HC Deb 11 July 1978 vol 953 cc1298-320

'Section 13 of the Finance Act 1976 shall cease to have effect from such date as the Treasury may by order prescribe, being a date not later than 31st December 1978, and in section 7(2)(b) of the Vehicles Excise Act 1971 after the words "vehicle" there shall be inserted the words "or a mobility allowance under section 37A of the Social Security Act 1975,".'.

Government amendments nos. 132 to 135.

Mr. Sheldon

This new clause deals with Great Britain while new clause no. 64 deals with Northern Ireland; together they meet the undertaking I gave in Committee to my hon. Friends the Members for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Grocott) and Rossendale (Mr. Noble) and the hon. Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton) to exempt those receiving the mobility allowance from the vehicle excise duty.

The new clause also provides exemption for vehicles registered in the name of a nominee of a disabled person. Before July 1976, there was no mobility assistance except for those who ran a car, the trike. Since 1976 we have introduced improvements in mobility allowances, and as from this month the allowance is being increased to £10 a week.

Implementation of the undertaking I gave in Committee will take effect as from 1st December of this year. I regret this delay caused by the problems faced by the Department of Health and Social Security in producing exemption certificates. These are used by disabled people in applying for the excise licence. The Department needs to identify from its computer records the names and addresses of those who receive mobility allowances. The Department has a number of other problems which have caused the delay, which I regret. I am assured by the Department of Health and Social Security that 1st December 1978 is the earliest date by which it can implement the decision I announced in Committee.

I believe that the new clause will be well received and I ask the House to accept it.

Mr. Newton

I was responsible for exerting some of the pressure in Committee which has resulted in this new clause being brought forward. I repeat what I said in Committee. This is a very welcome move indeed to all who are concerned with the interests and problems of the disabled. I say that without qualification. I wish to raise a number of queries and to refer briefly to my amendment (b). I ask the Financial Secretary for elucidation on some of the points arising from this proposal.

I refer specifically to the question of the date on which the proposal comes into force. I apologise in that, because of the, speed at which the business has progressed, I did not hear the whole of the Financial Secretary's remarks. He may already have dealt with this point. I do not immediately see why this proposal should be delayed until 1st December. It does not seem to be an enormously complex administrative problem to iden- tify these people. After all, we have an elaborate and allegedly sophisticated computer complex at Swansea which masterminds our vehicle excise duty system. Unless it has been subject to yet another failure in addition to the many that we have already experienced, I do not believe that it would be impossible for the computer to cope with this task rather faster than the new clause provides and the Financial Secretary has suggested.

Amendment (d) is tabled as a probing amendment but we shall certainly require considerable justification for delaying this important concession until the end of the year rather than introducing it earlier—I have suggested 1st September.

I emphasised the importance and urgency of this new clause. The background to it is not simply a general desire on both sides of the House to be as generous as we can to the disabled. It arises, as I argued at some length in proposing my own new clause in Committee, out of the doubt whether the Motability scheme can get properly off the ground unless some additional financial support is channelled into it by some such means as this. It appears that there is virtually no car which can be put on the road for the £10 a week at which the mobility allowance now stands, even with all the advantages of the Motability leasing scheme. Unless we ensure that this scheme is fully implemented we shall not merely fail to improve the position of many disabled people who currently have trikes but are moving over to the mobility allowance, but we shall make the situation worse for those who have been mobile, because there will be an inadequate mobility allowance with which they cannot properly run, license and insure a car. These people will be driven off the road and lose the mobility which they already have. We shall require the Financial Secretary to prove that this task of implementing the new clause cannot be done before 1st December.

There is one other major issue I wish to raise so that the Minister may give a specific assurance. I refer to the way in which this exemption will work for disabled people who are not drivers. I have had one or two letters on this point and one in particular from a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton), which I have passed on to him. This letter is from a man who was given a private car allowance under one of the old schemes. He was sent a form for claiming vehicle excise duty exemption. After applying for the exemption it was made clear to him that he could benefit from it only if he was in the car on every occasion when it was used.

This man has written to me pointing out that it seems that if he failed always to go out in the car when his wife was driving it he would not qualify for the exemption. He points out that he does not necessarily want to go out with her every time that she does the shopping. Accordingly, he reached the conclusion that the exemption was not worth applying for and would do more harm than good.

