– in the House of Commons at 2:42 pm on 14th July 2021.
Transport decarbonisation is a dull way of describing something much more exciting and far-reaching, because transport is not just about how we get around. It is much more fundamental, as it shapes our towns and cities and our countryside.
Today we are publishing our transport decarbonisation plan, the first in the world, a comprehensive yet urgent strategy to end transport’s contribution to climate change within the next three decades, showing global leadership as we prepare to host COP26 in November.
It is not about stopping people doing things; it is about doing the same things differently. We still want to fly on holiday, but it will be in more efficient aircraft using sustainable fuel. We will still drive our cars on improved roads, but increasingly with zero emissions. And we will still have new development and additional housing, for example, but through more careful planning we will not be forced into high-carbon lifestyles.
We know the world is running out of time to tackle climate change. Unless we take decisive and radical action now, it will soon be too late to prevent catastrophic damage to our planet, which will also threaten our security and our prosperity. At the same time, terms such as “decarbonisation” and “net zero” seem abstract to many people. This plan argues that transport is not just how people get around but it influences our living standards and, in fact, our whole quality of life.
Transport can shape all these things, for good or for bad. Bad is traffic congestion and pollution, which also contribute to climate change. Indeed, transport is now the single biggest contributor to UK greenhouse gas emissions. Decarbonisation is not a technocratic process; it is how we fix some of that harm. It is how we make sure that transport shapes the country and the economy in ways that are good. It is about taking filth out of the air and creating better places. It is about a second industrial revolution, creating hundreds of thousands of green jobs in places that were the cradle of the first.
Driving all this will be the consumer making greener travel choices informed by better data. The Government will work with industry to meet our carbon budgets and to keep this green transport revolution on track.
What is exciting about the plan is that for the first time we have an opportunity to decarbonise transport without curtailing our freedoms. It will not stop us driving, commuting to work or going on holiday, but we will be using zero-emission cars, motorcycles and trucks. We will be travelling in zero-emission trains, ferries, buses and coaches. We will be cycling and walking much more, and we will be flying in more efficient aircraft, using sustainable aviation fuels.
I accept that, even a few years ago, the vision that we are setting out today would have seemed over-ambitious, but such is the progress that we are making in this country in technology and engineering, in building momentum for the net zero challenge ahead, and in showing real political leadership for the biggest challenge in our lifetime that we can now commit to a bold strategy to help wean transport off fossil fuels and reach net zero in under 30 years. We have already announced that the sale of new cars and vans powered solely by petrol or diesel will cease in 2030, and that all cars and vans will be fully zero emission at the tailpipe by 2035—a commitment that would not have been deliverable while we were a member of the EU, because our own type of proof of framework would have breached the single market had we tried.
To underpin these phase-out dates, today we have published our 2035 delivery plan, which sets out the investment and measures from Government to deliver mass ownership of zero-emission cars and vans. We have published a Green Paper, one of 10 documents that sit alongside the transport decarbonisation plan, which shows our new road-vehicle CO2 emissions regulatory framework, which will be ambitious in decarbonising road transport and tailored to the UK’s needs. This could include a zero-emission mandate for manufacturers, so that they sell an ever-increasing proportion of zero-emission vehicles before they can sell any others.
The decarbonisation plan goes further still. With a commitment to consult on a world-leading pledge to phase out sales of all new non-zero emission road vehicles, from motorcycles to heavy goods vehicles. We believe that that should be from 2040 at the latest, and it is a massive step towards cleaning up road transport altogether. By doing so, we will remove the source of more than 90% of our total domestic transport emissions. We will go further, creating a net zero rail network by 2050 and replacing all our diesel-only trains by 2040 with super-clean technologies such as hydrogen. Hundreds of electric buses are already operating in many UK cities, but soon that will be thousands, which will benefit not just urban areas but the whole country. Remote and rural areas that have not always been best served by such changes in the past will see the benefits this time.
