Consideration of Bill, not amended in the Public Bill Committee
New Clause 1
Transmission of data relating to charge points
‘(1) Regulations may make provision for the purpose of ensuring the ongoing transmission of charge point data to a prescribed person or to persons of a prescribed description.
(2) “Charge point data” means prescribed information relating to a charge point (which may include information about energy consumption and geographical information).
(3) Regulations under subsection (1) may impose requirements—
(a) on operators of charge points that are public charging points, and
(b) in relation to charge points that are not public charging points, on prescribed persons or persons of a prescribed description.
(4) Regulations under subsection (1) may make provision about when, how and in what form charge point data is to be transmitted.’—(Jesse Norman.)
This new clause confers power to make regulations for the purpose of ensuring the transmission to specified persons (who could include the National grid and electricity distribution network operators) of certain kinds of data relating to charge points. The data could include, for example, data relating to energy consumption and geographical data.
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 2—Public facility operators: provision of public charging points—
‘(1) Regulations may impose requirements on owners and operators of public facilities falling within a prescribed description, in connection with the provision on their premises of public charging points.
(2) Regulations under subsection (1) may, for example—
(a) require owners and operators of public facilities to provide public charging points;
(b) require owners and operators of public facilities to work with local authorities on the provision of public charging points;
(c) require public charging points to be available for use at prescribed times; and
(d) require services or facilities prescribed by the regulations to be provided in connection with public charging points.
(3) In this section “public facilities” means—
(b) public car parks;
(d) train stations; and
(e) such other public facilities as prescribed in regulations.’
This new clause would provide the Secretary of State with the power to make regulations requiring owners and operators of certain public facilities to work with local authorities to provide public charging points and to ensure that public charging points are maintained and easily accessible to the public.
New clause 3—Charging points strategy: public transport and commercial vehicles—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within 12 months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, lay a report before Parliament setting out a comprehensive UK charging points strategy for public transport and commercial vehicles.
(2) The report must, in particular, consider the establishment of charging points for—
(b) electric bikes and other mobility vehicles;
(c) haulage vehicles;
(d) commercial vehicle fleets; and
(e) such other public transport and commercial vehicles as considered relevant by the Secretary of State.’
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to set out a strategy for establishing charging points for public transport and commercial vehicles.
Government amendments 1 to 3.
Following a fruitful debate in Committee, the Government decided to table new clause 1 to part 2 of the Bill. Smart charge points will play a vital role in managing the demand on the grid created by charging electric vehicles. Estimates from the national grid suggest that the increase in peak demand caused by electric vehicles could be significantly reduced by smart charging. Less electricity generation and fewer network upgrades would be required, thereby reducing energy costs and costs to bill payers. Smart charging can not only ensure that vehicle owners receive the required amount of electricity within the time required, but adapt power flow to meet the needs of consumers and various parties in the energy system.
I support the new clause because smart charging is the way forward. Filling station owners currently need to display the price per unit of their petrol, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas on a large sign, so that motorists can decide whether to go to that particular station before they enter the forecourt. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential that electric charging points are required to display similar information?
I certainly agree that consistency in the presentation of information is important, and I take my right hon. Friend’s wider point about whether such information should be displayed in the same way as petrol prices. He makes a valuable contribution to the debate.
Jaguar Land Rover builds its cars in my constituency, and Geely, which makes black cabs, has also invested a lot of money. What sort of consultation has the Minister had with those companies and, more importantly, with people who run small garages?
The hon. Gentleman refers to a variety of groups. I met the chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover only a few months ago. My colleagues are regularly in touch with representatives of fuel retailers, and the same is true for the other group that he mentioned.
The information provided by smart charging also helps to predict future demand on the grid and local network hotspots, so that infrastructure can be planned as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Clause 12 gives the Secretary of State the power to introduce regulations to stipulate that all new charge points must have smart functionality. However, as was pointed out in Committee, it stipulates that smart functionality must only be operational at the point of sale or installation, and the policy intent is that smart functionality would not be turned off once operational. Consumers will be encouraged to keep their smart functionality switched on through incentives such as cheaper time-of-use electricity tariffs and the ability to monitor and manage their vehicle’s energy consumption.
However, as was discussed in Committee, if the Bill is not amended, there is a chance that data from a domestic or public charge point may not be transmitted to the specified persons after the installation is completed. That could mean that bodies such as the national grid and distribution network operators do not receive information that would help to plan for demand on the grid.
A considerable amount of work is being done in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe on how data is to be handled in terms of safety on the autonomous vehicles side. As for the electricity side, there is no reason to think that the protocols that are being developed will impinge upon privacy, but that remains a matter for definition in future secondary legislation.
I am grateful to the Government for bringing forward this new clause, for which I argued in Committee, and I think the drafting is appropriate. The answer to the question asked by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) is that the data transmitted will be highly aggregated and will be used by the grid and DNOs to manage the system better. It is important that the Government persist with this change, because it alone provides the basis for the kind of interactivity that we need between electric vehicles, as a latent battery for the country, and the grid.
As I am sure the Secretary of State will say on Third Reading, we are all in the debt of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) for his excellent work in Committee, of which this change is a good example.
New clause 1 addresses concerns raised in Committee by introducing a requirement for the continuing transmission of data from charge points to prescribed persons, who could include the national grid and distribution network operators. Consumers will be still encouraged to keep the smart functionality operational once installed, with regulations taken forward only if the information required for effective energy infrastructure planning is not made available. Full consultation will be carried out before regulations are brought forward.
Some people may be worried about whether the grid can cope with the demand from electric car charging. Are there are enough charging points across the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? Is the infrastructure in place so that we can move forward and get the benefits of this sector? There is a skeleton, but are the bones ready?
This country is publicly recognised as being at the forefront of a group of nations that is leading the way on electric car infrastructure. Something like 11,500 charge points have already been installed, and the Bill provides plenty of scope to encourage and support further installations.
Two further consequential amendments are required to clause 14, which concerns the Secretary of State’s power to create exceptions in regulations and to determine that regulations should not apply to certain persons or things. The amendments ensure that the new clause is fully operative within the Bill.
This change is illustrative of the rigorous and constructive discussion of the Bill in Committee, the members of which I thank again for their time and dedication, which has resulted in a better product.
I did not have an opportunity to serve in Committee, but I am privileged to be the chairman of the all-party group on electric and automated vehicles. Would the Minister care to comment on the latest apps, such as that which allows Tesla drivers to plug in their vehicle when renewables are being used, thereby reducing the cost of electric motoring even further and, more importantly, making electric motoring very, very green?
My right hon. Friend will be aware that one of the purposes of a smart grid is precisely to allow people to recharge their car at the most cost-effective time. I recently had the opportunity to drive a Tesla, and it is extraordinary how the car is continually updated with patches that can reduce its impact on the atmosphere and improve other aspects of driving in a very green way.
As my hon. Friend knows, the new clause was tabled at my behest, having been prompted by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) in Committee. Ruskin said
“when we build, let us think that we build for ever.”
What we build in respect of electric charging points is vital. The Minister will be familiar with the RAC Foundation’s analysis in “Ultra-Low-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure—What Can Be Done”, which shows that, although the number of charging points is growing reasonably quickly, the number of rapid charging points is growing much more slowly. Is it not vital that, in his work to build this infrastructure so that it is fit for purpose, account should be taken of the need for more rapid charging points?
We must all thank my right hon. Friend—I am sure the Secretary of State will want to echo my thanks—for the careful, judicious and wise way in which he has hitherto steered this Bill and its predecessor, including in Committee. He quotes Ruskin to good effect, and secondary legislation under the Bill will allow us to reflect changes in the market. My right hon. Friend’s general point is absolutely right and, as he well knows, it is part of the purpose of this Bill.
Amendment 1 to clause 13 will provide more clarification about the enforcement of regulations under part 2 of the Bill. It provides for an appropriate civil enforcement regime to ensure that any requirement under the power can be properly enforced so that the desired effects are achieved. The clause gives explicit examples of the expected elements of such a regime, including details about identifying failures of compliance. The amendment adds further detail to what one should expect to be included in regulations to assist inspectors in determining whether a breach of the rules has taken place.
Examples of that detail include taking photographs or removing materials from a site to provide evidence of compliance or non-compliance when inspections are carried out. In general, the Government aspire to be as transparent as possible regarding what they intend to include in regulations, and the amendment adds further clarity on what will be included in the inspection regime.
Any initiative to try to expand smart charging has to be good news, but I put it to the Minister that if there is to be a step change in certainty for many drivers, it will be through the expansion of on-street charging outside people’s homes. What initiatives will the Government take to expand that, particularly with regard to the holy grail of wireless charging?
