Committee (2nd Day)
Clause 8: Definitions
37: Clause 8, page 5, line 39, after “charging” insert “or refuelling”
My Lords, this is a large group of amendments, all of which are connected with hydrogen as a form of fuel for cars and other vehicles. Many of these amendments are simple and straightforward, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, for subscribing to some of them.
The Government are in danger of choosing electricity and electric cars and vehicles by default simply because hydrogen is not mentioned except at one point in the Bill, yet hydrogen is a viable alternative fuel, albeit at an earlier stage of development. The fact that it is not in the Title of the Bill is crucial and that is the point behind Amendment 108. The fact that hydrogen does not feature properly in the Bill was the subject of much criticism in the other place, but shoe-horning the word “hydrogen” into just one place in the Bill is totally inadequate. It certainly does not send the right signals to the industry, potential purchasers or manufacturers.
As noble Lords will know, creating hydrogen for powering cars and other vehicles is a water-to-water process via electrolysis, and most hydrogen cars are fuel cell. The only output is water. Therefore, it does not have emissions problems. Moreover, hydrogen has advantages over electricity, and here I declare an interest as the owner of an electric car. It takes only five minutes to refuel a hydrogen vehicle and it has a range of around 400 miles so you do not have range anxiety in the same way. The market model for hydrogen, however, is likely to be much closer to that for petrol and diesel in that electric charging points can be put on every street corner or even into every lamp-post—something that we will come to later—or in the driveway if you have one, but it is not possible to have hydrogen pumps in those situations. Hydrogen would be provided on a large scale in specific fuelling stations, possibly even alongside petrol and diesel, although suitably separate for safety reasons.
There is another issue, which is that a hydrogen pump costs around £500,000 to install, so it is heaps more expensive. That is a very important factor to hold on to when thinking about the development of this market. It is the lack of infrastructure that is currently holding back sales. Those cars that exist are mainly in fleets with a pump installed on sites where dozens or perhaps hundreds of cars are parked overnight. We have the example of the Minister Jo Johnson supporting the concept of the development of hydrogen trains, which already exist in Germany. Buses are becoming a viable option, and I believe London is purchasing hydrogen vehicles, while HGVs are also a possibility. There are some refuelling pumps already. For example, there is one on the M25 next to a Shell station, and around 10 stations in the UK. It is therefore clear that the fuel is not yet viable.
Most of my amendments would simply add the word “refuelling” wherever the Bill refers to charging points. The aim behind doing this is that those working in the sector have said to me that you do not charge a hydrogen car any more than you would charge a petrol car; you refuel it. The Bill needs to acknowledge this by using the term “refuelling” to describe the process. This might seem minor, but it would send a signal to investors and to the markets, although the impression that the Bill appears to give is that the Government have chosen electricity and are ignoring hydrogen and, indeed, all the other varied technologies. Without really meaning to, the language of the Bill could, I believe, entrench an already difficult situation in relation to the development of the infrastructure.
It is far too simplistic simply to add “refuelling” to “recharging” everywhere in the Bill, but I have tabled these probing amendments because what is needed is a totally separate strategy. As I have said, you cannot make hydrogen pumps available in the same locations as electricity charging points, so the Government need to develop a separate strategy. What we need is a whole separate clause in the Bill, and I would ask the Minister whether the Government will now do this. I personally did not feel up to writing an additional clause, but I am sure that the noble Baroness has officials who will be only too pleased to oblige.
Do the Government have a strategy for the development of hydrogen vehicles? My Amendment 56, which proposes a report on the issue, is an attempt to encourage the Government to develop a strategy if they do not have one. A strategy is needed urgently because the technology is there but the infrastructure is failing the development of these vehicles. The Government talk all the time; every new initiative is accompanied by the words, “We want to be world leaders”. Of course, we are all ambitious for our country, but we are already behind on this issue. China and Japan are well ahead of us. Germany is ahead of us on trains. We need to catch up; to do so, the Government need a properly formed strategy. I am told that Toyota, Hyundai, Honda and Daimler have already committed to developing this market. Now, they need the Government to provide the legislative framework that will create the infrastructure they need to succeed.
My Lords, I shall speak to the amendments to which I have lent my name, particularly Amendment 39. I begin by declaring my interest as an employee of the charity Environmental Defense Fund Europe, which works to find solutions for environmental issues including climate change and air quality.
Today, we turn to Part 2 of the Bill. We must begin by considering the important issue of whether the Bill, as drafted, is fit for purpose. The latest figures show that the UK is failing to get a grip on transport and emissions and is in danger of missing key climate and air quality targets. Meanwhile, we are spending public money and valuable parliamentary resource on debating a narrow and essentially toothless transport Bill. Transport now accounts for the biggest proportion of greenhouse gases in the UK at 26%, according to 2016 figures. While other sectors, such as the power sector, have been successfully decarbonising—spurring new investment, new supply chains, new jobs and more export potential—the transport sector is stuck in a time warp, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it needs to change to meet society’s needs in the 21st century. Those needs include cities free of pollution and a world not exposed to the existential risk of climate change.
