Net Zero Targets and Decarbonising Transport — [Caroline Nokes in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 4th February 2020.

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Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Conservative, East Hampshire 9:30 am, 4th February 2020

That is perfectly worthwhile and reasonable. In preparation for this debate, I looked at countries such as Norway and other Scandinavian countries. It is usually instructive to start with the more comparable countries—those of a similar size and complexity, with a similar industrial base, traditions and so on—but the hon. Gentleman is quite right to identify that Norway in particular has a high penetration rate of sales, which is also linked to very high differences in the taxation regime.

I want to talk briefly about the shift to electric vehicle technology and what I would say is overwhelmingly a consumer acceptance challenge. The shift in the way people own cars, towards personal contract hire, is a great opportunity to convey how the whole-life cost compares for different groups of consumers, rather than comparing the sticker price of one car against another. It is also a way of allaying fears about residual value and battery performance. Allied to that, when it comes to cost, it would be helpful—I realise this is not in the Minister’s gift—for the Treasury to give a clear forward view on the vehicle excise duty regime so that people can project into the future.

Clearly, these technologies eventually have to be subsidy-free. It has to be business as usual, so subsidies will have to be withdrawn, but doing so smoothly will be of great benefit to the industry and the consumer. The experience from elsewhere shows that if subsidies are suddenly withdrawn, there tends to be a massive spike in demand just beforehand, followed by a return. That is obviously not good for meeting production schedules.

On the infrastructure network, there is a lot that the Government can do through a mixture of regulation and their convening power. We need to do better and go further on full roaming and interoperability. We can do a lot better on the visibility of charging points. There has been a lot of focus on visibility to users of electric cars, but I am actually less worried about them right now than everybody else. The point is that to get consumer acceptance, non-users of electric cars need to know that there are plenty of places to charge them.