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Automotive Industry: Evolving Technologies

Volume 605: debated on Tuesday 2 February 2016

1. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that the British automotive industry is able to develop and benefit from evolving technologies. (903369)

The UK automotive industry is already a great success, but we want to make sure that it stays at the cutting edge. We are committing almost £l billion to help develop next-generation technologies. This will make the UK the go-to location for connected and autonomous vehicles, for example, and it will facilitate automotive research and development.

I thank the Secretary of State for his response. We read yesterday of his enthusiasm for driverless cars, but what specific encouragement and incentive will he provide for the more mature and greener technology of hydrogen fuel cells?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised the issue of driverless cars. Britain already leads in that area, and yesterday I announced some £20 million of awards. Green energy and greener cars are also important. That is why, in the spending review recently, we announced more funding for research from Government.

20. Will the Secretary of State confirm that since 2013, when the Prime Minister announced his intention to hold a referendum on our EU membership, foreign direct investment in the British automotive industry and new technologies has been at record levels, because foreign companies are confident that British cars will be well made, whether we are in the EU or outside? (903390)

Actually, I can confirm to my hon. Friend that not only has foreign investment continued across British industry, including the car industry, but the auto industry has just had a record year, with more than £64 billion of turnover and 80% of cars being exported. [Interruption.]

Order. Dr Hunt, you were not taught to behave like that at your very expensive public school.

That was a very funny joke, Mr Speaker.

The Environmental Protection Agency in America is suing Volkswagen for installing defeat devices that cheat emissions testing in millions of cars. What work is the Secretary of State doing with manufacturers in Britain to ensure that such devices are not installed, so that we can look forward to a future of greener cars where all cars are properly tested at MOT and the public are safe in the knowledge that more and more people will not die unnecessarily from pollution?

That is a good question. It should be very clear to all companies that if they engage in such cheating or bad practices, the Government will crack down hard on them. We will work with our colleagues in the European Commission and elsewhere to make sure that all rules are applied. We in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills are working on introducing real emissions testing, with the Department for Transport and colleagues in the European Union.

In the mid-’90s, I stood up in this Chamber and said that some day, there would be self-drive cars, and everyone thought I was mad. I am reliably told that by 2020, autonomous-drive cars will be available in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Much of that work is being undertaken in Paddington by Nissan. When will my right hon. Friend visit Nissan and other British manufacturers, such as Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota, if he has not already done so, to talk to them about autonomous-drive cars?

I have had a lot of thoughts about my hon. Friend, but madness was not one of them.

I agree with my hon. Friend about the new technology of driverless cars, in which Britain is a world leader. Yesterday at MIRA, a world-class facility in Nuneaton, we announced £20 million of funding. That will fund some eight research and development projects in areas across the country, including in the midlands, and 14 feasibility studies. With work like that, his dream of a driverless car to carry him wherever he wants to go will come true by 2020.