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UK Automotive Industry: Job Losses — [Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:19 am on 22nd May 2018.

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Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Labour, Birmingham, Northfield 10:19 am, 22nd May 2018

I start by declaring an interest; I chair the all-party parliamentary motor group, which receives support from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the Motorsport Industry Association and the RAC Foundation. I congratulate my hon. Friend Matt Western on his comprehensive tour of the challenges facing the UK’s automotive industry and his explanation of how this industry literally drives economic growth in this country.

In the short time I have available, I will focus on two areas, both of which my hon. Friend covered: first, the challenges of Brexit, and secondly the transition away from petrol and diesel production. As he said, when we have over 1,000 trucks coming in across the channel every day, delivering £35 million worth of parts to build 6,600 cars and 9,800 engines every single day, most of which then go back to the European Union by similar means, achieving frictionless trade post Brexit is vital to this industry. I simply do not see a way of doing that except by continued membership of a customs union.

My hon. Friend also mentioned regulatory alignment. Keeping the Vehicle Certification Agency’s ability to certify cars as safe for sale throughout the EU is key to the industry in this country. I ask the Minister what negotiations are going on to ensure that that is the case, and how he feels that could be achieved except through as close as possible a relationship with the single market.

On skills, a key part of the integration of the industry internationally, particularly across Europe, is the ability to transfer skills from one country to another. Frankly, the UK’s visa requirements all too often get in the way of that, but the integration is at its closest with our European partners. I ask the Minister what negotiations are going on to ensure that, post Brexit, it will still be possible to transfer those skills between the UK automotive industry and partners on the other side of the channel.

Very briefly, in relation to the transition away from petrol and diesel, there are three challenges: anxiety over the range of electric vehicles, price and infrastructure. I hope that the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill will help to improve infrastructure, but I must say to the Minister that more needs to be done to ensure and to mandate interoperability of charge points. It makes no more sense to have differences on that than to have different domestic plugs depending on whether someone has a Dyson or a Hoover vacuum cleaner. What is being done to ensure that we can achieve on-street charging? In particular, what negotiations and what work are being undertaken to try to enable wireless charging? What are the Government doing to ensure that there is infrastructure in place not just for conventional electric vehicles, but for hydrogen-powered vehicles in the future?

My last point is on the transition. As my hon. Friend said, there is something wrong when the cleanest diesels are being hit the hardest. Of course, the UK’s air quality crisis means there must be a trend away from petrol and diesel in the future, but the real challenge is to get the oldest and most polluting diesels off our roads, and we will not do that by hitting the cleanest ones. What are the Government’s ideas for getting those older, more polluting diesels off the road? At the moment, the signals being sent out by Government are confused.