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New Cars: Sales

Volume 791: debated on Monday 4 June 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ban the sale of new (1) diesel, (2) petrol, (3) hybrid, and (4) electric, cars over the next 25 years.

My Lords, the Government’s aim is for every new car and van to be effectively zero emission by 2040 and we will end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by this date. We expect this transition to be industry and consumer-led, but will consider intervening if not enough progress is being made. Our approach is focused on the goal of zero tailpipe emissions and is technology-neutral. More detail will be set out in the forthcoming zero-emission road transport strategy.

I thank my noble friend for that Answer but, given that all Governments are poor at forecasting—and in this industry, diesels come to mind—would it not make much more sense for Her Majesty’s Government to stop trying to dictate and rather to listen and work with the relevant industry? In this case, was not the CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders right when he said,

“industry cannot dictate the pace of change nor levels of consumer demand. Unrealistic targets and misleading messaging on bans will only undermine our efforts to realise this future, confusing consumers and wreaking havoc on the new car market and the thousands of jobs it supports”?

My Lords, transport is now the biggest contributor to UK greenhouse gases, and road transport makes up some 91% of that, so it is important that we set a target for it, but I agree with my noble friend that it is important that we work alongside the automotive industry, which we are. As I said, we want this transition to be industry and consumer-led, but we must make sure that it is deliverable. We need to cut our emissions to deliver improvements in air quality, but we must do so in a way that allows our automotive industry to continue to thrive.

My Lords, this is a multifaceted and complex problem. I hope that the Government will take serious advice from not only engineers but the medical profession—which has changed its mind, creating a certain disorder in the decisions—and from behavioural scientists. Will the Minister reassure us that such detailed advice will be taken before we proceed in a cavalier manner based on politics, in many instances?

My Lords, I entirely agree that we must work across many departments and get much advice on this. At the end of May, we published our clean air strategy, which aims to cut all forms of air pollution, not just transport emissions. It set out a wide range of actions that the Government are taking. We are working with the organisations the noble Lord mentioned.

My Lords, what discussions have taken place with, and what assessment has been made of the likely impact on jobs in, the car industry?

The noble Lord is quite right to point to the number of jobs in the UK car industry: there are nearly 190,000 direct jobs, and we absolutely do need to protect them. We are working very closely with the industry on this. As I said before, we want to make sure that we set these targets and that they are reached, but also that the transition is done in a managed way, so that our very successful car industry can continue.

My Lords, the reality is that the 2040 date that the Government announced is so far ahead as to have no impact on the automotive industry, because individual manufacturers are already announcing their own plans to produce only ultralow emission vehicles. Does the Minister accept that, far from leading, the Government are in fact lagging behind many other countries, particularly within Europe? Do the Government accept that they should reconsider their leisurely timescale in order to have a positive impact on the health of our nation, particularly our young children?

My Lords, I am afraid that I do not agree that 2040 is unambitious. As the noble Baroness points out, the industry is setting its own targets, which is a great thing to see; everyone is working together to deliver this. On the international point, the UK was the first major economy in the world to set out a challenging ambition to end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. We are also the second largest market in Europe for ultralow emission vehicles, and for their development and manufacture. One in eight electric cars sold in Europe was made in the UK, and we are ranked sixth globally and second in Europe in that regard, which is a position we should be proud of—but I entirely agree that there is more that we can do.

My Lords, the Government’s silver bullet on this seems to be the Road to Zero document. Could she tell us a bit more about it? When did work on it start, and how did its existence become known? I could find only one reference in government documentation, which is to Defra owning it. Why has there been no public consultation, when will it be published and what questions will it answer?

My Lords, we have been working hard on the Road to Zero document and are in the final stages of pulling it together, having welcomed the input of many stakeholders. It will be published shortly. I wish that I could give noble Lords an exact date, but I am afraid that I cannot at this point. We are working closely with departments across government on that issue. It forms part of all our efforts to reduce emissions following the Clean Air Strategy consultation, which was recently published. We set out our aim and ambitions in the manifesto, and the two strategies taken together—the Road to Zero strategy and the Clean Air Strategy—will help to deliver those goals.

My Lords, I declare my interest, as I should, as the owner of a mark 1, series 1 Land Rover from 1950 which, if it could, would like to run on leaded fuel. What provisions will be made for owners of historic vehicles and historic collections of vehicles in carrying these regulations forward?

My Lords, I know that historic vehicles can be incredibly popular. It is possible to convert them to electric, as we all saw at the recent royal wedding. However, it may be that not all owners of historic vehicles can afford that conversion, so we have said that the 2050 ambition is for nearly all vehicles to be zero emission. There is in that a recognition that certain types of vehicles may need special consideration.