If that is the case with the old vehicle excise duty exemption scheme, I would like an assurance that this new scheme would be a great deal more flexible. That is why I sought, in amendment (a) to new clause no. 63 which has not been selected, to insert the word "substantially" in the proposed new section 7(2) of the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1971. The purpose of the amendment was to enable me to probe this point. Can we be absolutely clear and have it firmly on the record that this exemption will apply to vehicles which are not necessarily to be driven by the disabled person, that the vehicles do not have to be used only for the purposes of the disabled person?

Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)

New clause no. 63 makes this perfectly clear in my opinion when it speaks of a vehicle being used by or for the purposes of a disabled person. That does not of necessity involve the driver.

Mr. Newton

I think that that is probably right, but in view of the correspondence that I have had, and because of the problems that have been reported to me, I can say no more at this stage. It is right that we should make sure that these points are firmly on the record.

I rather agree with the hon. Member that it is quite clear from the clause that the disabled passenger is covered. I am less certain whether there is any risk at all of an administrative decision which says, in effect, that the car has to be used only for the purposes of the disabled passenger, or whether it could be argued—as apparently it has in other cases—that, if the disabled passenger is not always in the car, the exemption does not arise. That would seem to me to be an odd and, indeed, a ridiculous situation, but it has been quite specifically reported to me in relation to another aspect of vehicle excise duty exemption. I know from other letters that I have received that there is concern about disabled passengers. I feel that the Minister should be asked to make the matter absolutely and categorically clear, if only to remove any anxieties which may exist outside the House.

That is as much as I should like to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It may be that other hon. Members will wish to make a broader case as to how much more we need to do even now to relieve the tax burden on vehicles for disabled people, and not least to try to remove some of the remaining problems of the Motability scheme. At least with the new clause we have gone some way. We have gained an important concession, and it is right that everyone should welcome it this afternoon.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

In order to avoid any separate debate on new clause no. 64, Mr Deputy Speaker, perhaps I may say in this short debate that the concession is no less welcome in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the United Kingdom. It may appear to hon. Members to be clumsy—and, indeed, it is clumsy—that we have to have a separate clause to produce the same effect in Northern Ireland, because vehicle excise was a subject on which of yore the Parliament of Northern Ireland legislated.

I dare say, however, since vehicle excise duty must be uniform throughout the United Kingdom—and, indeed, has been kept uniform by convention—that we shall in due course get round to legislating on that subject for the whole of the United Kingdom, and that will make for avoidance of the sort of additional clause which is necessary to achieve the beneficent purpose in this case.

Mr. Mike Noble (Rossendale)

I intend to be very brief, Mr. Speaker. I wish to thank my right hon. Friend and his colleagues in the Treasury for carrying out the assurance which they gave us in Committee that a Government clause of this kind would be brought forward to deal with this problem.

If I have a criticism of the clause, it would be with regard to the starting date. I think that it would be a shame to spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar and to hold back this substantial benefit to many people in greatest need simply for perhaps, administrative purposes. I hope that, even at this late date, my right hon. Friend will re-examine the position and see whether there is any way in which the starting date for this benefit can be brought forward.

I was pleased to note the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) about the Bill. I know that he is an expert in this matter and I accept his assurances, as well as my right hon. Friend's assurances, that with regard to non-drivers the interpretation of the clause will be as wide as possible.

I, too, have had letters about this matter, and some of my constituents have expressed some anxiety about the position of non-drivers. More requires to be done in this respect. A significant feature of the post that I have received concerning the clause has been that it has inserted the kind of boundary line that we have for old people with regard to television licences. The only way to get rid of that boundary is by constantly pushing it outwards and bringing more and more people into the net. I hope that we shall see the proposal as a start on that process rather than as an end process.

I listened with care to the remarks of the hon. Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton). As I said in Committee, I accept entirely his sincerity in speaking on behalf of the disabled and other disadvantaged groups. I know the amount of work that he has done for them. But I am worried when I hear Opposition Members carping and saying that a £10 mobility allowance will not put a car on the road. After all, the mobility allowance was brought in by this Government, not by a Conservative Government, and £10 is a very substantial benefit indeed. It has enabled many people, who would otherwise never get out of their homes, to get outside and to take jobs and enter into the social activities of the community.

5.45 p.m.

As I pointed out to the hon. Gentleman in Committee, I do not doubt his sincerity, and I do not doubt that he, whether in Government or Opposition, will press the case for the disabled, but my doubt is whether his party, should it ever become the party of Government, would, despite the efforts of the hon. Gentleman, sustain the momentum in improving facilities for the disabled which has been so substantially created by this Government. But welcome the clause.

