HL Deb 31 January 1940 vol 115 cc454-5

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, this Bill is introduced to give legislative sanction to a Resolution agreed to by the House of Commons on 12th December, 1939, under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1913, granting a concession in respect of the taxation of gas-propelled vehicles. The adoption of the Resolution enabled the concession to operate from January last, that is, from the beginning of the motor vehicle licensing year. The concession was promised, together with others which do not fall to be considered in connection with an Excise Bill, but which in fact either have already been or will very shortly be implemented, on the occasion of an announcement by the Secretary for Mines on the 8th November, 1939, regarding the success of the researches of a committee of scientists and road operators set up by the Government to examine the problem of the utilisation of producer-gas for the propulsion of road vehicles.

The Secretary for Mines said that the committee have carried out exhaustive work in the laboratory and under commercial conditions on the road, and I am glad to say that their persistent efforts have now resulted in a design of producer which can be recommended for manufacture. The Fuel Research Station's work has shown that low volatile anthracites and certain low temperature cokes are suitable fuels and research is proceeding in the hope of widening the range of fuel. In order to stimulate the use of these fuels the Government have decided that various uncertainties in the general and fiscal position should be removed. The present Bill implements the Government's undertaking regarding the fiscal position and provides, in effect, for the removal of the burden of extra taxation which might be incurred in respect, first, of the weight of gas plant or containers when added to goods vehicles which are taxed on unladen weight, or, secondly, of the provision of a trailer to carry the plant or containers. It deals only with goods vehicles, since passenger vehicles are taxed on seating capacity or horse power and are not subject to trailer duty.

So far as the first point is concerned, subsection (2) of Clause 1 proposes to allow a reduction when computing unladen weight for taxation purposes of half a ton for vehicles weighing over 12 cwt. but not more than three tons, three-quarters of a ton for vehicles over three but not over six tons, and one ton for vehicles over six tons. These allowances are proposed as reasonable in the light of technical advice to cover the weight of apparatus, whether in the form of producer plant or cylinders, which may be required on the full range of goods vehicles. On the second point, subsection (3) provides that liability for trailer duty shall not be incurred by the use of a trailer for the sole purpose of carrying the means of gas production for the vehicle. This obviates the payment of from £10 to £20 additional tax according to the unladen weight of the drawing vehicle.

Subsections (4) and (6) apply the relevant provisions to all forms of gas propulsion which have so far been developed and which will now be covered by the new definition of "gas" which replaces the existing definition of "coal gas." Subsection (5) inserts intermediate steps in the taxation scale between 12 cwt. and 2 tons equivalent to those in the scale for petrol vehicles. The existing scale for steam and gas vehicles was introduced by the Finance Act of 1933, when gas propulsion for road vehicles had not gone beyond the early experimental stage and contained no gradations below 2 tons, as lighter vehicles of these types were not at that time in use. The revised scale should encourage the conversion or construction of light vehicles to run on gas. Generally, the Bill ensures that conversion from petrol to gas propulsion will not involve owners in the payment of higher licence duty beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Fortescue.)

On Question, Bill read 2a.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended, Committee negatived: Bill read 3a, and passed.