At the moment, there are many mild yet reducing impediments to buying an electric car, such as range anxiety and the resale amounts that might be achieved. The hon. Gentleman is right to point out the importance of the charging network. As he will know, the Government have put in place substantial funding not merely for the plug-in car grant, but for a £200 million commitment, to be matched by a private commitment, to create a charging infrastructure investment fund that is dedicated to addressing precisely the issues he describes.
New clause 2, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse), understandably highlights many other locations, such as supermarkets and hotels, where it might be appropriate to require the installation of charging facilities. We want people across the country to have the opportunity to make the transition to buying and using an electric vehicle. The vast majority of electric vehicle drivers choose to charge their car at home overnight, but appropriate and adequate provision of public charging is still vital to supporting thousands more electric vehicles.
We understand that regulating for provision in the wide range of areas contemplated in the new clause will not always be the right approach—sometimes the carrot is more important than the stick. The Government already offer a variety of grants, schemes and policy measures to support the installation of charge points, where they are needed, in the types of locations identified. For example, we are committed to placing more emphasis on the delivery of charge points at railway stations as part of the franchising process. Planning policy, and the national planning policy framework in particular, is proving to be an important tool in leveraging infrastructure and future-proofing developments.
That is precisely what we have been saying about making it widely practical for people to consider buying an electric car. New clause 2 would work as not only a carrot but a stick. Given that we need to move forward so quickly, it is important that the Government consider new clause 2.
By tabling new clause 2, the hon. Lady has placed the issue firmly and properly on the public record. The new clause would require owners and operators of “public facilities,” which is a wide term, to provide public charging points. Those public facilities would include:
“supermarkets; public car parks; airports; train stations; and such other public facilities”.
That is a very wide definition, and it does not specifically address the issue of range anxiety. The attraction of targeting large fuel retailers and motorway service stations, as we have done, is that doing so precisely addresses concerns about range anxiety.
The hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) refers to charging at supermarkets and public places. What has been the response from the supermarket chains? Has the system had private buy-in? Do we have figures indicating that the supermarkets want to be part of this system, and will the Government encourage them?
The key point is that we must allow the market to operate and require installation only in places where we can be certain that it will serve a public purpose. That is the balance that the Bill is designed to strike. Many supermarkets, of course, will regard fitting charging stations and charging points as a competitive advantage, and the same will be true of the other locations set out in new clause 2.
In addition to the measures I have described, enhanced capital allowances have also been introduced as a tax relief for companies that support the development and installation of charging equipment for electric vehicles. The first-year allowance of 100% allows businesses to deduct charge point investments from their pre-tax profits in the year of purchase. As a result of those measures, and because of the opportunities in this new market, the private sector is increasingly taking the lead, with chargers going in at destinations including hotels and supermarkets.
I appreciate that the Minister wants the market to apply, but London Underground owns the car parks at my stations in Chesham and Amersham. What incentive can he give London Underground and the Mayor of London to install more charging points in those carparks? My constituents do not have a single vote for a member of the London Assembly or for the Mayor of London. Without a carrot or a stick, there is no reason for them to install the charging points. Can the Minister help?
My right hon. Friend is talking about a democratic deficit as much as a failure of public policy to seize the opportunity. Unfortunately, as she knows, the Mayor of London is outside my Department’s policy remit and has separate devolved budgets. She makes the wider point well that there is a democratic gap that means that the Mayor of London cannot be held to account for such actions.
As a result of the measures that I have described, the private sector is taking the lead. Further to our consultation, we have suggested that it would be more appropriate to mandate provision at sites, such as fuel retailers and service areas, that are already invested in providing services related to vehicle refuelling. By that means, we can address concerns about range anxiety without placing regulation on others that might be unnecessarily burdensome and expensive to comply with.
The hon. Members for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western), for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) and for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald) have proposed a new clause to require the Secretary of State to bring forward a strategy specifically on electric vehicle charge points in the UK. I agree that it is important that the Government take a strategic approach to encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles, and that is precisely the intent behind this Bill. Indeed, in 2013, the then Government published a strategy entitled “Driving the Future Today”, which set out a path that they planned to take to achieve their aims. Of course, much has changed since then. Although many of the aims of that strategy remain relevant today, it is right that we reconsider our approach to delivery. We need to reflect on the automotive sector’s much more positive approach towards electric vehicles, on progress in battery technology and on the upturn in consumer confidence that saw more than 10 times more electric cars bought in the UK in 2017 than in 2013.
I am therefore pleased to confirm that, as was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) on Second Reading and in Committee, we plan to publish an updated strategy for promoting the uptake of all electric vehicles well within the next year—indeed, we expect it to be published by the end of March. This will comprehensively address issues relating to charge points for all electric vehicles, not merely cars. Inserting a requirement for a strategy in primary legislation at this stage would be disproportionate and unnecessary, especially given my assurance that we will set out our plans on an earlier timescale than that set out in the new clause.
Let me conclude so that I do not take up any more time than is necessary. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will be able to support new clause 1 and amendments 1 to 3, but I urge them to not to press the other new clauses, which I do not believe are required.
The Opposition Front-Bench team are supportive of the Government’s new clause 1 and the consequential amendments. In Committee, some of my colleagues and I tabled amendments to ensure that planning and consultation between the Government, National Grid and electricity distribution operators took place in order for this policy to work. The new clause enables regulations to be made for the transmission of charge point data, for example, on energy consumption levels and geographical data, to be given to “specified persons”, such as National Grid. As we set out during earlier stages of this Bill, the sharing of specific data such as that on energy consumption and geography will be fundamental in enabling and encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles, which I am sure Members on both sides of this House want to achieve.
Labour has been working to improve this Bill to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of research and development in this important and fast-moving industry. The sharing of data is necessary to grow the number of charge points and to ensure that the relevant agencies can monitor and plan for energy demand and consumption at charging points. I wish to pay tribute to the former Minister, the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), who gave me a “binding assurance” in Committee that the Government would come back to Parliament with more detail and specific proposals. The Bill originally did not include much detail on regulations for the distribution of data relating to charge points, so I am grateful that the Government have listened to the Opposition on this point.
Is the hon. Gentleman reassured about the transmission of data relating to rural petrol stations, which may not use much electricity—they may not be used very often? Is he assured that the transmission of such data elsewhere may lead to a tendency for such petrol stations not to maintain that service in the way that they might, thus discriminating against more remote areas?
The strategy has to address the issue of remote areas—that is essential. In Committee, the then Minister gave assurances that it would. We now know, of course, that the strategy will be published in March. I would like to press this Minister on how security will be ensured in regards to the transmission of data from charge points. That issue was brought up repeatedly in Committee, and the Government’s new clause does not seem to address it head on.
The Opposition are also supportive of Government amendment 1, which relates to enforcement. It expands Clause 13 so that the requirements allow for the inspection or testing of “any thing” to do with charge points rather than just allowing the person “to enter any land”. That position was ambiguous and we welcome any tightening up of the wording in the Bill. The original subsection gave prescribed persons permission to enter land but did not include much else. The Government amendment extends the scope of enforcement and defines what documents and other important data and information can be investigated in order to inspect whether the proper regulations have been complied with when it comes to charge points.
We are also supportive of new clause 2, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse). Currently the Bill regulates for the provision of public charging points at large fuel retailers. The new clause would mean that owners and operators of public facilities such as supermarkets, public car parks and airports would also be required to provide charging facilities. Such locations would already have the service areas for vehicles to park up and be placed on charge. Having accessibility to charging points is vital to promoting the use of electric vehicles, and the new clause seems a sensible way of doing just that. The objective of the new clause is commendable, and I trust the Minister will bear that in mind when he is devising the Government strategy on this.
I refer to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. At the moment, electricity charging points at motorway service stations are separate from petrol stations. Does my hon. Friend anticipate that when we have fully accessible electricity charging point provision they will be one and the same, on the same location—or will they remain separate?
I think they will be an integral part of these sites. That is how things would have to work in order to be practical.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) on tabling new clause 3 and put on record my personal support, and that of our Front-Bench team, for the new clause. New clause 3 focuses on public transport and commercial vehicles, but it raises many of the issues I was hoping to speak to in relation to new clause 4. For uptake to be encouraged, electric vehicles need to be practical, affordable and convenient for users, which means putting in place the necessary infrastructure. There are currently nearly 12,000—11,862, to be precise—charging points for electric vehicles in the UK, but there are multiple charging point operators, each with their own plugs, software, customer charges, billing systems and payment methods. These are also unevenly distributed, with more charging points available on the Orkney Islands than in Blackpool, Grimsby and my own fair city of Hull combined. New clause 3 would ensure that the Secretary of State assesses the costs, benefits, location and feasibility of charging points to enable the promotion of a national network of sustainable charging points for commercial and public transport.
I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman. There were many suggestions in Committee that we call the charging points Hayes hooks. The former Minister, the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings, was keen for schools and colleges to get involved in some sort of national competition on the design.
