HC Deb 29 June 1943 vol 390 cc1517-8

(1) Where a licence has been taken out for a mechanically-propelled vehicle under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 5 of the Second Schedule to the Finance Act, 1920 (which, as amended by the Seventh Schedule to the Finance Act, 1933, specifies the rates of duty to be charged on vehicles registered in the name of a person engaged in agriculture and used on roads solely by him for the purpose of the conveyance of the produce of, or of articles required for the purposes of, the agricultural land which he occupies), duty at a higher rate shall not become chargeable in respect of that vehicle by reason only that, during such periods and in such areas as may be specified by order of the Treasury, it is used, whether by the person in whose name it is registered or not, for any such purpose as is specified in the order.

(2) An order under this Section may be revoked or varied by a subsequent order of the Treasury.

(3) This Section shall continue in force until such date as His Majesty may by Order in Council determine.—[Mr. Noel-Baker.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport (Mr. Noel-Baker)

I beg to move "That the Clause be read a Second time."

Under the law as it stands, farmers can get licences for their lorries at reduced rates, provided they use the lorries only for their own individual work. The scale of duties for their vehicles up to four tons unladen weight varies from £10 to £18, as compared with a scale varying from £10 up to £50 for vehicles used for ordinary commercial haulage work. The concession made to the farmers is thus substantial. But if, under the law as it stands, a farmer uses his lorry to do ordinary haulage work for other people, then he must pay the ordinary tax; he loses the concession. That arrangement was made because it would not be in the public interest that fanners should in general use their lorries for such general haulage work; and if they do so they must be placed on the same footing as hauliers. This new Clause will not upset that general arrangement. Its purpose is simply to ensure that during the period of the war there shall be adequate and convenient transport for the nation's harvest. That is very important this year, because the Government, like the nation, are hoping that the great efforts of all those who have worked on the land will be rewarded by a bumper harvest. To move the crops the ordinary commercial vehicles will be called in to help the farmers, and it is intended that as much Service transport as possible shall, where necessary, be used.

But we also desire to maximise the economic use of transport by making it possible for farmers to help each other with their lorries on the farms. If one farmer can conveniently go to the help of a neighbour who is bringing in his crop, perhaps endeavouring desperately to get it in before it rains, and if a little later that neighbour can go to his help in return, it is obviously desirable that this should be permitted; it should not be prevented by the present licensing system. This Clause makes it possible for farmers to help each other in this way without incurring liability for heavy additional taxation on their vehicles. The House will observe that the new Clause does not lay down when, where and for what purpose farmers may use their lorries in this way, but gives my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the power to do so by Treasury Order. That is necessary, because the purposes, the areas and the periods, for which this arrangement is required, may all vary. The Treasury in their orders will lay it down, perhaps, that farmers' lorries may in the first instance be used only for carrying grain crops. They may lay it down that they shall be used only in such and such counties or districts and for such and such a specified period of weeks. It may well be that the crops to be carried will vary and that the times may be different in different parts of the country—indeed they certainly will—and the period may have to be shortened or extended in an unexpected way and for unexpected reasons. Therefore, it is obviously impracticable to provide for everything we desire to do by the terms of the Clause itself. Accordingly we ask the House to give this power to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would only add that this arrangement will not adversely affect the general haulier, and I hope that he will not think it does so. It is primarily intended to facilitate work in the fields and on the farms.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Clause added to the Bill.