Amendment 240

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Committee (10th Day) – in the House of Lords at 1:15 pm on 20 April 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Vere of Norbiton Baroness Vere of Norbiton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 1:15, 20 April 2023

The noble Baroness would probably decline to make a comment on that at this moment, as that would take us far away from the area of accessibility, which is under consideration today. However, the noble Baroness asked whether progress had been made. So far, step-free accessible routes have been delivered at 200 stations, and smaller-scale access improvements have been made at 1,500 stations. We have made progress; there is much more progress to come; and we are absolutely committed to making it.

Amendments 470 and 486 relate to the charging of electric vehicles, I share all noble Lords’ concerns about electric vehicle charge points and how important they are as we decarbonise our transport system. The first of the two amendments seeks to amend the Electricity Act 1989 to add an explicit reference to electric vehicle charge point provision in addition to the need to

“secure that all reasonable demands for electricity are met”.

The Electricity Act 1989 already requires the Secretary of State to give regard to securing that all reasonable demands for electricity are met. This requirement already includes the charging of electric vehicles. We therefore believe that the amendment is unnecessary, and indeed that it might be unhelpful to other equally critical areas of the decarbonisation effort such as, for example, heat pumps. In carrying out this duty under the Electricity Act, the Secretary of State works closely with Ofgem, as the independent energy regulator is responsible for regulating network companies to ensure that sufficient grid capacity is built and operated to meet consumer demand. Of course, we work very closely with Ofgem as price controls are developed, so that our work aligns to meet the needs of customers, including electric vehicle users.

We are investing £3.1 billion for network upgrades to support the uptake of electric vehicles and heat pumps. This is significant upfront funding and, combined with an agile price control system for net zero-related expenditure, it will enable the investment in the network infrastructure needed to facilitate heat and transport electrification.

There were a number of questions around the provision of charge points themselves. The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, asked about new homes. We laid legislation that came into force in June last year requiring most new homes and those undergoing major renovation with associated parking in England to have a charge point or a cable route for charge points installed from the outset. We estimate that this will lead to the installation of up to 145,000 new charge points across England every year.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked about home and business charge points. The Government have supported the installation of about 400,000 of these charge points. Of course, there will be many, many more out there that have been installed without government support—and, to my mind, long may that continue.

I turn now to the second of the two amendments on charge points, which relates to reporting. I do not believe that this amendment is necessary, because I am pleased to confirm that the Government routinely publish monthly and quarterly EV public charging device statistics. These are broken down by device speed category, region and local authority area. The latest report outlined that, as of 1 April, there are more than 40,000 available public charging devices, of which more than 7,600 are rapid or above charging devices—a 33% increase. We also routinely publish the number of devices funded through government grant schemes. As I pointed out, many more will be installed that are not funded by the Government, and we would not necessarily be able to find out where they are. If there is further information that the noble Baroness would like about public charging points that we might reasonably be able to gather, I would be very happy to discuss this with her further. I have noted the other comments on EV charge points and will reflect on them further.

Finally, I turn to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, about a blanket reduction on restricted roads from 30 to 20 miles per hour. I noted some of the comments from the noble Baroness, and I agreed with some of them. None the less, I am not convinced that a blanket application of this lower speed limit is appropriate because, again, it would undermine local decision-makers’ ability to set the most appropriate speed for the roads in their area, based on local knowledge and the views of the local community. Actually, I am pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, agrees with me. Indeed, she seems to agree with me for England but not for Wales, where it is not something that a local authority can decide.