As I have been mentioned by name, I feel obliged to intervene to thank the hon. Gentleman for his earlier complimentary remarks and to say that I know that the competition is indeed envisaged. One of the last acts that I commissioned in the Department was to sort out the detail of who would judge what and when. I am sure that the Minister will want to enlighten the House on the progress that has been made, what day the competition will begin, when it will end and what the criteria will be.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. In Committee, we discussed making the charging points as recognisable as telephone boxes. That is essential. I hope that the Minister has taken on board what was said in Committee and appreciates the work that the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings did on the Bill.
It would be eminently sensible for the Government to promote a national network of sustainable charging points for private vehicles. We welcomed the announcement in the Budget of £200 million of public money to be invested in charging infrastructure. Of course, that matched Labour’s manifesto commitment to invest £200 million to support ultra-low emission vehicles.
This Bill was an opportunity to set out a long-term plan for building the infrastructure needed to encourage the uptake of automated and electric vehicles, and it is a little disappointing that it has failed to do so fully. The Bill could have been a major step forward in taking high-emitting vehicles off our roads. We know that air pollution is linked to the premature deaths of around 50,000 people in the UK each year. That is a staggering number and the Government need to do an awful lot more to address that.
Electric and alternatively-fuelled vehicles are key to reducing air pollution and meeting the UK’s climate change objectives. In Committee, the then Minister said:
“It is very important that we monitor closely how charge points are rolled out. We have spoken about workplaces, local authorities, service stations and so on and so forth, but we need to get a clear view about where the concentrations of charge points are and what needs to be done to fill in any gaps that emerge.”––[Official Report, Automated and Electric Vehicles Public Bill Committee, 14 November 2017; c. 186.]
I remind the House of my interest in the Faraday Institution.
Given that the whole House agrees, roughly speaking, with what the hon. Gentleman said and that the Minister has announced that he is going to produce the strategy that the Opposition Front Bench team very sensibly want, may I beg the hon. Gentleman not to press his new clause to a vote? Were he to do so, it would have the sad effect of dividing the House on an issue on which we really do not need to divide and on a Bill on which we are all agreed.
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I do not intend to push anything to a vote.
We agree with what the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings said in Committee, which I just read out, and believe that the Government should take this opportunity to set out in the Bill their strategy for doing that.
I am happy to support Government new clause 1 and the consequential amendments.
I rise to make one point only on a matter that was discussed in Committee, particularly when we took evidence from witnesses before line-by-line consideration commenced. It follows on from the point the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), made about the need for the charging network to be as accessible and easy-to-use as possible, so that we can encourage the uptake of electric vehicles. One of the key requests was that we have a simplified payment system for use of the charge-points. There is evidence from Ireland and the state of California that some Government intervention was required to achieve a harmonised payment system, before which users were having to carry around a multiplicity of payment cards to use the system. New clause 1, in conjunction with clause 9, will give the Government sufficient powers to nudge the industry to achieve that. I just wanted to put on the record that that requirement will be integral to making the charging system and the uptake of electric cars as complete as we would like.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker; I was not expecting to be called to speak so early as I have not tabled an amendment.
I did not serve on the Bill Committee, but I spoke on Second Reading about charging points. Just before Second Reading, I purchased a Nissan Leaf. Three months on, I have a little more experience, and I am afraid that I am slightly less enthused of my Leaf than I was in October. My experience has highlighted some policy issues. If Ministers want people to make the transition to electric vehicles, the issue of charging points and their availability is fundamental. We need more charging points.
New clause 2, tabled by the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse), is absolutely spot on. Along with all public car parks, I would add to the list in her new clause hospitals, public buildings, local authority buildings, schools and libraries. All are places where people park. We do not just go between shops and our homes; we go to many different places.
I am curious as to whether my hon. Friend has, in the three months she has had her Leaf, attempted to drive from her wonderful constituency in Bishop Auckland down to Parliament? If she has, what was it like? If she has not, why not?
That is very interesting. I think local authorities have not taken up that offer in the way people hoped because there are no resources for the upkeep of the charging points.
On Second Reading, I asked whether planning permission for new housing developments should require charging points. I am disappointed that that has not been mentioned by the Minister or in any of the new clauses or amendments. I also sent a rather long letter to the Department, to the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) who was handling the Bill extremely well. I am also disappointed that I have not had a reply to my letter, as the then Minister told me that he was going to discuss the planning issues with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. It is no good Ministers relying on people charging their car at home, because to do so, people must have off-street parking. A third of this country lives in terraced housing or flats without off-street parking, which is why we need charge points along residential roads everywhere.
Good. I am very pleased to hear from the right hon. Gentleman, and I look forward to a positive response from the Minister on this issue of planning permission.
To some extent, new clause 3 covers my next point, which is that we need one system not just for paying when we go to the charge point, but for interconnections. When trying to charge up a car at a public point, it is incredibly annoying for a person to find that they have the wrong kind of plug. It is as absurd as if we had an electricity system in which some houses have three-point plugs, some five point plugs, and others two-point plugs. We have gone way beyond that. Although we want to encourage the private sector—when it comes to manufacturing the cars and the great work that Nissan and Toyota do, we are all in favour of it—the infrastructure for charging is a natural monopoly. It is obvious that the Government should be taking control of it. I am also slightly concerned that there has been systematic mis-selling and over-inflation on the range of electric cars.
I appreciate the issue associated with the difference in the types of plugs that are required, but is that not going to demand an international standard to be set and agreed not just by this Government but worldwide, to ensure uniformity of connections with each make of vehicle and the grid?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right; I had not thought of that point. When I go on holiday, I normally hire another car, rather than driving from the UK, but, of course, many people want to take their own car overseas, so he makes a very fair point. It would be interesting to know whether the Government have initiated any discussion in the European Union, for example, on this point.
Let me come back to the point about range, and what I think is a serious breach of consumer rights and trade descriptions. I bought my Leaf from Bristol Street Motors in Darlington, and I was told that it had a range of 125 miles. As I was about to explain to my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), I thought that that was fine because it meant that I could travel from my constituency to Newcastle, when I visit the regional organisations for the north-east, and get back again on one charge, but when I collected the car, it was charged up to only 75 miles. I said, “This is 30% less efficient! It is like buying a box of six eggs, but finding when you open the box that there are only four eggs. This is really not acceptable.” The garage people tweaked it around a bit, but they still could only charge it up—I have never charged it beyond this—to 85 miles. That is very different from the 125 miles that I was told. Indeed, having looked at the Nissan website, I found that the over-emphasis not only came from the dealer to whom I spoke, but was on the website itself. The guy who came round to fit my pod point and to whom I explained this problem said, “Oh, I hear it all the time. People are constantly disappointed that their cars don’t have the range that they were sold as having.” This is pretty fundamental. People need to know what they are buying and what they are getting. A 30% reduction in the capacity of what the car can do is a significant difference.
As my hon. Friend knows, Nissan is in my constituency, so I am very interested in her point. When I took a Leaf for a test drive—I do not have one yet; I am not as lucky as she is—I was told that the number of miles that people can get depends on how they drive. Is that the issue to which she is referring, or is it something different?
I do not think it can be that, because when I charge up the car, it does not even reach the amount. Sometimes when I am driving along, the charge seems to go down much faster than the number of miles that I am actually covering, but I cannot charge it to the level that is claimed.
A number of people recognise that the first version of the Leaf—my hon. Friend got one of the last ones—did not have a great range. A new model is now out, which at least says that it has a much higher range, and I have no reason to doubt that. What this actually highlights is that the Government need to do more to incentivise plug-in hybrids. Although pure electric is fine for the short journey, it is likely that, for a while yet, the car needs another technology for the longer journey. Getting clear incentives for plug-in hybrids might make a contribution towards that. In fact, the way that grants have been structured, we have gone rather in the other direction.
My hon. Friend makes a very fair point. It is also related to the issue that the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings raised about the importance of having fast charge-up plugs—I am not sure what one calls them—rather than the ordinary slow-speed ones. Last week, for example, I wanted to charge up the car while I went to the supermarket. In the half hour that I was in the supermarket, it had only increased its charging by 8 miles. That is pathetic by anybody’s standards. That is just not what one would expect. If that is the rate at which people are charging up on motorways, it really is not working. The technology needs to be improved with respect to the measurement inside the car. Last Thursday night, I set off to go home with 22 miles on the meter, but at 14 miles the car conked out in the dark. Not only was I extremely inconvenienced by this, but it was extremely dangerous, because somebody else could have driven into the car. It is also a problem for the police, and so on. It is incredibly important that we get this right. I would like the Minister to be far more ambitious. We need a really big strategy. I know that the Minister loves markets, but I am a Keynesian, and I think that this would also be really good for the British economy.
I want to contribute briefly to this debate. I have enjoyed the scrutiny of the Bill over what seems most of my recent life. I have spent more time speaking about automated electric vehicles than I care to count, having shared that endeavour with a number of hon. Members in the Chamber.
