry

I am grateful, Mr. Speaker. I think that I have emphasised strongly enough that there are grave omissions in the way in which drivers are prepared for their tests. If they are to pay more for them, they should be better prepared to pass them, as we hope they will.

I hope that the Minister will take note of my suggestions. It is wrong that there should be no mention of the give way sign. Making such a mention would be another way of using the money. There is no mention of roundabouts, but their use should also be part of the teaching system. If people are to pay more, these things should be included. Certainly the question of driving as learners on motorways is important, and part of the increase should pay for its inclusion.

I have given a number of reasons why I think that the tests are not yet quite right. If their price is to be increased more detail should be gone into, and more points should be covered.

I assure the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that I make these points constructively. It is my wish, and I am sure that it is the wish of all of us, that as we have more drivers, driving more cars on more roads we should have even more safety.

10.28 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bob Brown)

I am sure that the House welcomes, as I do, this opportunity to debate the Regulations. At one time or another in our lives the driving test affects most of us, and it is right that the House should interest itself in matters of general public interest, whether or not they are regarded as important national issues.

Before answering the various points which have been raised in the debate, I should like, for the benefit of the House, to put the matter in its proper perspective. We have heard a great deal from the Opposition about the size of the percentage increases under the Regulations. I accept that expressed as a percentage of the existing fees the increases, if viewed in solitary state, can be made to seem large. But in monetary terms they are relatively small, 15s. paid once or twice in a lifetime.

The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) flogged the issue of the Government milking the motorist, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) corrected him, those concerned are the motorists of the future—the day after they pass their driving test. So it is not fair to say that on this issue we are milking the motorist. I do not accept that we are as a Government milking the motorist. The hon. Member should do his homework. We have not increased taxation by 100 per cent. this year, as he suggested—nothing of the sort. I know that he will tell us that the taxation figure has doubled, but we are not increasing taxation per motorist by 100 per cent. If vehicle ownership is steadily increasing, clearly taxation must increase also. The hon. Member ought to take this into account.

Mr. Peter Walker

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the number of motor vehicles has gone up anything like 100 per cent. in the last three years?

Mr. Brown

Certainly not, but I suggest that the hon. Member should try to keep his balance. He is getting well off balance on this issue.

All the tests are being increased by 15s. with the exception of the small number which my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby questions—a matter of 300 tests on motor mowers, farm implements, and so forth that, in the main, are used off the highway, but, nevertheless, are used for not more than six miles on the highway per week. That is the type of vehicle that comes into this category. It involves only about 300 tests per year. The fee is being increased as my hon. Friend said, from 2s. 6d. to 35s. Again we have to bear in mind that there has been no increase in this fee for over 30 years, and it is now for sound economic reasons that it should be increased to the standard fee for the driving test.

Hon. Members should also remember, as I said earlier, that most people take the driving test only once or twice. Very few have to take it more than three times, although when I deal with my correspondence week by week I have one or two cases, which are almost engraved on my heart already, of people who tell me that they have taken it 20 or 25 times and how unfair examiners are.

I want to examine the issue of the percentage increase a little because the hon. Member for Worcester made much play of it. I remind hon. Members opposite that the Conservative Government in 1956 increased the fee not by 75 per cent. but by 100 per cent., from 10s. to 20s. and by 1966–67 the accumulated deficit was £1.3 million as against the present figure of £2.265 million. The deficiency on the year 1966–67 was only £300,000. Last year's deficiency was £900,000. Clearly, if we are to talk pro rata we have a good case for increasing the test fee on economic grounds by much greater than 75 per cent.

Mr. Peter Walker

I am rather surprised at the hon. Gentleman's figure of £900,000 for last year when in an official Ministry of Transport Press notice on 27th June it was stated that the deficit currently was £500,000. If it was £900,000, it should be put in.

Mr. Brown

The Press statement said that it was "more than £500,000". If it had said just "£500,000" I should have had to look into the information department in the morning and find out why that was said. I might well do so.

I now deal with the reference to my right hon. Friend the First Secretary. There were derogatory references to her keenness on the prices and incomes policy and so on. She is no more keen than any other member of the Government on the prices and incomes policy but we all clearly believe that it is the correct policy for a successful future for the country, and that is why we are pursuing it.

There has also been criticism on the ground that here the Government are increasing prices while urging others to keep prices and incomes down. The Government's White Paper "Productivity, Prices and Incomes Policy in 1968 and 1969" does, of course, do just this. But it also recognises that, in certain circumstances, increases may be necessary. This is one. The increases made under these Regulations are fully justified by the criteria set out in paragraph 16 of the White Paper.

In spite of every effort to keep costs down and to improve its efficiency, the driving test organisation is now costing the taxpayer more than £900,000 each year. Last year it was £907,000. This is wrong in principle and cannot be allowed to continue. Why should the taxpayer at large subsidise the 2 million people who choose each year to take the driving test? Ever since the driving test began in 1935, it has been the policy of all Administrations, including those of the Conservative Party, that the cost of the test should be met by fees. If we seek to prevent any increase in the cost of the test or to have a smaller increase, how can it be done within the prices and incomes policy? The answer is surely that of increased productivity. But are hon. Members arguing that? The only way we can increase productivity in driving tests would be by reducing the time per test from 45 minutes to, say, 30 or 25 minutes.

Hon. Members opposite cannot have it both ways. They cannot, on the one hand, suggest that we should make the test more stringent and thereby severely increase costs and, on the other hand, that we should increase productivity and thereby reduce the stringency of the test. It must be either one thing or the other.

Sir Clive Bossom

We could also have mechanical auto testers. They are very expensive but would be much more efficient and could be combined with the human tester.