Mr. Paul Channon (Southend, West)

I do not want to get into an argument with the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) as to which party is likely to do more for the disabled. I think there is a keen determination on each side of the House to do the utmost for the disabled, and I am sure that that will be a continuing factor of our public life, whichever party is in office at any particular moment.

I merely rise to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I, too, welcome the new clause, but I have a number of queries arising out of specific constituency cases which have been put to me. I ask the Financial Secretary to give some answers, if he can, to the questions which have been put to me, because there is still a very great deal of confusion on the part of my constituents as to what is to happen.

I should like first to deal with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton) about disabled passengers. I do not know what the law is at present, but, if there is any difficulty about it, this new clause will not change it, because the wording of the relevant section of the Finance Act 1972, which copies the earlier Acts dealing with this point, is precisely the is any difficulty about it, this new clause If there have been problems in the past, they are continued today, because there is no change in the wording. It would be very helpful if the Financial Secretary could tell the House what is the position in regard to disabled passengers and disabled people who on occasion do not drive the vehicle themselves.

I should like next to deal with the point raised with me by a number of my constituents who have come to see me about it. They are at present holders of the private car allowance. On 5th July they will transfer to the mobility allowance. One of the features of the mobility allowance, until the new clause becomes law, is that those who receive it are not exempt from vehicle excise duty. I am told that on 5th July, therefore, about 17,000 people who change from the private car allowance to the mobility allowance will have to pay vehicle excise duty from 5th July until 1st December.

Perhaps the Financial Secretary will tell us how this is to be operated from now on. It seems to be a ridiculous state of affairs that for a few months these people will have to pay vehicle excise duty and go through the mechanics of surrendering the discs they may have at present, paying vehicle excise duty for a number of months, and then afterwards becoming exempt.

I understand that the issue of the order books for mobility allowance will have to be staggered—the Minister with responsibility for the disabled will know far more about this than anybody else—because it is difficult to send out 17,000 books at once. What will happen in the case of those who find it difficult to meet the lump sum payment which they will have to make in order to take out a vehicle excise licence? Am I right in thinking that they will now need to take out the licence only for the period to 1st December, and that it would be quite wrong for them to take out an annual licence? Am I right in thinking that the best advice to them is to take out a three-month licence and to renew it in October? But in any event it is asking a lot of a disabled person to go through this rigmarole when on 1st December he will be exempt from vehicle excise duty.

Would it not be very much simpler if some mechanism could be found to enable these people to be exempted straight away? If such a mechanism cannot be found, could not the provision be made retrospective from 1st December to the relevant date? The people involved will have to go through a great deal of inconvenience, and a fair amount of cost to them will also arise. I know of some cases in which it would be very difficult for the people concerned to find the lump sum which it would be necessary for them to pay for the vehicle excise duty prior to receiving their mobility allowance book.

It would be most helpful if the Financial Secretary could tell us what the position of these people is, how they are to be helped by the Government and what administrative action is now to be taken in the light of this new clause. I urge the Financial Secretary to heed the voices of his hon. Friends, as well as of Opposition Members, and, if he can, to introduce this exemption at an earlier date. If that is not possible, I hope that he will at least back-date the concession so that those concerned will get a refund on 1st December for the money which they will have to spend at the present time.

Mr. Carter-Jones

I shall be brief. I should like to refer to the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). He pointed out that new clause no. 63 and new clause no. 64 were separate because of the Northern Ireland dichotomy. I share his concern, and I hope that all sides of the House will support the efforts to get the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act on to the Northern Ireland statute book, even though it is eight years late.

If that Act gets on to the statute book, the advantage is that with the scheme promoted by Outset, Northern Ireland will at least know how many disabled people live there. I hope that hon. Members will give this Bill a fair wind when it goes into Committee, and I hope that it gets a Third Reading on the nod. Perhaps we shall not have this dichotomy again.

I believe that the vehicle excise duty relief is very valuable indeed. It is crucial with regard to the margin of the buying of Motability. It may assist a substantial number of people. One intriguing anomaly which arises is that when we introduced mobility allowance it was intended for people who were not mobile to use in any way that they wanted. If they wanted to take a taxi to a shop once a week, they could spend the money in that way. There was no restriction. I hope that no hon. Member will complain that the VED grant means that they are entitled to £50 a year more. This is a crucial new clause. I hope that hon. Members will combine so that it passes without a Division.

Mr. Nelson

I should like to add my voice to the welcome which has been given to the new clause by many hon. Members. In doing so I should like to pay a particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton). He has been in the vanguard of those who have been pressing for this for some time, although I am the first to recognise that it has received a large measure of support from hon. Members on all sides of the House. I am particularly pleased to see present the Minister for the disabled to give his support to this debate, as I am sure he has done to the proposals in Committee.

