Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Questions

22nd October 2019

Nadhim Zahawi answers MPs’ questions to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Nadhim Zahawi MP speaking at the Dispatch Box, October 2019

High Speed 2
 

4. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on the potential benefits of High Speed 2 to businesses in the north. [900038]

The independent Oakervee review will advise the Government on High Speed 2, including potential business benefits and how it should proceed. The hon. Lady will understand that I would not want to prejudice those findings.

I thank the Minister for that reply, but six regional heads of the CBI say that High Speed 2 should be built in full and the Northern Powerhouse Partnership recently published its excellent independent review saying the same, arguing that only HS2 can really rebalance our economy. Will the Secretary of State, as the business representative at the Cabinet table, advocate for business in the north?

The hon. Lady mentions the CBI. Both the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and the Mayor of Birmingham, Andy Street, who sits on the panel conducting the review, have said it is important that we kick the tyres on value for money, but it is also important to make such representations to ensure that the committee gets a full view of the business benefits of HS2.

May I urge the Minister to ignore the siren voice opposite? Most people in the north accept that HS2 is a catastrophic waste of money— a huge white elephant that is destroying the environment and the countryside and will chiefly benefit London, hence why it started out in London in the first place. May I therefore urge him to tell the Secretary of State for Transport to scrap HS2 and crack on with the thing that will really benefit the northern economy—Northern Powerhouse Rail or HS3—connecting the north, which is what we need to benefit the north’s economy.

I do wish the hon. Gentleman would overcome his natural shyness.

I do not think there is any danger of that, Mr Speaker.

My hon. Friend raises an important point, which is why the Prime Minister has pledged to fund the Leeds to Manchester route and has accelerated those plans with a deal in the autumn of 2019, with billions of pounds going into Northern Powerhouse Rail, and has of course set up Transport for the North.

The Minister may know that I am a fierce opponent of the £100 billion that is going to be wasted on HS2. Has he looked at research in France, where we see that high-speed trains actually suck more power and wealth into the metropolitan area of Paris, rather than the renewal of provincial towns? Will he have a look at the £100 billion, because that is how much it is going to cost, and will he spend it instead on investing in the workforce of this country?

The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point, although his colleague, the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), was shaking her head, so there is clearly division on the benefits of HS2. That is why we have an independent review to tell us which way we should proceed.

One of the businesses in northern Lincolnshire that will be a crucial part of the supply chain for HS2 is British Steel in Scunthorpe. I urge the Minister, when he is in discussion with the Department for Transport, to consider the effect on the supply chain and the impact on local economies.

That is certainly a consideration for the review.

Hansard

 

Businesses: Dartford
 

8. What recent steps she has taken to support businesses in Dartford constituency. [900042]

I am pleased to say that Dartford has been shortlisted for the future high streets fund to renew its town centre. This will build on £4.3 million support already allocated from the South East local enterprise partnership growth fund.

A number of businesses in my constituency face an uncertain future due to a nationally significant infrastructure project earmarked for the Swanscombe peninsular, where those businesses are located. Will the Minister commit to working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to do all he can to support the businesses that find themselves in that situation?

I fully appreciate the concerns of local businesses with regard to the uncertainty over Swanscombe peninsular. My Department works very closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. I will gladly raise this with the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry), when I see him tomorrow.

Hansard

 

Electric Vehicle Technology
 

14. What support her Department is providing for the development of electric vehicle technology. [900048]

We have just announced up to £l billion of new funding to advance the next generation of cutting-edge automotive technologies. I am sure the House would want to know how that funding is being used. Part of it is being used by the supply chain for large-scale production of electric vehicles so that we scale up the production in the UK, and of course part of it will be used for vehicle research and development.

I do not know whether you have had the opportunity to make a journey in one of the new electric London taxis, Mr Speaker, which are manufactured in my Rugby constituency by the London Electric Vehicle Company and which often provide people with their first experience of an electric vehicle. The company has just recorded its best ever sales month, with 352 taxis sold, and the fleet is improving the carbon footprint in our cities by preventing 6,800 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. What further can we do to improve the switch to electric?

I am very pleased to hear that the London Electric Vehicle Company had record sales in September. I spoke to the CEO recently and was very impressed with their capability. I understand their sales have grown month on month since April. They have capacity to produce 20,000 vehicles a year and his message to this House when I spoke to him was, “Let’s get Brexit done.”

Some London boroughs have hundreds of electric vehicle charging points while whole towns in the north have none, but given the lack of public transport options in places such as St Helens would it not be economically and environmentally better to invest in places such as mine to get people out of their cars?

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this issue. Our grant scheme and the £400 million charging infrastructure investment fund will see thousands more electric vehicle charging points installed across the whole of the UK.

To accelerate take-up, first, we need to have more people having an electric vehicle in their consideration set, so alongside communications to consumers can the Minister look at the pivotal role played by dealers in getting more people to take a test drive?

My right hon. Friend raises an important point. Different touch points with consumers are important. For example, when people go for a replacement tax on their car, they should be immediately alerted to the fact that, instead of paying that tax, they could pay for a new electric vehicle.

Electric vehicles represent a fantastic opportunity to combat climate change and boost manufacturing jobs. That is why Labour is committed to investing £2.3 billion in three new battery gigafactories, £3 billion in support for manufacturing new car models, and £3.6 billion in our electricity grid and charging infrastructure, and we will also provide targeted interest-free loans for new electric cars for up to 500,000 people a year. We will do all that while retaining membership of the world’s largest customs union. Apart from a few ad hoc pots of money, the Government are proposing green licence plates. When it comes to climate change and manufacturing, is it not true that the Government are all hot air and no action?

The hon. Lady just reeled off a list, so I will reel off my own list of good news, starting with the fact that Government announced £1 billion to increase the capacity for electric car development. On 10 October, Nissan launched the new Juke model after investing £100 million in Sunderland. On 26 September, Jaguar Land Rover announced its latest investment in the Gaydon facility, close to my constituency. On 18 September, INEOS Automotive announced that its headquarters and assembly plant for its SUV will be based in Bridgend. BMW’s new MINI Electric launched in July. JLR has made a massive investment in electric engines at Castle Bromwich. On 20 March, Toyota announced a collaboration with Suzuki to make an electric version of its Corolla model. That is all real investment, not “hot air”. The Labour party would crash the economy, raise taxes and have nothing—nowt—to spend on the green economy.

Hansard
 

Topical Questions
 

T5. When we leave the European Union, we will also leave the auspices of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, so what plans do Ministers have to provide regulatory certainty to the aerospace sector and for the thousands of jobs that it relates to in my constituency? [900064]

I think the hon. Gentleman would know that we already have agreements in place so that planes can continue flying. If he votes for the deal today, we will be in a much better place to leave in an orderly way.

Hansard
 

T7. Last week, Tata Jaguar Land Rover announced that it had created an electric drive unit, which the Government are helping to fund. In view of that, will the steel Minister work with Tata to ensure that the Orb steelworks in Newport stays open and is part of the supply chain? It would be a travesty to lose the capacity to make electrical steel in this country. [900066]

The hon. Lady and I are set to meet on 29 October, and I am meeting the all-party group on steel the day before. I will do everything I can to work with Tata to see whether we can find a future for the steelworks.

Hansard

Video

 

DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT

I am not currently an MP, as Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election on 12th December 2019.