Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I welcome the £220 million announced recently by the Government for bus investment. Mine is the only constituency in the whole United Kingdom that has a British-owned bus-building company. That is an essential strategic measure by the Government, especially if they invest in bus building in Northern Ireland. It will affect every constituency in this country, whether in Aberdeen or Cornwall, because it is a bus-building company owned by British entrepreneurs and invested in by British taxpayers. It is also the home of the hydrogen bus. The opportunity is in our hands to make Northern Ireland and, indeed, the UK the flagship for hydrogen power as a public transport solution and a world leader in use of that zero-emissions product and world-leading technology.
Hydrogen power is much more advanced and cleaner than battery power. Batteries are a fantastic opportunity for cars and other vehicles, but we must remember that if we buy a battery car, the entire battery component will need to be replaced in seven years’ time. Of the old battery component, 50% gets recycled, and the other 50% can only go to landfill, increasing a problem that we must still address.
I welcome the £1 billion investment in a battery gigafactory here in the United Kingdom. That is a great opportunity, but it pales into insignificance when we consider that China has monopolised world battery production. Indeed, one factory alone on the Chinese mainland employs 260,000 people. We cannot catch up with world battery production, so our nation needs to lead the way with new technology and solutions such as hydrogen power, which was mentioned by the Secretary of State—and I believe we can.
Jo Bamford, with his Ryse technology and the Bamford Bus Company, and Hugo Spowers, with his Riversimple Rasa hydrogen car, have demonstrated that entrepreneurs are looking at ways of using hydrogen power as a new solution beyond batteries. Batteries are fantastic for lightweight, short-range applications, but hydrogen offers a solution for distance and heavyweight vehicles such as buses, lorries, trains and ferries. Who knows what it could offer in the future for aviation? Members today have talked about low emissions for transport, but hydrogen is a zero-emissions solution, so let us grasp it. What plans do the Government have for hydrogen investment in the United Kingdom? What can they offer to investors in innovative new technologies that will turn waste into energy?
I support the third runway at Heathrow, which is a brilliant opportunity for investment and aviation. Some 51% of people who fly from Northern Ireland to England are coming here to do business. We need a third runway because Heathrow has reached capacity. We have to remember that 95% of the global economy lies within reach of a single direct flight from Heathrow. Heathrow has facilitated £118 billion of trade outside the EU in the last 12 months alone. It is a wonderful airport, and it must—