Attempts have been made to get the vehicle manufacturing industry to change course. EU standards were imposed on emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants. However, rather than responding with investment in new zero-emission vehicles, manufacturers chose instead to sell us diesel cars and install cheating devices. Having been caught once, there is no real sign that, left to their own devices, they are prepared to make a fundamental change. New, innovative zero-emission models are prototyped and were announced with great fanfare, but there is almost no effort to market them and customers find themselves frustrated by long waiting lists as demand outstrips supply. Only strict new policies, introduced in China, have caused the OEMs to rethink their investment and marketing plans—but only for the Chinese market. In Europe, as people are ditching their diesel cars, the only option available to many is to return to petrol cars. That exacerbates climate change and fails to address other sources of air pollution associated with petrol, such as benzine.
Recent analysis of monthly car sales in the UK shows that although petrol and diesel sales have been roughly equal for much of this decade, petrol sales jumped up last month by around 20% while diesel sales fell by around the same amount. Zero-emission vehicles, in the form of battery electric vehicles, were just 0.5% of sales. Hydrogen-fuelled vehicle sales remained so low as to not feature in the analysis, which brings me to today’s amendments. It is abundantly clear that the Government do not yet have a cohesive strategy to bring about a clean transition in transport. There has been talk of a ban on the sale of internal combustion engines in 2040, but I am afraid that that is simply not good enough. Children and old people in our cities are regularly exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution and transport continues to use far too high a proportion of our carbon budgets; that threatens to further worsen our ability to meet our legally binding greenhouse gas targets, which the CCC—the Committee on Climate Change—has already said we are in danger of missing.
Here in London, where pollution is routinely the worst in the country, zero-emission vehicle sales are failing to keep pace with the rest of the country. They were at 38% of all sales in 2011, but have fallen to just 10% in 2017. We need action now, not in 22 years’ time. The Bill, which began life as the modern transport Bill and has been reincarnated as the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, addresses a far too narrow set of issues. With just enabling powers, it is an empty vessel with little to no impact, which the lightweight impact assessment makes abundantly clear.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, has sought to address one of the Bill’s clear failings by rightly pointing out that the Government’s approach to providing infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles needs to take into account hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, which are mentioned in the Bill, but then there are no further references throughout. This is a potentially important category of vehicles that combines the efficiency of electric motors with hydrogen fuel to extend the range to hundreds of miles per journey. The Bill acknowledges that these are intended to be included under the definition of electric vehicles but fails to take the next step, which is to address the need to consider hydrogen refuelling infrastructure alongside electric charging infrastructure. We strongly support the noble Baroness’s amendments to address the issue and believe that if the Government cannot accept them then they should come forward with their own amendments to address the omissions in the Bill relating to hydrogen fuel vehicles.
Of course, what is really required is an entirely new clause devoted to other forms of zero-emission vehicles, including hydrogen—something that it is impossible to achieve with amendments alone. My Amendment 39, which would add a definition of zero-emissions vehicles to the Bill, relates to Amendment 98 on reporting requirements, which we will come on to. My purpose in tabling Amendment 39 is to try to link the Bill to the Government’s own manifesto commitment that by 2050 almost all cars and vans will be zero-emission vehicles. Achieving that goal will not happen by magic. It will not happen by stating that there could be a ban on internal combustion engines by 2040. It will happen only with a comprehensive policy framework that causes significant change to be delivered in the sector. The private sector must still be in charge of how that change is delivered, but it has shown itself to be incapable of driving the necessary change on its own. Government intervention will be needed. A comprehensive strategy and policy framework is sorely missing.
In the accompanying Explanatory Notes to the Bill there is a sentence that reads:
“The Bill … sets out the regulatory framework to enable new transport technology to be invented, designed, made and used in the United Kingdom”.
As it stands, there is absolutely nothing in the Bill that concretely contributes to the meeting of that goal. I and others in the House have sought to address the Bill’s manifold shortcomings but the narrow drafting has prevented us from tabling all but the most limited of amendments. Nevertheless, in the course of today’s debate I hope we can present our case to the Minister that the Bill is sadly a missed opportunity. There is a very real and urgent need for a much more complex approach to transport technologies. We need to see zero-emission fuels properly addressed, including hydrogen. We hope that the Government will be persuaded to come forward with their own amendments.
My Lords, I will intervene briefly to make what I can only describe as a very trivial point. The Industry and Parliament Trust wrote to me and a number of my colleagues in the last few weeks telling us that there would be a breakfast meeting in the House on 1 May. I do not think that it realises that some of us simply cannot turn up for breakfast meetings on this extremely important issue. I raise this in the Chamber because it is important that it realises that these are problems for some Members. I would have attended because it is a fascinating area of development.