The amendments introduced by the Minister are a direct consequence of the scrutiny that we enjoyed in Committee. That Committee, like its predecessor—the Committee that considered the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill, which also considered these matters—was conducted in a positive, constructive, collaborative and wholesome way and I believe that the Bill can genuinely be said to have been improved as a result of the endeavours from Members from all parts of the House.
The infrastructure for electric vehicles is one of the critical elements of their gaining wider acceptance. It is not the only one, but it is salient. As has already been said, that requires us to think broadly about how and where people will want to charge. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) made the very good point that most people will want to do that as close to their home as is conveniently possible and on-street charging is vital. The work with the local authorities, which has been recommended from a number of places in the Chamber, is critical to achieving that. The planning system also needs to recognise it, in respect of new developments. I go further and say that the Government have already taken steps and can take more on local authorities that are laggards—if I can put it that way—about putting into place the necessary measures to bring about on-street charging.
I pay tribute to the great job that my right hon. Friend did as Transport Minister and in his many other ministerial roles.
It is very much the charging points—their accessibility and the ability to charge vehicles quite quickly—that will really encourage people to have electric vehicles. At the moment, only about 1% or 2% of vehicles are electric. We really need the infrastructure if we want that figure to be 25% or 30%. Until we get the infrastructure right, we will not necessarily get everybody to sign up to having an electric car. We have to be absolutely certain to get the infrastructure right.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has been not only a student, but a mentor to me as my PPS and as my great friend. He is right, as he often is on this subject. It is right that we build an infrastructure that is accessible. It also needs to be affordable and recognisable. The arguments that have prevailed so far have focused on those points—that the infrastructure must be easily recognised by anyone who wants to charge their vehicle.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that another aspect that could hold back the industry is the skills shortage in the science, technology, engineering and maths sector? That is why schemes such as the Year of Engineering are so vital to companies in my constituency and in Wiltshire, such as Dyson and AB Dynamics, which are leaders in the sector.
Yes. When we speak of infrastructure, we often think of physical infrastructure. But it is also a matter of human infrastructure, and skills are critical to the success of this industry. I recommend to my hon. Friend the report by the Institute of the Motor Industry that addresses exactly those points. It highlights the accreditation system that it has put in place and recognises that, so far, only a small proportion of the technicians and people who service cars more widely have achieved the necessary competences to work on electric vehicles—of course, autonomous vehicles are yet to come. It will be vital that that understanding and those competences are widely spread. If I might make a point particularly on that, I am anxious that they are not simply owned by large corporate companies. We do not want to see the disappearance of local garages and start-up businesses. The spread of the ability of those who can repair and service these new types of vehicles needs to be sufficient not only to seed those competences in the way I have described, but to make them available to people in rural areas as well as in urban centres. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to that human aspect of this technological challenge.
As well as the charge points being recognisable—and I am delighted that the shadow Minister has confirmed that they are going to bear my name, which I expect the Minister will also confirm—I am delighted that there is a determination to ensure that there is some consistency about the charge points. One needs to be able to drive down a road in an electric vehicle and immediately recognise a charging point, as we recognise a telephone box, a pillar box and many other things. And it should be beautiful, by the way.
I agree with my right hon. Friend about the importance of recognisability and that a charging point should be a thing of beauty that adds to the landscape of our towns, cities and rural areas. There has again been mention in the Chamber tonight of the competition for a beautiful design that the Government will sponsor. Will my right hon. Friend—and, perhaps, the Minister—comment on whether the design competition will be for a UK design, rather than just an England, or England and Wales, design?
Well, that would certainly be my wish. It will be for the Minister to confirm or otherwise whether that is the official position. I no longer speak in official terms, but happily endorse the view of my hon. Friend that we should have a UK-wide design and competition. When Gilbert Scott designed the red telephone box, of course he recognised that it was a functional item, as it remains. But he was also determined to make it something of elegance and style—something that, in the words of my hon. Friend, added to the built environment. And so it should be with these charging points.
The third important element of charging points, as well as their accessibility and recognisability, is their affordability. It is absolutely right that we should have a single means by which people can pay. It is preposterous that people might arrive at a charge point, ready to charge their vehicle—perhaps even desperate to do so, if the remarks of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) hold true—and then find that the means by which they have to pay does not fit their expectation and that they need some card or prepayment system. We need to ensure that all charge points conform to a single means of payment, or at least a number of means of payment that suit every circumstance. What we cannot have is different charge points with different technologies, different modes of payment, and a different look and feel. That would be preposterous and I know that the Government will not want anything preposterous to happen.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way; he is being very generous with his time. As he got the Bill to its current state, did he consider that perhaps we have started the whole basis of the electrification of cars and batteries at the wrong point? The trouble is we are beyond this point already, as we have a Tesla-style battery, a Lexus-style battery and batteries by other manufacturers. Would it not have been more sensible and better if the current network of petrol stations had been places where we could simply change the battery? That could have been done in an instant, or within a minute or two, rather than waiting for this long charge system. I am concerned that the manufacturers have started us off on the wrong basis. Perhaps it is not too late to get us back on track.
Innovation and change often initially result in a multiplicity of systems. One thinks of the industry that I was once in—the IT industry. It took some while before MS-DOS, and subsequently Windows, emerged. Of course, there are still Apple computers with a different system altogether, but at the birth of the personal computer, all kinds of technologies co-existed. It was a while before standards became certain, adapted and adopted, widely recognised and used. I suspect that the same applies in this area of innovation and change. As the technology beds down, I expect that there will be greater consistency, but the Government must play their part too.
Although I am sure that the market will normalise around a set of standards, the Government can—by what they do both legislatively and in terms of the kind of incentives I mentioned earlier that might be provided to those who are developing charge points such as local authorities—help that process along the way and that will build consumer confidence. Recognisability, affordability and accessibility are critical if people are going to buy electric cars without the uncertainty that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland described to us. She was a bold early adopter who entered the marketplace with a degree of optimism and hope. I hope that her hope has not been too tarnished by subsequent experience because the trailblazing spirit that she personifies is important if we are to get the momentum we want for this change in the way we drive and what we drive.
I welcome these amendments. As I said at the outset, they reflect sensible scrutiny of important legislation, although of course there is more to be done. In establishing this national infrastructure, I am confident that the same spirit of conciliation, collaboration and co-operation that has characterised our considerations so far will continue.
I begin the end of my remarks where I started—with Ruskin. Ruskin said:
“The training which makes men happiest in themselves also makes them most serviceable to others.”
Further to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan), the change that I recommend will not work unless we have people ready to make it work. That requires skills and training that is serviceable to others. It requires building a human infrastructure fit to do the job to make the physical infrastructure as effective as it can be. I know that there will be more consideration of that during the rest of this debate.
In the short time that I have been on the Back Benches, I have learned that one of the virtues is that one does not have to stay for the whole of a debate. To stay longer, in any case, might attract more plaudits, and even I would begin to become embarrassed. In the interests of the whole House, not just my own, I am now going to end this brief contribution, sit a moment longer and then proceed to my dinner, safe in the knowledge that I pass the baton to others still more capable of continuing the debate in the spirit in which it began.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It was not an issue.
I start by thanking the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), the former Minister, for conducting what was my first Bill Committee. I found his style particularly remarkable, welcoming and friendly, and very constructive.
I wish to speak to new clause 3, which is in my name, but also to reference new clauses 1, 2 and 4. When I spoke on Second Reading and in Committee, I highlighted what I thought was perhaps an omission—the Minister picked up on this earlier—with regard to making sure that the Bill is viewed by the public, but particularly by consumers, manufacturers and authorities, as setting the right framework, or groundwork, to bring about a change in our mobility. Critical to all this is why we are looking to make this move and why it is happening not just here in this country but globally. Part of that is looking to address the targets for reducing carbon dioxide that are set out in the Paris accord. Transport is of course an important contributor to CO2 emissions, particularly with regard to petrol vehicles.
There is also the issue of air quality. In my constituency of Warwick and Leamington, we suffer from poor air quality, particularly as a result of the topography of the towns, but also by virtue of our medieval streets. This is brought about by old vehicles—old buses, old lorries, old vans and old cars. It is not an issue with new vehicles. We have some terrific vehicle manufacturers, as has been mentioned. We have highlighted the investment of Nissan, but we should also consider the likes of Mini and Jaguar Land Rover, which is in my constituency. Jaguar Land Rover is making a move to hybrid vehicles, but its current diesel vehicles are very clean, with such things as particulate filters. The responsible manufacturers have moved very quickly on this already.
