HC Deb 18 June 1968 vol 766 cc1025-44


Mr. Alison

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, page 7, line 26, at end insert: (3) Vehicles designed wholly and exclusively for the carriage of containers, where such containers are designed for carriage by road, rail, and sea, shall be charged at the appropriate rate of duty specified in Table B, Part III of Schedule 7 of this Act. I would, first, extend a welcome on the behalf of the Committee to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, whom we have not had with us hitherto, at least today, and whom we last saw as a very gloomy sun was rising over the River Thames at 6 a.m. on 9th May, when he joined our deliberations on matters affecting transport. It says something for the rather extended discussion that we have had here, that, almost six weeks later, the representative of the Ministry of Transport should be back with us when we are still only half way through the Finance Bill.

The Amendment which I propose, and to which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give a sympathetic answer, as he is bound to be a rare visitor to the Committee, concerns containers. There are few topics which are more relevant to, or have a greater bearing upon, the pursuit of efficiency and productivity in the manufacture and distribution of the products of British industry than the container revolution.

In order to sum up in a nutshell what I seek to achieve by the Amendment, I refer the Committee to two Tables in the Finance Bill. The first is Table A, on page 59, paragraph 4 of which refers to: Goods vehicles not included in any of the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Schedule. The second is Table B, on page 60, paragraph 3 of which refers to "Other goods vehicles".

My object is to seek to make certain that container purpose-built vehicles are charged under paragraph 3 of Table B and not, as is likely to be the case, under paragraph 4 of Table A, which contains rates and charges which are very much higher than in Table B.

I hope that it will not be an imposition upon the Committee if I remind them of the four types of commercial vehicle upon which containers can be placed. It is essential to get these categories of vehicles clearly into our minds in order to appreciate the changes which need to be made.

The first type of vehicle is the ordinary rigid frame lorry with a flat platform at the back, supported on a back and front axle, with two axles as a minimum. That is the commonest sort of lorry, upon which a container can simply be deposited. A vehicle of this type would be charged at present under Table A according to its unladen weight. A four-ton vehicle in this category, for example, would be charged at the rate of £135.

The second type is the slightly more complex articulated lorry, with an associated trailer, which is, strictly speaking, integral with the tractor unit which pulls it. It is the sort of trailer which can be detached, but which has no separate front axle to enable it to be dragged along on its own, and has to rest on an undercarriage which is dropped down.

In passing, I would point out that the first type of vehicle I referred to, the ordinary rigid frame flat platform lorry with a back and front axle, is probably likely to turn the scales unladen at a lower unladen weight, load for load, than the articulated vehicle, which will have a minimum of three axles, the rear axle on the articulated trailer, the driving axle on the tractor unit and the front axle on the tractor unit. In the case of articulated vehicles, in the nature of things, there is likely to be a greater unladen weight than would be the case with an ordinary type of rigid-frame vehicle.

9.15 p.m.

The point in making the distinction is that the articulated vehicle is more convenient, more manoeuverable, more modern and better adapted to receive a container. Yet, in the nature of our taxation system for vehicle licences, there is a tendency at present for the articulated kind of vehicle to be discriminated against in favour of the rigid-frame vehicle, simply because there will always be an extra axle involved. Right at the outset, the container revolution tends to be discriminated against by an out-dated form of vehicle licensing.

I move from that to the third class of vehicle on which a container might be carried. It is the kind of vehicle referred to in Table B, where we read of goods vehicles used for drawing trailers. This third category is distinct from the articulated unit. It is the sort of massive road tractor and trailer which one occasionally encounters, in which there is a separate tractor unit on its own front and back axles and a separate trailer with independent axles. One finds them pulling tanks, vast transformers and other such units. Strictly speaking, it is a separate tractor and a separate trailer. These units are charged on a much lower rate of duty than the articulated lorry. In the case of the separate tractor, its rate of duty up to four tons is a £54 charge, as hon. Members will see from paragraph 3 of Table B.

Looking into the future and at those who increasingly will make their living in transporting containers about the country, I suspect that there is a built-in incentive for the future container vehicle to be not an articulated unit, which is probably the most manoeuvrable and economic kind of lorry on which to transport containers, but the separate trailer and tractor. The trailer itself does not have to be licensed at all, in which case duty has to be paid only on the separate tractor unit, which is very much less in terms of unladen weight than the articulated lorry. The tendency will be for container operators to go for the separate tractor and trailer. Inherently, this is uneconomic. It means putting an extra axle on the road, with extra tyres and extra expense in construction—

Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the whole purpose of using the semitrailer for containers is that, when the tractor unit moves away, the container on the semi-trailer can be left at a warehouse, port or other premises? That cannot be done with the draw-bar trailer, except with the trailer portion itself, so there is not the disincentive from semitrailers and the incentive to draw-bar trailers, as he suggests.