Completely clean buses will form the backbone of our local public transport system, and we will continue to work with industry to roll out a national electric vehicle charging network as I announced at the Dispatch Box. Nearly 25,000 public charging devices have already been installed, including more chargers for every 100 miles of major, key strategic road than any country in Europe. That will include smart vehicle charging to reduce energy bills when demand for electricity in the system is at its lowest. Something that will also benefit will be the Government’s fleet of 40,000 vehicles, which we aim to make fully electric by 2027.
We will consult on phasing out sales of new, non-zero-emission-capable domestic ships too, and we will be a hub for green air travel. Today, we have launched a consultation that sets out how we will deliver net zero aviation by 2050, working with the Jet Zero Council with a target to achieve zero-emission transatlantic flight within our generation. If that seems more like science fiction, it is interesting to know that we have already flown the world’s first zero-carbon hydrogen aircraft at Cranfield airport in Bedfordshire. It took a 20 minute flight—another world-first for Britain.
We will support and incentivise green development by aligning billions of pounds of infrastructure investment with our net zero programme. This includes the billions we are investing to build a thriving electric supply chain, to secure gigafactories here in the UK, to create more efficient aviation engines, lighter planes and sustainable fuels and to develop clean freight transport. Just as green transport will not stop us travelling, it will not hold back industry either. In fact, it will open up unparalleled opportunities for new jobs and enterprise. In recent weeks alone, we have seen both Nissan and Vauxhall commit to massive investments in electric vehicles and battery production in Sunderland and Ellesmere Port. This is the modern-day equivalent of the early investment in our railway 200 years ago or, indeed, in our fledgling motor industry a century later. What we are seeing here is the start of a second greener industrial revolution, which, just like the first, will be driven by transport, but this time delivering triple the benefits: for our economy, for jobs and for the future of our planet.
But we cannot simply rely on technology. Nor can we believe that zero-emission vehicles will solve all our problems, because they will not, especially in meeting our medium-term targets for the 2030s. The pandemic has provided a chance to rethink how we travel and how we do public transport. In fact, we have already seen a 46% increase in the number of road miles being cycled last year, the biggest increase since the second world war. Cycling increased more in a single year than in the previous 20 years put together. With £2 billion of new funding, more than 300 cycling and walking schemes are being delivered, and many more are on the way. We have also pledged £3 billion to revolutionise local buses in England outside London, with London-style cheap flat fares and integrated ticketing. And of course we are creating Great British Railways, to bring the railway network back together and make it easier for people to travel by train. We want to make public transport, cycling and walking the natural first choice for all who can use them.
The year 2050 may seem like a long way into the future, but it is just 29 years away. That is why the pace of change will be unparalleled, and why this new decarbonisation plan is a landmark in the evolution of the way we do transport in this country. We are the first country in the world to do this, taking a firm leadership position as we host COP26 later this year in Glasgow and going from being part of the climate change problem to a major part of the solution. That is the transformation we must deliver by 2050, and that is the transformation we will achieve with this transport decarbonisation plan. I am placing a copy of the plan in the Library of the House, and I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for giving me advance sight of his statement. We have not yet had the joy of reading the plan, although I look forward to seeing it later in the Library when I get pointed towards the fiction section, as with most of the strategies produced by the Government recently.
We are, I hope, coming through the covid-19 pandemic, but we cannot forget that we are still in this climate emergency, and nor can we miss the opportunity to kick-start a new green economy built on decent, well-paid, highly skilled jobs. With transport now the largest contributor to UK emissions, this should have been the chance for Ministers to set out an ambitious plan that would really lead the way, ahead of COP26—not warm words or reannouncements but a real plan to support aviation, maritime, rail, freight and local public transport alongside active travel.
This climate emergency required urgent action many years ago, but after a decade in office, I am afraid this Government have been found wanting. In the time they have been in office, the number of petrol and diesel vans has rocketed by 1 million. That means more polluting vans on our roads, and much of that increase can be attributed to last-mile courier delivery vehicles. The Government have been silent on an approach to dealing with that. Under these plans, the Government will treat the likes of Amazon, which has boomed during the pandemic, no differently from the self-employed builder who will take their van at the start of the job and often leave it parked outside the house until the job is finished. There will be no differentiation at all between those different uses.