However, without in any way wishing to throw cold water on the new clause, I should like to sound one note of caution. It is important to point out that we are making a qualitative judgment as between classes of disabled people. As a general rule, I believe that we should aim to give priority in terms of financial assistance and relief to those in the greatest need. It is not clear that in providing this relief one is helping those disabled people who are most in need.

Like many other hon. Members, I represent a constituency with a fair share of disabled people. But perhaps because I have a particularly large section of elderly people, the number of disabled is a little higher than average. In addition, because it is a rural district, in many cases not served by bus services, there is a particular mobility difficulty for many elderly people. But the severely disabled, who are unable to have their own car or to drive it, do rely on transport provided by other means, whether commercially obtained or obtained from friends or neighbours. In these situations they will not be able to benefit from this relief.

I think I am right in saying that the cost will be about £3 million. To the extent that this is a particular relief applicable to those who will be able to use their own vehicles, and will in many cases encourage and enable them to work and provide for themselves where they might not otherwise be able to do so, I welcome the new clause. I believe that it is an exception to the general principle which I am outlining.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree suggested that we might use this as an extension of the sort of relief that we provide in various other areas, whether it is to the disabled generally or to old people, I think that there are dangers. If we are consistently to provide relief on the cost of various services, whether public transport, the provision of telephones or whatever, it seems to me that this is tackling the problem from the wrong end. Even though it may be a small amount of money when shared among the individuals concerned, I should like to see the help go into their pockets. Let people, whether disabled, elderly or whatever, who are in receipt of assistance from the Government of the day decide how they want to spend the money. Let them decide whether they want to spend it on an extra packet of cigarettes, on an extra bit of heating in their homes or on travel to the nearest town in order to go on an outing. I prefer to see choice resting in the hands of the individual rather than the State making the choice on his behalf.

Mr. Carter-Jones

One of the things which worried some of us when the mobility allowance was introduced was that it would be used as income and not for mobility. There was nothing that we could do about it. The people get the money and spend it in whichever way they like although perhaps not for what we intended. But, as I said, there was nothing that we could do about it.

Mr. Nelson

If my remarks are followed logically, that is a situation with which I do not wholly disagree. I welcome that freedom being placed in their hands. It is the selective qualitative judgment of Government or Departments in handing out reliefs of which I am suspect. I am more in favour of providing individuals, according to their disability whether age, illness or whatever, with the financial means of making the choice as to the sort of services and needs they require. Those needs will vary from area to area. I have described the special needs of the disabled in my own area.

With that slight cautionary note, which is applicable to any arguments for extensions of relief in other areas of need, I nevertheless welcome the new clause. It will not cost a great deal of money, and it will undoubtedly assist those disabled people at a time when the absolute amount of money provided by way of mobility allowance is not as high as many of us would like to see. However, we recognise that it is as much as the Government of the day can afford to provide, and to that extent we welcome it.

Mr. Peter Brooke (City of London and Westminster, South)

I rise briefly to intervene, really following the speech of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) who took part in this particular debate in Committee. On that occasion he made remarks similar to those which he has made today. The hon. Member for Rossendale, and those of us who served on the Committee, will remember that his speech was preceded by one from his hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Grocott). At that stage I thought that was a disagreeable speech. I think that the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth thought so, too, because he apologised for introducing a sour note. From my own experience throughout the 80 hours on which the Committee met, I thought that was the one really disagreeable moment that we had. The hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth was lucky that on that occasion we were seeking to make progress rapidly in order to meet our informal commitments to the Government, and as a result he got off lightly in terms of the speech which he made.

I regret that in a way the hon. Member for Rossendale has reintroduced this note into today's debate. He referred to a comparison between the two parties and their interest in the disabled. I think I am right in saying that if one looks at the manifestos of the two major parties in the 1964 General Election, one will find that neither of them found it possible to say a word about the disabled, and that this is a cause which all of us in this House have come to much later than we should have done.

Mr. Noble

As I tried to make clear, obviously very badly, it is not a question of an attitude towards the disabled. It is an attitude towards public expenditure. It is whether the Conservative Party, with its commitment to reducing public expenditure, will be able to maintain the momentum of increasing benefits for the disabled within that kind of general environment.

Mr. Brooke

In that case I obviously owe a degree of apology to the hon. Gentleman. But he will know why I am responding in the way that I am in the light of the debate which we had upstairs.

