20 April 2023
Transport Questions

Jesse Norman, Minister of State for Decarbonisation and Technology at the Department for Transport, replies to MPs’ questions to the Department.

Aviation Sector: Decarbonisation

Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)

2. What steps he is taking to help decarbonise the aviation sector. (904447)

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Jesse Norman)

Good morning to you, Sir. The jet zero strategy was published in July 2022, and sets out the Government’s approach to decarbonising UK aviation. 

The strategy focuses on the rapid development of technologies in a way that maintains the benefits of air travel while also maximising the opportunities that decarbonisation brings for the UK.

Rachel Hopkins 

The new electrically powered Luton DART—direct air-rail transit—is critical to the future sustainable growth of London Luton airport. It will help increase the number of passengers accessing the airport by rail and support the delivery of Luton Council’s 2040 vision of a carbon-neutral town. Do the Minister and the Secretary of State agree that the Luton DART will help reduce the environmental impact of journeys to and from the airport and congestion on surrounding roads, and may I take this opportunity to invite them both to come and visit?

Jesse Norman 

How extremely kind of the hon. Lady to extend that very interesting invitation. I would accept in a flash except that I do not want to usurp the prerogative of my colleague in the House of Lords, so maybe I can pick up with her. I am very interested to hear what the hon. Lady said and very grateful for the update. I will ask my officials to look closely at that.


Zero Emission Buses

Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)

7. What steps he is taking to help accelerate the delivery of zero emission buses. (904452)

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Jesse Norman)

The Government are committed to supporting the introduction of 4,000 zero-emission buses and a zero-emission bus fleet. As the roads Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden), said, he has focused on sustainable public transport recently in a visit to Scotland, which included meetings with the traffic commissioner in Glasgow and Lothian Buses.

Chris Stephens 

The Transport Committee’s recent report referred to earlier on the implementation of the national bus strategy confirmed that meeting this Government’s bus decarbonisation targets initially for England and Wales actually relies on the Scottish Government. That is evidenced by Scotland’s ordering of 10.11 zero-emission buses per 100,000 people, compared with just 0.94 in England outside London. Will the Minister explain the vast chasm of delivery? What is the Government’s revised target for zero-emission bus delivery in England and Wales?

Jesse Norman 

The Government are on track to deliver the policy. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, we are working with companies to build substantial supply chains that then have to scale up by several orders of magnitude in order to meet the scale of orders. If we look at the number that have been ordered alone: for zero emission bus regional areas, the ZEBRA scheme, 1,342; 275 for Coventry; 20 will be going to Cambridgeshire in the next few weeks, I am pleased to say; and 350 to other schemes in England outside London. The total so far is 3,429, which is well on track to meet our target.

Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)

Will the Minister visit Morebus, serving my constituency, because there he will learn that its new buses generate fewer emissions than I do pushing my lawnmower?

Jesse Norman 

One can take that as a comment either about buses or about the size of my right hon. Friend’s lawnmower—let us assume that it is about buses. I thank him for his interest and I am certainly happy to discuss that further with him.


Apprenticeships: Transport Sector

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)

10. What assessment he has made of the availability of apprenticeships in the transport sector. (904456)

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Jesse Norman)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the brilliant work he has done on apprenticeships in Harrogate and Knaresborough over the last few years. I note that some 12,430 new apprenticeships have been created there since 2010. As he knows, the Department is committed to working with the transport industry to create high-quality apprenticeships so that the sector has the skilled workforce it needs. I work closely with the transport employment and skills taskforce to see what we can do to promote apprenticeships still further in the industry.

Andrew Jones 

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I have been meeting representatives of bus companies that run apprenticeship schemes. They tell me that the rules governing the number of hours per month in the classroom can be problematic for smaller companies when it comes to rostering, and that if there was some flexibility—a change not in the total number of hours, but in the delivery pattern—they would be able to take on more apprenticeships, which they want to do. Will he consider that idea?

Jesse Norman 

As my hon. Friend knows, the Department for Education published fresh guidance last year on how apprenticeship training can be delivered flexibly to fit business needs. My hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden), the Roads Minister, has been to talk to him and, I believe, has visited the classroom in Harrogate with him, so he can take it from us that we are very much seized of the issue of flexibility and the importance of improving it.

Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)

The Minister will know that when it comes to the delivery of charging infrastructure, we are way behind the curve in comparison with our peers in France and Germany. We need more skilled individuals to deliver that infrastructure. Many young people in my constituency benefit from the courses run by Warwickshire College Group, although I am not sure how good the courses are in the rest of the country. What are the Government doing to ensure that the next generation are really electrified about the opportunity this presents?

Jesse Norman 

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman meant to begin his question by congratulating the Government on the zero-emission vehicle mandate and our new investments in the local electric vehicle infrastructure scheme. The effect of that, of course, is precisely to create the further investment that will itself drive private sector demand for apprenticeships. We are certainly working as hard as we can on our side, along with the transport employment and skills taskforce, to ensure that we meet this increased demand.


Topical Questions

Antony Higginbotham (Burnley) (Con)

T3. For disabled people, access to public transport is often the difference between having a job and not, between socialising and not, and between living independently and not. In my constituency, in Burnley and Padiham, a brilliant young man called Joe Skinner has made it his mission to improve disabled access on buses, whose current design does not take account of modern wheelchair sizes. So may I ask my right hon. Friend when disabled access requirements were last reviewed, whether he would come to Burnley to meet Joe and talk about this, and whether he would praise Joe for the work he does, not just for disabled people in Burnley, but for people right across the country? (904547)

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Jesse Norman)

I thank my hon. Friend for that; he has been a great champion of this cause. I absolutely join him in praising Joe Skinner. Let me also praise Cameron Wood in my constituency, who has been equally hard-working in pressing the case for the improvement of disabled access. I know that my hon. Friend has already met the buses Minister, whom I know is keen to get up to Burnley—I would be very supportive of that.



Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)

The Government had a relative paucity of ambition on Active Travel before slashing the budget. They now plan to spend less than £1 per head in England outside London, compared with £17 per head in Wales and £50 in Scotland—5,000% more. In the Transport Committee yesterday, the Secretary of State spoke of other Active Travel spending not in core funding, but we have that, too, with the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland—AMIDS—levelling-up project and the River Cart walking and wheeling bridge city deal project in my constituency. Without the waffle, what will the Government do to deliver transformational change—

Mr Speaker 

Order. I must help Members from all parts of the House. Topical questions must be short and sweet—quick answers, quick questions. Minister, please show us an example.

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Jesse Norman)

The Government are spending £3 billion on this area over the current spending period. Active Travel England is making an enormous difference to the quality of schemes throughout England. Significant amounts of money are going in through the levelling-up fund and through City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements and other schemes, so we believe that we are on track to meet our targets.