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Electric and Autonomous Vehicles

Volume 633: debated on Tuesday 12 December 2017

Two weeks ago I announced the location for the new national Faraday battery scale-up facility, which will be built in Coventry. On the same day, Jaguar Land Rover announced its intention to produce battery electric vehicles in the west midlands, thus bringing the region to the forefront of modern mobility in the United Kingdom.

When it comes to autonomous and electric vehicles, public trust in the exciting technology involved is key to making the most of the opportunities that it presents. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with industry to combat the Luddites and dispel the mythical fears of that exciting technology that are currently being promoted?

My hon. Friend has made an excellent point. Part of the programme involves test beds to demonstrate the new technologies. The demonstrations will be open to the public so that they can see for themselves, and they will begin in Milton Keynes, Greenwich, Bristol and Coventry. However, people are already experiencing these technologies through satnav, cruise control and automatic parking, and I hope that increasing exposure will reveal their benefits.

The Secretary of State mentioned Jaguar Land Rover. As he will know, Ford in Bridgend, which neighbours my constituency and employs hundreds of workers there, is pulling out of the contract early. Has the Secretary of State had any conversations with Ford about the possibility of converging its lines to produce electric batteries for electric cars?

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that I shall be meeting the head of Ford’s European operations immediately after this session to discuss the fact that Ford has based its new development of electric and autonomous vehicles in Britain.

Britain has the potential to be a world leader in developing the new regulatory standards that will govern electric and autonomous vehicles. Will the Secretary of State work with industry, and with other Departments, to ensure that Britain leads the world and that other countries adopt our standards?

I will indeed. The industrial strategy makes it clear that being at the forefront of the regulatory standards for these new technologies gives us a big advantage. The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, which is currently before Parliament, is intended to establish—before most other countries—the right regulatory standards, so that we can make progress with those technologies.

The Secretary of State knows that no assessment of the impact of Brexit on the sector has been carried out by anyone, apart from the RAND Corporation, which told us this morning that this and every other sector will be deeply harmed by Brexit. What does he say in response to that important and thorough investigation?

I think the hon. Gentleman knows that I have continuous discussions with all the sectors for which I am responsible, including the automotive sector. They lead me to make sure that, as part of our negotiating mandate, we get the best possible deal. The agreement achieved in Brussels last week, including the transitional phase, had been pressed for by the automotive sector in particular.