Mr. Brown

That seems to be a valid suggestion. I cannot answer it off the cuff but I will look into it. I would think, however, that the initial capital cost would call for an increase in the test fees to cover it. I assure the House that the increases we are making are not more than are essential to meet over a reasonable period the deficits which have arisen and would continue to rise if the fees remained unchanged.

There have been suggestions of referring the increases to the National Board for Prices and Incomes. As I have said, in monetary terms the increases are small, and only once or twice in a lifetime— this is worth repeating—do people take a driving test. So there is no question of the increases having an effect on the cost of living as such or in general economic terms.

Reference has been made to the accumulated deficit. Indeed, some play was made of it in the debate. The increases will enable us not only to make good the current deficit but also to recoup the accumulated deficit which has arisen. The increases are intended for just that purpose and I do not make any bones about it.

Let us consider a little more closely the proposition advanced by hon. Members opposite and its consequences. Do they suggest that the driving test fee should be increased by Id. or 2d., or even 6d., every time a deficit is likely to arise? That would have to be done at frequent intervals if their objections to losses on past candidates being met by increases in the fees of those taking the test in future were to be met. Are the Opposition seriously suggesting that we should make small increases at frequent intervals, consulting each time all the interests concerned, as we are obliged to do by Statute, and printing amended forms, with the inevitable consequence of the public sending the wrong test fee, with all the additional work and staff which that would entail?

The hon. Gentleman made a number of references to D.L.68, the driving test pamphlet, which, I am pleased to say, he has taken the trouble to read. I wish that all candidates for the test would take the same trouble, for we might then have not so high a rate of failure. The pamphlet is currently under revision, and there will be some amendments and I assume that some of those which he has suggested will be embodied. However, little as he likes the reference to trolley vehicles, trolley vehicles are still operating and this pamphlet has to have national application.

If the test fee were to be amended regularly to cover the current deficit, the administrative cost would more than eat up the pennies and twopences and, therefore, the Government's proposal is the only way in which we can cover the deficit. We do not propose that this increase should be a form of revenue for my hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. The hon. Gentleman said that we would have a great surplus, but in fact in 1970–71 we shall have an accumulated deficit of more than £2 million.

Mr. Speaker

It will help the reporters in the Gallery if the hon. Gentleman will speak a little louder.

Mr. Peter Walker

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that in 1970–71 there will still be an accumulated deficit of £2 million. I have a letter from the Ministry of Transport saying that the deficit will be cleared by 1971. The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that there is now a deficit of £2,300,000 and that there will still be a deficit of £2 million in 1970–71 and it is, therefore, impossible for this letter from the Ministry of Transport to be accurate.

Mr. Brown

I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the letter which he had earlier this year from the Minister.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take note of what I have said. This is not a conversation between himself and the Opposition Front Bench. The Gallery and the Press reporters want to hear what he is saying.

Mr. Brown

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. The figures in that letter were calculated before the latest pay awards and the S.E.T. increase.

Furthermore, when the increase in fee was proposed in 1967, we had expected to recover most of the accumulated deficit by 1970–71. The main reasons for the deteriorations were that we budgeted for the increase becoming effective from 1st January of this year, whereas it did not come into effect until 2nd July. We thus lost six months' receipts at the increased rates, a loss of £800,000.

Mr. Peter Walker

I am grateful for that explanation, which I accept. Could I ask the hon. Gentleman to see that when in future Regulations of this sort are laid, and the Ministry has issued information only a few weeks before which becomes out of date, it will inform the House of this?

Mr. Brown

It is a fair request, and I will ask my right hon. Friend, and the Department, to give it consideration. It is fair to make the point that when we are framing a Press statement we do so in the light of events at that time. If we are overtaken by events we will reconsider it.

Mr. Ogden

The information that there will be a continuing deficit is of concern to both sides of the House. I was hoping that we could argue that there would be a surplus, used to increase the efficiency, the "rightfulness", of the test.

Mr. Speaker

Order. What we do with the surplus does not arise on this Prayer. We are deciding whether the fee should be increased from £1 to 35s.

Mr. Ogden

I would suggest to the Minister that costs should be increased, not by 15s. but more, to ensure— —

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot amend the Regulation, which raises the fee from £1 to 35s. There may be some other way of doing this—but not in this debate.

Mr. Brown

These Regulations only cover the increase in the fee. We have consulted interested organisations about certain proposals for amending motor vehicle driving licence Regulations and are now considering their comments.

It has been said that the motorist is being milked, and taxed too hard. I want to kill this idea. The inference is that the Exchequer should bear any accumulated deficit because the total taxes paid by the motorist exceeds the amount of Government expenditure on roads and other things to do with motoring. Most of us pay a variety of taxes, imposed by Parliament to service the Exchequer. The taxes paid by motorists are the same as those paid by any other section of the community—Purchase Tax, Income Tax—

Mr. Speaker

The Income Tax which motorists pay in common with other taxpayers is a very interesting subject, but it has nothing to do with the Prayer before us.

Mr. Brown

Petrol Tax, Excise Duty, etc.—they are all general taxes. It is a basic principle that there can be no hypothecation of the revenue derived from these general taxes.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must listen to what Mr. Speaker is saying. We are debating whether the fee should be increased from £1 to 35s.. The Minister is bound by the same rules of order as the rest of the House.

Mr. Brown

I am sorry. I have been trying to reply to points made before you arrived in the Chamber, Mr. Speaker. I want to disabuse hon. Members of this idea that the taxpayer generally should subsidise the motoring public.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take notice of what the Chair is saying. The Prayer is against the increase in the driving licence fee from £1 to 35s. He must address his remarks to that.

Mr. Brown

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I simply conclude by asking the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Prayer, or for the House to reject it.

Question put and negatived.