26 October 2023
Transport Questions

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

Electric Vehicles

Mrs Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire) (Con)

4. What steps he is taking to increase the availability of electric vehicles. (906734)

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

The Government are committed to accelerating the transition to zero-emission vehicles. Last year, 16% of new cars and around 6% of new vans sold were fully electric. To continue to support the uptake of zero-emission vehicles we are, as the House knows, introducing a world-leading zero-emission vehicle mandate. That will support the future supply of zero-emission vehicles by setting a minimum percentage of manufacturers’ new car and van sales to be zero-emission each year from 2024. I am delighted to say that this week we have laid the new public charge point regulations to facilitate charging for electric vehicles.

Mrs Wheeler 

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. As he knows, in South Derbyshire in the Toyota factory we have groundbreaking hydrogen technology, so I would ask, what is the Minister doing to ensure that the charging infrastructure is in place across rural areas, for both electric and hydrogen vehicles?

Jesse Norman 

My hon. Friend knows that the Government have supported the use of hydrogen in road vehicles for over a decade, including the installation of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure where there is sufficient demand. I should also say that notably, Toyota recently announced the tremendous progress that it appears to have made in commercialising solid-state batteries. That is a very encouraging sign across the piece, not just for hydrogen but for electric.

Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)

We have already heard that the uptake of electric vehicles is closely linked to charging points. When will the Government close the gap in charging costs between those who have the ability to charge at home and those who rely on a public charging point?

Jesse Norman 

As the hon. Lady knows, there is wide and differing experience across the charging network. Many people are able to charge at home and many people are able to charge through the increasingly large public network. The way in which electricity prices have changed has tended to dominate changes overall, but she will, I am sure, share my pleasure that the new charge point regulations mean that we can now have a much more competitive market for charging across all the different forms of infrastructure.


Heathrow: Third Runway

Sir Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con)

11. What his policy is on delivery of a third runway at Heathrow Airport; and if he will make a statement. (906742)

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

As the House will know, Parliament has voted in principle to support a third runway at London Heathrow, but the Government have always been clear that that expansion remains a private sector project. To go ahead, it would be required to meet strict criteria on air quality, noise and climate change, as well as being privately financed. It is for any scheme promoter to decide when it submits a development consent order application as part of the statutory planning process.

Sir Robert Goodwill 

I thank the Minister for that answer. Regional airports such as Leeds Bradford have an important role to play in delivering the levelling-up agenda, with more point-to-point destinations. However, does the Minister agree that to deliver true global connectivity, we need more slots from regional airports into our national hub, which will ultimately mean more tarmac on the ground at Heathrow?

Jesse Norman 

I agree with my right hon. Friend, who has enormous experience in this area, that regional airports are vital to the UK and support thousands of jobs across the regions, as well as acting as a gateway for international opportunities. It nevertheless is the case that as Heathrow considers its expansion plans, it will need to decide when to take those forward, and when it does so, I hope it will bear the very important issue of regional connectivity in mind.


Decarbonising Road Transport

Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)

12. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of progress on decarbonising road transport. (906743)

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

The UK has one of the most ambitious decarbonisation programmes of any country in the G7. In March this year, the Government published a globally unprecedented level of detail on their plans to meet emission reduction commitments, including those from road transport. The carbon budget delivery plan sets out the policies and quantified carbon reductions needed to meet carbon budgets 4 and 5 and the vast majority of reductions needed to meet our commitments into the 2030s.

Stuart C. McDonald 

On heavy goods vehicle road transport in particular, the start of the zero-emission road freight trials is welcome, but where is the low-carbon fuel strategy? Such fuels can cut emissions by 80%. The strategy will be crucial for shaping the investment plans of logistics companies, so why is it nearly a year late, and when are we going to see it?

Jesse Norman 

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue of HGVs. As he acknowledges, last week the Government announced the four winning projects of the £200 million zero-emission HGV and infrastructure competition, which will roll out 370 zero-emission HGVs and around 57 refuelling and electric charging sites. This is part of a much broader strategy, which is about developing different fuel alternatives. The technology continues to change very rapidly. We have already heard some fascinating news about the development of solid-state batteries, and the Government are tracking and following all these developments closely.

Mr Speaker 

I call the SNP spokesperson.

Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)

I am still astonished at the Secretary of State’s claims that the English EV charging network is on track—absolutely no one thinks that in this country.

Pushing back the date for the ban on petrol and diesel cars by five years, combined with removing what was already one of Europe’s worst EV purchase incentive schemes, means that this Government are sending all the wrong signals to consumers. Mike Hawes of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said that consumers required

“a clear, consistent message, attractive incentives and charging infrastructure that gives confidence rather than anxiety. Confusion and uncertainty will only hold them back.”

I have no doubt that this decision was thoroughly assessed, so can the Minister tell us how many extra millions of tonnes of carbon will be emitted due to this Government’s back-pedalling on net zero?

Jesse Norman 

Was it P. G. Wodehouse who said that it was not difficult to see the difference between a ray of sunshine and a Scotsman with a grievance? How true that is in this case! The truth of the matter is that there has been enormous progress in this area. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that £6 billion of new private investment is being planned by ChargeUK. That has not been affected. One of the leading global mandates has been laid. We have just done this excellent work on charge points, and I am pleased to say that the independent National Infrastructure Commission of this country has stated that if the roll-out continues to grow at the current rate, we will meet our target of 300,000 public chargers by 2030.


Topical Questions

Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)

T7. Scotland has had a far more progressive approach to encouraging the switch to electric vehicles with incentives including interest-free loans for electric vehicles, enhanced home-charger grants and a far more comprehensive charging network with twice as many rapid chargers per head as England. The Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for net zero has described the delay on banning petrol and diesel car sales as an “unforgiveable betrayal of current and future generations”,putting the UK on the “wrong side of history” on climate change. She is right, isn’t she? (906760)

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

I do not think that, for the reasons we have described, there is anything to complain about in relation to the progress we are making across England. Charge point roll-out remains very rapid—43% in the last 12 months —and there are 49,000 public charge points at the moment and 400,000 private and business ones, and new regulations and a new mandate have just been laid.


Ben Everitt (Milton Keynes North) (Con)

With the global AI summit coming up next week in Milton Keynes, it seems topical to ask: what steps is the Department taking towards the regulation of autonomous pavement delivery robots?

Jesse Norman 

Of course, I have visited the technology that my hon. Friend is describing and seen it in action. We must balance the safety of patients and vulnerable road users with the potential benefits of this new technology, but I am very pleased to confirm that the Department will be funding research to advance our understanding of the impacts of this technology. The results will be published once the research has concluded.