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General Licences Under Roads Act,1920

Volume 155: debated on Friday 16 June 1922

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Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That in lieu of the duty chargeable under Section nine of the Roads Act, 1920, in respect of general licences issued under that Section, there shall, in the event of the Minister of Transport in pursuance of any powers which may he conferred upon him issuing two different sets of regulations applicable to such licences, be chargeable in respect of such licences duty at the following yearly rates:—

This is a Resolution which the Government are proposing with a view to an Amendment which has been desired very much by those who are interested in the manufacture and sale of motor vehicles. Under the existing legislation, dealers in motor cars are entitled to have what is known as a general identification mark licence, entitling the manufacturer or dealer to use a car for trial or test purposes or to give a run to prospective purchasers. It has been very much abused in the past, and the difficulty of dealing with the matter has caused a number of prosecutions up and down the country by the police authority, some of which have been very much resented by persons in the trade. Under those circumstances, a small informal committee was set up to consider whether any amendment was possible, and the Resolution which I now move, upon which hereafter an Amendment to the Finance Bill will be put down, embodies the recommendation of that committee. We propose that, instead of there being one class of these licences, there shall be two. The duty payable under the general licence to-day is £10. We propose that, under the first of the two classes I have just mentioned, a duty of £25 will be payable, but that will enable, say, a dealer in motor cars to have a very much freer user of his car for his own personal purposes. One can readily understand that an agent who has a number of cars in his care may desire to make runs with those ears, in order that he may be able to tell customers what his own personal experience of a car may be, and, instead of having to take out prematurely a licence for each one of those cars, we propose that he be enabled to take a general licence, for which he will pay £25, which will give him a very much freer user of the cars he has at his disposal, so that he may not find himself harassed by undue interference as he goes about the country.

The police also desire this alteration, because their duty, under the administration of the law as it stands, to hold up people on the road, and challenge them as to whether they are using their cars within the somewhat narrow limits of the Regulation, is an unpleasant matter both to the police and those subjected to this treatment. Therefore, it is at the request of the trade that we propose this licence for more general user, but we propose also a second licence for a somewhat narrower and stricter user, that is to say, purely and simply for purposes in connection with the business, for testing cars, and giving prospective customers an opportunity of seeing the nature of the vehicle they require. Therefore, we propose two sets of Regulations instead of one, one set giving a much more extended and freer user to the motor agent, so that he may not find himself harassed, and the second being more limited, and giving the rights which I have indicated. We propose, therefore, to reduce the duty in the second case from £10 to £5, as we increase it in the first ease from £10 to £25.

I have just one observation or two to make. One is to congratulate the hon. Gentleman upon this proposal having been brought forward. I have no doubt my experience is that of most hon. Members—that there has been expressed generally a very strong grievance on the part of those who are proprietors of motor-car businesses at the trouble which has arisen from time to time, and very often between the proprietors of these businesses and the local police. Very great resentment has been expressed. One instance, showing the resentment expressed in a letter to me, I had an opportunity of placing before the lion. Member. I should only like to ask whether the Department has been in consultation with the organisations representing these motor-car traders, and whether they have expressed agreement as to the alteration of the figures, or whether they have simply expressed agreement as to reform being necessary? Have they agreed that these are fair figures having regard to all the circumstances? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will let the Committee know if there has been some arrangement made between the parties concerned; he is anxious, I know, to meet the reasonable requirements of the trade throughout the country. This is the introduction of a somewhat small matter, but it will be a reform very eagerly welcomed.

I thank my hon. Friend for his words of congratulation. We have tried to meet the views of those concerned. The Committee of which I have spoken contained representatives of the different branches of the industry. Their recommendations included the figures which are embodied in the Resolution, and were unanimous.

As to the first part of this Resolution, it is rather difficult to understand, but I think on the whole it is quite clear as to the rate of duty to be applied. I do not quite understand the second part. Am I right in thinking that the object of the second part is merely to allow a motor-car passenger to be given a trial trip at a lower rate of licence than is applicable at the present time?

I understand from the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Resolution that one of the objects of the second part of the Amendment is intended to apply to cases where the motor dealer, in order to sell a motor vehicle, gives a trial to a prospective purchaser, and is, therefore, able to get a licence for the trial at a lower rate. I may have misunderstood my hon. Friend.

No; the right hon. Gentleman has not misunderstood, but what he has stated is not the complete case. There is also the case of the manufacturer who wishes to test his machine before registration and paying the duty, and matters of that kind are intended to be covered by the Amendment.

Question put, and agreed to.