Electric Vehicles: Infrastructure — [Peter Bone in the Chair]

– in Westminster Hall am 11:24 am ar 22 Chwefror 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

[Peter Bone in the Chair]

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee 2:30, 22 Chwefror 2023

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered electric vehicle infrastructure cost and availability.

It is nice to see you in the Chair, Mr Bone. Today, I am raising what I think is an important point about electric vehicles and their supply, charging, cost and implications. The Government have, in my opinion and that of many of my constituents, rightly committed to securing net zero by 2050—that is the easy bit. A big part of that commitment is the move to electric vehicles by phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and all new cars and vans will be zero emission by 2035. That was announced by the then Prime Minister in response to the Climate Change Committee in November 2020.

Transport is, of course, the largest carbon-emitting sector in the UK, making up 27% of greenhouse gas emissions, with 91% of that stemming from vehicles. It is obvious that tackling that is a key part of the route map to decarbonisation. However, there are many concerns about the cost, availability and infrastructure that must be taken into consideration as we look to meet the 2030s targets. Are we really ready to fully transition to electric vehicles? Some may question whether we want to, and they can contribute if they wish.

Last March, the Government’s electric vehicle infrastructure strategy highlighted the fact that 300,000 public electric charging points would be needed by 2030 across the UK to meet the demand, following the phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles. However, in January—just last month—it was reported that just over 37,000 such devices have been installed. Will the Minister update the House on that, as those figures clearly suggest that the infrastructure is lagging a little behind schedule? It is not unreasonable to question whether the UK will be able to meet that target.

Since 1 January 2022, the number of devices increased by 8,500—a 31% increase. That is the good part, but that is clearly not at the rate we need to meet the 2030 target. To give the Government credit, I was very pleased that they announced a further 2,500 charge points yesterday —well done—but we are still off the pace setter. Further to those numbers, there is a huge disparity in the geographical distribution of charging devices in the UK.

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Shadow Minister (Education)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for securing this debate. This is a really important topic because, as he says, we are not just behind the Government’s target, which most people in the industry say is lower than what is needed, but way behind what is going on in Europe. That is really concerning, in terms of increasing vehicle production and getting vehicles into the market for consumers who want to do the right thing.

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee

I thank the chair of the all-party group for electric vehicles for that intervention. I hear what he says. Ultimately, it is a race to this prize—this technology—and once we fall behind, there is no point in reinventing it. I think it is quite an ambitious target. Certainly, given the pace that we are setting behind it, it is quite ambitious. If the Labour Front Benchers have a more ambitious target, I am sure we will hear it from Mr Dhesi.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Annibynnol, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

The distribution of charging points is quite unequal across the UK: London and Scotland have the highest provision. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that Ministers should urgently invest in charging points to ensure parity across the regions and therefore make EV ownership look more attractive and feasible to the public?

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee

I will come on to that. The hon. Lady’s point is absolutely accurate. I will make some progress, and then she will hear what I have to say about that.

There has been significant activity from local authorities in developing regional low-carbon transport strategies, and enabling charging infrastructure in some places. Hampshire County Council, which covers the whole of my patch, has implemented an EV charger framework. About £124,000 of Government funding has been awarded to my Winchester constituency towards that, and we are very grateful for that. However, to echo the hon. Lady’s point, that is not the case for all. Some local authorities have bid for funding from the Government while others have not, so there are disparities, as she says. The Government need to keep a beady eye on that trend to ensure that it does not continue.

Most of the installations and much of the infrastructure for EVs have been market-led; many individual charging networks and other businesses have chosen where to install charging points. As a Conservative MP, I believe that that has to be right—Government cannot and should not do everything—but we cannot overlook the fact that it has added to geographical disparities, for obvious reasons. It is not dissimilar to the high-speed broadband roll-out—it follows the money—but Government have a role here.

I looked at the statistics ahead of today’s debate. London is far ahead of other areas in the UK, with an average of 131 charging points per 100,000 people, but the next country or area has an average of only 69. We clearly need further intervention to tackle that inequality and help the rest of the UK to catch up with London as we make the desired policy move to EVs. My constituency has 78 charging points, and only 13 are rapid charging points. Winchester has 76 charging points per 100,000 people, which I admit is higher than most areas and in the top 100 in the UK. It has 1,270 registered EVs and a ratio of EVs to public charging points of 16:1. That needs to improve as the number of registered EVs increases; even a 16:1 ratio means a serious wait time to charge a vehicle if that cannot be done at home, and it cannot always be done at home for reasons I will come on to.

I appreciate that the number of charging points in an area can fluctuate for many reasons—faults, maintenance, other restrictions or just the market. Owners and operators can choose to temporarily or permanently decommission or replace devices with no controls in place. Do the Government need to act on that? If we expect everyone, as we do, to switch to an electric vehicle, people cannot be left without access to charging points.

Photo of Khalid Mahmood Khalid Mahmood Llafur, Birmingham, Perry Barr

I thank the hon. Member for securing this important debate. The Government told Birmingham that we needed a clean-air charging zone in the city centre; we resisted that, but obviously that did not succeed. We now have charging zones, which makes it difficult for families and ordinary people to get in without paying. Bus services are not as good as they should be. Above all, as the hon. Gentleman rightly mentions, the price of electric vehicles makes it very difficult for ordinary families to get into the market. We need to resolve that properly, and the Government need to help.

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee

I will come on to the pricing of electric vehicles, which was my motivation for applying for the debate in the first place. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that many people want to do the right thing, but the economics do not stack up right now. Is there a role for Government? Partly, and I will come on to where they have made moves in that space. I realise that I am raising lots of problems, but that is because the Minister will answer all my problems and then we will all go away happy.

As we increase the number of charging points across the UK and get ahead of our ambition, it is vital that we future-proof our energy system. Great thought must be put into the pressure that the move will have on the grid so that we protect consumers as new challenges and vulnerabilities present themselves. Obviously, the transition to EVs will massively increase the demand for energy. We have some of the greatest wind, wave and tidal resources in the world. Should we promote the use of domestic energy production, rather than relying on imports, so that we can ensure our domestic renewable energy is used to guarantee the security of our EV ambitions? I appreciate that the Government have promised vast sums of funding for the transition and implemented schemes, but perhaps that issue could be revisited.

In June 2022, the Government pulled the plug on the car grant scheme, which provided over £1.4 billion and supported nearly 500,000 sales of electric vehicles. Although I appreciate that it was said at the time that that measure was always a temporary one, it increased the sale of EVs from less than a thousand in 2011 to almost 100,000 in the first five months of 2022, which meant that uptake exceeded projections. Surely that is a policy success and if something is working like that, I ask the Minister today whether people will be offered further support.

Photo of Daniel Poulter Daniel Poulter Ceidwadwyr, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. On that particular point, does he agree that in very rural areas, such as Suffolk and—I would imagine—parts of Hampshire as well, the practicalities of having public charging points are difficult and the reality is that if we are going to incentivise this switch, it has to come through helping people to charge their vehicles at home?

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee

Yes. In my constituency, as I am sure is the case in my hon. Friend’s constituency, charging at home is obviously the ideal, but there are lots of challenges to people being able to do that, because the three-point plug is not always the answer; a three-point plug can lead to a 30-hour charge. Of course, if someone does not have a nice secure driveway where they can park their Tesla and plug it in to charge overnight from the solar panels on their roof, it is difficult. That is all very tidy and ideal, but it is not the reality.