In particular, my interest is in the possibility of applying this kind of technology to lorries, which is what has happened in America. There have been tests. In so far as commercial vehicles are the major polluters, we should be doing everything possible to ensure that they are in the front line of the shift to this technology. As I said, I hope that the Industry and Parliament Trust has that in mind when it arranges these meetings in the future, because it means that some of us are denied the opportunity of the very excellent work that it does on many issues that come before Parliament.
My Lords, I did go to that breakfast, so I have heard the hydrogen manifesto, as it were. I also attended a dinner last night arranged by ChargePoint and witnessed my first outbreak of range anxiety among electric car owners, who explained at some length and some volume that 120 miles with the lights on meant about 50 miles. The battery electric formula has still a long way to go. There are many areas where hydrogen might be used, the classic example being buses in London. Hydrogen needs greater emphasis in the Bill. I hope that the Minister will be able to bring forward amendments to produce a little more balance in the Bill so that it does not so blatantly presume a battery solution.
My Lords, as I stated at Second Reading, it is this Government’s ambition that every car and van will be zero-emission by 2050. The Government are using a range of tools, including tax incentives and grant schemes alongside regulation and legislation. I acknowledge the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, on the narrow scope of the Bill. The Bill focuses specifically on areas that we have identified as needing the regulatory tools available to intervene in the market so that we might ensure that the UK’s charging infrastructure is easy to use for consumers and that charging is “smart” to reduce impacts to the grid. I agree that we need a much wider strategy. That is exactly what we are working on—although, I am afraid, not in this Bill.
The Government’s upcoming strategy will set out their approach to the transition to zero-emission road transport and drive down emissions from conventional vehicles during the transition. It will include hydrogen vehicles. I apologise that the strategy has not yet been published. We are working hard with other departments and the industry to ensure that the strategy is as strong and ambitious as possible.
Our commitment to zero-emission vehicles is technology neutral. This means that we want to drive forward the development and deployment of any technologies that can deliver a zero-emissions future. At the moment, that capability is limited to battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, although we do not want to rule out other innovations.
The level of support provided to these technologies is dictated by the maturity of their respective markets. There are very few hydrogen fuel cell vehicles currently being manufactured globally—I believe that some 6,500 such vehicles were sold last year.
As noble Lords have said, refuelling infrastructure availability is a key potential barrier to rollout of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, which is why they are included in the Bill. Despite that, the UK has secured the position as one of the world-leading, but still embryonic, markets. We believe that hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are an important technology, alongside battery electric vehicles, for decarbonising road transport.
This is why, since 2014, we have provided £5 million to fund 12 new hydrogen refuelling stations and £2 million for public and private sector fleets to become early adopters of the vehicles—as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said, commercial vehicles can contribute disproportionately highly to pollution, so that is something we are working on. It is also why we announced an additional £23 million in March last year to leverage a ramp-up in investments from industry in refuelling infrastructure and vehicle deployment out to 2020.
It has always been the intent of the Bill to include both hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric vehicles. That is explained in Clause 8(1)(c), which makes it clear that hydrogen refuelling points are included in the definition of “public charging point”, but I take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on charging versus refuelling.
The powers relating to infrastructure provision in motorway service areas and large fuel retailers in Clauses 9, 10 and 11 therefore cover the provision of hydrogen refuelling points. As we have said, the infrastructure around hydrogen will be incredibly important. Having points at those key positions is one thing we will act on. Draft regulations will include hydrogen refuelling points as well as electric battery charging points.
On Amendment 39 and the definitions of “electric vehicle” and “zero-emission vehicle”, as we have said, this part of the Bill is focused on charging or refuelling infrastructure for vehicles. Such infrastructure is defined by reference to its capacity to recharge either battery or hydrogen-propelled vehicles. We think that the Bill includes the relevant definitions necessary in relation to refuelling points. In addition, there is a definition of “electric vehicle” in legislation already, as the definition contained in the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulations made last year mirrors the definition proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. Given that the definitions in the Bill already work as intended, we do not think there is a need to duplicate the definition of “electric vehicle” within the Bill.
Many of the amendments proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, would add “refuelling” throughout the Bill wherever “public charging point” is mentioned. Following our discussion at Second Reading I have looked at this carefully but we consider the wording sufficiently clear for the legal purposes of this piece of legislation. If we were to accept these changes there would be an unnecessary duplication. I thank the noble Baroness for her amendment to review the impact of the provisions in this Act on the development of the hydrogen fuel cell market. I reassure her that the Government value reviewing the effectiveness of all our regulations. We have outlined in the policy scoping notes that, even before the regulations are made, the Government will continue to monitor the development of the hydrogen fuel cell market and work with industry and relevant bodies to ensure that any regulations bought forward will have a positive impact, and that once regulations are made we will monitor their effectiveness. I will take this away ahead of Report, however, to see if there is anything we can add to the Bill to make it clear that the Government are committed to this review process.