Mr. Alison

I suspect that there is substantial weight in what the hon. Gentleman says. However, if he studies the imbalances in the rates of vehicle duties applicable to those two distinct categories, he will see that they are so substantial as to outweigh the disadvantage about which he has spoken. For a four-ton unit, the differential is between £54 and £135, which is massive.

There is a fourth category of road vehicle, which is really the decisive point and for which the Committee should make special provision in the future. It is the articulated or semi-trailer vehicle which is purpose-built to take a container. The articulated trailing part is a light trellis framework with a minimum of its own structural existence. It is designed with the very minimum of material to take the four corners of a container. It is not intended to take any other sort of load and probably has no main platform base at the back. It is probably just a simple outline framework with a couple of strengthened in the form of trellis across the middle, designed to take a container and nothing else.

This must be the sort of vehicle of the future as the container revolution comes about. There should be a built-in incentive for the operators and manufacturers of road vehicles to develop this sort of articulated unit and not to go in for a rigid-frame lorry of the sort which probably has a lower unladen weight but is not nearly so manoeuverable or flexible in operation nor has the incentive for the trailer unit as at present charged under Table B.

If the Parliamentary Secretary could accept the Amendment and move from Table A to Table B this limited range of vehicles so that purpose-built articulated lorries would be charged at the rate of only £54 maximum unladen weight, this Committee could put its shoulder in an intelligent and rational way behind a move which would lead to greater flexibility in the output and distribution of British industry.

Mr. Leslie Hnckfield

The argument of the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) shows that he has not understood why articulated vehicles are used. The whole principle of using them is that one can detach the tractor unit from the trailer unit and keep the prime mover continually in use. This is one of the main reasons why the principle of articulation has been adopted. Another reason is that with a tractor and trailer unit which can be detached the driver can be detached from his load. It is then possible to have effective and more flexible trunk haulage operation than if the driver has to stay with his load because his cab is attached to the trailer.

For these two reasons, that one can have more flexibility and keep the tractor or prime mover moving, many operators, pioneered by British Road Services— the nationalised sector—have gone in for articulation.

Mr. Alison

I should like to clarify what obviously I did not make sufficiently clear. The rate of charge at present makes a distinction between the articulated unit in which the tractor unit is movable and the non-articulated unit in which the tractor and trailer are borne on independent axles. It is a question of moving the articulated unit into the same category as the tractor and trailer unit.

Mr. Hnckfield

Again, the hon. Member has misconstrued my argument. The articulated principle means that in all circumstances the driver in his tractor unit can be detached from his load. With the draw-bar trailer, although one trailer can be detached, if there is a second trailer on the mam bed of the lorry it cannot be detached from the driver.

It is because an operator who is using a semi-trailer can put two containers on the same trailer, which can both be detached from the driver, that he will opt, despite some of the disincentives which have been referred to, for the fully-blown semi-trailer. It is not economic for any operator to have a system where he cannot detach the driver from the load as is the case with the draw-bar trailer.

The whole principle of container operation suggests that the operator will have to wait a long time at container ports, freight-liner depots and warehouses. He has to be in a position at all times to detach the whole of his load, which may involve two containers, from the trailer. With the draw-bar trailer he can detach only one container.

Mr. Alison

The second category was not what the hon. Gentleman described as a tractor unit with a built-in container space already on its back, but a separate tractor with no carrier unit at all—a Pickford's tractor without any carrying capacity, which is at present charged at a very much lower rate than the articulated tractor.

Mr. Huckfield

Having been at 45 sitting of the Standing Committee upstairs I appreciate the arguments put forward by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Worcester, South (Sir G. Nabarro) and other hon. Gentlemen, but I would still submit to this Committee that the hon. Gentleman has not understood the basic principle of articulation, which is that it is possible to leave a couple of containers. It is possible to carry two containers on a semi-trailer where it is skeletally possible, and to leave two containers behind. If he studies the way articulation works in practice he will find he is talking nonsense.

