Fuel Protests

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 25th October 2000.

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions) (Environment) 4:15 pm, 25th October 2000

I will not give way for the moment.

In formulating our approach to transport, the Government have been very conscious—rather more so than Conservative Members—of our environmental targets. Road transport is one of the major sources of air pollution, especially in urban areas. The transport sector is also the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change, arguably, is the biggest environmental challenge that we face globally.

That is not a trendy intellectual scenario of the middle-distance future; it is with us now. In the last few weeks, we have seen the worst flooding in Kent and Sussex in living memory. Two years ago, the east midlands experienced the worst flooding for a century. France experienced the most destructive storm of the last century which killed dozens of people and caused losses running into billions. That is paralleled by similar disasters on an even greater scale across the world. I repeat that measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transport will need to play a central role in helping the UK to meet its international and domestic climate change objectives.

The real lesson of the fuel crisis, in my view, is the need for us to reduce our overdependence on oil and to switch to a greater use of renewable sources of energy. The Government have already invested in a number of measures to support the uptake of cleaner alternative fuels and technology, including low rates of duty on road fuel gases. A low rate of vehicle excise duty on electric vehicles offers significant incentives for drivers to switch.

Through my Department's powershift programme—whose budget was increased to £10 million in March—we are offering more and more grants to help those who wish to purchase gas and electric vehicles. Under the 10-year plan, the Government are committed to doubling the amount spent on cleaner vehicle initiatives by 2003–04.