VED: taxis capable of zero emissions

Finance (No. 3) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of Clive Lewis Clive Lewis Shadow Minister (Treasury) 12:00 pm, 6th December 2018

I beg to move amendment 112, in clause 58, page 41, line 16, at end insert—

‘(6) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the revenue effects of the changes made to the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 by this section and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.’

This amendment would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to review the revenue impact of Clause 58.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 113, in clause 58, page 41, line 16, at end insert—

‘(6) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the effects on the taxi and private vehicle hire sectors of the changes made to the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 by this section and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.’

This amendment would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to review the impact of Clause 58 on the taxi and private car rental industry.

Amendment 114, in clause 58, page 41, line 16, at end insert—

‘(6) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the effects on levels of CO emissions and the UK’s ability to meet its fourth and fifth carbon budgets of the changes made to the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 by this section and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.’

This amendment would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to review the impact of this measure on CO2emissions and climate change targets.

Photo of Clive Lewis Clive Lewis Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I am pleased to be speaking—again—to our amendments relating to clause 58, on vehicle excise duty and taxis capable of zero emissions. The clause seems to rectify an obvious mistake made by the Treasury during the 2017 Budget, which saw electric vehicles fall into the luxury vehicle segment of the new VED regime for cars costing over £40,000.

VED rates are based on carbon emissions, and zero-emissions vehicles below £40,000 have a zero standard rate and a first year rate. Standard rate on zero-emissions vehicles above £40,000 is currently £310 a year for the first five years. To include electric vehicles in that policy was clearly a major oversight by the Treasury in last year’s Budget. The correction, although somewhat late in the day, is none the less welcome and, indeed, essential if we are to seriously encourage the uptake of electric vehicles, specifically taxis.

Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that back then, Opposition Members warned about the potential unintended consequences of those measures, including for the private hire and taxi industries. Those warnings were not heeded at the time. It is rather frustrating that they have only now been dealt with.

Photo of Clive Lewis Clive Lewis Shadow Minister (Treasury)

My hon. Friend makes a very good point; that is one lost year of support.

To include electric vehicles—ah, I have already said that. I will recap, though. [Laughter.] To include electric vehicles in that policy was clearly a major oversight by the Treasury in last year’s Budget. The correction, although somewhat late in the day, is none the less welcome and, indeed, essential if we are to seriously encourage the uptake of electric vehicles, specifically taxis.

That is particularly pertinent as local regulations are tightening around clean air and greenhouse gas emissions, as we have seen with the implementation of the ultra low emissions zone in London. Amendments 112 to 114 require the Government to undertake a review that we believe is essential to understand the consequences of the clause, which range over the impact that it is likely to have on the Exchequer, on the taxi and private car rental industry, and on CO2 emissions and climate change targets. Amendments 112 and 113 focus on the economic impact of the clause, both on the Exchequer and on taxi and private car rental companies. Can the Minister provide an assessment of the revenue implications of the measure?

Similarly, while we understand from the published documents relating to the clause that industry response to the Government consultation was supportive, will the Treasury do further analysis of the potential economic impact on taxi companies and the private car rental industry, should the change come into effect? The Minister may wish to resist the amendments, but regardless of any legal obligation, will he commit to conducting such an analysis and presenting it to the House in due course?

Amendment 114 refers to carbonisation and improving air quality. It would seem, in that respect, that taxis are low-hanging fruit. They are used frequently, often in urban areas with poor air quality. Similarly, according to the Mayor of London, drivers stand to benefit from lower fuel costs—by around £2,800 a year—and from avoiding present and future congestion and air quality charges. We believe, however, that the Government have failed to put in place necessary fiscal incentives to encourage the transition to the electric vehicles needed to ensure a reduction in CO2 emissions. Simply removing the excess tax for luxury vehicles, as the clause would do, does not go far enough to encourage the uptake of zero-emission vehicles.