Mr. G. Campbell

I would like to support the principle of the Amendment which has been so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Michael Alison). I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield). I know and respect his experience in road transport. I am glad that he was in agréement with our side of the Committee on some of the more important points where we tried to change the Transport Bill, but he has failed to understand the purpose of this Amendment.

The Government ought to make sure that in the Bill they are not penalising containers. There has been and is still taking place a container revolution. Those of us who were inured in the Transport Bill Committee for so long were worried that the Government did not seem to have caught up with the container revolution. The freightliner service of British Railways, which was started five or six years ago with the support of the Conservative Government and which was held up by the disputes over the entry of road transport to the terminal, demonstrated how containers could revolutionise and speed up the transport of freight.

Now the Government are committing, or attempting to commit, the folly of taking the freightliner service away from British Railways—the most profitable go-ahead and developing part of the freight service. This is very much in accordance with the Amendment, because the transferability of the container from one kind of transport to another is one of its essential advantages.

9.30 p.m.

I was seeking, by way of illustration, to show to what extent the Government have failed to catch up with this container revolution which is now going on. It is important that we should ensure that there is no discrimination against the development of the container system.

To illustrate my point, I will turn to another side of transport and the use of the container. This is the present development of what is know as cellular shipping—the container ship which is being specially built with many compartments so that, if cut across as a section, it would look like a beehive. There is no doubt that lessons are being learned from the insect world in the construction of these ships. The way in which they are being constructed is similar to the storage arrangements of the bees and the ants.

These ships, together with the road and rail transport, will mean very much lower costs in the transport of freight across land and water. The great advantage of the container system is that it is easy to transfer from one means of transport to another. It is essential, therefore, that there should be fair treatment with similar forms of transport, such as trailers. That is why this Amendment seeks to move this form of transport to Table B of Part III of Schedule 7 for the purposes of taxation.

I recognise that there are several variations. The dialogue and exchange which occurred between my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash and the hon. Member for Nuneaton made clear that there are different systems—articulated systems of trailers and semi-trailers and so on. I recognise that this matter is complicated. But what worries me is that the Government do not appear to have looked into it. It is essential that this should be done.

I now turn to another point which particularly affects trade and industry in Scotland; the question of containers which travel only by road. There are special forms of container which travel only by road, such as refrigerated containers carrying meat. Meat-producers have found this a much better way of sending meat, other than sending live animals. It is important, therefore, that refrigeration should be included in their method of transport. The same considerations apply to the transport of fish.

Containers are being increasingly used for special packing and for moving without danger of breakage. This is the kind of point which the hon. Member for Nuneaton was making in Standing Committee so I hope that he will support us on this Amendment.

In the light of this container revolution, have the Government really examined the taxation which they are now proposing in the Bill? It seems doubtful whether they have. The Minister was not one of those taking part in our marathon on the Transport Bill, but I hope, none the less, that he followed the discussions that we had. I hope this evening that the hon. Gentleman will explain the Government's attitude and whether they have looked into this, or, alternatively, will accept the principle of this Amendment.

Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) in the Amendment which he has just moved.

I have a personal interest in this container revolution, because one of the major firms making containers and, for that matter, making the vehicles to carry them, Crane-Fruehauf, has its headquarters in my constituency at Dereham.

A few weeks ago I went to the Container Exhibition at Olympia, which was put on by the Port of London Authority, Overseas Containers Ltd. and others. I think that it is acknowledged on both sides of the Committee that containers will produce a tremendous revolution in transport by road and by sea. I understand that shortly Australia will not accept many goods unless they arrive in containers. I appreciate what the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huck-field) said about articulated vehicles having a built-in advantage, but there is no reason why this type of vehicle should be penalised in relation to those which, although used for carrying containers, do not have the same advantages, by carrying the higher rate of duty.

I support the Amendment because I believe that we should encourage modern means of transport, and these containers are probably the most modern means at our disposal. I believe that Britain is in the forefront of the container revolution, and this proposal is one small means by which we can keep Britain there.

Mr. Ridsdale

I feel rather like an amateur among a number of professionals when I hear references to what happened in Committee upstairs. I wish that we could have avoided this situation by discussing the legislation on the Floor of the House rather than upstairs.

My constituency has a direct interest in containers, because it has an important container port not only for British Railways but for private enterprise, at the Harwich Navy Yard, and also on the opposite shore at Felixstowe. It is said that we are in the forefront of the container revolution, but I think that the contrary is true. We have not moved nearly fast enough. Other countries have moved far more quickly than we have, and it is because of this that I ask the Minister to ensure that we get all the advantages that are possible from this form of transport.