I want to highlight the opportunity that exists. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and KPMG have forecast that the overall economic and social benefit of electric, connected and autonomous vehicles could be in the region of £51 billion per year and 320,000 additional jobs. There is therefore a fantastic opportunity for us all and for our economy. However, as we have heard, the matter of charging points is something of a postcode lottery. The Bill attempts to reduce that risk. It is clearly a problem that a place such as Orkney has more chargers than Grimsby, Hull and Blackpool combined. I pick up on the point that was made earlier about the Government’s initiative. Clearly, cash-strapped authorities are not even finding the 25% of money to start investing.
Is there not a danger that the lack of these charging points and their lack of visibility in our landscape will drive earlier adopters such as the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) out of the market? It is therefore very important that this Bill and all that comes from it are set in motion, because if we are not careful, we will miss the tide.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. This is always the issue when an early adopter picks up on a product in any sector. I remember the first smart products such as the mini-computers of yesterday—PalmPilots and all those things. If one was not careful, one bought the wrong product and got caught out. The crucial part of this is ensuring that Governments take the lead, but there is also an international drive about pushing the agenda and making sure that there is commonality and the upfront investment that pulls manufacturers and consumers along with it.
I would like to correct slightly what the hon. Gentleman said. I hope that he will be gracious in accepting this. The problem is not that Orkney has more charging points; it is that Grimsby does not have enough. Rural locations, particularly around Scotland, will, by their nature, need more charging points.
I accept the hon. Lady’s point. What I said was factually correct; I was just trying to point out the disparity between areas. Good for Orkney, but this is about getting other areas to come along and invest to set up these infrastructures as well.
At present, there are multiple charging point operators across the UK, each with their own plugs, software, customer charges, billing systems and payment methods. That is clearly one of the issues that we are trying to address in the Bill and new clause 1. Critical to that is that the Government need to standardise charging infrastructure to make the network far more accessible. To draw a parallel, it is rather like the old mobile phones of the early days that some of us will remember. Mobile companies started moving into the sector and establishing their networks, with the investment that had to go with that. We realised that without a Government lead or a national infrastructure, pylons were starting to cluster in certain areas when in fact one pylon would have done, but with a different antenna fixed to it. We must try to avoid that sort of thing, so that we do not have little clusters on our streets or in our town centres when one will do.
It is crucial to ensure not only that we have charging points, but their interoperability for all types of vehicle. By way of parallel, I cite the fantastic thing that is the USB. We all know what it is like when we forget the charging cable for our mobile phones and find we have no means of recharging our phone, because we happen to have a product of a particular brand and a plug does not fit that phone. It is crucial that we not only legislate but work with other countries to ensure there is interoperability. Often when we have these debates, we are thinking about cars, but we also need to think about all the other sectors. That is why it is vital that we have a comprehensive approach to the electrification of all sectors relevant to mobility.
Those of us in London recognise just how much the bus network has improved over recent years. I was amazed to discover that a third of our famous red buses are now hybrid. Something like 73 are electric and about 10 are hydrogen buses. Those hybrid buses are super-quiet and relatively clean, with 30% or 40% less emissions. That has made a noticeable difference to air quality, as I remember how poor that was 30 years ago when I lived in London.
One of the businesses in my constituency is Volvo Buses, which has done a lot of work on electric vehicles and has had all sorts of issues. For example, it has invested heavily in trying to establish a network in Harrogate. The costs of getting the DNO connection have varied considerably, and the project has been extremely difficult. We have to recognise that these businesses are the first adopters. They are the ones trying to get new technologies established, so we need to make the process as easy as possible.
One issue with commercial vehicles and buses is the need for pantograph-type systems to charge vehicles from above. European manufacturers, including Mercedes, Fiat, Renault and Volvo, are looking at how to recharge those vehicles when they are at a bus stand or in a garage. We need to ensure that such infrastructure is generic and standardised across all manufacturers.
I absolutely agree that we need to look at the technology for charging buses and other vehicles en route. May I invite the hon. Gentleman to look at the pilot scheme that has been running in Milton Keynes with an induction charging system for a bus route that is wholly electric? That could represent the technology for recharging, rather than expensive overhead line equipment.
I have no desire to prolong the hon. Gentleman’s speech unduly, as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is waiting for his dinner. However, on the hon. Gentleman’s point about buses and local support for electric vehicles, he will know that the Government have done a great deal to support the provision of low emission vehicles by bus companies. Indeed, workplace charging has also been supported strongly by the Government. Does he agree that perhaps we need just to broadcast that more, so that more people know they can benefit from the support that is available? The Government have done their bit, and I am extremely grateful for the great work that my officials did on that in my time. Does he think it is about more publicity?
It is. It is about motivating and encouraging change through consumers.
I would like to move on finally to electric bikes and mobility vehicles. That might seem like a less glamorous or glossy sector of the market, but we have some terrific bike manufacturers in this country. We have Pashley and Moulton, and Brompton here in London. Brompton’s first e-bike is about to roll off the production line. However, our sales of electric bikes are way behind those of other countries. We are something like seventh in Europe, with 5% of its total sales, way behind Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Germany has 36% of the total sales for Europe.
In 2016, the city of Munich started a subsidy scheme for electro-mobility that includes electric bikes. The subsidy for the purchase price is granted to private companies and non-profit organisations, with a contribution of, say, €500 for electric bikes or €1,000 for electric cargo bikes. In Sweden, there is a 25% Government subsidy for all e-bikes until 2020, which has led to a 50% surge in electric bike adoption in the country. It has been hugely successful in the past 12 months, and that shows what leadership can do to change consumer behaviour, which the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings referred to. The same thing applies to commercial vehicle fleets, whether they be for haulage or local delivery.
I urge the Government to adopt new clause 3, which is simple and straightforward. It puts forward a framework to identify all the vehicle sectors that need to be considered, so that we ensure that they are very much in the front of our minds.
I shall speak to new clause 2, which I tabled. We have already had a good discussion about making it as easy and quick as possible for consumers who are considering buying electric vehicles to do so. That is why I very much encourage the Minister to reconsider whether new clause 2 should be included in the Bill.
Let me set the scene for this urgency. Air pollution in the UK is a big killer, contributing up to 40,000 deaths a year and costing the NHS £15 billion. As a country, we have been slow for a long time to comply with EU limits on pollution. We have been very slow at tackling high levels of pollution in the past.
These issues are incredibly relevant to my constituency. Bath is officially one of the most polluted areas in the country. Bath and North East Somerset was named among 29 local authority areas with high levels of nitrogen dioxide. According to the council’s own data, 92% of air pollution in Bath is caused by traffic. The swift take-up of electric vehicles is therefore very important.
I welcome the Government’s proposal to create universal charging points, which was also a Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment. However, as we have said several times, the Government should be more ambitious. The Bill must go further to ensure that it is as convenient as possible for people to own electric cars and to help consumers to make decisions that will benefit the environment and, particularly, public health.
New clause 2 would give the Secretary of State the power to make regulations requiring owners and operators of certain public facilities to work with local authorities to provide public charging points and to ensure that public charging points are maintained and easily accessible to the public. Again, a number of points have already been made about why local authorities have not picked up voluntary schemes. I believe that the carrot and the stick is the right approach, and I again say that the Government must consider using a little bit of stick.
The Bill allows the Government to regulate petrol stations and motorway service stations to provide electric charging points. The new clause would ensure that people with electric cars could easily charge their cars on shorter journeys as well as when travelling longer distances. I am considering whether I should buy an electric vehicle, but I do not fancy sitting around for eight hours in a service station on the motorway to charge my car.
Local authorities should have powers to require new commercial and industrial developments to provide electric charging points and, for example, to pilot the use of lamp posts as charging points in residential areas where homes do not have driveways. All this is about encouraging creative ways of making sure that charging our vehicles is as convenient as possible and increasing take-up among people who want to acquire electric cars.
If the Government are serious about reducing transport emissions, far more radical measures will be needed, but this Bill is a step in the right direction. I believe that new clause 2 would improve the Bill even further.
I am last, but by no means least, I hope. We still have the Minister’s closing remarks to come, so I am not altogether last.
As colleagues will know—if they do not, I am going to tell them now—the Nissan plant is in my constituency of Washington and Sunderland West. [Interruption.] Yes, it is. Many will also know that the Nissan Leaf is manufactured there. If I know Nissan, I am confident that it will have been following this debate closely, and I have no doubt it will get in touch with my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) to discuss her Leaf experiences further. As she said, it is very important that consumers who make the leap to a Leaf—do you like what I did there?
No, I am just trying to lighten the mood. It is very important that such consumers have a good experience if society is ever to make the transition to electric vehicles that we all hope to see.
I rise to raise briefly some points about three areas of part 2 of the Bill—clause 10, clause 9, and clauses 11 and 12—each of which I will address quickly. From speaking with Nissan, I know it is welcome that the Bill intends to impose requirements on large fuel retailers and service area operators “within a prescribed description” to provide public charging points. However, it is important, for all the reasons we have heard expressed so eloquently tonight, that this prescribed description is as ambitious as possible and is used in such a way as to deploy the electric vehicle charging infrastructure to its maximum potential. I therefore hope the Minister will elaborate further on how the Government plan to make sure that the expansion of this infrastructure is done in a sustainable, sensible and joined-up manner that does not hinder future growth.