May I tell my hon. Friend the Minister that that is a kind of a theme of the debate? The ambition is great, but I worry about the practicalities of the roadmap to get there, and my hon. Friend Dr Poulter has expounded that very well.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice)

From our end of the country, we see things through the other end of the telescope. We have an enormous surplus of renewable energy generated in Orkney but no way to feed it into the grid because of grid constraints. Using the availability of that energy to charge cars and other electrical devices is a real opportunity for us. We have the ReFLEX project, which was born of that very opportunity. However, does this situation not tell us that we need to have a fundamentally different way of thinking about the grid and how we use energy, and a greater degree of decentralisation than we have ever had?

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee

Without question, and the right hon. Gentleman makes his point well. That is another reason for my wanting to have this debate. I am pleased to see so many colleagues here today, because I think the ambition was set out and some things were done, such as the grants that I talked about and the way in which they increased the number of sales, but I am not sure that enough thought has been given to the wider picture of how we make these electric vehicles available, how we charge them and how we find the energy sources to do that. In a massive constituency such as his, I can see why the scheme he talked about works and I would like to hear more about it, if he would tell me more; I am sure that he has already told the Minister about it.

The subject of production has been raised and I will say more about it. The Government have stated that they have plans to set out a legally binding annual target that manufacturers must meet in the form of a zero emissions vehicle mandate, or ZEV mandate; in saying that, I recognise that this debate has become even more nerdy than I had imagined.

The Department for Transport states that auto manufacturers will be required to produce a certain number of zero-emission cars and vans from 2024, and it launched a ZEV mandate consultation in 2022. Next year, which is 2024, that would equate to a 22% uptake for cars and an 8% uptake for vans; in 2030, it would equate to an 80% uptake for cars and a 52% uptake for vans; and both cars and vans would reach a 100% uptake in 2035. The mandate also details the arrangements for a tradeable element, which will allow manufacturers to buy credits to make up for any shortfalls in the required production of electrical vehicles.

However, we have not heard about any real progress since then. The consultation website states that the Government are still analysing the responses. As stated, the ZEV mandate is meant to be implemented by 2024, so we need further details of what will be required from manufacturers and what exactly the targets will be, because—dare I say it?—2024 is fast approaching. Can we have an update on that from the Minister?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Ceidwadwyr, Wokingham

I just wanted to clarify the accounting on carbon dioxide, because the aim is CO2 reduction. If a lot of people destroy diesel and petrol cars before the end of their useful life, and acquire new electric vehicles, that is a huge amount of CO2 for the two processes. Is that accounted for? If those people then drive those electric vehicles on days when 70% of our electricity comes from fossil fuels, how does that help?

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee

That, may I tell my friend, is a question that the Minister will be delighted to answer. Net zero is exactly what it says: net zero. The production of electric vehicles is part of the net zero calculation, but the Minister understands that better than I do. I wonder whether the Minister would update us on the ZEV mandate.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Shadow Minister (Defence)

I congratulate the hon. Member on securing this important debate. I want to reference the ZEV mandate, particularly in relation to van production. The hon. Member mentioned manufacturers; I am alive to the fact that van production in Luton is currently diesel, but we want to see a transition to electric vans. That is the target, but we need to see Government support for the electric van manufacturers to ensure that we can make that transition. Does the hon. Member agree?

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee

I agree with that point. I would expect Rachel Hopkins to raise van production for obvious reasons. The mandate is a fine idea, but we need the response to the consultation on the mandate. I suspect the companies that the hon. Lady talks to in her constituency want to know the rules of the game before they can work with those rules. I am sure she is looking forward to that point being raised.

The transition to electric vehicles brings into question fuel and excise duty. It is well known that the Treasury is set to lose a lot of money and a new source of revenue will be required. Fuel duty revenues pre-pandemic were about £28 billion per year, and vehicle excise revenues were approximately £6 billion. I cannot believe this has not been discussed in the hallowed halls of the Treasury, but does that mean that road pricing is a serious possibility? There has been no mention of that as a solution from the Government. Does the Minister concur?

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

It is interesting to hear the hon. Member talk about road pricing. Does he actually support something like “pay as you drive”, in order to charge people for the miles that they drive rather than anything else?

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee

No, and before the Liberal Democrats try to produce another attack leaflet to say that is what I was saying, the hon. Lady can strike that from the record. That is certainly not what I was saying, but I am asking the Minister whether the Government are considering it. Surely the Treasury are considering that loss of revenue. From his previous role as Chair of the Transport Committee, the Minister will know that that was laid down as a challenge to the Government. I know that the Committee is still waiting for a response to that. I am rather cheekily asking the Minister whether he has yet to respond to himself. Could he do so today?

I will raise some more concerns about the availability of electric vehicles. Certainly in my constituency, consumers are embracing the change to electric vehicles as people are understandably more and more concerned about the environment. However, we have already heard about the supply available to buyers. The current average waiting time for an EV is seven months, according to the Library. Companies such as Volkswagen have at least a 10-month wait from the time the car is bought to its delivery. I would suggest that that is a barrier to purchase. It is concerning, because forcing people to make the change to EVs will once again increase the waiting times as demand increases. People cannot be expected to bear a cost that is due to factors out of their control.

There is a current fall in demand for EVs because of the dip in the economy and the spike in inflation. I asked a previous Minister in the Department about this. What conversations are the Government having with industry to try to help them meet demand? I realise that the pandemic has hugely got in the way of that, but what conversations are the Government having with industry to try to stimulate demand?

Tesla has recently smashed the cost of EVs by a reported £7,000. There has been an expansion of EVs, but only 24 models are priced under £32,000 due to the cost of the battery technology. Even the UK boss at Kia, Paul Philpott, has said that car makers are finding it “economically difficult” to bring affordable smaller vehicles to market due to the high cost of batteries, despite the ban on the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars looming in 2035.

I will gently remind the Minister about the up-front cost and a serious lack of a second-hand market for electric vehicles. That is a whole other subject, with only 3% of used car transactions involving EVs in 2021. I hope that that market will start to emerge as we make the transition, so that many lower-income families will not be priced out of even having a conversation about switching to an EV. It is hugely unfair that they want to do the right thing, but they know they cannot.

In closing, I support the move to electric vehicles, and I know that my constituents do. I see more and more EVs on the streets of my constituency. The phasing-out of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 has my support, but it is clear that the infrastructure is far from fully developed, with many complaining about teething problems. It is obvious that to meet the target, and seriously increase the rate at which the infrastructure is being implemented, especially the distribution of charging points, we need to see a step change to meet the current ambition.

Photo of Virginia Crosbie Virginia Crosbie Ceidwadwyr, Ynys Môn

I thank my hon. Friend for calling this timely and important debate. I am sure the Minister is aware that last week Welsh Labour, propped up by their Plaid chums in Cardiff, cancelled all major building projects, including plans for a third bridge across the Menai Strait. Does my hon. Friend agree that their priority should be increasing the number of electric vehicles, and that means better scrappage schemes, grants and rolling out more EV charging points? That is the responsibility of Labour in Cardiff as a matter of urgency.

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee

I hope other Governments around the UK will be listening to today’s debate. My hon. Friend mentions the issue of scrappage. There are many different subjects I could have covered in today’s debate, but I did not want to go on for another 20 minutes and test the Chair’s patience. This is long enough, surely. She is right that scrappage schemes in Wales would be good to see. I look forward to her updating the House.