I listened with interest to the lucid speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison), and I could not help but feel that the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) has been so concerned with some of the technicalities that he cannot see the wood for the trees.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield rose—

Mr. Ridsdale

I propose to make only a short speech, and I heard what the hon. Gentleman had to say.

I hope that the Minister will adopt a progressive attitude, and say that our taxation system must provide advantages for this new means of transport. I hope that he will pay attention to the lucid arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash. I hope that he will ensure that our transporters derive benefits from the Government's policy, and will not have to continue with the disadvantages which they now have to bear to far too great an extent.

Mr. James Tinn (Cleveland)

It is wrong for hon. Gentlemen opposite to imply that the Government, or indeed anyone on this side are less seized than they are of the importance of developing container traffic. I know that on the Tees in my constituency it is being developed vigorously, and I hope that it will be expanded.

I was rather taken with the logic of the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison). I find it hard to understand why there should be this tax differential between two kinds of trailer, one with two wheels which is coupled to an articulated vehicle, and one which has four wheels. I shall wait with interest to hear my hon. Friend's explanation for this anomaly.

When one recognises the anomaly, it is perhaps not quite so logical to talk solely in terms of the container traffic industry, because this seems to be something which applies equally over the whole of the road haulage industry.

Indeed, if there is something which needs to be put right, I would have thought redress would have to be applied over the whole of the industry. Certainly, from my own observations in my constituency, the tendency seems to be to use the four-wheeled trailer, which I understand is taxed at a lower rate—and that may be one reason—and which also seems to have the advantage that an additional trailer can be coupled to it, making it a two-load unit. This also seems to be the modern trend, although as a motorist I am not keen on seeing more and more of these transport trailers on the road. I cannot quite see that the burden is as considerable as the hon. Member for Barkston Ash appeared to be suggesting, but at the same time I recognise what appears to be an anomaly and I shall be interested in my hon. Friend's explanation.

Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)

I would certainly be ruled out of order and I am sure I would not be popular with hon. Gentlemen if I went into all the details of the Transport Bill which was discussed upstairs. I was filled with admiration for the skilful manner in which my hon. and right hon. Friends endeavoured to reduce that Bill to good sense, but my overall impression of it was that after all the arguments the Government still failed to recognise what I believe is well known—that the transport industry is an integral part of the production line of industry. It has always seemed to me that although this country lacks many natural advantages we have inherent advantages in so far as transport is concerned. We have short hauls to our ports and airfields, and many ports well situated to supply and receive from overseas countries, with good deep water and facilities; and we should do our utmost to develop these advantages to assist out exports.

As my hon. Friends have already said, there is no doubt that the most revolutionary development in transport technique is the development of containers. I myself, I suppose naturally, am rather interested in ships and shipping. We know that tens of millions of pounds are being spent in developing special container ships and special ports for handling containers. This is a vast development. While we may not agreed with their methods I admit that the Government have by various measures and by building up certain departments, endeavoured to encourage British industry to greater efficiency. But for what appear to me to be illogical reasons they seem to be intent on squeezing the transport industry into a framework with scant regard for its efficiency. It will be a dreadful mistake if anything is done to check the development of the container system whether on sea or land; and certainly the two must go together.

It is no good shipowners or port authorities spending these vast sums of money on developing their container ships and facilities if the parallel development does not go on with container vehicles ashore. Here is a sphere in which I am quite sure the Government should, as it has done in other spheres in industry, give real encouragement to the development of container vehicles. My hon. Friend put the case; extremely well and if the Amendment is accepted it will encourage this development on land, parallel with the great developments at sea and in the ports. That is why I support it and hope that it will be accepted.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Costain

I was surprised that no attempt was made to reply to this interesting debate. I am seriously concerned when a Government use taxation to delay progressive developments—

Mr. Leslie Hnckfield


Mr. Costain

The hon. Member makes extraordinary noises, and he also makes extraordinary speeches. He refers to my hon. Friends as speaking nonsense. He may have some experience of transport, but he is not the only hon. Member who has.

Mr. Huckfield

Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that the cost advantage of using an articulated semi-trailer far outweighs the tax disadvantage to which his hon. Friends refer?