On changing the Title, again I appreciate the intent behind the change to make it explicit that hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are also included in the Bill. We have tried to be clear about our support for both battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, and the Bill supports this ambition. We will continue to make that commitment clear to the consumer and give industry the confidence to invest in both technologies to drive the uptake in zero-emission vehicles. I hope that I have clarified that hydrogen fuel cell refuelling is very much included within this Bill, but I take the point that, while it is legally correct, the insertion of the word “hydrogen” may well send a message to investors, the market and industry on this. I very much take the point on charging versus refuelling. I cannot promise a whole new section in the Bill on hydrogen but I will take this away and consider it again, and I hope that at this stage the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
I thank the Minister for her response, but I emphasise that this Government are very keen on extremely narrow Bills. What we end up with is a transport policy with little dots of policy and great gaps in between, and hydrogen is falling through that gap, if I can put it that way. The Minister started with the ambition for 2050. That is a very distant date. It is so distant as to be meaningless as a spur to action. We need a much nearer date and possibly a different target to spur a change in people’s way of buying vehicles, vehicle manufacture and the way vehicles are owned and operated.
The Minister said that the Bill is intended to be technology neutral, but if you have a Title that talks about electric cars and does not mention hydrogen cars, then by definition you are not technology neutral. The message is out there in the industry that the Government’s preferred option is electric cars and that they are not interested in hydrogen. I think something pretty remedial needs to be done with the Bill to put that right. I was pleased to hear that the Government are developing a hydrogen strategy and that it will in due course be published, but will the Minister, either now or in a letter, clarify whether we can expect a separate Bill on other forms of zero and ultra low emission vehicles?
Once again, “world-leading” has been repeated. I say to the Minister that we are not world-leading in this market. Potential and actual investors regret that we are not world-leading. To change this, the Title needs to be changed and there needs to be a separate section, because it is very difficult for somebody looking for the law on hydrogen vehicles to know that they should look for it in a piece of legislation about electric vehicles. That is not logical. Really, the Government should look at legislation that will stimulate as well as regulate the market, and this does not do that for hydrogen. However, I am very pleased that the Minister has said she will consider these things before Report and therefore I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 37 withdrawn.
Amendments 38 and 39 not moved.
Clause 8 agreed.
Clause 9: Public charging points: access and connection
40: Clause 9, page 6, line 5, leave out “may” and insert “must”
My Lords, the amendments in this group do two things. They change the word “may” to “must” throughout the Bill and they seek to introduce a time limit against which the Government must produce the regulations mentioned in the Bill. As I hope I was able to convey in my opening remarks, we feel that the Bill has not represented a judicious use of parliamentary time. It is incredibly lightweight. Even the things we are debating today are purely enabling powers: there is nothing in the Bill that compels anybody to do anything at any time. I would hate anyone to leave this process thinking that this is in some way a step forward in our becoming world leaders in energy transition; it is anything but. It could be accused of being simply window dressing.
It would be lovely for this Government to end this parliamentary Session by saying, “We have passed a Bill on autonomous, automatic or electric vehicles; aren’t we great?” Anyone who does not then look at the detail might think, “That’s very progressive of them; that sounds very green”, but in reality this is merely a collection of incredibly small, narrow measures which “may” be enacted, should the Secretary of State wish to do so: nothing in the Bill compels anyone to do anything. The intent of these amendments is to at least say that these regulations will be passed; otherwise, why are we here? What are we doing? We have no sight, at the moment, of any draft regulations. That is regrettable, given that the Bill started life as a modern transport Bill several years ago, possibly—I am losing track—yet we still have no detail from the department as to what the regulations will contain. It is simply not good enough, given the amount of money and resource that this is taking at a time when time is so scarce. Given the preoccupation with Brexit, it is, frankly, a dereliction of duty.
So we are seeking to add something to the Bill, otherwise it really is quite a pointless exercise. With Amendment 101 we are saying that the regulations really must be published within a year of the passing of the Bill. I hope there will then be a consultation process on the regulations and a year should be enough time for the Government to conduct that consultation and issue the regulations so that the industry knows where it stands and is able to move forward and make investments. I am sure it will not have gone unnoticed by many in this House that industry is having a rather tough time at the moment making investment decisions in Great Britain. The reasons are fairly obvious, but one thing we can do is give it some certainty around our leadership on green measures and the fact that we are intent on transforming our energy sector, including transport. That would, I hope, unlock further investment, as we have seen in Sunderland with Nissan, in the future of transport, not yesterday’s technologies. This is an important issue to discuss. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response. I would really like to hear when we can expect draft regulations to be published and when we can see the detail. I would like to hear some reassurances that these are not just enabling powers but there is an intent to use them and to bring those regulations forward. I would like a sense of the timeframe.