Another aspect of ensuring that this important infrastructure works in the right way is ensuring that electric vehicle charging is open access and not restricted to members of charging schemes only or, as we have heard, to people with certain types of plugs. It is important as this infrastructure rolls out that it does not become a patchwork of varying payment methods, membership schemes and plug points, but instead is accessible to all to help encourage more people to make the move or the leap to electric vehicles. Will the Minister assure me that this will be considered as the Bill progresses to the other place?
The last point I want to touch on is smart charging as it is considered in the Bill. Smart charging is a new and exciting innovation and, as the Minister will be aware, Nissan has been pioneering work on vehicle-to-grid technology, where an electric vehicle’s battery can support the grid network at peak times when it is not charging. The Bill makes positive commitments in this area, but it would be welcome if the Minister committed throughout the Bill’s progress to ensuring that the continued development of these new technologies is supported.
Overall, this is a very welcome Bill that I know will have significant effects on Nissan in my constituency and on the wider electric vehicle industry. I hope that as the Bill progresses we will see further strengthening to make sure that, as we go into the future, electric vehicles become more and more accessible to drivers and, as we so desperately need to be doing right now, that this helps to reduce pollution. With those few remarks, I will end, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.
Let me thank all Members present in the Chamber and those who have spoken for their very helpful contributions to this debate on Report. This is another stage in the extremely constructive process of putting the Bill together. It is pretty clear that the House is united in its ambition to ensure that the UK has world-leading infrastructure to support the roll-out of electric vehicles. Many great points have been raised, and I will try to respond to as many of them as I can in the time available.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), who is not in his place, mentioned security and the importance not just of data security, but of prescribed persons in the Bill. I share the concern he raises, and as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) said, there are provisions in the Bill for anonymised and aggregated data on the model of smart data used elsewhere. It is also worth saying that the Bill has tightened the security for prescribed persons. Such investigations must be done in accordance with the regulations. Those are defined and will be further defined in secondary legislation.
On interoperability, let me reassure the House that there is scope in the Bill to require all new charge points to offer pay-as-you-go services. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), who is no longer in his place, raised the question of the design competition—and rightly so, in this, the Year of Engineering. Let me confirm that it will cover the whole UK, as he and colleagues mentioned.
My right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Sir Hugo Swire) pointed out the importance of rural infrastructure. As the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire, I entirely share that view. He will know that we have made significant investments—in the electric vehicle home-charge scheme, the workplace charging scheme and, as I have mentioned, the charging infrastructure investment fund—to support roll-out, but this is an important issue, and the Government will remain vigilant in ensuring that there is no discrimination against rural owners or potential owners of electric cars.
The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) told us a horrifying story about her own experience. All I can say is that she raises some issues that are related to the particular product she purchased, the Nissan Leaf. I have no doubt that that is being followed very closely in Sunderland as we speak. Whether it is correct or fair to describe the car as having “conked out”, I cannot comment, but as no one would believe the hon. Lady to be a speed demon, there may be a question as to whether there was proper and adequate disclosure. We have seen companies take measures to disclose range, but there may well be scope for greater transparency, of the kind we have seen in other areas. I can also reassure her that the head of the Office for Low Emission Vehicles drives a Nissan Leaf herself.
To answer the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western), the updated strategy to promote electric cars, which I have mentioned, will come in March. That strategy will, I hope, do much if not all of everything he described and more, and it will of course do so on a considerably faster timetable than the ones contemplated in his new clause.
Let me pick up another couple of points. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings characteristically foreswore his natural shyness to give us a tour d’horizon of his time in office once again. He was absolutely right to say that, although we have done quite a lot already, local authorities can go further and also to emphasise the importance of human infrastructure. I would simply mention the work of the Institute of the Motor Industry in formatting and creating level 1 to 3 qualifications in electric vehicle maintenance and repair.
Finally, the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) asked me whether the Government would consider charging for open access. The answer is absolutely, and that is already being discussed, as I have described. She also asked whether the Government recognise the importance of vehicle-to-grid. Yes, that is absolutely at the centre of what the Bill is trying to achieve.
We have given due consideration to the proposed new clauses in this debate. Although I understand the importance of the issues raised, for the reasons outlined, I do not believe that the new clauses proposed by Opposition Members should be included in the Bill, which I commend to the House as it stands.
Question put and agreed to.
New clause 1 read a Second time and added to the Bill.
Amendment made: 1, page 8, line 12, leave out subsection (3) and insert—
‘(3) The provision referred to in subsection (2)(a) includes—
(a) provision authorising a prescribed person to enter any land in accordance with the regulations;
(b) provision for the inspection or testing of any thing by a prescribed person, which may for example include provision about—
(i) the production of documents or other things,
(ii) the provision of information,
(iii) the making of photographs or copies, and
(iv) the removal of any thing for the purpose of inspection or testing and its retention for that purpose for a reasonable period.”—(Jesse Norman.)
This amendment removes the requirement that entry on to land must be for the purpose of inspecting a public charging point; and ensures that regulations under Part 2 may make provision, in connection with determining whether there has been a failure to comply with a requirement or prohibition imposed by regulations, about the production, removal and inspection of documents and other items.
Amendments made: 2, page 8, line 19, leave out “or public charging points” and insert “or devices”.
This amendment, which is consequential on NC1, enables exceptions from requirements or prohibitions imposed by regulations under Part 2 to be made in relation to devices that are not public charging points.
Amendment 3, page 8, line 22, leave out “or public charging point” and insert “or device”.—(Jesse Norman.)
This amendment, which is consequential on NC1, enables the Secretary of State to make a determination that a requirement or prohibition imposed by regulations under Part 2 does not apply to a device that is not a public charging point.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third Time.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) for all his work and for the dedication he has shown to the Bill, including in his contribution tonight, which he made with customary good cheer. He brings great knowledge to the subject and I commend him for all that he has done. On Second Reading he referenced Henry Ford, who said:
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
He has certainly exemplified those sentiments in his work on the Bill.
I am grateful to all right hon. and hon. Members who have participated throughout the passage of the Bill, particularly in Committee. I thank the Committee’s Chairs, the hon. Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), for guiding the Bill skilfully through its scrutiny.
The Government are committed to maintaining the UK’s position as one of the best places to research and develop modern transport technologies, such as automated and electric vehicles. Despite our differences in this House, I think we all share that ambition. We have some fantastic automotive centres in this country—the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) referred to one in the north-east, which I have visited and know is a fantastic plant. We all want to see the automotive sector grow and develop, and this is a fantastic opportunity for it to do so. The Bill is designed to help keep the UK ahead of the curve.
Automated vehicles will revolutionise the way we travel and deliver better journeys, making journeys safer and improving mobility for more road users. It is estimated that the market for autonomous vehicles will be worth £28 billion or more each year to the UK. The Government want to see fully self-driving cars, without a human operator, on UK roads by 2021, and I believe that is entirely realistic. The Bill sets the legislative groundwork for automated vehicle insurance. When you drive your car, Mr Deputy Speaker, it is you who is insured, not the vehicle. As a result of the Bill, in future the vehicle will equally be insured. That will give people confidence that they can purchase these vehicles and have the insurance cover they need.
We have plans for further ways in which we can take advantage of this groundbreaking technology, with amendments to existing legislation. For example, we are already holding an open consultation on the safe use of remote control parking systems—a form of advanced driver assistance technology that is becoming very visible and real now. We will be updating our world-leading code of practice for testing automated vehicles to allow developers to apply to test their vehicles in the UK. We will also be working with the Law Commission to set out proposals for a long-term regulatory framework for self-driving vehicles.
I am sure that Members on both sides of the House share the enthusiasm for these new technologies, but has the Secretary of State seen KPMG’s “Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index”, which compares the readiness of different countries for taking up these technologies? The UK performs fairly well on technology: we are ranked fifth, behind Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States. Interestingly, we drop to 10th place when it comes to readiness of infrastructure, the road system and the availability of 4G. Can he give any indication of how we can start to turn that around?
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. This legislation is part of the process of keeping us as close as possible to the top of that league table. Clearly the presence of 4G and 5G networks is immensely important. He will know that this week my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has talked about the Government’s achievements and ambitions for our broadband network and our 4G and 5G networks. It is absolutely essential, if we are to maximise this technology’s potential in the UK, that we have state-of-the-art IT systems. That is what the Government will continue to work towards.