Mr. Costain

Are we talking about efficiency or about the maximum taxation which a Government can apply to an industry? The hon. Member argues that, because one form of trailer is taxed less than another, that is all right. My view is precisely the opposite. How will we get the most efficient transport system? In the near future, the Channel Tunnel will be operating with a type of transport depending very much on the trailer principle and I am anxious to hear what co-ordination has gone on with the lorry manufacturers.

My early experience in charge of a transport fleet showed me that a great deal of development was restricted in motor lorries—[Interruption.]—the hon. Member laughs, but I can go back to the steam trailer, when development was handicapped by high taxation. What consultations have the Government had with the manufacturers, who are doing so much for our exports? How will our taxation system compare with that of the Continent? In the near future, there will be interchange of these lorries, and I wonder whether we will be at a disadvantage with foreign operators. [Interruption.] Again the hon. Member finds this amusing. I am sorry that he does, since this is one of the most serious factors for our exports. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not let the debate go by default. I intend to vote for the Amendment.

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

When I first looked at the Amendment, I wondered what it was trying to do. I thought that it was to remove containers from the reckonable weight in assessing the excise duty payable, but, from the speech of the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison), whom I thank for his kind remarks in opening, it was clear that this was not one of the intentions. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite intend to create new concession rates for vehicles using containers? The hon. Member for Barkston Ash tried to argue this case by referring to the four categories of vehicle.

The hon. Gentleman is labouring under a considerable misapprehension about what the Schedule does. All types of container-carrying vehicle receive a substantial tax relief, and under the 1966 Act the demountable body is not taken into account for taxable weight. This applies if the vehicle is in category one, a platform lorry; in category two, an articulated lorry; in category three, a platform lorry plus fixed towbar with trailer; or category four, a special purpose-built vehicle.

The hon. Member for Barkston Ash is under a misapprehension in referring to category three vehicles. He referred to large road tractor and trailer vehicles and described them as tank transporters. He made great play with the subject of the drawbar trailer and gave the impression that hauliers would be turning to this type of vehicle in the next month or so—that we would have nothing but huge tank transporters rumbling up and down the motorways. This is a ludicrous suggestion and I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman seriously meant it.

The hon. Gentleman seemed to believe that this type of vehicle, the tank transporter, would be taxed at £54 under Table B. In fact, it will be charged £135 under Table A (4) and £54 under Table B (3), making a total of £189. If we were to simply charge on the basis of Table B (3), what would be the result? The basic goods rates under Table A go up in ¼-ton steps, while the supplementary trailer rates, which the Amendment seeks to apply as the basic rate for goods vehicles designed wholly and exclusively for the carriage of containers, are in a much broader taxation band.

In addition, while the basic rates have no upper limit, the supplementary trailer rates have, and it is interesting to make a comparison between the basic goods rates proposed by the Government and those proposed by the Amendment. A 1½-ton vehicle will be paying £49 10s 0d., while the rate proposed by the Amendment is £14; a 4-ton vehicle will pay under the Government proposal £135, while the rate proposed by the Amendment is £40; and a 10-ton vehicle will pay £459 while the Amendment proposes £54. I cannot believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite are seriously suggesting that the Government should accept a proposition which would mean such a calamitous loss of revenue. Indeed, I wonder how the constituents of hon. Gentlemen opposite would feel if they knew that their representatives were asking that the owner of a 2½-ton vehicle should be allowed to pay £1 less, £24, in Excise Duty than ordinary drivers are being asked to pay, £25, for private vehicles? I am quite certain that the average car owner is certainly not going to be enamoured of this type of proposition.

I think the Amendment should be resisted, first because it is certainly badly drawn whatever its object may be. I am sure there is considerable confusion in the mind of the hon. Member who moved it. It is completely unacceptable in particular because container vehicles already have the benefit of the weight of the container being ignored for the purpose of assessing duty.

Mr. Alison

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for seeking to throw light on this. It is only light I am seeking. Could he help in this particular? Is a vehicle of unladen weight of four tons, which has a hook at the back so that it may be linked to a separate trailer, at present licensed under paragraph 4 of Table A— a four-tons unladen weight vehicle at £135—a platform lorry with capacity for taking a trailer—or is it taxed under paragraph 3 of Table B at £54, or is it taxed at both together? This is what I am not quite clear about. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would clarify that for us.

Mr. Brown

The vehicle is taxed under both Tables, because Table B is really an additional tax upon the trailer itself: the trailer cannot be taxed so the vehicle is taxed. Depending on the weight of the trailer, this is an additional rate of duty, set out in column 4 of Table B, and that duty is appended to the vehicle taxed in Table A.