It seems to me very desirable, if possible, to maintain a bipartisan position in these sort of areas. When the hon. Member for Rossendale challenged my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton), I think that the hon. Gentleman should have acknowledged that my hon. Friend was genuinely seeking to improve the scheme which was under discussion.

I realise that we cannot always be bipartisan. The Minister responsible for the disabled will remember a fairly fiery scene in Westminster Hall last year when the disabled were present in strength and when we were discussing amongst other objects the trike. Obviously there will be occasions when there is fairly violent dispute between the parties on certain issues or on certain Government decisions. But I hope that we can maintain a bipartisan position, and it is unfortunate if the motivations on either side of the House are challenged on issues which are as important as this issue.

6.0 p.m.

Sir G. Howe

As other right hon. and hon. Members have done, I welcome this new clause and I join those hon. Members who have paid tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton) for the commitment which he has shown to this cause and the work which he has done, with others, to promote the case which has now been accepted by the Government.

As often happens on matters of this kind, we note the validity of the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson), who expressed some anxiety about the value of a benefit which is tied in kind, as it were. We are always torn between the desire to increase the resources of the disabled generally and the wish to do something which is directed to a special need or qualification. Subject to that, there seems to be no one prepared to criticise this clause, and I can well understand that.

The two matters raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree in my view deserve a little more attention than we have had directed to them so far. The first is the difference in the operative date, which is the subject of his amendment, between 1st September and 1st December. He was supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), who drew attention to the extreme desirability of getting the relief available as soon as possible and to the comparatively small number of people involved. The Minister told us about the administrative difficulties which would arise in several departments. I still find it difficult to believe that it is impossible to achieve a change of this kind, which has been in prospect for some time, by 1st September if it is the case that it extends to only 17,000 people. On the argument which has been presented to us so far, I shall be disposed to advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the amendment to advance the date from 1st December to 1st September.

The other matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree about the meaning of the clause may or may not have been dealt with substantially. I was not entirely convinced that his argument had been answered when he said that the phrase by reason of its use by or for the purposes of a person … suffering from a physical defect or disability was regarded as not being wide enough to cover some uses and would be made more secure by the insertion of the word "substantially". I know that that is not the amendment which has been selected, but it would be helpful if the Financial Secretary could deal with it. If some people have been challenged because of their use of vehicles of this kind for incidental shopping journeys without the disabled persons being present in the cars, that was not the intention of the House.

Although the clause has been welcomed by both sides of the House, including the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) and the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble), both of whom have a genuine interest in this subject, I, too, join my hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) in regretting that the hon. Member for Rossendale appeared to be introducing a partisan element into the discussion of the attitude of the House towards the disabled. My recollection is that most of the new benefits which have been brought on to the statute book, especially those for the disabled, have been generated by one Government and introduced by another. There is a kind of rolling stream, and it is a matter of chance which Government do it. Certainly the last Government played their part in this.

Of course, the hon. Member for Rossendale is entitled to express his view that a Government who are intent on being wise in their management of public expenditure—as he thinks—will not be able to do as well as he would like for those who are disabled and deserving of the help of their fellow citizens. The Opposition's answer to that is that only a Government who are prudent in their management of public expenditure and recognise the need to keep that under control will be able to restore economic stability, to conquer inflation and to restore the capacity of the economy to create the wealth out of which all benefits are provided. The hon. Member is entitled to his view, but he should not overlook the experience since the end of the war that there has been a 10 times larger growth in the average wealth of our citizens under Conservative Governments than under Labour Governments covering the same period. It is by adherence to that kind of sensible economic policy that we shall be able to do what we ought to do for the disabled as well as for everyone else in our society.

Unless the Financial Secretary has a more convincing answer to the argument about the date than that which he has so far vouchsafed and which has failed to convince my hon. Friends, I shall invite the House to divide on amendment (b).

Mr. Robert Sheldon

The right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) should not be so touchy about the reasonable claim of the Government to credit for the expenditure of sums of money which the previous Government did not think fit to make available. The present Government face an Opposition who wish to reduce the level of public expenditure, and they have made no secret about it. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) was right to draw the distinction that he did, and I am rather surprised by the sensitiveness of the right hon. and learned Member and the hon. Member for the City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) about what was, after all, a reasonable claim by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale in respect of what this Government had done.

Mr. Carter-Jones

May I try to bring some peace into the Chamber? It is probably the all-party group and the Alf Morris Act which have enabled people not to oppose benefits for the disabled. I think that we could go a lot further. But the fact that we have been able to introduce a number of improvements and benefits since 1970 is due to a Private Member's Act, supported by both sides of the House, raising the expectations of the disabled.