It was stated in response to the previous debate that the legal advice is that there is sufficient clarity in the Bill for us to assume that hydrogen vehicles and hydrogen charging are included. Frankly, as with the rest of the Bill, I am not persuaded that that will pass muster. Investors do not have clarity from the Bill. If the enabling powers on the large fuel retailers are to be taken and enacted and we are going to require them to put in electric charging, are we also going to require them to put in hydrogen charging? Is this just an exercise in signalling or are we seriously going to do this? If we are, we need to see those regulations and they need to be changed to “must” rather than “may”, and we need to see a timeline; otherwise, nobody has any certainty and the industry will see investment drying up, as it is already. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response. I beg to move.
My Lords, this is an extremely important amendment. I say that as a result of going to that dinner last night in the House of Commons which my noble friend on the Front Bench referred to. It was quite an extraordinary occasion. I did not realise how utterly disorganised this whole sector is. We had all the leaders from the industry around that dining table explaining to us what their problems were and in some cases being quite defensive about how they were able to handle those problems. I was shocked because I had never been to a parliamentary dinner where people had become so angry. There was one lady there from the Commons who was so angry that she could hardly contain herself. She had bought an electric-powered vehicle and wanted to sell it off because she was so dissatisfied with the service.
As I watched what was happening, it dawned on me that the people round the table were in two groups. There were those who wanted fiercer regulation, the backing of the law and help in ensuring that a structure was put in place. Others around the table were the deregulators, who did not want any sense of regulation and thought it could be left to the market. My conclusion after two and a half hours at this dinner was that the regulators were winning the discussion because it became obvious that unless there was greater regulation—and, I might say, real regulation, not guidance; there was even a fierce argument at the table about guidance versus regulation—very little would happen and, indeed, the industry could potentially be destroyed.
I went to that meeting last night thinking, “I’m going to have an electric vehicle in two or three years’ time”. I will not now, not after what I heard last night. Anyone listening to that discussion would have drawn the same conclusion. I have great hopes for the future of electric power. I spoke at Second Reading on this matter and strongly advocated the case. I passionately believe that we have to go down that route. But the state has to be prepared to intervene.
The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, is concerned that it is all “may”—it may not happen, we do not know what will happen at what stage and there is no timetable. Ministers have to be much clearer and stronger in their resolution. It might well be that the discussions with the industry to date have been rather loose. They have not really tried to tie down Ministers in taking decisions on the way forward. Real decisions have to be taken soon; for example, on charging points. In the consultation document there was reference to inter- operability, easy public access, 24-hour service and maintenance, accountability of information on charging points, and standardisation of equipment. All these matters need dealing with now. We do not need delay. I say to the Minister, and I am not exaggerating: this industry could be gravely damaged unless there is a far more open discussion and real intervention by the Government to support it at an early stage.
My Lords, the co-pilot is in charge of this group of amendments. Like other noble Lords, I start by declaring my interest as we approach Part 2 of the Bill. Two and a half years ago I bought an all-electric vehicle with the assistance of a government grant, and with the assistance of a government grant I had a charge point installed on the outside of my home. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, that I drive past where he lives in my electric car and in so doing I avoid polluting the atmosphere he absorbs in his Thames-side residence. I am sorry that my noble friend and I were not at the dinner last night, which sounds very interesting and one where a range of views were expressed. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, that I am delighted with the all-electric vehicle that I have and I hope it will not be two and a half years before he considers joining me and others in your Lordships’ House in owning one.
The whole Bill is about giving the Government powers. It is essentially an interventionist Bill. I will explain why we are cautious about this group of amendments, which would change the regulations in this part of the Bill from ones that “may” be introduced to ones that “must” be introduced. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, for the opportunity to discuss this matter and I hope to explain why removing flexibility in this way would weaken the Government’s ability to respond to the rapidly developing markets and technology for electric vehicle infra- structure—objectives which I think are widely shared.
Using “may” rather than “must” is quite usual for this type of legislation. A recent and relevant example is the Energy Act 2016, which contains powers to make regulations but not an obligation to do so. The clauses in this part of the Bill are designed to address particular issues in particular ways. In general, the Government want to regulate only if they have to, in particular where there is market failure. We are taking the powers because we might need them and we want to send out the right signals, but we hope it will not be necessary in every case. Removing flexibility by requiring that regulations are introduced could increase the risk of the Government intervening in a way that is unhelpful and at the wrong time. This is particularly important where, as in this case, the market and technology are at early stages of development.
Noble Lords may be aware that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee had the following to say about the Government’s approach:
“We consider that, on this occasion, the Department has provided convincing reasons for Part 2 of the Bill to consist solely of enabling powers. According to the Department, because of the relative newness of electric vehicle charging technology, the factors affecting the installation and operation of charging points are at an early stage of development, and the market for supporting the charging infrastructure is also developing. Accordingly it is not yet clear what areas of regulation covered by the Bill may be required or (if required) what the nature of the regulation should be”.
The Competition and Markets Authority has also shared its view that the nascence of this market is reason to be cautious when introducing secondary legislation in this area, because of the fast-moving nature of technological advances and the need to ensure the healthy development of competition. It advised the Government to be flexible in their approach to implementing regulations so as to be able to react to future market changes, and to be careful not to restrict the ability of markets to adapt.
