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A Green Industrial Revolution

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:04 pm on 15th January 2020.

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Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport 6:04 pm, 15th January 2020

I am very pleased that the hon. Gentleman has asked that question. There is £500 million to help a gigafactory come to this country. That was not done behind closed door; we announced it publicly. I am sorry he had not spotted the announcement. This is a very positive way of ensuring that more car production comes here. I should also let him know that one in five electric cars sold in Europe last year were made in the United Kingdom—made right here.

Our support for the electrification of vehicles is second to none. Let me give some examples. We now have more charging locations in petrol stations, as one of my hon. Friends mentioned. We have over 200,000 plug-in chargers in home locations. We have much more to do, though, and that is why both through the money already announced—£400,000—and another £1 billion in our manifesto we are pledging to put a lot more resource into having more charging locations so that people do not have as much range anxiety when they drive one of these vehicles. The need for that was one of the key points made by Members across the House.

I know exactly why people are concerned. I drive an electric car, as I have mentioned before. I know the anxiety of wondering about whether one will get to one’s next location, but the good news is that in reality, rather than just the concern about it, I have never found it to be a problem. Every single service station on the motorway network in this country—now bar one, I think—has electric charging. However, I want that charging to be faster. I want it to be rapid rather than just a so-called fast charge. This Government absolutely share the ambition of this House to get that job done and get it done quicker.

At the UN climate action summit, as Members know, the Prime Minister announced that we would double our contribution to £11.6 billion between 2021 and 2025. That will do a huge amount to assist. I heard someone say during the debate, “That’s not right because it’s coming from international development.” If we do not think it is right to use international development money to save this planet, then I do not know what the money is there for. It is absolutely the right thing to be doing.

I am delighted that the Queen’s Speech includes significant measures to move forward our green programme even further. In particular, the environment Bill will put accountability and practical delivery at the heart of our agenda while providing much-needed certainty for business. The Bill includes measures to improve air quality, restore habitats, increase biodiversity, build a less wasteful economy—hon. Members have mentioned things such as plastic waste, which it will deal with—and better manage our water resources.

Crucially, the Bill will introduce a system for new, legally binding long-term targets in all these critical areas so that central and local government—there has been some talk about how local government fits into this picture—are clear on their legal responsibilities to protect our precious environment. I have been working very actively with local authorities—for example, in the provision of electric car charging points—to ensure that they have everything they need to be able to accelerate this programme as quickly as possible.

Those targets all have a minimum duration of 15 years, because given the scale of the challenge we face, which has been so well articulated by Members across the House, we believe that we have to be extremely ambitious. We have to consider the implications for business, for industry and for the public. We must take people with us as we adapt to this enormous change, use new technology, and make sure that we hit the necessary emission goals, as we will have to do because they will be there in law.

Although air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010 and emissions of nitrogen oxides are at their lowest level since records began, I want to acknowledge a couple of areas where I share the concerns of Andy McDonald. Since energy is no longer the most polluting part of our economy because we produced 53% through renewable sources last year, transport is now the most polluting part of our economy. I think he gave the figure: 27% of all pollution comes from transport, and 90% of that from vehicles. There is a huge prize in solving this problem, and the technology is already here. I heard Members talk about the use of alternative and different types of energy for cars—hydrogen, for example. These technologies are coming along. We have a £28 million programme to further the production of hydrogen vehicles. In transport, it is horses for courses, so heavy items such as trains will work well in future through hydrogen, and lighter items such as cars will work better through electricity. It is a question of developing in all those different ways, and that is what we are determined to do.

There was a very interesting exchange about the amount of NO2 in our atmosphere. A huge amount of these particles come from transport, and although that discussion was about whether pollutants and CO2 are the same thing—they are clearly not—the reality is that if we take a lot of the same steps it will solve the same problems. It is good and right that the Bill we are introducing tackles both those things: fine particulate matter and CO2.

We know that there is a huge amount to be done, and I know that the whole House wants us to get there. One of the most controversial areas is when we end the sale of petrol and diesel cars. I heard a number of calls in the debate to do that earlier than the already pledged 2040. I want to do that. I have spoken about that and we will consult on it, but we need to do it in a way that ensures that people do not end up coming back to the House saying, “What happened to that industry and those car producers in my constituency?” We have to do it in a way that works and takes the whole of the economy with us in the best possible way.

From some of the discussion this afternoon, it may not be obvious that the number of electric cars has grown from just 1,500 a decade ago to 200,000 today. The growth in the last year alone has been enormous. Electric car sales are taking off. I think I am right in saying that we have the second largest market in the European Union for ultra low emission cars.

We are doing an awful lot of things behind the scenes to encourage take-up. For example, if someone goes to pay their road tax on the DVLA site right now, they will see a page that suggests that they might be able to pay less road tax if they transfer to an electric car. I know that there are concerns about the overall costs of buying a new electric car, but I want to make this point. When someone buys an electric car, they will find that their petrol bill disappears—it is replaced by an electric bill, but that will probably be a 10th of the cost. They will find that there is no oil for the car and no servicing for the car, and the car tax may well be much lower. Given that 85% of car buyers buy on a finance package—a personal contract purchase—the overall lifetime experience of owning the car may not be all that different. But I agree that we need to work hard to ensure that, as with solar, where we have seen a 50% cut in the cost, we see the same with electric cars.

This has been an excellent debate. The Queen’s Speech has laid out an exciting programme to prepare Britain for the future, making us a more prosperous yet greener nation. We have a unique opportunity today, after three and a half years in which Brexit has—let’s face it—dominated everything about politics and absorbed so much time and energy. We now have a strong mandate to deliver our vision for a modern, green, growing economy, and that is why I commend the Queen’s Speech to the House.

Ordered, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Tom Pursglove.)

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.