Britain’s vital automotive industry will only “thrive” with the development of cleaner, greener diesel and petrol engines, according to a Scottish MP.
Kirstene Hair – who is the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group of Westminster MPs on fair fuel for UK motorists and hauliers – also warned that “demonisation” of conventional fuel could lead to a downturn in the sector.
The Scottish Conservative MP for Angus told a debate on job losses in the industry that there is a “vital need” for alternative fuels to be used in cars and vans.
One of the party’s manifesto commitments is a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, with the majority of vans and cars on the road by 2050 producing zero emissions.
However the development of clean conventional fuels by that point would ensure the prosperity of current firms while encouraging “development over exclusion”.
More than 125,000 people – more than 8% of all British manufacturing jobs – work in the automotive sector, which contributed £15.2 billion to the national economy last year
Hair said new engines could have a “starkly different” environmental impact while remaining familiar and fit for consumers. She said:
“The UK government is keen to see similar progress on the issue of the environment and engaging with alternative fuels, one of the most pressing topics facing car manufacturers.
“It must be made clear that this commitment does not mean we are turning our back on existing firms or what has been achieved in the past, rather we wish to work with these organisations and guide them into new and emerging technological avenues.
“And I’m sure everyone will agree for the sake of the environment that there is a vital need for this change but it would be wrong to present this change as being instantaneous.
“Already we have seen a detrimental impact that comes from demonisation of certain sectors in favour of others, and what follows in that loss of confidence is a decline in production and a loss in jobs.
“Hence as we move forward we must be clear that different fuels that are supported equally here in the UK and only by promoting a nuanced industry, one that prioritises development over exclusion, will it be possible to encourage further foreign investment and allow the industry to thrive.”
At the same time, the Fair Fuel UK campaign group has also highlighted recent central government policy failures on energy and transport which have blighted the British automotive industry.
Howard Cox, founder of the Fair Fuel UK Campaign, said: “In advance of Michael Gove’s latest clean air strategy, we are delighted that he may now be recommending alternative sources of pollutants to be penalised.
“It is refreshing that he is not singling out drivers, for the moment, as the only emissions demons.
“However, we are cautious too, that his latest pronouncement may be just a sweetener, before he unleashes local authorities to hit motorists, white van drivers and the haulage industry with more punitive taxes, low emission zones and punishing bans. “
“Fair Fuel UK and the All Party Parliamentary Group of Westminster MPs for Fair Fuel is focussed on recommending to the heads of Environment, Transport and the Prime Minister, there are alternative proven effective ways to lower vehicle emissions without hitting 37 million UK drivers in the pocket.
“We will be protesting to No 10, Mr Gove and London mayor (lord provost) Sadiq Khan to ensure all drivers get the fairest of deals and incentives to move to cleaner fuels.
“The last two years of clueless policies and ill-informed emotive health data has devalued the diesel fleet by up to 40%. It’s time to work with motorists – not fleece them of their hard earned cash.”
Climate Change Committee says half of all new cars must be BPVs (battery powered vehicles) by 2030 – even though a diesel-driven scrappage scheme would cut UK emissions by just 0.02%
Hair’s remarks coincided with the launch of a new Brit-Govt consultation on its forthcoming Clean Air Strategy.
A Whitehall spokesman explained: “We are consulting on a draft strategy, setting out how we will work towards meeting these ambitious reductions in England (and where relevant across the UK).
“However, air quality is a devolved matter with responsibility also resting with the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive.
“Since air pollution does not respect national boundaries, securing the necessary improvements will require action in all parts of society and across the UK.”
Submit your response to the consultation to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to
Clean Air Strategy consultation
Air Quality and Industrial Emissions Team
DEFRA Ground Floor, Seacole Building
2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF
23 May 2018