Taxation and Better Roads.
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.
Seventeen months ago, in our issue of the 20th February, 1908, when discussing "New taxation : a plea for rebates in respect of commercial motors," we wrote, in the course of a leading article:—' A reasonable tax, such as that* suggested to the Royal Commission on the Motorcars Acts by representatives of the Commercial Motor Users' Association, should at once provide enough money to form a very useful nucleus for application in payment of interest upon, and the provision of the necessary sinking fund for, that annual capital grant from the National Exchequer which we feel confident is inevitable, and without which recent advances towards the perfection of the means of internal communication in this country will be rendered nugatory, and so much wasted energy." This method of application, we are pleased to observe, has been adopted for support by the Royal Automobile Club, and we trust it will be accepted by the Government. In regard to the proposed taxation of 1W. per gallon upon all spirit used in commercial vehicles, with which doctors' ears are to be classed, we are interested to observe the statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that these clauses of the Finance Bill are not likely to come before the House for some months. Legislation, like business in the Law Courts, has a strange habit, this prophecy notwithstanding, of being unexpectedly advanced by a " guillotine " process, and we hope there will be no relaxation of effort upon the part of those who are endeavouring to set aside the new duty, which will specially hit London omnibus companies most of all.
Commercial Motors Reduce StreetCleansing Expenditure in London.
Not a few members of the L.C.C. are adepts at " begging the question " when they imagine they can harm the cause of the motorbus. Mr. Allen Baker, early M 1007, spread abroad a report that Paris motorhuse,s paid at least £80 each per annum towards the cost of that municipality's streets, and argued that it was an injustice -to the L.C.C. tramcars that corresponding levies were not made in London. He carefully omitted to mention, or was in ignorance of, the fact that the Paris payment was in exchange for monopoly rights. We drew his attention to the flaw in his supposed ease against the London motorbus, and he was careful not to revert to the erroneous premise, but only, we fear, because he intended to look for some other and, if possible, better means to assist his dearly-loved trams: he did not, so far as we are aware, admit the inaccuracy publicly. The L.C.C. tramcars, quite fairly, pay reasonable annual rates to various Borough Councils in respect of the monopoly which they
enjoy—the exclusive use of a smooth metal track laid upon the public highway to the inconvenience of many.
We reported, two weeks ago, a question which had been so confidently framed: was Mr. John Burns " aware that, since the advent of motor omnibuses and other motor traffic, the expenditure on the maintenance and cleansing of the roads in London has largely increased?" The usual assumption that something unproved is true, and the usual unjustified reflection upon the commercial motor! Our belief that the return might be awaited without anxiety has been confirmed, for Mr. Burns's reply, which was given after our last issue had gone to press, wholly controverts and disproves the terms of Sir John Benn's really impudent phrasing.
The maintenance and repair figures are exclusive of improvement outlay, of expenditure defrayed out of loans, and of loan charges paid in respect, of loans, and they are, therefore, conceivably of less conclusive import than the cleansing and scavenging figures. We quote both:— " Maintenance and repair (excluding improvements).— 1901-2, £745,461; 1902-3, £803,926; 1903-4, £771,490; 1904-5, .£841,691 ; 1905-0, £820,267; 1906-7, £812,267; and 1907-8, .£745,501. Cleansing and scavenging (including watering).-1901-2, £738,195 ; 1902-3, £753,114; 1903-4, £724,213; 1901-5, £760,871; 1905-6, £757,182; 1906-7, £789,536; and 1907-8, £723,790." Melee official figures irrefutably demonstrate the incorrectness of Sir John Ben us ideas on the points au issue.
There can be no two opinions that reduced expenditure upon cleansing and scavenging charges is the necessary corollary to any wide use of motor vehicles. The writer, in the summer of the year 1898, at Birmingham, in the course of a paper before the Engineering Section of the Annual Congress of the Royal Sanitary Institute, put forward that claim in no uncertain manner, and the soundness of this view was then accepted. as it was on the occasion of a subsequent paper, at Glasgow, in 1904, by the chosen representatives of local authorities at large. Why, we ask, have the anticipated economies been but slowly realised, as the Local Government Board return now under review indicates to be the case ? It is, unfortunately, because the advantages of motor traffic are to a great extent negatived—qua cleanly street conditions—by the persistence of horsed traffic. The same superficial area has to be gone over by the orderly boys, swept, or washed ; it does not help materially that they have to deal with the droppings from 50 horses in place of 100. The next few years will witness a development of public appreciation, and the sanitary and public-health benefits due to motor traffic will prevail, whilst there may even be rates and taxes upon horses in cities. For the present, " horsey " interests are still in the ascendant, and one sees new powers and by-laws sought in many quarters. The day of reckoning for some, and certainly the era of justice for the motor, will come when a motoring majority acts upon those very regulations which are now being forged for their repression. Those who believe in progress have now to find what consolation they can from the confounding of an over-zealous antagonist here and there.