Mr. Sheldon

My hon. Friend is extremely active in this area, and I know the frequent representations on these matters which he makes to me. I am grateful to him, as I know the House is. I am grateful, too, for his explanation of the wording about the use of a vehicle by another person. He was quite right to draw attention to this part of the new clause which provides that a vehicle will not be chargeable with any vehicle excise duty by reason of its use by or for the purposes of a disabled person. That is a safeguard which a disabled person has in making wider use of the vehicle than perhaps the hon. Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton) had in mind.

The wording of the new clause restricts the exemption to vehicles used exclusively by or for the purposes of a disabled person. Perhaps I can make the position doubly clear by repeating that the vehicle can be used to transport a disabled person or to do his errands. I think that that is an elaboration of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones).

Mr. John Cope (Gloucestershire, South)

To take an extreme example, if another member of the disabled person's family is taken ill, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the car cannot be used to take him to hospital even if the vehicle is driven by the disabled driver? It will not be for his purposes. It will be for the purpose of the other sick person in the family.

Mr. Sheldon

In such a case, the vehicle is used by the disabled person. If the disabled person is driving someone to hospital, presumably that is use by the disabled person. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's interpretation.

Mr. Newton

I am sorry to pursue this point. Perhaps I might read the sentence from a letter which put the point into my mind. I received a letter from a person in Woodbridge who has recently been awarded a private car allowance and is therefore eligible for exemption under another scheme. He says: I accordingly applied for this at the local licensing authority—Greyfriars Ipswich—and was informed that the vehicle could only be driven by me, and that my wife, who also drives, would be unable to do so unless accompanied by me. That may be wrong. But if it is right, this clause has been drawn differently from earlier vehicle excise duty exemption clauses. If I could have a categorical assurance from the Minister that this is wrong, all the problems would he solved.

Mr. Sheldon

I cannot do any more than repeat what I have said. It is not for me to adjudicate between what has been written to the hon. Gentleman, and what has happened between the parties concerned. What I have stated is the technical position—that the vehicle can be used to transport the disabled person or to do his errands. I think that that is clear and definitive for this purpose.

Sir G. Howe

One can well see the importance, from the point of view of the Inland Revenue, of seeing that there are some safeguards on the availability of this relief. The only thing that the House is concerned about is to be clear just how narrowly the matter is defined.

The new clause refers to its use by or for the purposes of a person ('a disabled person')". The Financial Secretary has said that that covers use by the disabled person driving it, or being taken as a passenger in it or it being driven for an errand on his behalf. That is a fairly narrowly confined privilege when it is being used effectively in the service of a disabled person, and could well result in the position described by my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree. The licensing office could say to the wife of a disabled person that she may not drive the vehicle save only for going about his purposes, on his behalf and in his service. If that is the intention of the clause, the House will be interested to be told that.

Mr. Sheldon

I am not sure what the right hon. and learned Member has in mind. Exemption is provided in respect of a vehicle for the disabled person. It is not a vehicle to be used by a number of people including the disabled person. The interpretation of the use of the vehicle by the disabled person is as I have described it. I believe it meets with the demands of disabled people.

The hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) asked about those who are receiving mobility allowance in place of private car allowance, which carries vehicle excise duty exemption. Those people knew about the introduction of the mobility allowance and they welcomed it. We all know that from our postbags. They will be able, at 1st December, to get a refund for part of the licence if they take out a licence for a longer period than that which is required.

6.15 p.m.

On the implementation date—the main matter that seems to be troubling hon. Members—I was as anxious as anybody, having conceded the principle, to see implementation at the earliest possible date. We tried to get it as quickly as possible. I made some representations to the Department of Health and Social Security on this matter. The difficulty lies not with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre at Swansea, but with the DHSS because it will be up to it to issue the mobility allowance recipients with certificates that will enable them to get the exemption when they send in their applications for excise licences.