Today the average age of a van on the road is the oldest since records began. Nearly 1 million vehicles on the road are more than 13 years old, yet there is no van scrappage scheme, let alone one for cars. All we have on offer is that the Government have committed to do what they should be doing already, which is to electrify the entire fleet of Government cars and vans by 2027, but how can we trust them to deliver on that promise when their Department for Transport has managed to fully electrify just 2% of its fleet? There is nothing to support backing Britain in the future and the economy by making and buying more vehicles here, as championed by the shadow Chancellor, my hon. Friend Rachel Reeves.
The Secretary of State knows that smart electric vehicle charging points are important, but he also knows that there is a woeful lack of them across the country. The Government must be ambitious, but they must also genuinely make sure that the investment reaches all parts of the country. Westminster has 390 charging points per 100,000 population, compared with just 5.1 per 100,000 for people in Wigan. There are more charging points in London than in the whole of the north of England and the whole of the midlands combined, so the investment is not being levelled out in an equal way. Where is the plan to accelerate that and to make sure that every part of the country gets its fair share? Although the Secretary of State mentions the zero-emission vehicle mandate, it is only nodded to. There is no strong commitment and no firm plan in place to achieve that.
Aside from the environmental emergency, there is also a clear health emergency. Forty thousand people a year die from air pollution-related illnesses, so we must be leaders in modal shift away from private cars and ambitious on investment in active travel, yet the Government have overseen a reduction of thousands of bus routes. At the same time, ticket prices have rocketed on buses and trains. The Government have not delivered even a single one of the 4,000 green buses that they have repeatedly promised, and even if they were to deliver on that promise, it is a drop in the ocean and would not address the remaining 20,000 buses that will not be replaced under that scheme.
Beyond the bus, the Secretary of State talks about long-promised money for cycling, but when will that money be spent? Will we be here next year hearing the same re-announcement? Unless would-be cyclists feel safe, they will not make that shift. The Government’s own survey reported that 66% of those who responded said that the roads were too dangerous for them to consider cycling on.
Moving on to aviation, the Secretary of State wants to get to net zero international aviation emissions by 2050 and 2040 for domestic flights. Why, then, is his Department planning to cut air passenger duty on those same flights rather than having a targeted sectoral deal to have very firm commitments to decarbonisation built in? As usual, we will get more Jet Zero Council consultations and more meetings will come through the pipeline, but where is the action?
The list goes on and on and on, including the failure to deliver on a genuinely flexible season ticket to get commuters back on our trains. Instead, we see a £1 billion cut from Network Rail’s infrastructure budget and, at the same time, fares for passengers are increasing all the time.
We were promised an ambitious plan to lead the world ahead of COP26. If that was the test, I am afraid the Government have failed.
I am afraid that we have been here before a couple of times of late, and I understand the difficulty for the hon. Gentleman. He freely acknowledges that he has not actually seen or read this document, yet he has a stream of criticism for what is inside it, which I find extraordinary. Rather than taking in what I thought was a quite detailed statement, so that he could hear all the various different points, instead he read from the pre-ordained script, which claimed that none of the things that we were doing was really happening.
Let me remind the House, therefore, what has actually happened. The hon. Gentleman says he does not think we have been moving fast enough. Let us just check the record. While Labour was in power, it delivered 63 miles of electrified track. In just the last three years, under this Government, we have done 700 miles. He points to a lack of charging, although I announced at the Dispatch Box a couple of weeks ago—and I commented on this in my speech—that there are 25,000 public chargers.
I should also say that there are a couple of hundred thousand private chargers on top of that. I am sorry to hear that Wigan’s Labour council does not have enough charging points; I will ensure that I contact the council this afternoon, on the hon. Gentleman’s behalf, to make sure that it applies for the grants that are available so that we can sort that out for residents in Labour Wigan forthwith.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned zero emission vehicle mandates; I am pleased that it sounds as though there is some agreement on them. The decarbonisation plan discusses mandates and we have launched a consultation today. I hope the hon. Gentleman will agree that we cannot simply spring something as important as a zero emission mandate on the entire sector; we have to consult the sector first, so that consultation is being launched today.