There does need to be consideration of the loss of revenue in Treasury. What conversations have been had about the change in vehicle excise duty? I am concerned that the Government have said that they plan to set out a legally binding annual target that manufacturers must meet up to 2035. We have no idea of what that will take. The cost to consumers needs further consideration, at a time when we face cost of living challenges. Supply and cost are major barriers right now to people who want to do the right thing. We can all support the phasing-out of combustion cars. I suggest that the current target of 2035 may be beyond us. I look forward to the Minister’s response to disabuse me of that thesis.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Ceidwadwyr, Wellingborough

It would help me greatly if hon. Members who wish to be called, stand. They have done so. It is also very good for their health if they bob up and down.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero) 2:52, 22 Chwefror 2023

It is a pleasure, as always, to see you in the Chair, Mr Bone. I congratulate Steve Brine on securing the debate. I could wax lyrical about the woes of being an EV car owner who is not able to charge at home, because I live in a block of flats, but I will resist the temptation to vent about that and stick to some of the facts.

As we have heard, we have seen a bit of a success story, with the number of EVs on the road exceeding expectations, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to charge. I have a lot of questions for the Minister, but one is about regulation and ensuring the reliability of charging points. Perhaps he could say something about that. In addition, to what extent should the charging point provider be blamed if the wi-fi is not working or there is no access to the premises? Where are we with that?

Thankfully, charging points are mostly more accessible, in that drivers do not have to join lots of different schemes, and they tend to work better. The downside is that there is very often a queue. If I am going to see my mother in Milton Keynes, I no longer just cross my fingers and hope that the charging point is working; I now also have to worry about whether someone will already be there charging for 45 minutes, with someone else queuing to charge for 45 minutes.

We are also seeing, with the Tesla points coming along, that service stations sometimes just do not have the power to keep all the points open at once. We need to ensure that the number of public charging points is keeping pace. It simply is not at the moment, particularly on rapid and ultra-rapid chargers.

In Bristol, we are ahead of most places other than London on having public charging points in places such as Morrisons car park or in parks and public places. That is probably better than trying to do on-street charging, with everyone fighting for one or two spaces by a lamp post. The problem with on-street charging is that if someone attaches their car to a charger when they get home from work and it finishes charging at 1 am, they are not going to go out and move their car to allow their neighbour to charge theirs. That is why I particularly like the quick chargers.

The Government set a target in March last year of making 300,000 public charging points available by 2030. That means we need about 30,000 to be installed per year. Last year, only 8,800 were installed. That is clearly not good enough, and the Government need to step up.

This is also a levelling-up issue. A year or two ago, when I held the green transport brief, I asked a series of questions to try to find out which local authorities had not applied for grants to install public charging points, but nobody would tell me; they just kept telling me which authorities had them. There are a number of pots of money, so I was trying to piece it all together, but quite a lot of councils were not mentioned anywhere. That is partly a capacity issue, because it can be quite difficult for some councils to do the analysis and just to have people whose job it is to fill in the forms and make the applications. There may also be an issue about political will and some places not seeing this as a priority, but that just means that provision is really patchy.

EV charging points should be treated—I was talking to National Grid about this this morning—as strategic infrastructure. This is not just about where people can charge their cars; it affects remote tourist areas, such as Devon and Cornwall. Five years ago, when I first got my EV, I thought I would go on a trip to Dartmoor to run it in, but I realised that there was one charging point in the whole area and that if that was not working, it would get a bit scary. Obviously, we want people to use public transport where they can, but if we are to keep tourism going down in Devon and Cornwall, we need those charging points—in Scotland, they have put some in on the strategic road up to the north—because, otherwise, people will not be able to make those trips any more, and that will have an impact on the local economy.

On grid connectivity, again, we need a strategic vision. There is no certainty about future funding for charging infrastructure. There is a big queue for grid connectivity—it is about 10 years—and all sorts of people have done the equivalent of putting their towels on sunbeds to reserve spaces. There is a whole separate debate to be had about how National Grid can prioritise applications for grid connectivity. However, I am told that motorway service stations are not joining the queue to expand their connections to the grid for rapid charging, because they are not sure what funding will be available in the future.

In the next seven years, we will need five times as much grid connectivity as in the last 30 years because of the move towards clean power and things such as EVs, but I just do not see a strategy. It is good that we have a new Department that is prioritising energy security and net zero, but we need to see a strategy for grid connectivity, for the sake of green investment, house building and EV charging points.

The £950 million rapid charging fund, first announced in March 2020, is meant to be focused on areas where it is less economical to put in charging infrastructure. As I understand it, it is still yet to issue any funds to projects that applied. It was announced nearly three years ago, so it would be good to know what is happening on that front.

The final thing I want to mention is manufacturing. I spent the first 40 years of my life in Luton, so Vauxhall Motors was very much a part of my upbringing, and I congratulate my hon. Friend Rachel Hopkins on all the work she does to push on that point. I want to know the Government’s ideological approach to support for our green industries, but particularly for electric vehicle manufacturing. We saw a pretty successful intervention in the market with the ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030 and of hybrids by 2035, although there are questions about the proportion of EVs that are being bought by fleets rather than for private ownership. We need to make sure that the second-hand market develops.

The ZEV mandate has been talked about, and there were plug-in grants, but there seems to be a move away from that sort of intervention. There is the issue of the cost of owning and operating an electric vehicle, alongside the cost of buying one; we are seeing electricity prices increasing and car tax being brought in for EV owners. It seems that the Government are stepping away.

What particularly concerns me is that we now have a very interventionist Government in the USJoe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is giving $369 billion a year to areas to create green industries—and the EU is rapidly following suit, but I do not see any sign of that here. I have asked questions of the Minister’s colleagues in other Departments; I asked a named day question on the very first day back in January and got an answer, in the end, that said, “We are very worried about it.” The approach of the Secretary of State for Business and Trade seems to be to tell Joe Biden off for being protectionist, which does not get us very far. I asked about this at Scottish questions today, and I do not think the Minister knew what I was talking about. We absolutely need a response to the Inflation Reduction Act to support our green industries, including our car manufacturing.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner 3:01, 22 Chwefror 2023

I am delighted to speak in this debate; I congratulate my hon. Friend Steve Brine on securing it. I speak as an unabashed enthusiast for the expansion of electric vehicles, but I want particularly to speak for those of my constituents for whom they are still an expensive aspiration. About 25% of my constituents do not have their own driveway and cannot charge easily.

As Kerry McCarthy said, it is good that the Government have committed to 300,000 public charging points by 2030. I like the scale of that ambition, as I do the commitment to 6,000 ultra-rapid charging points on our strategic road network by 2035. Those ultra-rapid charging points are generally able to charge a car in about 30 minutes. For most of us, a stop at a motorway service station—after we have answered the call of nature, got a coffee, and sorted out children and dogs and anything else that needs to be attended to—often takes about that time; if there a few minutes left over, we can always check a few emails while we wait. That charging time is excellent, and we need to push forward on it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was privileged to chair a meeting in the House of a number of significant electric vehicle charging point installers. They were quite enthusiastic. They had a number of problems, which I will speak about, but they said that there is no shortage of private capital looking to fund this work, which is excellent. Investment funds and wealth managers around the world have absolutely got the direction of travel. No one wants to be found holding stranded assets when the music stops, and this is absolutely the direction for the future. It can be monetised, and there is a lot of private money willing to flow into the sector if we can get the overall public policy architecture right. That is reasonably good news.

