Electric Vehicles and Bicycles

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:32 pm on 9th May 2018.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 5:32 pm, 9th May 2018

Thank you for chairing the debate, Mr McCabe. I congratulate Andrew Selous, who was incredibly helpful in the advice that he gave the Government. Whether in the Paris agreement, Committee on Climate Change reports or numerous High Court rulings, the Government have clearly had serious warnings about how pollution is killing our planet—and is also killing us. Of course, transport is the major pollutant.

I place before the Government a big question about inconsistencies in their policies and the lack of connectivity between different announcements across Government. I also say this as an MP representing the highly polluted city of York. Certainly, announcements that we will see the end of the electrification of trains, and that a new generation of diesel trains will be put on the tracks, seem to clash with the Government’s ambitions—or perhaps, as we have heard, the lack of ambition—for electric vehicles.

We heard that, by 2030, India will no longer sell petrol vehicles. For Norway that will be in 2025, and for Scotland it will be in 2032, yet for the rest of the UK it will be in 2040. We also know that cities such as Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens will ban dirty fuels in their cities by 2025, as will Copenhagen from next year. Meanwhile, air pollution causes 50,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. When will the Government’s Road to Zero plan actually see the light of day? It has been long promised but not yet seen.

The Government’s spending around active travel is woeful. Cycling and walking must come centre stage and must be seen as the mode of choice for shorter journeys, supported by more public sector options. We also need to address the strain that the increased use of electric vehicles will put on our national grid and look at the options available to decarbonise our energy at the same time. We need to ensure that investment goes in the right place. We heard how investment in our manufacturing sector will give a real boost to our economy, but we must not ignore the threats, particularly from China and the investment opportunities that it will see in the future.

We need to look at all modes of transport when looking at electric vehicles—not just rail, as I have mentioned, but buses, taxis, trucks, vans, motorcycles and bicycles. We need to see the Government now put their foot on the accelerator to bring forward the electric vehicle revolution, as opposed to creeping forward.

My hon. Friend Ruth Cadbury mentioned the need for infrastructure. If we look at places such as Denmark and the Netherlands, we see real investment in infrastructure, and we need to see that here also. What has actually happened to the £400 million invested in the charging infrastructure investment fund? It is deeply embarrassing that the Government announced that but did not have any equity behind it. What other incentives will the Government put in place to encourage people to switch, whether through scrappage schemes, grants or, indeed, looking at the Mayor of London’s toxic vehicle charge? The market share for plug-in cars was less than 2% last year. Why have the Government cut grants for plug-in cars and for home charging? What impact will that have? Again, I believe that puts forward a mixed message.

On electric bikes, it is incredibly important, as we have already heard from so many hon. Members, that we get people back on to their bikes with confidence. We need to take on board the shocking obesity figures that are continually presented to Members and to see that, while electric bikes can be a real step up to exercise, they can also help other people to step down without having to revert to cars.

What consideration has the Minister given to the cycle to work scheme and the opportunities that that could bring for electric bikes? The Cycle to Work Alliance has clearly said that there should be £1,000 grants for bikes and safety equipment and £2,500 for electric bikes. Will the Minister look at that proposal and report back to the House on how we will move forward? If grants from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles are available for electric cars and motorbikes, why can they not be available for electrically assisted bikes, too? The benefits of that would be even greater in the future.

The Opposition have been clear: we will be ambitious, whether on development, manufacturing or use. I trust that the Minister will want to match our approach as we clean up and green up our transport system.