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Transport Decarbonisation

Volume 693: debated on Thursday 29 April 2021

What recent steps his Department has taken to help facilitate transport decarbonisation in line with the Government’s commitments to (a) the Paris agreement and (b) COP26. (914911)

What recent steps his Department has taken to help facilitate transport decarbonisation in line with the Government’s commitments to (a) the Paris agreement and (b) COP26. (914912)

The transport decarbonisation plan will set out transport contributions to net zero, and we continue to work with our international partners ahead of COP26.

Promoting and investing in cycling and active travel is essential if we are to reduce car journeys. The Scottish Government already spend over £15 per person, compared with just over £7 in England—more than twice as much. The SNP has pledged to increase that investment to over 10% of the transport capital budget. Does the Secretary of State agree that that is the sort of ambition required to drive real change, and will his Government commit to replicating it in England?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me an opportunity to talk about our active travel plans. With £2 billion-worth of spending, the Barnett consequentials from that will no doubt give him something to boast about in the future—but invented in Downing Street and, I hope, delivered in Scotland.

Shipping is a significant contributor to carbon emissions and pollution around the world. We all know that change is coming, but investment and incentives are required now, so what support will the Secretary of State’s Department provide to those in our maritime and shipping sectors as part of the Government’s commitment to moving towards net zero shipping?

That is absolutely right. The shipping industry is one of the harder to decarbonise areas of the economy. However, technologies such as hydrogen have a big part to play, so this Government are putting a lot of research and development investment behind hydrogen in particular with a view to shipping. We have just announced the Teesside hydrogen hub, the country’s first, to help develop more of those technologies, and the hon. Gentleman will not be disappointed by our ambition through our transport decarbonisation plan.

As we have heard, the Government are finally, finally inching forward with a fraction of their 4,000 green bus plan, but in Scotland orders have already been placed for the equivalent of 2,720 battery electric buses, with many more to come. At the Transport Committee, Baroness Vere called this investment “brilliant”. Graham Vidler of the Confederation of Passenger Transport also welcomed it, plus the £5 billion equivalent on bus infrastructure, and called the Scottish Government’s commitment to reducing car journeys by 20% by decade’s end a

“big, bold and ambitious target that we would like to see matched in the UK Government’s decarbonisation plan”.

Will you match it, Secretary of State?

Once again, I am very pleased that the Barnett consequentials ensure that money is available to spend in Scotland. We should welcome the fact that £3 billion is going to buses. The hon. Gentleman mentions the £120 million we have announced for zero-emission buses in 2021-22, which will give many hundreds of buses a start on the production line. We are on target to deliver all 4,000 that we have promised to start building in this Parliament.

That is not what the industry says. The gap in ambition is simply startling. The SNP plans to have the majority of fossil fuel buses removed from service by 2023. This Government’s plans represent just one tenth of the English fleet. When we consider that, along with commitments and action on rail decarbonisation with a nationalised ScotRail, increasing the active travel budget to 10% of transport capital, free bikes for children who cannot afford them, interest-free loans for electric cars and free bus travel for under-22s, does the Secretary of State agree that if Scots want that progressive and decarbonised future it has to be both votes SNP next Thursday?

Funnily enough, I do not agree. It is worth the hon. Gentleman’s Scottish voters understanding that that money is available through the Barnett consequentials. If bus services were as good as is claimed, then it would not be the case that in Dundee bus users were being warned just last November to expect big changes to services, the worst since the 1950s, which would have negative impacts for older people and those dependent on bus services. I do not think it is quite as rosy as he likes to make it sound. This Government in Westminster are committed to decarbonising the whole of the United Kingdom.