There is a case—perhaps this might be an early Budget submission by the Minister—for cutting VAT on public chargers, which is more expensive than on private chargers. That would help, and it would be a sensible policy intervention. I would also like to see a requirement for interoperability if charging points are going to receive public funds. I thought we had committed to that a while ago, but we are still not quite there yet. That would be a sensible move because, as the hon. Member for Bristol East said, sometimes it is difficult enough to access a charging point; if we then find that it is not in our network or not for our car, that just adds to the stress and anxiety. It does not help us get where we need to go.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Annibynnol, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

In his last Budget statement, the Chancellor announced that, from 2025, EVs will no longer be exempt from vehicle excise duty, paying the lowest rate in the first year and the standard rate from the second year, and that they will lose their exemption from the expensive car supplement. As that will come some years before the complete phase-out of petrol cars, does the hon. Member think that it could impact the public’s willingness to prioritise purchasing an EV?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The hon. Lady makes a sensible point, in that we must clearly phase in these two moves together. There will be a serious loss of revenue to the Treasury as the number of electric vehicles increases, and we all have to be sensible about how we will replace that revenue, but we must do it in a way that encourages the transition that I think all of us here want to see. I thank the hon. Lady for making that point.

Before the debate, I contacted Stephen Mooring, the excellent head of sustainability at Central Bedfordshire Council, and he raised four points that I want to draw to the Minister’s attention. The first is connection costs for public charging points. It is not uncommon in central Bedfordshire for the grid to quote up to £45,000 for a connection. That is simply not economical for local authorities, so we must ensure that the grid is working with installers to make the continued roll-out of charging points economical.

An issue remains about people who do not have off-street parking. There is a lack of clarity about the position with cables running over pavements. To me, that is clearly a serious trip hazard. We do not want anyone to fall over and be injured, so that issue must be addressed. I think that there are some solutions—

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Ceidwadwyr, Wimbledon

Like my hon. Friend—and my hon. Friend Steve Brine, who introduced the debate—I am a passionate believer in public access to charging points, but he is right. We allow utilities and others to put all sorts of cables across our streets, in most cases safely. One of the simplest ways to increase access—this is relevant to the levelling-up point—is for local councils to change byelaws to allow people without off-street parking to use cables safely in order to charge EVs. That is a very popular campaign across my constituency.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I thank my hon. Friend, who obviously has great experience in this area, for that sensible point. It is also possible to put cable gullies into pavements so that people can charge safely. That is a relatively straightforward technical proposition, so we should see more of it. I think clarification is needed on that, to help the many people who do not have off-street parking with charging.

When they grant planning permissions for new supermarkets, retail parks and so on, local authorities can require the installation of electric vehicle charging points, but the position with existing supermarket car parks and so on is less clear. There is a lack of clarity on that front. I would think that having charging points would be a competitive advantage. A number of my supermarkets—Tesco in Leighton Buzzard springs to mind, and I hope the others will forgive my not remembering them—have moved forward and installed them, which is very welcome. This is a big opportunity, and I think that some direction from the Government would be helpful.

Installing charging points in rural areas is more challenging, as my hon. Friend Dr Poulter said, but there are opportunities in village hall car parks and elsewhere. We must ensure that that is a possibility—certainly, it is sensible to have one charging point among a number of neighbouring villages—so that we are fair to people in rural areas.

I want to mention something important that the EV charge point installers said to me when I met them a couple of weeks ago, which is about the capacity and capability of local authorities. Some very good authorities have really got this and are powering ahead; others are still struggling because they do not have sufficient officers in this area, or their officers are not sufficiently well versed in what to do.

My final point is about the second-hand market and, perhaps, slightly greater assurance for consumers about battery life and warranties on second-hand batteries to encourage that market. As we get greater take-up in the fleet market, there will be many more vehicles coming on to the second-hand market, which will offer real hope to our constituents on lower incomes. Again, some support or assurance that the Government could assist with battery warranty would be helpful.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Ceidwadwyr, Wellingborough

Order. This is a really important debate, and four Back-Bench Members still want to speak, but I have to start the wind-ups at 3.30 pm. I will not impose a time limit, but if people could work to that, it would be most helpful. I call Jamie Stone.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 3:11, 22 Chwefror 2023

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I want to start with the North Coast 500 tourist route, with which many Members will be familiar. The route takes tourists around the whole of the top of Scotland—the north, east and west coasts—and we hope that tourists will come and use electric cars that they hire or own.

However, I am worried by the fact that the Highland Council has recently been debating an increase in the price of charging. At present, rapid charging points are charged at 30p per kWh, and the slower chargers are 20p per kWh. The council is looking at taking that up to an eye-watering 70p and 35p respectively. Earlier in the budgeting process, it was even thinking of 84p. A price rise of that scale would have a devastating effect not just on locals but on tourists coming up, because it starts to get pretty expensive to charge the car. For rural constituencies such as mine, we have to be careful about this.

My first point is that it seems that the Highland Council is in an invidious situation. It would be easy for me to point out that it is an SNP/independent council, but that would not be fair. That would be a cheap political point. Any administration would be faced with this problem. I believe that the cost of charging the car is a bit like the cost of paying for electricity from SSE. It should not vary by council area; it should be a constant. It is more like the railways, and I believe it should be applicable right across the nation.

I appeal to the UK and Scottish Governments to look at this issue and see if we can smooth it out. If that means that there has to be a budgetary consideration for authorities such as the Highland Council or others in the UK, let us look at that. This links back to what Andrew Selous was saying. Some councils are better equipped to do this than others, and that is something that national Governments—perhaps devolved Governments working with the United Kingdom Government—have to have a good look at.

Turning back to the North Coast 500, we have charging points around my vast constituency, but if someone were to take a map of the top of Scotland and stick a pin in the middle of Sutherland, they would come to a village that I have often mentioned in this place, called Altnaharra—it is the coldest village in the UK every winter, but that is not my point—where there are no charging points. It is 17 miles from Altnaharra to Tongue on the north coast going one way, and 21 miles going south to Lairg. Think of a tourist who is having a great holiday and arrives in Altnaharra when they are a bit low. What are they going to do? It is not great. It is kind of a personal point, but I do hope that somebody, some day very soon—perhaps next week—will get in touch with the owner of the Altnaharra Hotel and say, “Wouldn’t you like to have a charging point? This is how we’ll help you to get it.” Having spoken to him only this morning, I think that would be exceedingly well received.

My second point is that, as other Members have said, we have to think about the distribution. I have the widest and most far-flung constituency, perhaps rivalled only by that of Ian Blackford, and it is a real issue for my constituents with where they live and work. It is about not just the tourists, but the local people.

My third point is linked to what Andrew Selous said. He mentioned the rate of VAT, and it is my belief that something similar should be done on the purchase price of an electric car. It might have to be tapered, we would have to be clever and think about what it would mean for the Exchequer, and the point is well made that as sales increase, we will have to look at doing it differently; but I believe that strong consideration should be given to that proposal, because at the end of the day most of my constituents simply cannot afford to get into that market. An electric car is just too expensive.

My right hon. Friend Mr Carmichael said that we need to think afresh about the approach. He mentioned the grid, and he is absolutely correct. Because it is my wont to forever name-check my constituency, I point out that we have a freeport in the Cromarty Firth—I thank His Majesty’s Government for that. It is for generating hydrogen, which can be either stored and exported or used to create electricity when the wind is not blowing. My final point—my hon. Friend Wera Hobhouse is urging me onwards—is that, in looking for a solution, we must have an overall view of the grid and hydrogen.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 3:16, 22 Chwefror 2023

At the outset of this debate, the question was rightly posed, “Are we ready?” The emphatic answer is, “No, we are not.” We are not ready for the EV revolution that is fast coming, and we need to be prepared for it.

