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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone, and I thank Matt Western for securing this worthy debate on an issue that I know is important to his constituents. I declare an interest as chair of the all-party group for fair fuel for UK motorists and UK hauliers.
The British automotive industry has been the cornerstone of our economy and engineering sector for decades, yet it has known hardship in previous years. In 2000, the amount added to the economy by the motoring industry stood at £9.2 billion, but following the global economic recession, production slowed to £5.9 billion. Despite that, I am delighted to note that last year £15.2 billion was added to the economy by car manufacturing, and the number of those employed in that sector has also seen sustained growth.
Since 2010, employment has risen by nearly 30%, from 126,000 to 162,000 jobs. To put that in perspective, those involved in automotive construction account for approximately 8.1% of all manufacturing jobs in the UK, and according to recent research by Lloyds bank, there is potential for that figure to rise even further. The UK Government are keen to see similar progress on the environment and engagement with alternative fuels, which is one of the most pressing topics facing car manufacturers. As set out in our manifesto, we want a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, with the majority of cars and vans on the road in 2050 producing zero emissions. Although that is a considerable step, that commitment does not mean that we are turning our back on existing firms or on what has been achieved in the past. Instead, we wish to work with those organisations and guide them towards new and emerging technological avenues. I am sure all Members will agree on the vital need for such a change for the sake of the environment, but it would be wrong to present it as instantaneous.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy made the point recently:
“There’s a place for diesel vehicles and will be for some time to come.”
I hope the Minister will clarify that that means we can do more to improve environmental standards with respect to diesel and electric cars and that we will produce new systems that will have a starkly different impact on the environment but will still be familiar and accommodate the specific wishes of the user. The need for clarity on the issue is paramount. We have already seen the detrimental impact of the demonisation of certain sectors in favour of others. What follows is a loss of confidence, a decline in production and the loss of jobs. As we move forward, it must be clear that different fuels are supported equally in the UK. Only by promoting a nuanced manufacturing industry that prioritises development over exclusion will it be possible to encourage further foreign investment and allow the industry to thrive.