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New Clause. — (Amendment of Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1949, as to Tower Wagons.)

Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd July 1957.

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As from the beginning of the year nineteen hundred and fifty-eight, the definition of "tower wagon" in subsection (1) of section twenty-seven of the Vehicles (Excise) Act. 1949, shall have effect as if the reference to a telescopic contrivance designed for facilitating the erection, inspection, repair or maintenance of overhead structures or equipment included any expanding or extensible contrivance so designed.—[Mr. Wigg.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

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

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

I am overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of my hon. Friends. Under Section 27 of the Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1949, a tower wagon carries a considerably lower rate of Excise Duty than an ordinary vehicle. In my constituency, a firm manufactures a tower wagon of a kind not covered by the 1949 Act. The manufacture of these tower wagons affords a comfortable livelihood to a considerable number of my constituents and is a tribute to their skills and a testimony to the ingenuity, engineering ability and enterprise of the firm that undertook its production.

Originally this vehicle was made in Canada in a primitive sort of way in connection with the picking of fruit. Simon Engineering (Midland) Ltd. saw its possibilities and acquired the world-wide rights, North America excluded. Subsequently the firm developed this highly ingenious mechanical contrivance which is now used by the Navy and the Royal Air Force, but not by the Army, which is always a little behind the Royal Air Force, and also by local authorities. Unfortunately it is of such a new character, since it has been in production only for eighteen months, that it does not conform strictly to the requirements of the 1949 Act which says: 'Tower wagon' means a vehicle…into which there is built, as part of the vehicle, a telescopic contrivance designed for facilitating the erection, inspection, repair or maintenance of overhaul structures or equipment.… The Dudley vehicle is not telescopic. It is an extensile and expanding contrivance. Thus this quite novel machine is put at a very considerable disadvantage when it is sold to local authorities or to organisations like the Electricity Authority. These bodies look not only at the original cost but at the cost of its use over the years.

Therefore I ask the Government to help this completely new venture, which although it has been brought into production only in the last eighteen months and has a considerable export value. I ask them to make the small concession asked for in the proposed Clause and so enable this contrivance to be broughtt into the same category as those that are telescopic. This would enable the firm to expand, find a wider home base for its production, spread its overhead charges and eventually to compete more keenly in the export market.

I make a point of that because the country is very concerned with exports. In the last eighteen months these machines have been exported to Trinidad, Southern Rhodesia, Abadan, Belgium, Malaya, Sweden, Spain, France, Switzerland, Nigeria, Norway, the Persian Gulf, India, Australia, New Zealand, Christmas Island and Bulawayo. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do not apologise at this late hour for providing a subject of laughter for both sides of the Committee, but I should have thought this was a record of which a small enterprise could be very proud, for it makes a contribution to the well-being of the people of Dudley and an addition to the country's economy. For that reason, although it is small, it ought to be encouraged and I, as the hon. Member for Dudley, am proud to pay tribute to the skill of the operatives and management responsible. I hope the Financial Secretary will accept what I have said and will accept this Clause.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

When you, Sir William, called the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) I could not help the words coming into my mind: The setting sun and music at the close…is sweetest last. A Financial Secretary has ex officio during the course of a Finance Bill to say "No" so often that I think some people come to believe eventually that he likes doing so. It is, therefore, a fortunate chance that I find myself in the position of advising the Committee to accept this, the last new Clause to be proposed at this stage. The hon. Member has made the case showing that it is unreasonable that this contrivance should be excluded from the benefit of the 1949 Act simply because it cannot strictly be defined as "telescopic" in character.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Since tributes are flying around the Committee at this late hour, I think a small word of thanks should be said to the Financial Secretary and the Chancellor, who must have authorised him to do so, for accepting this Clause. The Treasury Bench has been unusually obdurate during this stage of the Bill and not very forthcoming in accepting all the more important and valuable new Clauses and Amendments which have been moved, but it is very good that it has been able to accept this one.

As tributes are being paid, I think every tribute should be paid to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) for discovering an important subject of this kind and embodying it in a Clause and especially for getting it in order. I think he was advised by all the financial pundits on this side of the Committee that his chances of getting it in order were extremely small. That he not only did so, almost unaided, but managed to secure that it was called, with your good will and tolerance, Sir William, and that of the Chairman of Ways and Means, and went on to persuade the Treasury to accept it, reveals a devotion to Parliamentary duty almost unrivalled, at any rate in the course of this Committee stage, and a great degree of success in all he has done.

I would use the words he used more than once in paying tribute to the workers and management in Dudley, their ingenuity and courage. I think those words should be applied also to him and, even though it is almost midnight, I hope that his efforts on behalf of his constituency will not go unnoticed in Dudley.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.