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Column 782Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Twinn, Dr Ian
Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Tellers for the Noes: Mr. Sidney Chapman and Mr. Michael Bates
Column 782Question accordingly negatived.
Amendments made: No. 42, in page 168, line 14, leave out `or forestry' and insert
`, forestry or activities falling within sub-paragraph (2A). (2A) The activities falling within this sub-paragraph are-- (a) cutting verges bordering public roads;
(b) cutting hedges or trees bordering public roads or bordering verges which border public roads.'.
No. 43, in page 168, line 22, at end insert--
`4BB.--(1) A vehicle is a special concessionary vehicle if it is a light agricultural vehicle.
(2) In sub-paragraph (1) "light agricultural vehicle" means a vehicle which --
(a) has a revenue weight not exceeding 1,000 kilograms, (b) is designed and constructed so as to seat only the driver, (c) is designed and constructed primarily for use otherwise than on roads, and
(d) is used solely for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry.'.-- [Dr. Fox.]
`4BA. A vehicle is a special concessionary vehicle if it is constructed or adapted to be used primarily for towing a disabled vehicle in such a manner (whether or not involving superimposition) as to cause a substantial part of the weight of the disabled vehicles to be borne by the vehicle in question.'.
The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Janet Fookes): With this, it will be convenient to discuss also the following: Amendment No. 30, in page 168, leave out lines 42 and 43. Government amendments Nos. 44 to 47.
Ms Primarolo: I do not wish unduly to detain the House. These are important matters which we discussed earlier this evening. The amendment seeks to delete the new proposals which the Government have introduced in vehicle excise duty for road recovery vehicles and to
Column 783maintain the status quo. These specialised vehicles are restricted by law as to the work which they can carry out, so the points made by the Minister earlier about multiple use do not apply.
The amendment is particularly important because the majority of those vehicles are partial-lift vehicles which are not used extensively, and for long periods are waiting for calls and emergency requests from the police. The Minister told us that he needed to deal with anomalies, but, as this evening has demonstrated, he is creating more than he is closing. The Minister told us that the measures will bring in only another 1 per cent. of extra revenue to the Government, an amount they could easily forgo pending the important review of services. It is a commonsense answer to a practical set of problems and it totally beggars belief that the Government are prepared to make every concession possible to farmers, to keep their Back Benchers and the farming industry happy, yet they will not take vital steps to safeguard public safety and safety on our roads. The costs are minimal, but the principle is important.
The Government have failed to respond to those arguments. While providing some concessions, their amendments do not go far enough. Some companies will still be adversely affected and a decline in the service will follow. We intend, therefore, to press our amendments to the vote at the conclusion of this brief debate.
Mr. Edward O'Hara (Knowsley, South): Unlike the lighter vehicles used to recover cars and roadside rescue vehicles, heavy recovery vehicles are highly specialised, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Ms Primarolo) pointed out. They are used to recover fully laden heavy goods vehicles and have a very low annual mileage. There are few jobs over which to spread the costs. They represent a long-term investment, with a long- term payback period and an annual income per vehicle that is extremely sensitive to the cost of overheads.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South said, the Government amendment makes some concessions, but operators will still have to pay a nine or 10-fold increase in excise duty from the present standard £85, instead of the proposed fiftyfold increase. That will force some operators out of business and lead others to opt out of heavy vehicle recovery, which could mean that many parts of the country will end up with only a limited capacity for removing broken-down or accident-damaged vehicles. That will lead to longer delays in clearing roads and poses questions for public safety. The proposals should be put aside, pending a review of the implications, and the standard flat rate should be retained meanwhile. Otherwise, heavy recovery vehicles will simply not be available to assist at emergencies when required.
I am thinking of a heavy vehicle recovery operation in my constituency adjacent to my home. It is at the junction of the M57 and M62 motorways. The junction of the M57 and M58 is 10 miles up the road, as well as access to the container depot at Liverpool docks. Believe it or not, just as much tonnage goes through the docks as it did in Liverpool's heyday, but nowadays it is in containers on heavily laden vehicles. The bottleneck of the Runcorn suspension bridge is 10 miles further away, leading to the
Column 784heavy chemical industrial area of Runcorn and onwards, via the M56, to the bottleneck access to north Wales. The junction of the M62 with the M6 and the notorious Thelwall viaduct are 15 miles away and the junction with the notorious M61 and M63 is about 10 miles further away, in Greater Manchester.
The Government should take away their recommendation, or, when emergencies happen, no heavy recovery vehicles will be available for specialised roadside rescue, there will be inordinate delays and possibly life- threatening accidents.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I do not know whether the hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) was here earlier today when we debated those matters extensively, but I made it clear then that the Government's amendments meet the concerns that he raises. The heavier recovery vehicles will now be taxed at a much more favourable rate than if they were heavy goods vehicles. For instance, middle-weight recovery vehicles will pay only £450 duty and very heavy vehicles that may be used only occasionally will pay £750, compared with up to £5,000 a year for heavy goods vehicles. The trade says that it is satisfied with that structure. The Retail Motor Industry Federation, which is important because it includes recovery vehicle operators, has written to me saying that it is satisfied with the proposals. If we have satisfied the trade, we should have satisfied the Committee.
Question put, That the amendment be made:--
The Committee divided: Ayes 245, Noes 275.
Division No. 58] [10.15 pm
Column 784Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Column 784Byers, Stephen
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, D N
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)