Another nine consultations, technical documents or outcomes from consultations are being launched today alongside the plan, which I again invite the hon. Gentleman to read. I accept that he will not have done so at this time, but I think he will find that a lot of his concerns and criticisms are covered. For example, he asked where the 4,000 buses are; I have some good news for him, and it is not just that when one comes along there are three: there are 900 buses in production right now, and 50 are already on the road.[This section has been corrected on
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Jet Zero Council, and he is absolutely right. I make no apology for the Government meeting with academia and the sector. We have had our third main Jet Zero Council meeting and there have been dozens of sub-meetings of the technical working groups. What I hear is that the Opposition do not understand. Thanks to our Jet Zero Council work, we have already flown the world’s first hydrogen aircraft in this country. But it is not good enough for them; they still think we are not doing anything. I have some good news for the hon. Gentleman: that aircraft is being upsized to a 19 or 20-seater aircraft that will be flown shortly, so he will not have to wait long for more news on that front, along with the electrification of aircraft with the likes of Rolls-Royce and others.
I heard what the hon. Gentleman had to say about increasing rail usage, particularly coming out of the pandemic—it is a carbon-friendly way to travel—and I heard his party’s previous criticisms of the flexible season ticket. His stats, I am sure inadvertently, are completely dodgy. They failed to take into account the fact that anybody travelling two or three days a week would be at least 20% better off by comparison than if they bought a regular ticket or indeed a season ticket. I saw the hon. Gentleman’s YouTube video on the subject— I invite Members to watch it—and will write to him to explain chapter and verse why he was misquoting stats and information. I am pleased he reminded me of that because it gives me the opportunity to write back to him. For the purposes of clarity, I will ensure that I publish that letter for the whole House so that Members are able to judge the stats for themselves.
Lastly—I know that a lot of Members wish to speak—we are very proud of the transport decarbonisation plan, and I have mentioned the nine or 10 documents that back it up. An incredible level of detail has gone into that work. I ask: where is Labour’s plan? Where are its detailed plans? Where is the technical analysis? Labour has not read our plan and does not have one of its own, but all I ever hear is that Labour is still up for criticising ours.
When I was told that the Secretary of State had sent the final draft plan back because it was not ambitious enough, I harboured hopes that it might well be a serious plan to match the seriousness of our times. It would certainly require investment on a scale to which the Chancellor would not naturally be disposed. Sadly, though, from zero emission cars and buses to rail, maritime, active travel and aviation, the lack of ambition—certainly relative to Scotland—stands out.
Scotland aims to cut car use by 20% by 2030, and we will spend 10% of the transport capital budget on active travel. For the cars that remain, we have twice as many rapid charging points per head, with 60% of them free to use—a proportion three times higher than England’s 20%. Meanwhile, the UK Government have halved the plug-in car grant. Why will the Secretary of State not match Scotland’s ambition on car use? How does he think he will meet his EV targets with poor charging infrastructure and by reducing incentives, and without a scrappage scheme, while a substantial price gap between petrol and diesel cars and zero emission cars remains?
The pledge for 4,000 new buses represents only a 10th of the English fleet. Even now that the ZEBRA—zero emission buses regional area—scheme is finally in place, progress is glacial. By contrast, Scotland plans to remove half its diesel fleet by 2023 and has the equivalent of more than 2,700 buses already on order. Will the Secretary of State confirm when the 4,000 buses will actually be delivered under the current scheme and when the next scheme will begin?
The Secretary of State aims to decarbonise rail in England by 2050, which is 15 years after Scotland aims to do that. Scotland has legged away in a programme of rolling electrification. The Transport Committee recommended a similar programme for England, so will the right hon. Gentleman commit to such a programme matching Scotland’s pace? If so, when will the first schemes be announced?
For decarbonising the maritime sector there is only lip service, but I will try to end with consensus on aviation—something we agree is difficult, and in which hydrogen, alongside sustainable aviation fuels, will play a leading role. Again, Scotland leads the way, with Government investment in decarbonisation programmes and plans for electric and hydrogen test flights, working with partners such as ZeroAvia and Loganair. That is part of our ambition to make the highlands and islands the world’s first zero emission aviation region by 2040. We have a leading position in hydrogen aviation technology, but we must increase investment to ensure we stay that way.