Mr. Alison

I am genuinely seeking light on this. What is the taxable position, therefore, of the separate Pickford's tractor unit with no trailer attached to it at all, the small tractor unit used for hauling a tank transporter, for example? Is it assessed separately? It must be, we assume, otherwise the weight would go up to beyond four tons, which is the maximum weight under paragraph 3 of Table B. What is the rate of taxation on one of those separated tractor units which has no carrying capacity of its own?

Mr. Brown

The mechanical horse, which is really what we are referring to, would be taxed under Table A.

The Amendment is unacceptable to the Government because, assuming that its drafting were right, it would lead to, applying to container vehicles a duty which would be much too low, as I have indicated. It would be completely unfair to the transport industry as a whole.

Do not let anyone leave this Committee to night with the impression that the Government are not anxious to do all in their power to facilitate the container revolution. I do not think anyone can point a finger at this Government and say that we have done anything other than give great encouragement to the container revolution.

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin (Wanstead and Woodford)

I am sure that the Committee is grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) for bringing this matter to our attention. It has produced an interesting debate. I found it a little difficult to remember that we were debating the Finance Bill, and not the Transport Bill, the presence beside me of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) for most of the debate served to heighten the illusion.

The debate has demonstrated the value in these matters, technical though they may be—and the Parliamentary Secretary's reply has demonstrated the degree of technicality—of having a debate in the Committee of the whole House and not upstairs. We have had a number of valuable contributions, from my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell), who has great knowledge of shipping developments, from my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins), who has a strong constituency interest in the construction of these trailers which are the subject matter of the Amendment, and from my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale), who represents one of the most important of the container ports, which is playing an increasingly valuable part in our overseas trade.

We also had the advantage of a contribution from the hon. Member for Nuneatcm (Mr. Leslie Huckfield). I understand that he has spent a substantial part of his working life in the industry before coming to the House. He was able to make a worth-while contribution. Although he said that my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash had misconstrued one of the provisions of this not altogether easy part of the Seventh Schedule he, speaking from very much greater knowledge, fell into exactly the same trap, because the objection he sought to raise against my hon. Friend's Amendment bore little relationship to the answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary.

We on this side do not have the resources that are available to Ministers to draft Amendments, and I hope that his criticism that my hon. Friend's Amendment was badly drawn will not count against him. It was clear that the Parliamentary Secretary and his advisers had not appreciated my hon. Friend's case. There was a suggestion that the Amendment was directed towards relieving from tax the container which rests upon a trailer. My hon. Friend made it clear that his Amendment was not directed to that at all, and it is difficult to see how it could have been.

What comes out of this debate is the general view held about the value of developments in the container revolution. This was shown by the support which my hon. Friend's Amendment attracted from the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn). This is of great importance to this country, which has such a high proportion of overseas trade. My hon. Friend's Amendment has brought to the attention of the Government the need to keep taxation arrangements under constant review, particularly those affecting transport, and to make doubly certain that at no stage are desirable technological developments frustrated or hampered by a form of taxation drawn up before those technological developments were contemplated.

I appreciate the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's point in reply that the extent of the relief which the Amendment sought was perhaps rather greater than had been appreciated and that in this year's Budget it would perhaps be wrong to seek to press for relief for one form of transport—however desirable it may be, and however much we want to see the development—to the extent that he said would be the case here.

But the debate has performed a useful function in bringing to light the importance of ensuring that the container revolution in all its ramifications is not hindered by out-dated taxation practices. The Committee will be grateful to my hon. Friend for having moved it and enabled the point to be made and supported by many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.

I feel sure that, having heard the Minister's reply, my hon. Friend will feel it right not to press the matter to a Division. At the same time, it would be equally right that the Minister should not feel that, having given his answer, for which we are grateful, that will be the end of the matter. It must be kept under constant review.

Mr. Bob Brown

I want to thank the hon. Member for Wanstead and Wood-ford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) for the way in which he concluded his speech giving the Opposition views, and to correct a statement that I made. I told the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) that a mechanical horse would be taxed under Table A, but it would in fact be taxed at the rates shown under Category 3, Part II of Schedule 7, on the unladen weight of the vehicle. A mechanical horse pulling no trailer would be taxed under Part II at the bottom of page 58, as I have said.

Mr. Alison

In the light of the speeches which have been made from both Front Benches, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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