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Electric Vehicles: Zero Emissions

Volume 728: debated on Thursday 2 March 2023

2. What recent progress he has made on the implementation of the zero emission mandate for electric vehicles. [R] (903819)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is great to see you in such robust form this morning, if I may say so.

A technical consultation on the zero-emission vehicle mandate design’s features was held between April and June of last year. Responses to that consultation are currently being analysed, and the Government will publish their response, alongside a final consultation on the full regulatory proposal, and an accompanying cost-benefit analysis, in the near future.

The industry is extremely concerned about the timings, and fears that it will be left with just six months before implementation on 1 January 2024. Most industry observers would say that at least 24 months is needed for a successful mandate to be introduced. Does he agree that the industry should be concerned about this, and that we need to act much more quickly? Should the Government not also be looking at delivering an infrastructure mandate?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions. Of course, he will be aware that this is an extremely complex issue, because it involves manufacturers, charge-point providers, energy suppliers and other players in this important and evolving market. There was a Green Paper consultation in 2021. There has been a second consultation on technical issues, as I say, and we work very closely with all those players, and the industry, precisely to ensure that, when this lands with all of its complexities, which it will do in the near future, it lands properly, effectively, and to the benefit of all.

The constituency of Gainsborough is 600 square miles, and it takes half an hour to get anywhere even when travelling at the speed limit. What is the Government plan to help rural areas when electric vehicles become mandatory for sale in 2030?

As my right hon. Friend will be aware, the Government’s plan is for more than 300,000 charge points to be in place by then. That will be led largely by the private sector, and we meet regularly with all the charge point operators. Their plans are escalating and will be massively supported and benefited by the zero-emission vehicle mandate. With that, and technological advances, we anticipate that there will be ample opportunity for people in rural areas to use electric vehicles.

Last year, UK car production slumped to a 66-year low. The covid pandemic, supply chain shortages, and chaos at Dover have left this key industry fighting for survival. Manufacturers are crying out for a shred of certainty, but far from supporting them and the 150,000 workers they employ, this Government are leaving them in a state of limbo. With less than a year to go before it takes effect, why is the Minister still keeping the design of the zero-emission vehicle mandate a well-guarded secret? When can manufacturers expect finally to get some clarity from the Government to allow them to plan for the future?

The hon. Lady wildly overstates the issue with regard to electric vehicles. In 2022, we had the second largest market across Europe for electric vehicles, which demonstrates the level of energy and support we are giving the industry, including £2 billion of public money. We consult closely with both large car manufacturers and small manufacturers, who have quite different interests in many different ways. They will be quite comfortable with this important mandate when it comes out, and they will be because we have consulted extensively on it with them over the past two years.

Although we support a zero-emission vehicle mandate to accelerate the switch to zero-emission driving, the Government need to get a grip on it. Businesses—be they manufacturers, dealerships or fleet purchasers—cannot plan, and consumers are in the dark. That chimes with the overall approach to zero-emission driving, with just over 7,000 EV charging installations last year when 33,000 are required annually to meet the 300,000 target. Will we hear more about the mandate, the charger network expansion and equalising the VAT levied on home charging versus street charging in the upcoming Budget?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I will not comment on the Budget; as a former Financial Secretary, I will certainly not attempt to trespass on the Treasury’s prerogative on tax issues. What he will know, of course, is that the vast majority of that investment is coming from the private sector. Of course, that will itself be massively boosted by the zero-emission vehicle mandate. I met one of the largest charge point operators only this week, and they were perfectly clear that the one thing that will do more than anything else, not just to reduce carbon but to support the development of that industry and that transition, is the mandate, which we will publish, as I say, in the near future.