I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, was reassured by the policy scoping notes circulated by my noble friend on 3 May, which explain in more detail the conditions in which we would look to introduce regulations. These notes also explain that we intend to introduce regulations under Clause 13 on smart charge points shortly after Royal Assent. However, even in that case, flexibility is still important. We want to ensure thorough consultation prior to introducing regulations and this will be an important process which we do not want to pre-empt. We would not want to close down the possibility that by the end of this process the Government decide that regulations under this clause should not be introduced or that only some should be introduced.
Amendment 101 is about requiring draft legislation for all regulations under this part within 12 months of the passing of the Bill. As I have just explained, the introduction of regulations will depend on the precise circumstances at the time. Producing draft regulations prematurely could be an unhelpful signal to markets, with various unintended consequences, and could stifle innovation.
While I understand and am grateful that the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, is seeking ways of strengthening the Bill, I hope she might agree that these amendments would in fact reduce its flexibility, which could in turn have a significant impact on the Government’s ability to react appropriately to this rapidly developing market and technology. On that basis, I hope the noble Baroness might feel able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I am afraid that I am not at all reassured. This is obviously a new aspect of transport but it certainly did not arrive just yesterday. We have had electric vehicles on our roads for a number of years, with plenty of time for users of those vehicles to tell us that some significant problems need to be addressed if they are to be taken up wholesale.
I am left with the impression that I was correct: this is merely a Bill about signalling. It could be described as greenwash if one was being unkind. In fact, the Minister referred to signals. I feel that there should be a duty on the Government to assess whether they need legislation or not. If they need the legislation, let us pass it; if they do not, we can save ourselves a lot of time, effort and money in assembling here to debate what purports to be a Bill but is in fact simply a set of statements. It will probably be no more impactful on the industry than the Secretary of State’s statements that we are going to ban all internal combustion engines by 2040, which again is, frankly, simply not good enough.
This is a serious issue. Air quality and climate change should be taken as seriously as all things which harm people and are outside their control—their ability to effect change. The Government have a duty to do something about these critical issues for people who cannot act themselves. They must stand up to the car manufacturers and sweep away the problems that are preventing people moving to cleaner and zero-emission vehicles of all kinds. I am afraid that I am not reassured. Nothing has given me any sense of reassurance, other than Clause 13. The Government could have written a Bill with just Clause 13 in it, although that would have looked rather ridiculous. But by the sound of things, that is exactly what we are doing: passing a Bill with merely one clause in it.
I am sorry to say that I am not reassured. I hope that there will be a meeting forthcoming after Committee, where perhaps we can discuss this further, but at this stage I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 40 withdrawn.
Amendments 41 to 43 not moved.
44: Clause 9, page 6, line 10, at end insert—
“( ) performance standards for public charging points;( ) procedures to be put in place to repair faulty public charging points.”
I am pleased to move Amendment 44. The dinner that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, referred to was indeed a lively occasion—much livelier than the average dinner in this place, I believe, in its conversation and opinions. The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, is correct to say that the Bill lacks a spine. It is a collection of good ideas, probably, but it is not a strategy.
Addressing range anxiety among electric car owners is fundamental to the Government having a flawless strategy for encouraging people to buy these vehicles, and therefore for them to be manufactured. The whole population benefits from some of us buying electric vehicles. The amendments in this group relate to the availability of charging points and their ease of use, which is really the crux of the issue. Where they are placed is something we will come to in other groups of amendments, but this is a simple provision.
When you drive along and see on your in-car computer screen that there will be a charge point in 10 miles, it is at the very least supremely frustrating to find when you get there that it is not working. It can be a huge issue if you go on a long journey. I have told before in this House of the occasion when I went from one motorway services to another and another before I found a rapid charge point. I got a fast charge in the second and third ones, which was enough to send me to the next motorway services, but that is not the way to encourage people to own electric cars. It can be worse than really annoying. It can be a fairly dangerous situation to find yourself without any electricity in a lonely public car park, where there should be a charge point but it is not working. Charge points are almost always somewhere quite lonely. They are usually badly lit and, unlike getting petrol or diesel, you do not have a nice warm roof over your head. Standing out there in the rain and wind can be a pretty dispiriting process. When you get there, you therefore need the confidence that it will work.
This matter is easily addressed and I urge the Government to take these amendments seriously. I hope the Minister will accept them, or accept their principle and bring forward her own amendments. It is stating the blindingly obvious to say that you need some kind of measure in place so that when contracts are let, there is an obligation for these charge points to be working for a certain specified percentage of time, so that there is a commitment to repair them when they break.
