HC Deb 02 August 1978 vol 955 c741
12. Mr. Chanson

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what has been the outcome of his study of systems in the Benelux countries of tax relief for those who travel to work; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Horam

Though I have made no comparative study of taxation systems, I understand from informal inquiries that in Holland, West Germany and Luxembourg some of the cost of travel to work may be set against tax. This is not the case in Belgium, France or Italy.

Mr. Channon

Is not that reply very disappointing indeed, since the Secretary of State said on 7th June that he would inform himself of the practice in the Benelux countries where there is some measure of tax relief? Is not the situation anomalous since, if an employer contracts with British Rail to provide his employees with a season ticket, the employee is not chargeable on the value of that season ticket but in other circumstances he is chargeable? Is not this anomalous and unfair? Is the Minister aware that it is something on which many commuters who face substantial burdens think that the Government should act?

Mr. Horam

I do not think that it is anomalous. In fact, the Government are sticking to a principle of tax relief which has been held to by successive Administrations, including the one of which the hon. Gentleman was a member.

Mr. Robin F. Cook

Is not part of the reason for the contrast between Britain and all these countries that every one of them provides a greater amount of support to the financing of its railway system, which means that many more people can afford to travel by rail in those countries, and that the railways are therefore able to carry much more traffic?

Mr. Horam

My hon. Friend is as ingenious as ever, but I am not sure that he is right.

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