I am always keen to work across the House, wherever we agree, including on that last point about aviation and, indeed, the number of car chargers in Scotland. That is all good, but I cannot understand why the hon. Gentleman is talking about the success of the car charger roll-out while also being anti-car and saying that he does not want people to use a car, or even electric vehicles that are green. I do not understand how he can be proud of both points at the same time.
My main point is that he comes to the Chamber quite often, either remotely or in person, and he sings the praises of the Scottish Government. I therefore thought I would check the facts for the clarity of the House, and time and again, the SNP Government have missed their own statutory target for reducing emissions. That was not for one or two years; it is now for the third year in a row.
I warmly welcome the strategy outlined by my right hon. Friend. Will he reassure rural constituents such as mine in North Devon, where there are fewer buses and longer journeys for even basic amenities, that they will not be left behind?
Yes indeed, and the bus strategy included £3 billion to do a number of things, including getting to a London-style service for other parts of England, and the rural bus strategy. We are currently trialling that in 17 different areas, and my hon. Friend’s area will benefit from the outcome of that work. Her work in championing the bus network for her constituents is welcome, and it will pay dividends.
The Restoring Your Railway fund and the £3 billion bus back better strategy are both vital to levelling up in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, following decades of local bus and rail decline. Does my right hon. Friend agree that by reopening the Stoke to Leek line, providing access for upgrades at Longport railway station, and ensuring that Stoke-on-Trent secures a major piece of funding to improve our services and roadside infrastructure, we can reduce emissions in our fantastic city?
Nobody—perhaps apart from the other two Stoke MPs—does as much to promote the interests of everybody in Stoke as my hon. Friend, and the Stoke to Leek line is something to be passionate about. I know he has put in a bid to the Restoring Your Railway fund, which will come to a conclusion this summer. I wish him every success in that competition so that we can make active travel as well as railway lines the first choice for everybody in his city.
I looked for a copy of the plan online this morning, but alas I was unable to find it. I see it now, but it is tantalisingly out of reach. I do not know whether to believe what I saw in the press release this morning about the Government’s commitment to achieve net zero aviation in this country by 2040. I saw no mention of that in the statement, but if that is the Government’s commitment—as I say, I do not know—it is not clear that developments in aviation will help us to reach a net zero aviation industry by 2040. I have been speaking to businesses that are doing incredible work on hydrogen aviation, and I am excited about the possibilities. However, if we are aiming for 2040 net zero aviation, there must be a combination of technological development and flight reduction; otherwise, it will not be possible. On that basis, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that reducing flights will form part of the plan—if it is a plan—to get the country to net zero aviation emissions by 2040, and will he therefore act decisively to stop expansion at Heathrow?
These are good questions. I just point out that the written statement was circulated to the House at 7 am this morning. It does indeed confirm that the plan is for domestic aviation to reach net zero by 2040. The hon. Lady rightly asks a list of questions about whether that is possible. I point out to the House that, with transport itself accounting for perhaps 27% to 30% of total CO2 emissions, roads account for 90% of that 27% and the aviation sector 1.2%, which is a small sliver, but a very difficult bit to decarbonise. Therefore, the answer to her question is emphatically yes, because I have been working with the Jet Zero Council over these recent months. We will, for example, have planes for VIPs returning from COP26 with the offer of sustainable aviation fuel to take them home. That is in 2021. We have until 2040 to develop some of the other great plans, including hydrogen and battery technology. So, yes, I am confident that we can get there and it is very much included in the plan.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s shiny new plan. I, too, hold a shiny new plan from the midlands engine: a 10-point plan for green growth released this month. Point 2 is about net zero transport. I am proud that, as a midlands MP, the midlands has an automotive industry that employs 293,000 people and 16 of the world’s top 20 automotive suppliers. Will he meet me and people from the midlands engine to discuss how Bosworth, Leicestershire and, indeed, the country could benefit from both our plans?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that he has been doing with the midlands engine, and I thank him for welcoming the plan as well. I think it would be a great idea if we were to meet up with the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Rachel Maclean, to discuss exactly that.