Northern Ireland’s electric infrastructure is antiquated. It was developed in the 1960s and it is not fit for purpose for what the Government have planned on electric vehicles for 2025, 2030, 2035 and 2040. With the best will in the world, it will not be fit for purpose by then, so we need to wake up to the unmovable fact that the infrastructure in Northern Ireland, where I come from, will not be able to cope with the electric vehicle revolution, which we so desire to see. There is little point rushing forward with higher, new and better standards if our infrastructure cannot cope with them, so we need to have work done on it. The National Franchised Dealers Association described Northern Ireland’s infrastructure as ruinous for this revolution. We therefore have to address that important matter quickly.

How can we do that? How can car traders advance the green electric vehicle revolution on such a narrow platform? There is a huge roadblock coming. Hybrid vehicles, which people think are the answer at the moment, will be outlawed by 2035. People will not be able to buy a hybrid; it is over. How can we deal with this on such a narrow platform? We need more space to advance the argument and the alternatives. We need opportunities set aside for alternative fuels, which also need to be part of this debate—there is not just one answer. We need to put in place a more extensive network to give consumers confidence that if they invest in an electric vehicle, they will be able to use the thing to their advantage to get them to the far-flung parts of the United Kingdom and back again without anxiety about running out of electricity.

If we get this wrong, we destroy—in Northern Ireland, at least—the Northern Ireland retail motor industry. It will shock some people to learn how poor the Northern Ireland charging infrastructure is. The gap between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom is significant, and it will soon be impossible for Northern Ireland to catch up. In October 2022, Northern Ireland had 18 working charging points—18 publicly facing rapid charging points in the whole of the Province! They are antiquated, unreliable and first-generation, and not all of them work with the new vehicles that are available. Scotland is doing tremendously well: it has something like 66 electric vehicles per rapid charger. England has 155 vehicles for every rapid charger, but Northern Ireland has something like 600 vehicles per rapid charger. The gap is rapidly increasing, so we need to catch up.

There is therefore very little consumer confidence in electric vehicles. The roll-out is far too slow. Planning for electric vehicle charging points is complex and hardly works. NFDA did a survey in Northern Ireland and found that 76% of people found it difficult to find a working charger. Some 68% said they had to wait too long, because there was someone else in the queue, and 53% said that charging is a barrier to them purchasing an electric vehicle.

The situation also puts tourism at risk. Tourists want to be part of the green revolution, but they cannot be without proper planning to enable them to find electric vehicle chargers along their route. We are creating a rural versus town divide in the provision of chargers.

I chair the all-party parliamentary motorcycling group in the House. The Government are urgently encouraging electric vehicle solutions for motorbikes but, again, they are setting a standard that is far too high and could end up destroying the marketplace. We need them to take this forward in hand with the traders to ensure that we have the proper solution at the proper time, not the proper solution too far in advance of the time.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Business and Industrial Strategy) 3:21, 22 Chwefror 2023

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Bone. As we have heard, it is no secret that we are approaching one of the biggest changes to the structure of the car industry in its history. The UK’s commitment to ending sales of new carbon-emitting cars could make us a world leader in this space. It is a crucial step for not just this country, but the entire world. As we have heard, the transition is crucial on both the manufacturing and consumer side, and it must not be forgotten when we are discussing electric vehicles that manufacturing is critical in all this.

A report published back in 2013 outlined an industrial strategy for the automotive sector and emphasised the need to prepare for the transition. In some ways, that has been a success; I need look no further than my own constituency and the Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port, where we are in the middle of converting the production lines to produce electric vehicles. I know that my hon. Friend Rachel Hopkins will have the same experience in her constituency in the not too distant future, and Nissan in Sunderland has also taken such steps.

Those are encouraging signs, but I am afraid there are far too many other examples where we are missing out. Only a few days ago, Ford announced plans to axe 20% of its UK workforce. Not so long ago, Britishvolt announced that its plans to set up a gigafactory were on hold; I know there have been some developments with that, but it is still in the balance. BMW have announced that the electric Mini will not be produced in Oxford, and Jaguar and Honda have closed their vehicle production plants in Castle Bromwich and Swindon. From a position of great strength a decade ago, we are now in a position of great struggle.

What is the reason for this malaise? There are a number of factors in play, which I will not be able to rehearse in the time we have, but one of the fundamental problems is a lack of Government commitment to the strategy we have discussed. It seems to me that the central impediment is a mistaken belief that things should be left to the markets. The two positive examples that I have given of investment in new production were not left to the market; there was Government intervention, and that needs to be continued on both the manufacturing and consumer side.

In the minds of consumers, there is a hesitancy about making a huge financial commitment when the initial cost and convenience of running an electric vehicle are still up for debate. Brand new electric vehicles are far more expensive than traditional vehicles and, although they are becoming a greater proportion of sales, there is a natural ceiling to how much ordinary families will be able to afford.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Business and Industrial Strategy)

I am afraid that I do not have any time for interventions. As technology has progressed and electric vehicles have become more numerous on the roads, focus has turned to the availability and practicality of owning one and the concerns arising about access to on-street parking and charging. About a third of UK homes do not have off-street parking, and that means that we need a more holistic approach to charging for the significant numbers of people who, at the moment, do not have off-street access. We have to deal with the iniquity that they will pay up to four times more in VAT than those who can access electricity directly.

The Government’s commitment to building 300,000 new charging points is welcome, but the vast majority of those are in London. Indeed, in boroughs such as Westminster, London has exceeded the 2025 target by 358%, whereas in places such as western Cheshire, which I represent, local authorities reach only 28% of the 2025 target. That is not a good record for a Government that stood on a platform of levelling up the country.

It appears that there is a lack of strategy to deal with those disparities. The Government’s infrastructure report claims that:

“Installing and operating chargepoints requires several parties across the energy sector, local government and the transport sector to work together effectively.”

That is correct, but what are the Government going to do about those challenges? Where does the responsibility ultimately lie?

I believe that in order to achieve the transition to electric vehicles, local authorities need to be given the capacity, the resources and the authority to plan and deliver what is needed. The necessary powers must be backed by proper funding. From my rough calculations, what the Government have set aside so far will fund about a third of the requirement for electric charging points. However, it is about more than just cash, because there needs to be leadership and a proper national strategy. This will ultimately be a major change in the country’s infrastructure, and it cannot simply be left to the market as it is at the moment.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 3:25, 22 Chwefror 2023

Owning a car is a lifeline for many people. We need to encourage people to use their cars less and public transport more, but I am not blind to the need for cars. Car journeys are here to stay, but they need to become net zero. The transition from petrol and diesel to electric vehicles is at the heart of this effort, and it is an important step towards decarbonising the transport system and getting to net zero.

The Government’s pledge to end the sale of all petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and hybrids by 2035, has acted as a powerful signal to the car industry and the markets, but the failure to prepare the ground for the transition to EV charging infrastructure is now threatening that target and, indeed, our net zero targets. Like Steve Brine, I am absolutely in favour of the transition to EVs, but we need to prepare the ground. We cannot say, “The target cannot be achieved, so let’s just throw it out altogether.”

Until now, drivers have charged at home around three quarters of the time. However, as we shift from early adopters to the mass market, policy needs to support people who do not have the space for their own charge points. We have already heard about the regional disparities: there are many more charging points in London compared with the rest of the country, and yet two thirds of the new infrastructure is proposed for London. The lack of EV chargers is a concern for more than half of motorists. Volkswagen has noticed that, apart from the cost, the key concern for buyers today remains charging anxiety.

