HC Deb 17 October 1968 vol 770 cc673-6

Lords Amendment No. 62: In page 86, line 3, at end insert: ( ) to the use of tractors and machines registered under the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1962, at the agricultural rate of duty and used within the conditions specified therein; or ( ) to the use of any mechanically propelled vehicle exempted from the duty chargeable under the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1962 in accordance with the provisions of section 6(6) of that Act; or

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Swingler

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The principle here is one that I have reiterated far too many times, namely, as members of the Standing Committee will recall, that we should not put exemptions into the Statute, but should deal with them by means of regulations. That is the sole reason for my right hon. Friend resisting this proposal, but I can say quite definitely that he has it in mind, subject to the usual consultations which are necessary, to propose that the categories of vehicles mentioned in the Amendment should be included in exemption regulations under Clause 60(2,b). I hope that that assurance will give some satisfaction to those who are concerned.

Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)

Is the Minister of State undertaking to exempt all the vehicles referred to in the Lords Amendment?

Mr. Swingler

My right hon. Friend has authorised me to say that, subject to the usual consultations, he proposes that the categories of vehicles here mentioned should be included in exemption regulations under Clause 60(2,b). I am resisting the Amendment solely on the ground that we want to deal with exemptions by regulation and not by incorporating them in the Statute.

Mr. Awdry

I only wish that the Minister had said this before. When I raised the matter earlier we did not get a categorical assurance of that kind. In Standing Committee, I raised the question of dual purpose vehicles and at the same time we dealt with particular Amendments of this kind. Subsequently, very definite assurances were given in their Lordships' House about dual purpose vehicles, and their Lordships were satisfied with that assurance. Nevertheless, even last week, no definite assurances were being given about the vehicles mentioned in the Amendment.

I would remind the House that in the first part of the Amendment we are dealing with machines described as "agricultural machines" in the Third Schedule to the Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1962. I understand that to mean all vehicles going about the business of farming—taking farm produce to and from the farm, and so on. We are very pleased that at last the Government have definitely said that all those farm vehicles as defined in that Act will be exempt. We do not now mind that being done by regulation so long as the assurance is quite clear. It will relieve the anxieties of our farmers.

The second part of the Amendment refers to other vehicles, not just farm vehicles. These are vehicles which pass from one part of land in an owner's occupation to another part, or vehicles which operate for a total of only six miles in a week. We are talking, not only about farmers, but about builders. They, too, will be relieved to hear that these vehicles are to be exempted. It would have been very stupid if all the paraphernalia of transport managers' licences had to apply to farm vehicles—combines, tractors. What a pity the Minister did not "come clean" before. Then all this anxiety would have been removed. This is an Amendment on which there is very strong feeling.

Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)

I, too, am grateful for what the Minister of State has said. This will allay many of the fears of those in the farming community, those concerned with growing timber, and those concerned with taking it from woods. I wish that the Minister had said this before, because this proposal has caused much concern in the industry. The industry has enough restrictions and problems without their being added to. If there had not been the promise of this concession, there would have been another difficulty for farmers to overcome.

Farmers are not opposed to the principle of quality licensing. Safety is very important. However, these vehicles are in a different category. The distance that they may travel is strictly limited by existing laws.

I repeat that we are grateful for the Minister's announcement. I hope that his assurance is absolutely copper-bottomed and that the regulations will cover the type of vehicles we have been discussing. I hope that there will be no argument on this.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)

I am very glad that the Minister has made this concession. It will help agriculture a great deal. It will also help the Ministry, which will be relieved of a great deal of useless administrative work.

Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)

The Minister's assurance, as I heard it, was the categorical statement that everything included in the Amendment would be exempted in the regulations, subject to consultation with the industries. I am certain that that consultation will reveal that the industries will wish all these vehicles to be exempted. We naturally accept this as a Government undertaking. I would like the Minister of State to confirm that it is the same kind of undertaking, and is as firm an assurance, as the assurance which was given that livestock would be exempted from the quantity licensing. We accepted that assurance from the Government. We trust that this assurance is of the same calibre, in which case, we would not wish to divide the House.

Mr. Swingler

By leave of the House, may I say that I had hoped that I was being helpful to the House in giving the assurance on behalf of my right hon. Friend. Hon. Gentlemen will realise that while a Bill is under consideration by Parliament the Minister must necessarily have some time to consider how he may use powers which he has not yet been granted, because not until they are on the Statute Book can the Minister properly consider the matter.

I assure the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) that the assurance I gave to the House and to those concerned, solely in relation to the vehicles decribed in the Lords Amendment, that my right hon. Friend has it in mind to propose that they should be included in exemption regulations, was a quite firm assurance. On that basis, and because we do not want to include exemptions in the Statute, because it would be invidious to include some exemptions and then deal with others by Regulation later, I hope that the House will agree to disagree with the Lords Amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

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