The other side of trying to use a charge point is that almost all of them require you to have an app or be a member of a group. I think I have six or seven such apps on my phone, to be ready for all eventualities. If there are that number of apps on your phone, you do not use any one of them that often. This means that often, you turn up somewhere, only for the phone to tell you that you need to renew the app because you have not updated it and it will not work. My Amendment 46, which deals with,
“the use of contactless payment”,
seems the simple way to ensure that you have a straightforward way of paying that would be available to virtually everyone. We all know the effectiveness of contactless payment, which has worked brilliantly in beginning to replace Oyster cards in London. It has a simplicity about it.
I am not suggesting that these groups we join up to should not exist or that the apps could not be used. There could even be a financial or some other incentive for joining these groups, rather than having contactless payment. However, I am suggesting that there should be an obligation to make the charging points easy to use by ensuring that you have the fallback position, at the very least, of contactless payment. I will leave it there for now, and I beg to move.
My Lords, I listened carefully to the Minister’s previous response. His argument seemed essentially to be based on the need to ensure that we do not move too fast because there may be technological developments, which would mean that we had perhaps taken the wrong decision in the regulations. This is in the event that they were—in his view, obviously—prematurely introduced.
Let us go through the amendment. It mentions:
“performance standards for public charging points”.
Why can we not set those minimum standards on the basis of the technology that applies now—not what may apply in future, but what applies now? Standards will not go down in future; they will go up. The next thing the amendment requires is,
“procedures to be put in place to repair faulty public charging points”.
What is wrong with that? We have charging points, and there is a problem with repair. Why can we not have regulations requiring the suppliers of such equipment to ensure that it is maintained properly? That does not require technological developments.
Amendment 47 mentions taking,
“certain steps in relation to repairing a faulty charging point”.
Amendment 48 would add a paragraph that reads:
“to take prescribed steps to ensure efficient queuing at charge points, including preventing vehicles which have completed charging at a charge point from delaying access for other vehicles”.
Surely we could do something like that. It does not rely on technology.
Amendment 50, tabled by my noble friend Lord Berkeley, is just a general amendment that says:
“The Secretary of State, when making regulations under subsection (1), must have regard to the desirability of encouraging and facilitating innovation, customer choice and competition in the public charging points market”.
There is nothing in these amendments that the Government could not accept and put in place. They do not rely on technological developments. I hope that the Minister, when she replies, does not rely on that same excuse—because it is simply not credible.
My Lords, I shall speak to the amendments in the group to which I have lent my name. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, has eloquently explained what it is like to be an electric car user in Britain today. It is certainly not always a pleasurable experience, and a number of serious issues need to be addressed—not least that of faulty charging points.
One of the reasons why we have a problem is that the demand for electric vehicles is not being met by the manufacturers, so there are lengthy queues and waiting lists, but people are hoping that this will be a big market. They are therefore fitting charging infrastructure, but it is operating at a loss: there is no financial benefit for anyone fitting charging points at the moment, because there are insufficient users, as insufficient numbers of cars are sold. That means that expensive infrastructure is put in—sometimes subsidised, sometimes not—and then there is no incentive to keep it operating.
This morning my assistant and I did a spot check on Zap-Map—one of the multiple apps you need on your phone to know where charging points are. Within a three-mile radius of here there are around 100 charging points, but of those, 13 are non-operational. That is just not good enough. What is the point of putting in all this effort to create a network, only for those expensive pieces of kit not to be maintained? If the Bill has any purpose, it is to ensure that at least we can get rid of that irritant. It causes people considerable harm and anxiety not to know, when they turn up in their car with the charge running down, that they are guaranteed to be able to recharge it. That is a big impediment to people taking up this technology.
The Minister said that we might see some regulations under Clause 13 some time soon, so let us also say that we will definitely, and quickly, see some regulations under Clause 9. This is not new technology; there is no risk of it becoming outdated. The charging points are there. People are putting them in, but they are not making money because there are insufficient users, and the points are not being maintained. This is no way to set about meeting the goal that the Government put in their manifesto—that nearly all cars will be zero-emission by 2050. Let us think more about what is happening today, and use this legislative opportunity to sort out the problems that people are experiencing now. I fully support the amendments in the group, particularly the one about a requirement to maintain standards and to take steps to repair faulty charging points.
My Lords, I do not want to be too repetitive, but I have been persuaded by the speakers in the debate so far—and, of course, at last night’s notorious dinner. Again, I hope that the Minister will be able not only to give us warm words but to see whether she can make some progress in tabling amendments that at least partly support the general direction of the debate.
My Lords, I am very sorry that my noble friend and I missed that wonderful dinner, to which I think all noble Lords were invited last night; our invitations must have been lost in the post. The Government’s aim is to develop our infrastructure so that current and future drivers of electric vehicles can locate charging infrastructure that is affordable, efficient, reliable and easily accessible. The amendments, understandably, seek to improve availability and reliability.