The lack of charging infrastructure is leading people towards do-it-yourself charging, and I want to throw that in. Electrical Safety First has found that 90% of EV owners have used domestic multi-socket extension leads and three quarters have daisy-chained extension leads. That is highly dangerous, because daisy-chaining, whereby multiple extension leads are used together, can increase the risk of socket overload and electric shock, so we are putting people at risk. Don’t do it, guys! It is really dangerous, and we need to make sure that this is not happening.

In last year’s EV infrastructure strategy, the Government made no firm commitment to ensure that EV infrastructure roll-out is in line with EV market uptake. The main problem is grid capacity. The Liberal Democrat council in Bath has worked hard to build more charging infrastructure, but it is constrained by the weak grid in the region. National Grid wants to upgrade the grid in the west of England, but Ofgem has not accepted the funding proposals. The Government need to encourage Ofgem to be part of the solution and not the problem. We need a reform of Ofgem’s remit to allow for pre-emptive investment in grid infrastructure.

A publicly funded network needs to prioritise fairly priced and equitable access. If we simply prioritise capacity over the number of locations and usefulness, we risk locking lower-income drivers, who rely on public chargers, into the most expensive rapid charging options. The Government must stop penalising people who are not able to charge their EVs at home. These people currently have to pay 20% VAT to charge their vehicles at a public charge point, compared with the 5% VAT for people charging at home. The Government must end this unjustifiable discrepancy and equalise the VAT rate at 5% for all electric vehicle charging.

Transport is responsible for nearly a third of the UK’s carbon emissions, with more than half of emissions from domestic transport coming from private cars and taxis. The quicker we get people using EVs, the closer we get to meeting our net zero targets. The benefits of owning an electric vehicle must outweigh the costs. From infrastructure to incentives, the Government need to meet words with actions and drive the electric vehicle revolution forward.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Ceidwadwyr, Wellingborough

I am very grateful to Members; you have been very good. I will now call Gavin Newlands, the SNP spokesman, who will also be very good.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport) 3:29, 22 Chwefror 2023

That is the aim, Mr Bone. It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair. I congratulate Steve Brine on securing the debate and highlighting a crucial part of these islands’ journey to net zero.

As has been highlighted, the hon. Gentleman posed a question: are we really ready to transition to zero-emission vehicles? As Ian Paisley said, any objective respondent would have to say an emphatic no. I hear what he said; having studied the figures many times over the last few years, I know that those for Northern Ireland are atrocious. I certainly would never have switched to an EV if I was living in Northern Ireland with that network. His points about road pricing were also well made.

Mr Carmichael, who is no longer in his place, made a good intervention about excess renewable energy and problems accessing the grid. That is becoming an ever-increasing problem, and the Government and National Grid need to get a grip on the issue of the grid. Kerry McCarthy spoke of the improvements to charging and the strategic road network in Scotland.

I agreed with almost every word that Andrew Selous said. This is one of the very few debates in which I have listened to Conservative Members and found it hard to disagree with a single word. Well, the Minister is still to speak, but hitherto I have not disagreed with a word that a Conservative Member has said. [Interruption.] It is probably me who needs to resign, rather than the hon. Member.

My Scottish colleague, Jamie Stone, made some very good and fair points about charging. The highlands—apart from Altnaharra—have benefited from enhanced infrastructure over the last few years, compared with probably anywhere else in the country outside London. In my county, Renfrewshire, we still have free public chargers. We are moving to a paid model, but at a reasonable price. The figures that he mentioned seem quite high when we are trying to move people over to electric vehicles.

Justin Madders spoke of the discrepancy between domestic and on-street VAT, which the Government need to get a grip on. Lastly, Wera Hobhouse spoke of a different inequity in charging infrastructure—not just from a postcode lottery point of view, but for those homes without a driveway on which to park their car.

I am the SNP member of the Transport Committee, which has been engaging with this subject over a number of years, including in our current “Fuelling the future” inquiry. The resulting report was agreed just yesterday and will be hitting the bestseller list any day. It is clear that Scotland has led the way compared with England and, indeed, the rest of the UK outside London; London has had great results for some time. Over the last year, the number of public charging points per capita has increased by no less than 33% in Scotland. That is ahead of England, even allowing for Scotland’s head start. Inner London has largely dragged England’s figure along with it.

The hon. Member for North Antrim mentioned the figures for rapid chargers. We have 73% more rapid chargers per capita than south of the border, and in just the last quarter of last year there was an increase of 15% in the number of rapid chargers. The UK Government’s target of 300,000 public chargers by 2030 is looking more and more like a pipe dream rather than a reality in making the switch to net zero. We can also see the difference that a wider network of public chargers makes to the uptake of battery electric vehicles. In the year to September 2022, there was a 16% higher increase in the number of EVs on the road than there was in England. There is still a great deal to do in Scotland, and an ever-diminishing timeframe in which to do it, but that progress should be encouraging.

I have said many times here and in the main Chamber that the Scottish Government’s approach should be exported down south, because they are doing something right while the UK Department for Transport is lagging behind. Moreover, if the UK Government were to get anywhere near their annual targets for charger installations, that would allow Scotland to ramp up our charger installation to a point where we were getting close to the required amount.

We are also lagging miles behind Norway, where more than 50% of new car sales are now fully electric, with another quarter coming from hybrid. They are on course to meet their goal of phasing out all private petrol and diesel cars within the next two years, which is a phenomenal achievement in such a short period of time. I would say this, wouldn’t I?—but imagine that: a small, energy-rich, independent northern European country with control over its own finances and infrastructure, setting ambitious targets and taking the radical steps needed to meet those targets. It will never, ever catch on.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

We can’t agree on everything!

On electric public transport, it is only due to the Scottish Government’s continual action that the UK Government feel able to proclaim that they might meet the 4,000 buses targets set by the previous, previous Prime Minister, three years ago. Only this week Ayrshire has benefited from another two dozen zero-emission buses serving local communities, which will be on the road next month—they are not added to the stats while awaiting a tender, which I am afraid has been the Department for Transport’s way of pockling the stats whenever anyone—more often than not, me—asks how the 4,000 buses target is being met.

The former Prime Minister may have forgotten the words, but the wheels on the electric bus are very much going round and round in Scotland. Indeed, without the hundreds of buses funded under the Scottish Government’s ScotZEB and SULEBS—the Scottish zero emission bus challenge fund and Scottish ultra-low emission bus scheme —the UK Government’s target would be in tatters, despite them having no control over those Scottish schemes.

Even with smaller-scale initiatives, such as the extra financial support available for domestic charge points in Scotland compared with elsewhere, there is a clear gap, and it shows no sign of being closed. That extra support for domestic infrastructure is particularly well targeted to rural areas where the additional need for state support in transitioning to electric is well recognised.

I should declare that, as an EV owner myself, I was able to access the interest-free car loan scheme in Scotland that was available at the time, in addition to the home-charging top-up grant. That is the key difference in approach. When we have such important environmental targets on shifting drivers over to zero-emission cars, which are still usually more expensive—some often far more expensive and beyond the reach of most households —we need a Government that make zero-emission driving available to all without slashing and then ultimately removing any carrot they had dangled before the market was mature enough and costs low enough to ensure much more equitable access.

Whether it is rural or urban, what is clear is that, across a spectrum of measures, the UK Government’s offering is just not up to scratch, either to fulfil current needs or to take on board future demand. On the Government’s 300,000 chargers target, with current figures, we need to install 32,860 per year to meet that target. Last year, despite an increase on the previous year, 7,680 were installed. That is miles behind the target, and that sort of progress will prevent the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars by the same year.