I thought the Secretary of State must have been reading Labour’s manifesto, in which we set out a comprehensive, sustainable transport plan.
I want to ask about the infrastructure that this Government are building, because we need good infrastructure to see that modal shift and to ensure that transport is not polluting our urban centres in particular. May I ask the Secretary of State why London North Eastern Railway and Network Rail are building 1,297 new car parking spaces in the centre of York? Moreover, on the York Central site, which is owned by Network Rail, a further 2,600 parking spaces are being built, which will suck congestion and pollution into the heart of my city. Will he meet with me to discuss this matter?
I hesitate to mention this, because I do not want to embarrass the hon. Lady, but she talks about our reading from Labour’s manifesto, and I can assure her that that is not the case. It was, of course, an “utterly unachievable” manifesto when it came to net zero. Those are not my words, but the words of the GMB union at the time.
We are not anti-car. I cannot get this across enough. We are investing £27.4 billion in building roads. We believe that not just cars but buses and bicycles require roads to get around. We want those roads to be of good quality. We want to reduce the congestion and therefore reduce the environmental damage as well. Quite simply, we are not anti-car. I know that York will have many different attributes, next to that fabulous York National Railway Museum, which I enjoy visiting so much. Who knows, one day York might be home to Great British Railways.
I commend the Secretary of State for today’s announcement. Does he agree that it is the work of business that is providing the solution to these problems, from the fabulous endeavour and effort going into the Jet Zero Council to Electric Avenue, at that former fount of petrol heads that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Rachel Maclean, visited last week to see the new array of electric vehicles that are coming. Finally, does the Secretary of State also agree that it is such a great shame that Caroline Lucas is not in her place today to hear about the fabulous solutions to these problems?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work as the UK’s net zero business champion, promoting all these causes. He is absolutely right—I have not been to Goodwin, but yesterday I went to Bedford to see a Formula E car, which is an electric racing car. The technology is moving in about 18 months from the cars to, for example, the Nissan Leaf that I stood next to. It really is a tremendous transfer of technology from one to the other. I think that all his work in encouraging us along, working hard to push for the jet zero, the net zero, the car zero, is doing a fantastic job and holding us on the road to zero.
The Secretary of State is certainly in Duracell bunny mode today. I share the concern of the shadow Transport Minister about the lack of focus in making transport vehicles in Britain. The Minister talked of new buses, but will the hydrogen-powered buses come from Northern Ireland and the electric-powered ones from Scotland and Leeds, or will the British taxpayer once again be subsidising jobs in China and Europe? That is quite apart from trains, cars, vans and trucks. The Government are a massive customer, so will he use that buying power to boost British industry and support British workers?
I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, but in this day and age it is wholly unsustainable for Shrewsbury to be serviced by diesel trains, and at the last general election I promised many young people that I would campaign for the electrification of the line between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton. He will be pleased to know that all the MPs between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton support that vital investment. We are getting great support from Midlands Connect; Mr Paul Butters and others are being very helpful. The electrification of the line would not only massively reduce journey times between Shrewsbury and our regional capital of Birmingham, but massively reduce carbon emissions. So will the Secretary of State join me and support our campaign to ensure that that vital link between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton is finally electrified?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his doughty campaign for the electrification of the line from Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton. I know that he has met the Rail Minister, my hon. Friend Chris Heaton-Harris, to discuss this subject and I look forward to seeing further progress. I mentioned that we had done 700 miles of electrification in just three years—over 1,100 since we came to power—and I hope that it is coming to him soon.
As the Secretary of State outlined in his statement, electric vehicles will be key to decarbonisation. What steps is he taking to address concerns about the vulnerability of charging networks to attacks by hackers?
That is an excellent question. I have been speaking to the energy infrastructure, not only to make sure that it is secure against hackers, but also that we are able to ensure provision, as the number of people buying electric cars continues to increase. It is worth mentioning that one in seven people who bought a car this year bought a car with a plug on the end of it, effectively, so electric vehicles are being used in ever-greater numbers. The question of electricity security, and all our infrastructure security, is also wrapped up in the good work that happens throughout government, and I will ensure that I press the hon. Gentleman’s point home as we have those further discussions as well.
