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.