There is still time to ramp things up and accelerate deployment. As I said, the Transport Committee’s “Fuelling the future” report will be out shortly, but we can look at its “Zero emission vehicles” report from 2021, where we see recommendations that have been ignored by this Government. It was an excellent report, ably drafted by the Chair at the time—I am not sure what happened to him.

Time is against me, so I will raise two or maybe three points from that report. The Committee recommended that the Government intervene to support the second-hand market in electric vehicles. The Scottish Government did that with their interest-free loan scheme. The Committee recommended that all charge points should be interoperable. We spoke about that point at length, but we are getting nowhere fast on interoperability. People who rely on public charging infrastructure should get value for money. Finally, and more importantly, the Government have to address the discrepancy between the 5% VAT and the 20% VAT incurred at public charge points.

I hope to hear the Minister address his own report when he responds. I hope he does respond to those issues, because if we are serious about a net zero economy, it cannot just mean action at one end of the supply chain for the end consumer. It has to include an industrial strategy that reflects innovation and modernisation of production and supply. Unfortunately, that is currently just not happening in the UK. We are falling way behind the curve. We need to make Project Rapid move a little less glacially, and we need to do so as soon as possible.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport) 3:39, 22 Chwefror 2023

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I congratulate Steve Brine on securing this debate on electric vehicle infrastructure cost and availability, and thank him for providing an opportunity to draw attention to this vital issue. Climate change presents one of the biggest threats and greatest challenges facing humanity. However, the greatest barrier to progress today is not climate denial, but climate delay. We are at a critical juncture in our journey to legally binding net zero targets. Now is the time for bold and ambitious policy that will unleash the huge opportunities that the transition offers, but that is a far cry from the reality under this Government.

Photo of Tahir Ali Tahir Ali Llafur, Birmingham, Hall Green

Does my hon. Friend agree that so much has been promised by Government on this issue, but in so many constituencies—including my constituency of Birmingham, Hall Green—people are missing out on being part of delivering the climate change agenda? When will the Government deliver on those promises by delivering EV charging points for many households?

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport)

I thank my hon. Friend, who is an amazing champion for his constituents. I could not agree with him more. In fact, I will be delving into that very topic —regional disparity—later in my speech.

As the largest emitting sector in respect of greenhouse gas emissions, transport has a crucial role to play in getting to net zero. In 2020, transport accounted for almost a quarter of total emissions, at a time when the pandemic meant that domestic travel was at just a fraction of usual levels. Petrol car journeys produce similar emissions per capita to aeroplanes—that is a startling fact—and over three times more than electric cars. Therefore, ramping up the transition to EVs is imperative if we are to meet our climate goals. But the roll-out of electric vehicles is only as good as the roll-out of the charging infrastructure supporting it. There is no time to lose, as the EV enthusiast, Andrew Selous, explained, along with pointing out the VAT anomaly for charging outside one’s house. It is of course true that most drivers charge their EVs at home, but even those with home chargers need to be able to rely on a nationwide charging network, or they will be held back by range anxiety. In addition, we must not forget the estimated one third of households without access to off-street parking. They must not be left behind. Charging at home or a workplace has a huge role to play, but it is no alternative to a truly nationwide and reliable public charging network.

This Government are asleep at the wheel while the UK falls behind on the infrastructure that motorists need. Ian Paisley highlighted, as did the SNP spokesperson, Gavin Newlands, that areas such as Northern Ireland are being failed and left behind. My hon. Friend Matt Western, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group, highlighted how we are falling further and further behind our European neighbours.

As my hon. Friend Kerry McCarthy eloquently highlighted—in a very powerful speech, because she speaks with a great deal of experience on this matter—we need to install 37,000 charging devices a year to meet the Government’s own target of 300,000 by 2030. However, last year we achieved just a quarter of that. At the current pace, Ministers will miss their own target by a staggering 20 years. There are now 30 electric vehicles for every charging device, compared with 16 at the start of 2020. Motoring groups have been calling for a mandate on the installation of charging devices, to complement the upcoming net zero emission vehicle mandate. Motorists and manufacturers alike are crying out for clarity on the timescale for the transition to electric cars and charging infrastructure. Will the Minister consider targets in this area? I look forward to hearing his views on that.

Furthermore, the public charging devices that are available are highly concentrated in London, at the expense of the north and other areas of our country. There are now more public charging devices in Westminster alone than in 11 of the biggest northern cities combined, and this gap is stretching out wider still. Over the last three months, for example, more devices have been installed in Westminster than in any English region outside London. While this Government sit on their hands, the regional divide continues to get worse and worse. If the Government do not get a grip on this, those in more rural and less affluent areas are destined to be excluded from this transition, as was ably demonstrated by the hon. Members for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) and for Bath (Wera Hobhouse).

Even when motorists are able to find a charging device, all too often they find out that it is too expensive, complicated to use, or not even working. Research carried out by the RAC showed that the cost of rapid charging on the public network rose by 50% in the eight months up to January 2023. Indeed, the AA has warned that the cost of public charging could become comparable to high-emission alternatives. That should be a huge cause for concern. Cheaper running costs are a major selling point for switching to electric vehicles. To lose that means risking the transition.

Turning to consumer experience, many have called for stronger regulation to standardise payment methods, and set minimum standards, so that public charging is as simple as filling up a petrol tank. It is unacceptable that many charging devices do not accept contactless card payments and force users to download an app or carry multiple membership cards. I can attest to that from my own experiences of driving my electric car. That would not be tolerated in any other industry and puts up yet another barrier to the transition.

In addition, all too often charging devices are not acceptable for people with disabilities. That must urgently be addressed, if we are to achieve a just transition. We welcome commitments made in the EV infrastructure strategy for new consumer experience regulations. In particular, it is vital that proposals for a 99% uptime requirement are followed through. Will the Minister confirm that those commitments will be delivered in full, and that there will be no scaling back? Will he also provide a timescale for their implementation? It is imperative that these crucial steps are not watered down or kicked into the long grass.

On funding, will the Minister take this opportunity to announce when the local electric vehicle infrastructure scheme will be up and running? Many local authorities are awaiting this funding to get their own roll-out going, particularly in areas where the business case for the private sector is weak. When will the rapid charge fund, first announced years ago, finally be delivered?

More widely, there are a number of other factors threatening an effective transition to EVs. As my hon. Friends Justin Madders and Rachel Hopkins rightly lamented, car manufacturers are being left in limbo by the lack of clarity from the Government on their zero-emission vehicle mandate. The mandate will come into force in less than a year, but 11 months out we are still waiting for details on what the mandate will be and what penalties it will carry. That uncertainty is adding to the challenges facing the car industry. Will the Minister confirm when the Government will finally respond to the ZEV mandate consultation? Delay after delay and a lack of clarity risk stalling the transition to electric, and reversing the momentum built up behind it. Manufacturers and motorists need confidence in a reliable, affordable and accessible nationwide network of charging infrastructure.

Labour stands ready to turbocharge the electric vehicle roll-out. A Labour Government will support new gigafactories, leveraging private sector investment and creating thousands of British jobs. We will offer interest-free loans for new and used EVs, to those on low and middle incomes. We will support a truly nationwide and accessible charging network, so that range anxiety is ended everywhere and for everyone. We stand on the precipice of a major change to the way people drive. In under seven years, the sale of new purely petrol and diesel cars will end. Motorists and manufacturers are ready to make the switch, but they need a Government who are ready to make the switch. This Government have failed to rise to the challenge. Labour has a plan, and a Labour Government will deliver on that plan.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport) 3:50, 22 Chwefror 2023

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I thank my hon. Friend Steve Brine for securing this important debate, and I thank every participant for their words. It may not be possible to answer all their questions, but I hope we can cover the bulk of them.