I, too, warmly welcome the statement and I look forward to digging in to the plan later. May I pick up on a point around HGVs, because they are incredibly polluting? I have many constituents who live alongside the M25 and the M3, where that is an issue, and they warmly welcome the consultation process in terms of trying to decarbonise HGVs and buses and stop that pollution.
Sustainability has to be sustainable, so I can see why there is a need for consultation to ensure that it works and that we do this properly, but as a result of the consultation, will my right hon. Friend really try to push forward as quickly as possible in getting diesel, getting HGVs, off the roads, decarbonising them and making a huge difference to my constituents, for whom that cannot come soon enough?
A small but important sub-clause to my announcement that we will be consulting to outlaw the sale of diesel HGVs by 2040 is that by 2035—five years earlier—we will already have done that for lorries up to 26 tonnes. A 26-tonner is a very considerable size of lorry, so my hon. Friend’s prayers may well be answered much sooner than he fears.
Poor air quality caused by congestion causes health problems and costs lives. This is a particular problem for my constituents in the village of Galgate, which has the A6 running down the middle of it. Will the Secretary of State look favourably on plans to reconfigure junction 33 of the M6 to create a bypass for the village? Regardless of that, there will still be buses running through the village. I note that the Secretary of State said that some zero-emission buses were in production, but does he admit that his target of 4,000 is unambitious, when that represents only about one tenth of the English fleet?
The hon. Lady will be pleased to hear that, if anything, we are ahead of schedule on the bus target, with 900 already on their way—in production—so I hope that we can go even further.[This section has been corrected on
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Decarbonising our roads will be greatly assisted if we transfer more freight to rail. What progress is being made on delivering an east-west rail freight corridor from the Humber ports across to Liverpool and the west coast ports? As well as being a boost to the economy of my constituency, that would result in a massive reduction in HGV movements on the M62, resulting in less congestion and the accompanying pollution.
I am very excited about the opportunities to take traffic from ports and put it on to rail. It is known as intermodal, because it requires the delivery of gauge capacity enhancements in order to make that flow. We are spending a lot of time on getting containers, biomass and the like to operate on the trans-Pennine routes, principally between the west and east coast ports of Liverpool, Immingham and Hull, and Tees inland terminal. We are working very hard on exactly my hon. Friend’s suggestion, as we recognise that it can take a lot of traffic off the roads.
Key to the successful decarbonisation of transportation will, of course, be the availability of sustainable fuels. In that regard, in Aberdeen the Scottish Government and the local authority have put their money where their mouth is and backed Scotland’s first commercial at-scale hydrogen production and distribution facility. Sadly, the UK Government have not committed a single penny towards the Aberdeen hydrogen hub. In that regard and in good faith, can I ask the Secretary of State whether he will review that decision—with a view, of course, to opening the cheque book and backing Aberdeen’s renewable future?
I am pleased to say that we have in many senses backed this, because we are of course ensuring that the consequentials from all our decisions, including decisions on the decarbonisation of transport, are made in such a way that the Government in Scotland are able to benefit from them. As I mentioned earlier, it is very good to work closely together on these things. Perhaps in that spirit, I can ask the hon. Gentleman to press the Scottish Government to ensure that they reach their statutory requirements to deliver carbon cuts over the next few years as well.
Does the Secretary of State agree that to tackle climate change, we need to decarbonise—not demonise—cars, vans and taxis? With that in mind, will he talk to the Mayor of London about dismantling some of the schemes that have unjustifiably removed access to those vehicles to so many of the streets of central London?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about our stance. We are not against the car. We want people to have access to cars; indeed, in rural areas they are often the only way for people to get around, although obviously we want to improve bus services and the rest of it. We intend to carry on investment to make sure that cars can run without damaging people’s health and the environment. That makes sense.