The first step by the DHSS will be to identify from their computer records the names and addresses of those who receive the mobility allowance and then to circu

Division No. 255] AYES [6.18 p.m.
Adley, Robert Bottomley, Peter Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)
Altken, Jonathan Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Clark, William (Croydon S)
Alison, Michael Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Arnold, Tom Braine, Sir Bernard Cockcroft, John
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Brittan, Leon Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East) Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Cope, John
Bain, Mrs Margaret Brooke, Hon Peter Cormack, Patrick
Baker, Kenneth Brotherton, Michael Corrie, John
Banks, Robert Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Costain, A. P.
Bell, Ronald Bryan, Sir Paul Crawford, Douglas
Bendall, Vivian Buchanan-Smith, Alick Crouch, David
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Buck, Antony Crowder, F. P.
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Budgen, Nick Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)
Benyon, W. Bulmer, Esmond Dean, Paul (N Somerset)
Biffen, John Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Dodsworth, Geoffrey
Biggs-Davison, John Carlisle, Mark Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Blaker, Peter Chalker, Mrs Lynda Drayson, Burnaby
Body, Richard Channon, Paul du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Boscawen, Hon Robert Churchill, W. S. Durant, Tony

late all of them to inquire whether they wish to claim the exemption in their own names or, as is allowed, to nominate someone else. The DHSS then has to prepare on special security paper certificates which will enable the mobility allowance recipient or the person he has nominated to claim the exemption. The time lag is caused by this process.

I should say something about the numbers of beneficiaries because the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made an error in his calculations. There are 100,000 prospective exemptions from vehicle excise duty—that is the number of prospective recipients of the mobility allowance. Our estimate is that there will be about 70,000 who will claim VED exemption.

There will be very substantial numbers of claims, not all in the names of those claiming the mobility allowance. It is right to take from the DHSS its assessment of the delay needed to implement the scheme. I wish the scheme could be introduced sooner, but the clause takes account of the advice that we have received. Despite pressure to introduce it earlier, the DHSS says it is unable to do so. Therefore, I ask the House to accept the new clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.

Amendment (b) proposed to the proposed clause, in subsection (5), leave out '1st December' and insert '1st September'.[Mr. Newton.]

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 256, Noes 274.

