Road Transport Activities
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By Our Special Parliamentary Correspondent
N the second reading of the L../Finance Bill Sir J. Sandenian Allen put in a strong plea against heavy taxes on vehicles used in dock areas. He said it was a serious thing for the export trade that these heavy vehicles, built specially for that particular use, should be subject to these taxes.
The Government's Obsession.
CAPT. STRICKLAND said he could not understand why the Government seemed obsessed with the idea that the motor industry and all connected with it must be singled out for heavy taxation which it could ill afford to bear. Under the motor taxation of 1932 (vehicle taxation and driving licences) there was a yield of £28,396,725. Side by side with that there was another tax on the motor industry. The yield from petrol taxation came to another £34,000,000. Thus there was a contribution of £.62,396,725. The annual cost of the roads, even in times when it was excessive, was round about £60,000,000, and in more recent times the cost had come down to about £52,000,000, so that there was still a sum of £10,000,000 paid by the motor industry after wiping off the cost and maintenance of the roads.
IT might be said that the whole of this money did not find its way into the Road Fund. That was true, but even if a propertion of that taxation was placed on one side for de-rating or some other purpose, yet fundamentally one reached the same point that the motor industry was bearing more thau its proper proportion of the cost and upkeep of the roads. To place any additional -burden on the transport of goods 'was to fasten an additional cost upon every person who was supplied through the medium of the motor industry. It would increase the cost of living.
TIIE proposals suggested immediate taxation of a heavy and penalizing character. He hoped the Chancellor would find it possible to grade this taxation so that there would not be any hesitation on the part of owners in having an extra hundredweight or two of unladen weight in their vehicles in order to make those vehicles more substantial. If a vehicle, say, of 6 tons 2 cwt. unladen weight was to he charged £20 a year more tax than a vehicle just under six tons unladen weight it would lead to a position in which they would be• crippling the industry.
He regarded the proposals with reference to the articulated vehicle as most savage. They were to take the total weight first and pay a heavy additional tax on that, then over and above they had to pay tax on this so-called trailer which was not, in fact, a trailer in the ordinary sense, but was part and parcel of the vehicle.'
-E_TE mentioned the vehicle of 42 tons 11unlade.n. weight which conveyed the rudder of the " Berengitria" through this country. That load could not be taken by rail and nothing but this particular type of vehicle would be capable of conveying it. The same remark applied to. girders necessary in modern buildings. These were very occasional loads, but that made. no difference, under our system of taxation. The particular vehicle of which he was speaking was taxed, in the past, at 166. The taxation in future would be 11,367, which meant an additional. c.ost of between £400 and .±500 for the conveyance of those loads. That sort of thing could not be defended on the ground that it was likely to help industry. He hoped the Chancellor would make concessions on these matters to which he had referred,
No reply was madeby the Government, but the subject will be discussed in Committee on the Bill.
Consumption of Motor Spirit.
AREQUEST was made by Capt. Strickland for 'particulars of the total amount .ofNuty-paid motor spirit retained for home consumption in the year ended March 31, 1933, and the year ended December 21, 1932; the amount of duty-paid motor spirit refined in this country in the same periods ; and the estimated proportion of the total consumption or motor spirit used otherwise than by mechanically propelled motor vehicles. Mr. llore-Belisha, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said that as regards the first part of the question the amounts were 1,039,735,000 and 1,037,992,000 gallons "respectively ; as regards the second part of the question the amounts were 132,360,586 and 133,856,000 gallons respectively. These figures referred to motor spirit declared as such on delivery for home consumption. He was unable to furnish a reliable estimate with regard to the third part of the question, i.e., the proportion of the total consumption of motor spirit used otherwise than by mechanically propelled motor vehicles.
Road and Rail Bill.
A T the second sitting of the Standing 21.Committee on the Road and Rail Traffic Bill a proposal was made by Sir G. Reutoul that the obligation upon local or public authorities to hold C liceuees for their road vehicles should apply to Government departments. After some discussion, Mr. Stanley said the whole point of the C licence was the power to take away licences if conditions as to public safety were infringed. They could not do so in the case of the Post Office or the War Office; the remedy being to attack the Minister on the Boor of the House. The amendment was withdrawn.
AN amendment which was withdrawn .sought to exempt vehicles used by clock or harbour undertakings on roads forming part of the undertaking. Mr. Stanley said such vehicles were exempt from Road Fund duty because the roads on which they travelled were the property of the dock undertakings. At the same time, the public had access to those roads and the same conditions as to safety arose there as on other roads. The only obligation under the Bill was that the dock undertakings must apply for C licences, ‘, tkich were automatically granted, and must observe the security conditions. Colonel MooreBrabazon regarded the decision as a gross interference with private operations.
CAPT. STRICKLAND moved to V./exempt from the clause the use of a vehicle for demonstration purposes by a motor-vehicle manufacturer or
motor agent. Mr. Stanley said this question was not simple because of the type of demonstration where the vehicle was delivered to the prospective customer who used it in the ordinary way of business. The amendment would lead to wholesale evasions of the Act. He proposed in Regulations under paragraph (h) to devise some form of words which would cover the case of a minor demonstration.
Committee's Third Sitting.
A T the third sitting several further .tiamendments for the exemption from licensing of various uses of vehicles were proposed, but most of them were withdrawn. With reference to a proposal to 'exempt the use of a vehicle specially equipped for the purpose of carrying or towing a disabled vehicle (by a person carrying on the business of a repairer of motor vehicles), the Minister promised to bring forward an alternative amendment, and meanwhile he aecepted another amendment to exempt the use of a vehicle for towing a disabled motor vehicle.