I am afraid that too often the Mayor of London gets the wrong end of the stick with all this. He seems to spend his time working out new ways to introduce boundary taxes and the like to try to charge people who are not his constituents for the cost of running his administration in London. It is not on.
The Secretary of State probably will not know that I am very much involved in the Optimised Waste Logistics group and the Westminster Commission for Road Air Quality, but does he know, as I do from consultation with the industry, that the people in it think the report is not ambitious enough? Since the report was leaked, or came out, they have had a good idea what is in it, but they want to move much faster. The technology is there, especially for heavy goods vehicles, which are 4% of the wheels on the road but 25% of the pollution. The industry is saying to Ministers, “We can do it faster.” Hydrogen technology is far more advanced than the Secretary of State has been saying today. If he gives industry the nod and the incentives, it can deliver much better targets than 2030 or 2040.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm for this agenda and his work on logistics and clean air. As far as I am aware, this is already the world’s most ambitious plan to decarbonise the transport economy. He will be pleased to hear that I will say more about experimentation with things like hydrogen trucks and electrifying trucks, not just with internal batteries but potentially with overhead wires.
I hope he will agree that rather than coming here today to spring an announcement on the HGV sector, it is absolutely right that we make it clear we have a plan and that we then consult on it. That is why Logistics UK, which is far and away the largest haulier logistics representative organisation in the UK, has said that the plan gives
“confidence and clarity on the steps…on the pathway to net zero”.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Will he go further on what we will do to ensure a sustainable maritime fleet, for example by ensuring that around our coastal communities there is opportunity for plug-in processes for boats and ships, particularly for fishing around our coastal waters? In the long-term, will he look at alternative fuels that can power the long-distance fleets?
That is very much at the forefront of our mind; I thank my hon. Friend for his comments and for welcoming the statement. We already have plans in place to challenge stakeholders to agree a course to zero in maritime by 2050. The UK has a very rich maritime history. The International Maritime Organisation is based in London, although it is a UN organisation, and we have been working closely with it on developing the shipping route to zero. We look forward to a lot more developments in the area, and I look forward to working with my hon. Friend on them.
We know that the aviation industry has had a very difficult year and that the best way to build back better is to ensure investment into building planes that are greener, cleaner and quieter. Does the Secretary of State agree that for a future that benefits public health, his Department must prioritise reducing noise pollution from major flight paths? It is a real concern for many of my constituents, who live under two flight paths. Will he meet me to look at the issue?
I absolutely agree that reducing noise pollution is critical. We are doing it in several ways. We have just passed legislation that redesigns airspace management and enables aircraft to take off on a steeper climb and come down on a steeper descent, which will help to reduce the noise footprint.
The hon. Lady is also right that as we decarbonise, we will have engines that are not necessarily jet engines, which are notoriously noisy. New technologies are leading to much quieter aircraft. I look forward to working with her and her constituents on the issue. I am very happy to set up a meeting for her with the aviation Minister—the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend Robert Courts, who is an expert in the area—to discuss the matter further.
I strongly welcome the range of measures being taken to decarbonise transport. However, in the highly rural areas of my constituency, in some cases there is simply no practical alternative to car use. While the cost of electric vehicles remains prohibitive for many, and as yet there is no infrastructure for charging points locally, many constituents are concerned that they may end up being financially penalised despite having no alternative. What assurances can my right hon. Friend provide that my constituents’ needs and finances have been fully taken into account as we work towards finding solutions for the decarbonisation of transport?
Reassuringly for my hon. Friend, £1.8 billion is the answer: £582 million for plug-in vehicle grants towards her constituents’ needs and £1.3 billion for the roll-out of that charging infrastructure. Often, we seem to have this discussion in abstract, because we do not acknowledge that there are a couple of hundred thousand people charging their vehicles from home, as we get to the point where there are more charging locations than petrol stations. Our job is to ensure that there is sufficient on-street parking and charging locations.
We have some fantastic technology, including wireless technology, which we are trialling, to ensure that cars can charge up even as they drive, and certainly as they are parked. I also point my hon. Friend to the national bus strategy, which could assist in her area. Where buses have not run before, we would like to get them running regularly enough that people have further alternatives.