Dykes, Hugh Lamont, Norman Ridsdale, Julian
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Langford-Holt, Sir John Rlfkind, Malcolm
Elliott, Sir William Latham, Michael (Melton) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Emery, Peter Lawrence, Ivan Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Lawson, Nigel Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Le Marchant, Spencer Royle, Sir Anthony
Eyre, Reginald Lester, Jim (Beeston) Sainsbury, Tim
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) St. John-Stevas, Norman
Feirgrieve Russell Lloyd, Ian Scott, Nicholas
Farr, John Loveridge, John Scott-Hopkins, James
Fell, Anthony Luce, Richard Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Finsberg, Geoffrey MacCormick, Iain Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Fisher, Sir Nigel McCrindle, Robert Shelton, William (Streatham)
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) MacGregor, John Shepherd, Colin
Fietcher-Cooke, Charles MacKay, Andrew (Stechford) Shersby, Michael
Forman, Nigel Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Silvester, Fred
Fox, Marcus McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Sims, Roger
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Sinclair, Sir George
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Madel, David Skeet, T. H. H.
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Gardiner, Edward (S Fylde) Marten, Neil Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Mates, Michael Speed, Keith
Glyn, Dr Alan Mather, Carol Spence, John
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Maude, Angus Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Goodhart, Philip Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Goodlad, Alastair Meyer, Sir Anthony Sproat, Iain
Gorst, John Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Stainton, Keith
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Mills, Peter Stanbrook, Ivor
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Miscampbell, Norman Stanley, John
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Gray, Hamish Moate, Roger Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Grieve, Percy Monro, Hector Stokes, John
Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell) Montgomery, Fergus Tapsell, Peter
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Moore, John (Croydon C) Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Hampson, Dr Keith Morgan, Geraint Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Hannam, John Morgan-Giles, Rear Admiral Tebbit, Norman
Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Temple-Morris, Peter
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hastings, Stephen Neave, Airey Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Nelson, Anthony Thompson, George
Hawkins, Paul Neubert, Michael Townsend, Cyril D.
Hayhoe, Barney Newton, Tony Trotter, Neville
Hicks, Robert Normanton, Tom van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hodgson, Robin Nott, John Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Holland, Philip Onslow, Cranley Viggers, Peter
Hordern, Peter Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Wakeham, John
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Osborn, John Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Howell, David (Guildford) Page, John (Harrow West) Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Hunt, David (Wirral) Page, Richard (Workington) Walters, Dennis
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Parkinson, Cecil Warren, Kenneth
Hurd, Douglas Pattie, Geoffrey Watt, Hamish
Hutchison, Michael Clark Percival, Ian Weatherill, Bernard
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Peyton, Rt Hon John Wells, John
James, David Pink, R. Bonner Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Wiggin, Jerry
Jessel, Toby Price, David (Eastleigh) Wigley, Dafydd
Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Prior, Rt Hon James Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Jopling, Michael Pym, Rt Hon Francis Winterton, Nicholas
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rathbone, Tim Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Kaberry, Sir Donald Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Rees-Davies, W. R. Younger, Hon George
Kershaw, Anthony Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Kimball, Marcus Ronton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Rhodes James, R. Mr. John Stradling Thomas and
Knight, Mrs Jill Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Mr. Anthony Berry.
Knox, David Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Abse, Leo Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Buchan, Norman
Allaun, Frank Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Buchanan, Richard
Anderson, Donald Bidwell, Sydney Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Campbell, Ian
Armstrong, Ernest Blenkinsop, Arthur Canavan, Dennis
Ashley, Jack Booth, Rt Hon Albert Carmichael, Nell
Ashton, Joe Boothroyd, Miss Betty Carter, Ray
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Carter-Jones, Lewis
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey Tott'ham) Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Cartwright, John
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Bradley, Tom Clemitson, Ivor
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Bray, Dr Jeremy Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)
Barnett, Rt lion Joel (Heywood) Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Cohen, Stanley
Bates, Alf Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Concannon, Rt Hon John
Bean, R. E. Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)
Corbett, Robin Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Richardson, Miss Jo
Cowans, Harry Jeger, Mrs Lena Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) John, Brynmor Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Crawshaw, Richard Johnson, James (Hull West) Robinson, Geoffrey
Cronin, John Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Roderick, Caerwyn
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rooker, J. W.
Dalyell, Tam Judd, Frank Roper, John
Davidson, Arthur Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Rose, Paul B.
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Kerr, Russell Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil Kilroy-Silk, Robert Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kinnock, Nell Rowlands, Ted
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Lamble, David Ryman, John
Deakins, Eric Lamond, James Sandelson, Neville
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Sedgemore, Brian
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Lestor, Miss Joan (Elton & Slough) Selby, Harry
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Lever, Rt Hon Harold Sever, John
Dempsey, James Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Shaw, Arnold (llford South)
Dewar, Donald Litterick, Tom Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Doig, Peter Loyden, Eddie Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Dormand, J. D. Luard, Evan Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lyon, Alexander (York) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Dunnett, Jack Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Silverman, Julius
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Skinner, Dennis
Eadle, Alex McCartney, Hugh Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Edge, Geoff McDonald, Dr Oonagh Smith, Rt. Hon. John (N Lanarkshire)
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) McElhone, Frank Snape, Peter
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) MacFarcuhar, Roderick Spearing, Nigel
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) McGuire, Michael (Ince) Spriggs, Leslie
English, Michael MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Stallard, A. W.
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Steel, Rt Hon David
Evans, loan (Aberdare) McNamara, Kevin Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Evans, John (Newton) Madden, Max Stoddart, David
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Magee, Bryan Stott, Roger
Faulds, Andrew Mallalieu, J. P. W. Strang, Gavin
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Marks, Kenneth Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Marshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Flannery, Martin Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Swain, Thomas
Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Ford, Ben Mason, Rt Hon Roy Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Maynard, Miss Joan Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Meacher, Michael Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Freud Clement Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Mikardo, Ian Thome, Stan (Preston South)
Garrett, W.E. (Wallsend) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
George, Bruce Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Tierney, Sydney
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, ltchen) Tiley, John
Ginsburg, David Holloy, William Tinn, James
Golding, John Moonman, Eric Tomlinson, John
Gould Bryan Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Tomney, Frank
Gourlay, Harry Morris, Rt Hon Charles R. Torney, Tom
Grant, John (Islington C) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Tuck, Raphael
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Moyle, Rt. Hon. Roland Urwin, T. W.
Grocott, Bruce Newens, Stanley Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Noble, Mike Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Oakes, Gordon Watkins, David
Hardy. Peter Ogden, Eric Watkinson, John
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter O'Halloran, Michael Weetch, Ken
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Orbach, Maurice Weitzman, David
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wellbeloved, James
Hayman, Mrs Helene Ovenden, John White, James (Pollok)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Whitehead. Phillip
Heffer, Eric S. Palmer, Arthur Whitlock, William
Hooley, Frank Pardoe, John Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Horam, John Park, George Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Parker, John Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Parry, Robert Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Huckfield, Les Pavitt, Laurie Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Pendry, Tom Wise, Mrs Audrey
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Penhaligon, David Woodall, Alec
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Perry, Ernest Woof, Robert
Hunter, Adam Phipps, Dr Colin Wrigglesworth, Ian
Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Young, David (Bolton E)
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Prescott, John
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Price, C. (Lewisham W) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Price, William (Rugby) Mr, Donald Coleman and
Janner, Greville Radice, Giles Mr. Frank R. White.

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause added to the Bill.