The primary driving forces behind the reluctance to take up electric vehicles are cost and an anxiety about range. The costs of electric vehicles are explained by high manufacturing costs, specifically of their batteries. The anxiety about range affects taxi drivers far more than private vehicle owners or private car hire companies, as they do not have access to the range in the ultra-low emissions vehicle segment of the market for mid-range to luxury. That is due to licensing conditions, as they need to fulfil accessibility requirements. In London, for example, that means that many drivers are mandated to buy a London-style hackney taxi in many districts. Will the Minister agree to assess the impact of clause 58 on CO2 emissions and the UK’s climate change targets, and whether that policy goes far enough in encouraging the purchase of zero-emissions taxis?

I have a few questions on the clause. At present, a grant of £7,500 is available for new zero-emissions taxis. We believe that the Government should be looking to increase available grants and encourage the transition to electric vehicles, specifically taxis, in areas outside Greater London. There are currently only a few limited pots of funding, not all of which are available for taxis, and they are largely skewed towards Greater London.

Similarly, the Government have yet to invest a penny of the £400 million charging fund announced in the 2017 Budget, half of which should be public money, with the other half contributed by the private sector, as we have already heard. Will the Minister tell us whether the issue that the clause seeks to rectify will aid the Government in finally setting up the charging fund that they promised to deliver to encourage the use of zero-emissions vehicles? Will he give us a clear timetable of when that fund will be operational? Will he commit that he or another relevant Minister will come back to the House with more detail when it is due to launch?

Available charging infrastructure is a requirement of accelerating the transition. Outside London and a few select places, availability is poor. Drivers face a postcode lottery that is a barrier to electric vehicle growth. For example, there are more chargers available in the Orkney Islands than in Blackpool, Grimsby and Hull combined. Even if grants are available, drivers in some areas will be unable to perform their work using EVs, due to the unavailability of charging infrastructure. It could therefore be argued that even if the Government increased grants and ensured that availability, poverty of EV infrastructure would mean that a majority of taxis would not be in a position to benefit from the change suggested in clause 58. Will the Minister comment on that? What assessment has been undertaken of the availability and adequacy of the infrastructure, and what steps are being taken to ensure that it does not undermine the good intentions behind the clause? Although the current situation is a mistake, it should not have happened in the first place. The measure is important in seeking to undo the bias created by classing zero-emissions taxis as luxury vehicles, and in encouraging the uptake of zero-emissions vehicles.

We will support the clause—we ask only that the Government assure us that the right analysis will be done to assess the impact of the measure on the Exchequer, the companies that will be affected, and the environment. We urge the Government to take such matters into consideration. I hope the Minister can give us some assurance on those points.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Exchequer Secretary

I thank the hon. Gentleman for those questions. I hope that I can answer them all and reassure him. Clause 58, as we have heard, makes changes to ensure that purpose-built taxis that are capable of zero emissions do not have to pay the VED supplement applicable to expensive vehicles, which are those with a list price of more than £40,000. Having listened to representations on the issue, the Government announced in March that the exemption for such taxis would be brought forward a year earlier than planned.

We do not believe that the purchases of many vehicles, if any, were adversely affected. For example, the London Electric Vehicle Company, which manufactures these vehicles, had sold almost no vehicles by the time of the announcement and has subsequently sold more than 500 vehicles—I do not have the exact figures but I am happy to supply them to the hon. Gentleman—so from the time of our announcement in early March to the present day, the incentives have clearly made a significant difference in stimulating the market. We do not believe that many purchases, if any—I will confirm that point—were disadvantaged as a result of this matter, which was an unintended consequence of the earlier policy.

An exemption will encourage the transition to ultra-low and zero-emissions taxis. The figures show that, certainly in London, there has already been a significant take-up in vehicles, although it is less in other parts of the United Kingdom. I believe that the manufacturers are now targeting other cities, including Manchester and Nottingham—my nearest city—to improve their air quality. We want to see that rolled out as soon as possible in all part of the United Kingdom.