To harness the revolution and take advantage of the potential of electric vehicles, we must continue to build the infrastructure they need. It needs to be ubiquitous and fast-charging, and this legislation will help secure that. Of course, that is backed by Government funding. In the Budget last November, the Chancellor announced a new £400 million electric vehicle charging infrastructure investment fund, £100 million of new funding for the plug-in car grant to help consumers purchase these vehicles, and of course we will play our part too by ensuring that 25% of cars in the central Government departmental fleet will be ultra low emission by the end of this Parliament. Through the Bill, we want to make it easier to recharge an electric vehicle, and that will be one of the consequences of what we have all debated today.
The UK Government have committed £200 million towards the roll-out of infrastructure. Previously, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy agreed with me that any allocation to Scotland has to be based on needs, including geography, rather than on population. Can the Transport Secretary confirm that he shares that view?
This has to be a United Kingdom-wide effort. Scotland is no different from the rest of the United Kingdom: it has rural areas, remote rural areas and busy urban areas. We will need to make sure that all those who seek to buy these vehicles have access to the appropriate charging points. This legislation will help to do that, as will Government funding. The Barnett consequentials of the Government funding announced in the Budget will enable the Scottish Government to play their part, along with private investment.
Taken together, the measures in the Bill will ensure that the UK is at the forefront of this profound technological shift. It will provide cleaner vehicles, easier travel and safer roads—all part of a transport system that works for everyone in this country, both today and in future. I am grateful to everyone who has been involved in working on the passage of the Bill. I hope that it makes a genuine difference. I am grateful to the whole House for uniting behind the Bill’s principles. Let us go forward and make sure that this country is a real success story in this field.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not know whether you remember Raymond Baxter and James Burke all those years ago on “Tomorrow’s World”, saying that vehicles would connect and talk to one another—you are too young, I am sure, but seemingly that day is dawning.
I thank the Government Front-Bench team for the spirit of co-operation in which they have handled the Bill. Had the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) been in his place, I would have thanked him and told him that if Carlsberg did legislation, they would probably do it this way. However, I cannot say that to him because he has gone for his dinner.
As these clauses were largely included in the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill, which was dropped following the Prime Minister’s decision to call a snap general election, they have been scrutinised in Committee in the Commons twice. I place on record my thanks to all those who have been involved so far in improving the legislation. The Transport Secretary is correct when he describes the potential for electric and automated vehicles to transform transport in the coming years. It is right that a Bill is brought forward to allow those technologies to be facilitated and encouraged.
It is necessary to address certain issues successfully, including questions of insurance and what powers are necessary for the development of charging networks, for the UK to stay ahead of the curve on transport. It is right to legislate to encourage research and innovation that will shape how we travel in future and create the highly skilled jobs that our economy needs, as well as tackling the environmental and climate change challenges that confront us. Sadly, road deaths are at a five-year high, but there is considerable potential for automated vehicles vastly to improve road safety, not just by avoiding the errors that lead to so many crashes, but by using the information gathered to aid the design of safer roads and infrastructure in future.
The UK is in the midst of an air pollution crisis that the Government have failed to address. Recent studies show that 50,000 deaths in the UK last year were attributable to air pollution. This is a higher proportion than in Germany, France, Spain and many other European countries. For that reason, I welcome the Government’s commitment to an electric charging infrastructure, as announced in the autumn Budget, and the continuation of limited subsidy schemes for ultra low emission vehicles. The UK is also in a strong position to become a world leader in the production of automated and electric vehicles and to enjoy the greater economic benefits that will flow therefrom, although we may have to cope with the new condition of range anxiety.
The Bill alone does not add up to the wider policy framework that is required for the UK to take advantage of the opportunities presented to us, but it is an important Bill, which we support. Labour wishes to continue to work constructively with the Government in pursuit of these objectives. Creating the insurance frameworks needed to allow automated vehicles on our roads is a necessary step but not itself sufficient. The Transport Secretary has announced that driverless cars will be in operation on UK roads by 2021. Although the Bill is needed if that is to be the case, it is the pace at which the technology develops that will determine whether that target is met.
It is disappointing that the Government chose not to support our amendment in Committee to require a consultation prior to devolving the definition criteria for automated vehicles, which we regard as an unaddressed issue with the Bill. Although road-ready, fully-automated vehicles are still some years away, there has been a significant increase in assistance systems and partial automation over recent years, and those advances are in operation currently. The Bill assumes a clear distinction, but it is not apparent that one exists, and it is important that the Government draw on the available expertise to avoid inaccurate or confusing definitions in the future.
We are also concerned that the Bill does not require the provision of charging points to be distributed across the country more evenly, but I welcome the Minister’s commitment to publishing the Government’s strategy by the end of March—I just hope that that is March of 2018, not of some future year. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) stated earlier, however, the Government have acknowledged the need to monitor closely how charge points are rolled out and the need to get a clear view of where the concentrations of charge points are and what needs to be done to fill in gaps that emerge.
To conclude, when the Bill is debated further in the other place, the noble Lords will in all likelihood look for greater clarity from the Government on their strategy for electric charging infrastructure and how they will ensure a fair geographical spread, so that the benefits of these technological developments can be felt across the country. If we are to secure the opportunities that these exciting technologies present, this is a necessary Bill, and we are happy to support it.
I would like to make a brief contribution to the Third Reading debate of a Bill that I was pleased to be involved with in Committee. Given that quite a lot has already been said, my contribution has been getting briefer by the minute.
It is fair to say that the Bill has widespread support from manufacturers, enthusiasts and insurers alike. Interestingly from my perspective, it has also captured the imagination of my constituents, particularly the young people, as it has recently become the most talked about topic at my regular school visits, which is great news as we look to inspire the engineers of the future. On top of that, official research indicates that the market for automated vehicles will be worth around £28 billion by 2035—so it is set to become a key part of our future economy.
I want to focus on part 1 of the Bill, which covers insurance and liability. As such, I need to declare an interest as chair of the all-party group on insurance and financial services and having previously run my own insurance brokerage for 20 years before being elected. The Bill extends compulsory motor vehicle insurance to cover the use of automated vehicles in automated mode. In view of this, I would like to raise two points with the Secretary of State that I think still need clarification and which do not seem to have been addressed in the amendments. First, given that the users of automated vehicles have to be able to demonstrate that their vehicle was in fully automated mode to exercise their rights under the Bill, what commitments can he give that data confirming the status of the vehicle at the time of the crash will be made available to the insurer? It will be needed not only to establish liability but to prevent delays in paying claims.
Secondly, as I pointed out in Committee, there are concerns in the industry about the software updates. I believe that there is a strong case for making these the manufacturers’ responsibility, particularly where they are of a safety critical nature. Under the Bill, the onus still falls significantly on the insured to carry out software updates, which could be unfair in a number of scenarios. The simple solution—and one that I understand the technology is available for—would be to not allow a vehicle to enter automated mode unless the required software is up to date. I ask the Secretary of State for reassurance on this particular point.
The Bill provides a stepping stone for the future of travel in this country. Automated vehicles will help to reduce the number of accidents and will possibly reduce congestion, while electric vehicles will provide a cleaner environment for the next generation. We know that the environment is a major topical issue for many Members, and for the wider public. We must provide the infrastructure to support electric vehicle owners and to encourage more and more people to join them by removing the barriers that currently exist—particularly in respect of charging, an issue that is raised regularly by my constituents. The challenges that the Bill seeks to address are not just for the future; they are right here and right now.
As I have said, I am very supportive of the Bill, but I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to the points that I have raised.
The Scottish National party broadly supports the Bill and the opportunities that it presents. Autonomous and electric vehicles have the potential to spark technological innovation in the United Kingdom.
Let me begin by being self-indulgent, and—as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on photonics—highlight the role of photonics in autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles require high-quality optical sensors which can cope with all the weather conditions that we experience in the UK, including snow, rain, driving winds and hail. The sensors must be able to “see” the road, and vehicles, in all those conditions. They currently cost about £150,000 a go, which is 10 times the price of a car that someone might wish to buy, and we need to think about how we could lower the cost.
The UK is the world leader in optical sensor technology. A company called Barr and Stroud, which was established close to my constituency, in Byres Road in the west end of Glasgow, evolved into Thales, which is now based in Govan. We also have Leonardo, based in Edinburgh. Those defence companies are looking at optical sensor systems, but proper investment in photonics companies would allow optical sensors produced by them to be at the forefront of autonomous vehicle technology.
Annually, 1.7 million cars are made in the UK. If the cost of an optical sensor system for a driverless car could be brought to a reasonable cost—£1,000, say—that would produce a UK market of £1.7 billion. Let us expand that, and look at the worldwide annual requirement for cars. Given that 95 million cars are made annually, there is a real opportunity for UK optical sensors to compete in a £100 billion market. I hope that the Government will be able to support that, both through the Bill and through the industrial strategy.
Electric vehicles, which have been discussed extensively this evening, have great potential to clean up city centres and improve air quality, but that should not be done in isolation. It is erroneous to say that electric vehicles are clean, given that the method of generating electricity in the first place is dirty. We are simply moving the pollution from one location to another. I urge the Government to consider supporting the renewable sector, so that electric vehicles truly can be clean. We also need to recognise the wider economic and social benefits—jobs and air quality, and associated health benefits. In Scotland alone, a low-carbon economy supports 58,000 jobs and is estimated to be worth £10 billion.