Most government-funded charge points started out as being free to access, but payments have been gradually introduced over the years. Taking a payment in exchange for charging is a crucial step in the development of a long-term sustainable business model for charge point operators that will in turn lead to greater choice and improved future reliability of the network. Of course I agree that reliability is a critical issue, but we think that the market is developing to meet consumer expectations about charge point reliability. We welcome the fact that a number of charge point owners currently report on their level of reliability. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned Zap-Map.com, which incorporates a real-time feed that drivers can use to report on their recent charging experiences and report out-of-action charge points. As this market continues to develop, it is clear that operators will want their charge points to be functioning and accessible to attract customers, and indeed to receive payment.
Some operators are already providing information voluntarily, and as the market develops all may do so. However, should the Government need to intervene in this area, powers can be introduced under Clause 11. As currently proposed, this could require charge point operators to make reliability information available in open-source formats, which could be used to improve the consumer experience. Clause 11 also specifically mentions,
“whether the point is in working order”,
and making this information available will help to incentivise charge point operators to maintain working charge points and to ensure that they can be held to account by customers. I agree with the noble Baroness that for the infrastructure to work, the charge points have to work, and people need to feel confident that they will be able to charge their car—so I agree with the intent behind the amendments.
The noble Baroness also proposes an amendment on contactless card payments. Again, we absolutely recognise the importance of having easily available payment options to encourage the uptake of these vehicles. We have seen progress in this area. Since 2017 regulations have been in place for new charge points to ensure that they are available without the need for any form of membership. This applies to all new charge points from last November, and all existing charge points will need to meet that requirement by November this year. In the policy scoping notes contactless payment is one of a number of potential access or payment solutions, but we are not sure about mandating for this in primary legislation, which could risk forcing charge point operators to overhaul their entire network for a specific access method that may not be the preferred solution by drivers or industry, and may well be succeeded by another form of access. We want to consult on that. In advance of introducing any secondary legislation we will consult drivers and operators before proposing a minimum defined access method. If the preferred option is through contactless payment—which, I acknowledge, it may well be, so that people can easily pay for charging—that would be included in the regulations.
Amendment 50, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, rightly seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State has regard to innovation, customer choice and competition when bringing forward regulations under this clause. Those three things should always be at the heart of the Government’s policy-making, and will underpin any regulations brought forward under this, and indeed any other, clause.
As I have said, I agree with the intent behind all the amendments, and I will consider them further.
Before the Minister sits down, Clause 11 refers only to the provision of information. What we want is action. If no action is taken as a result of the provision of information, it is a waste of space. Why cannot some of the amendments be taken away by the Minister to her departmental officials before Report—at least those which are in no way affected by technological development—to see whether it might be possible to accept one or two of them? That would immediately affect people’s ability to secure the service that they expect when they call at one of these charge points.
I reiterate that we must at least acknowledge that it is not good enough to have nearly one in 10 of these charge points in the vicinity of this House non-operational. Surely the Government should be doing more to investigate why that is the case and to ensure that regulatory powers are introduced to insist that they are maintained. It is just not good enough. We would not expect that to be allowed in any other form of public infrastructure. We are not asking for it to be in primary legislation, we are asking simply for power to be taken to make regulations to require that they be maintained. Given the Government’s apparent love of these enabling powers, I cannot see why they would not take one to require that the charge points are maintained. They are expensive and people rely on them.
Clause 11 refers to information, as the noble Lord says, and covers reliability. I take the point that it is only information. We think that as people will be paying for access, it will be in the charge point operators’ interest to ensure that the charge points are operational. I absolutely agree that we need to ensure that charge points are reliable and are fixed when they are broken.
I apologise for intervening and I am sorry that I was not at Second Reading. I had this problem yesterday: turning up with a vehicle but someone else with a non-electric vehicle had parked in the space. Will the Government consider fines or enabling powers to ensure that when they work—sometimes they do not—someone else does not park in the space?
The noble Lord raises a common issue. We have seen development in this area with overstay charges, and we are investigating them. As I was about to say, I understand the correct desire for us to consider the amendments again, and I will go back to do so. We want to ensure that the Bill enables improvement in our infrastructure for electric vehicles.
My Lords, the Minister has given us a lot of information. I will of course read the record carefully and probably seek to rearrange my amendment in a different format for next time if she does not feel able to address these issues. I urge her to look at this again.
My noble friend referred to an issue which I believe is addressed in Amendment 48 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. This is something the French have dealt with by a pricing regime which means that if you lurk around on a charging point ages after your car is recharged, it becomes a very expensive way to find a parking space. It is perfectly easily solved.
The issues we are addressing are not ones that we have dreamed up from nowhere. It is well known that in London, the pressure on the rollout of charging points for the introduction of electric cars meant that the whole process wobbled and stalled at one point. All the charging points were put in but they were not maintained, so the system fell into disrepute. A new contractor and a new contract appear to have addressed quite a lot of that problem, but the Government need to take this seriously. Otherwise, public confidence will be undermined and electric cars will not take up the position that diesel cars have had in the past.
Amendment 44 withdrawn.
Amendments 45 to 50 not moved.
House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 2.44 pm.