It will make the system fairer. The Government recognise that a number of technical requirements exist for purpose-built taxis, including, as the hon. Gentleman said, access for disabled passengers and turning circles, meaning that only a limited number of options are available. Most other motorists have a range of vehicles available to them, many costing less than £40,000, and can therefore choose not to pay the supplement.

In passing, the hon. Gentleman mentioned other private hire vehicles. Our argument—a valid one, I think —has always been that there are a range of other options available to drivers of private hire vehicles. They do not have to purchase a vehicle costing over £40,000. That would be a choice because they want to enter a particular segment of the market. Those driving a registered London taxi do not have that discretion. Therefore, it would not be right for drivers buying a taxi capable of zero emissions to pay the VED supplement targeted at cars at the luxury end of the market. As the supplement is only due from the second licence onwards, this means that almost all taxi drivers who have purchased an eligible taxi from April 2018 will never have to pay the supplement. This will save those drivers up to £1,600 in total.

The changes made by the clause will provide the power to exempt purpose-built zero-emissions taxis from the supplement for expensive cars, through regulations. This will enable the Government to apply the exemption to further models as they become available in the future.

I will turn briefly to the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Norwich South. Amendment 112 would require the Government to review the revenue effects of the changes made by the clause. The Government have already published a tax information impact note, in line with normal practice, which sets out that the revenue impact of the changes will be negligible. Amendments 113 and 114 would require the Government to review the effect of the clause on the taxi and private hire sectors, and the impact on carbon dioxide emissions and our carbon budgets. The measure applies to purpose-built taxis only, enabling a quicker switch to greener models by saving drivers that £1,600. It is not expected to have an impact on the number of taxis on the roads, but it is intended to increase the proportion of those that are capable of zero emissions. By strengthening the incentive to purchase such taxis over conventionally fuelled alternatives, the measure is expected to have a small positive impact on our ability to meet our fourth and fifth carbon budgets, although isolating its impact would be challenging and uncertain. I am not sure what value, if any, that analysis would provide. Again, these impacts were covered in the published tax information and impact note. I respectfully urge the Committee to reject the amendments, on the grounds that they are unnecessary.

The hon. Gentleman asked important questions about electric vehicle charge points. Clearly it is important for taxi drivers in London, and indeed in any other part of the United Kingdom, to know that the relevant charge points are available to them. Range anxiety is just as valid, if not more so, for a taxi driver as it is for a private citizen. Significant investment is underway in London, particularly for fast charge points, which are critical for taxi drivers, so they do not have to spend hours waiting to recharge or top-up their vehicle. The Mayor of London is leading that effort and making good progress.

With regard to the charge point infrastructure fund, which I spoke about in relation to the previous clause, we are close to appointing a fund manager and expect it to be launched in January or February. I am happy to write to him with more details and to inform him when it is launched, but I expect that to be at the very beginning of the new year.

Photo of Clive Lewis Clive Lewis Shadow Minister (Treasury) 12:15 pm, 6th December 2018

There is £200 million in public money and £200 million in private money. Will the Minister confirm whether the £200 million in private funding has actually arrived and is available for the Treasury to spend on EV infrastructure?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Exchequer Secretary

The answer is that the fund has not actually been launched yet. We are committed to the £200 million, but we will not know until the fund is launched the amount of private capital we are able to crowd in as a result of that. I am happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with more detail about that. As I said, I expect in the first two months of the new year to be in a position to launch the fund and to inform hon. Members across the House of its detail, should they wish to direct businesses in their constituencies that are interested in this area to it. With that, I commend the clause to the Committee.

Photo of Clive Lewis Clive Lewis Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: 114, in clause 58, page 41, line 16, at end insert—

“(6) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the effects on levels of CO

This amendment would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to review the impact of this measure on CO2 emissions and climate change targets.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 8, Noes 9.

Division number 27 Finance (No. 3) Bill — VED: taxis capable of zero emissions

Aye: 8 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 58 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 59