The Government are committed to decarbonising transport and to phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, becoming the first G7 country to do so. The benefits of zero-emission motoring are there to be won: improved air quality in our towns and cities, economic growth through our automotive industry, and ultimately cheaper and cleaner driving for all. Getting to that point will require Government and industry to furnish this country with an accessible, affordable and secure charging infrastructure network.

Perhaps I can give you some reasons to be cheerful, Mr Bone; I fear Mr Dhesi also needs cheering up. Industry data shows that in December 2022, 32.9% of new cars sold were fully electric. That was the best ever month for new battery electric car registrations, with more sales than in all of 2019 combined. The UK had the second highest battery electric car sales in Europe in 2022, with Germany being first and France third. A survey by Zap-Map found that only 1% of EV drivers want to switch back to a petrol or diesel vehicle. One in five public charge points in the UK are rapid or ultra-rapid, and under our plans, new homes and non-residential premises undergoing renovation will have to install charging infrastructure at the point of construction. That should lead to 145,000 further charge points across England every year. Those are some reasons to be cheerful.

Last March, we published our strategy and set out our plans to accelerate the roll-out of the network. To answer one of the questions posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, the Government expect at least 300,000 public charge points to be installed across the UK by 2030. We do not regard that with the same cynicism as my good friend from the SNP, Gavin Newlands. A recent industry report by New AutoMotive, “On the Road to 2030”, found that the charge point roll-out is

“progressing at an adequate pace, growing by a third every 12 months, and the UK is on track” to meet the expected 300,000 public chargers by the end of 2030. So do not just take my word for it.

That will all be achieved thanks to billions of pounds of investment by industry. There are more than 37,000 open access public chargers already on UK roads, hundreds of thousands of charge points in homes and workplaces, and more than 600,000 new chargers added to our road network each month on average. In fact, public charging devices have more than tripled in the last four years. We are on track to meet expectations.

On electric vehicle uptake, Government grants have supported drivers to buy plug-in vehicles for over a decade, with more than £1.4 billion already having been invested in the early market. Colleagues at the Treasury are committed to ensuring that motoring tax revenues keep pace with the changes brought about by the switch to electric vehicles, while keeping the transition affordable to consumers.

I will touch on local charging infrastructure, which has been raised. This debate is a timely one. Lack of access to off-street parking should not be a barrier to owning a plug-in electric vehicle. We are working with local authorities to ensure local provision meets local needs. Just yesterday, as my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester mentioned, we announced that drivers across the UK will benefit from a further £56 million of public and industry funding to support the roll-out of electric vehicle charge points across the country.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I will not give way due to time, I am sorry.

The funding will expand the current local electric vehicle infrastructure pilot, boost the existing on-street residential charge point scheme, and help councils across England secure dedicated resources to develop in-house expertise and capabilities to co-ordinate charge point plans and work with private operators. This will lead to thousands of new chargers and plans for tens of thousands more, helping more people than ever to make the transition.

Turning to rapid charging, alongside local infrastructure the tipping point for mass adoption of EVs also relies on the ability of motorists to access a reliable, long-distance charging network. Today, those making long-distance journeys on England’s motorways and A roads are already never more than 25 miles away from a rapid charge point, and more than 99% of motorway service areas in England have electric vehicle charging available. However, more work needs to be done. The rapid charging fund will futureproof electrical capacity at strategic locations to prepare the network for a fully electric car and van fleet, ensuring that the private sector can continue to expand the charging network at pace.

People’s experience of public charging has been referred to in the debate. We have heard motorists and we are listening to their complaints that certain charge points do not work and that it can be difficult to find the right charge point at the right time. As a result, the Government have announced new regulations to improve confidence in the charging network and to make the user experience truly seamless. This includes regulating to deliver 99% reliability across each rapid charging network; to simplify payment methods through introducing contactless payment and to encourage roaming, which relates to the point made by my hon. Friend Andrew Selous about interoperability; and to make public EV charge point data freely available. These changes will give drivers the information they need about price and location.

Accessibility should also be embedded in public charge point design from the outset. In response to the point made by the hon. Member for Slough about those with disabilities, we know that disabled EV drivers face specific barriers when using public charge points and that many of them are likely to be dependent on the public charging network. That is why the Government have co-sponsored an accessible charging specification alongside Motability, the national disability charity. We are pleased to see that charge point operators are already considering how to incorporate these standards into their data and charge point design.

Before I close and give time to my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester to wind up the debate, I will just pick up on a few more points that have been raised. My hon. Friend Kerry McCarthy and for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) and others referred to the grid. Ofgem’s upcoming distribution network price control includes £3.1 billion of funding for strategic network upgrades, which will help to deliver EV charge point roll-out across Great Britain. We are committed, in the British energy security strategy, to work with Ofgem to accelerate connections to the network. Ofgem has also decided to change the connection charging regime from April to make it cheaper for EV charge points and solar photovoltaic systems to connect to the electricity distribution network, where reinforcement of the distribution network is required. We recognise that there is work to be done, but we have put in place work that we believe will deliver the grid for all.

Many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Bristol East and my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire, have referred to local authority uptake of funding. Some local authorities have taken up funding, but it is true to say that others have not done so. We understand that uneven level of engagement, capability, resource, political buy-in and certainty about EVs across England means that the roll-out of charging infrastructure is also uneven. Under the LEVI—local electric vehicle infrastructure—capability fund, which we announced yesterday, we are keen to provide an injection of up-front resource funding to help to ensure that local authorities in England have dedicated staff to undertake the planning and delivery of local electric vehicle charge points in their areas. I say to all right hon. and hon. Members present that the way to do that is for us to contact our local authorities and make it happen, as I have done. My local authority said that it did not have the funding or the capability, but with a bit of work it was able to do it. This fund will help that process a lot more, so I ask Members to please advertise it.

The Government will soon publish more details about the design of the ZEV mandate, including uptake in trajectories and accompanying CO2 emissions regulation regarding how the targets will be set and enforced. That comes back to the point about philosophy. We are moving away from subsidising individuals buying electrical vehicles, towards a mandate that will incentivise car manufacturers to produce EVs, and if they do not do so, they will end up being penalised. That is our future philosophy.

Finally, what will replace vehicle excise duty and fuel duty? That is a matter for the Treasury. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester very kindly referred to a Transport Committee report, but I am unable to answer his question because that report was written for the Treasury. I understand that the Treasury will respond shortly.

I will close there, to allow my hon. Friend his 30 seconds to respond, and I thank all Members present.

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee 3:59, 22 Chwefror 2023

I am very glad that the Minister managed to keep hold of his folder and that it was not mislaid. [Laughter.] I had to say that. He has, characteristically, covered a wide range of issues that are not part of his brief, and I thank him for doing so. We have talked about charging, power, cost, availability and investment, and we have asked whether we are ready and on track. I am encouraged by the Minister’s response. This is not his brief; it is another Minister’s brief. It is great that the Government have a plan. I know from being a Minister that it is great to have a plan with staging posts to make sure it is adhered to. I encourage Ministers to stay on it—

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Ceidwadwyr, Wellingborough

Order. I am really sorry, but time has beaten us. We must move on to the next debate.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).