A number of Members have mentioned charging points. Scotland has one of the most comprehensive charging networks in Europe, involving domestic properties, urban and rural settings, and, of course, the vast road network. I call on the United Kingdom Government to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that the whole UK benefits. The funding must be needs-based: it must not simply be about population share and sector share.
In Committee, we had assurances on consultation regarding working with the Scottish Government on grid management, a charging point strategy, locations of charging points and ensuring that rural locations were not left out. It would be useful to hear a little more about that. Management of the grid has been talked about, and Government new clause 1 on monitoring data makes perfect sense to avoid spikes. Grid management, where data captures can be considered, already allows buildings to operate in a smart manner, and hopefully charging points can operate similarly. But losses from the grid have not been mentioned. The grid operates with ancient copper cables at some points, and the resistance in the copper cabling leads to great energy losses. There is developing technology in superconductors, which would reduce the losses greatly, but again that would need Government investment. I hope as part of this Bill, and in the next few years, the Government look seriously at supporting not just renewables for electric cars, and not just the photonics industry, but the superconductor industry to allow efficient charging and energy transfer.
It has been a pleasure to serve on the Bill Committee and the predecessor Bill Committee and I agree with the comments made: this is an exemplar of how Committees should work. I thank the shadow Front-Bench team and all my colleagues in the Committee for what was a very constructive session.
As we prepare to send the Bill to the other place, I would like to say that the Government approach on the Bill is right in setting the general frameworks on issues such as insurance and the charging network. We do not yet know the full details of where the new technology will take us, so having the broad outline—we can fill in the details later—is the correct approach.
Although important in itself, the Bill and the role of the Department for Transport are only one part of the broader picture. This issue covers many different Departments. It involves the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: we must make sure that the grid has the capacity and that we have the skills base in the country to make the most of this technology. It covers the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government: we must make sure that local government involvement is correct and that when we plan our smart cities the Bill is part of a much broader framework. We also have to pick up some of the more detailed issues, such as the one my constituent Mark Nicholas raised. At present in Milton Keynes, there is an abuse of the parking spaces with charging points. He wants to see a higher penalty for drivers of combustion engines who use those spaces.
The issue involves the Home Office and the security services as they must consider data privacy issues and cyber-security. These automated networks will only be as secure as their weakest link. It also involves the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and its broader clean air strategy and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: we must make sure that we have the digital framework that will support the connectivity of all these vehicles.
This is a good Bill. I am proud to have been a part of its passage through this place and I wish it every success in the other place.
Like many other Members. I pay tribute to the work done by the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) and the way he conducted himself in the Bill Committee; he worked with everyone in a consensual manner.
I welcome the Bill as far as it goes. Sometimes people say that electric vehicles, particularly electric cars, will be the panacea for the UK’s current air quality issues, but electric cars themselves are not going to make that huge change to air quality, which is contributing to 40,000 premature deaths a year. We are going to need to look at tackling heavy goods vehicles, including the transport refrigeration units that many HGVs use, as they are powered by secondary diesel generators, which are more polluting than the lorry’s main diesel engine. That is the crazy position that we are in. We also need to look at construction vehicles, which also contribute greatly to diesel pollution in city centres, as well as at buses and taxis. The UK Government’s 2040 target for the elimination of carbon-based vehicles needs to be more ambitious. The Scottish Government have set a target of 2032 and I suggest that the UK Government should at least be able to match that.
Many hon. Members have agreed that there needs to be uniformity in the roll-out and type of infrastructure, as well as clarity on the costs. People will need clear information on the availability and type of chargers throughout the UK. If we are going to address range anxiety, that information will need to be clearly available and understood. The previous Minister committed to ensuring that there would be a rural roll-out strategy and that rural areas would not be left behind. I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State also seemed to indicate that that would be the case. It is really important that we start work on that rural roll-out strategy and that rural areas are not left behind in the way that they have been with 4G and 5G network coverage. As I said earlier, the Business Secretary has agreed that funds must be allocated on the basis of need. I reiterate that point to the Transport Secretary. The allocations must be needs-based, not population-based. This is not about Barnett consequentials.
Another issue that will need to be addressed involves the competence, skills and qualifications required for technicians to be able to service and work on electric vehicles. Given the high voltage of the batteries installed in them, those people will need to understand what they are doing when they open the bonnet and start work on them. As we look towards the smart grid set-up that everyone keeps talking about, it is clear that Government energy policies will need to be more coherent. The UK Government will need to review their funding of renewables. They should not continue to throw money at nuclear energy. They also need to review transmission charging, so that electricity generation can be located in the most suitable areas.
We look forward to the roll-out of automated vehicles, but trials need to be undertaken in Scotland. The Government have funded four trials so far, but none of them has been in Scotland. I suggest that they need to address that point quite quickly. We look forward to an increased uptake in electric vehicles and to seeing autonomous vehicles on the roads. It was suggested in Committee that the roll-out of autonomous vehicles will open up opportunities for disabled and elderly people and for others who might be housebound and trapped or who rely on other people to provide their transport. The vehicles could therefore provide opportunities to address equality issues, and I welcome the innovation as the vehicles are rolled out.
It looks as though I am bringing up the last of the Back Benchers, Mr Deputy Speaker, and it is a great pleasure to do so. I shall limit my observations to the part of the Bill that deals with autonomous vehicles. To my mind, what gets discussed in the corridors and the Tea Room should probably stay there, but this is an important Bill so I shall break my own rules of discretion to relate to the House an important discussion that took place with the then Minister of State for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes). The subject turned to the personal private transport of the future. The Bill encompasses that brave new world. The basic automation technology is already with us and it is rapidly evolving.
Among other things, the Bill attempts to resolve issues relating to software and insurance, and it is the software part that I would like, perhaps wryly, to comment on this evening. If other Members’ computers are anything like mine, they will know that the “not responding” message features all too commonly. It is followed by frustration on my part as I press ctrl+alt+delete to try to stop the offending application. Just imagine that at 70 mph in a 1 tonne vehicle of the future. Will software updates be regular, perhaps hourly, via an in-built mobile SIM card? The interpretation of the never-seen-before accident involving perhaps an errant sheep, a drunken cyclist and tin of paint falling from a white Transit van on the Thanet Way would need to be fed into the artificial intelligence algorithm that is doing the clever stuff and running the software.
Two Arnold Schwarzenegger films come to mind: “Total Recall” and the “Terminator” series. “Total Recall” featured the automated JohnnyCab and, while some Members scratch their head and try to remember it, I want to compare it with the current flexibility of Uber and the other similar apps that we live with today. As we take the inherently illogical human being behind the wheel out of the equation, I wonder what the point will be in the future of maintaining one’s own vehicle—a vehicle that spends 95% of its time completely unused. I use a free GPS navigation software called Navmii—Google Maps does the same thing—and people who use it will have noticed the red and amber on the screen telling the driver that there is traffic ahead, information which is based on the shared GPS speeds of the software’s myriad users. As a human, I can probably then make a rather sub-optimal decision as to whether to press on or to find an alternative route, and some navigation systems will already suggest an alternative route.
I ask Members to extrapolate things forward a few years to where the potential use of even more refined and extensive data will get us. Assessment could be made of car usage and times of travel, and hold-ups could be minimised through clever routing. With appropriate computer-generated tweaking of travel times, it could be determined for any particular town that x number of vehicles are required, with a bit to spare. That pool of autonomous vehicles could be available 24/7 either on a pay-as-you-go or fixed-price basis via an app, and personal car ownership could become a quaint memory of a bygone era. The physical number of cars would obviously be massively reduced, leading to implications for the car industry. Might the new JohnnyCab—the autonomous private vehicle of the future—be given a new name? Perhaps it could be called the Hayes or Norman after its ministerial fathers. Will domestic conversations of the future involve something like, “I will just finish the vacuuming, then let’s call our personal autonomous vehicle so we can go out.”? I would rather that they go something like this: “I’ll just finish the Hoovering, then let’s call a Hayes so we can go out.”
I will finish with Arnie’s “Terminator” films. Perhaps the end of the human race will come not at the hands of robots connected to Skynet looking to terminate us all in an orgy of violence, nor from a yet-to-be-mutated bacterium or an asteroid strike, but from future JohnnyCabs or Hayes or Norman vehicles, controlled in the cloud by “Taxinet”, deciding that we do not deserve what they do for us and crashing simultaneously into walls and trees. However, it is more likely—this is the serious part—that the crashes could be caused by an aggressive computer virus from a hostile nation. In future, beware those countries where the people simply prefer to drive themselves.
This is a great Bill, and I fully support it.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.