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Move to low emission vehicles "a colossal opportunity for Britain" - senior minister

Mon 08 February 2016 | Back to news list


Oliver Letwin, Cabinet Office Minister for Government Policy has described the move to low and zero-emission vehicles as "a colossal opportunity for Britain to play a leading part in an industrial revolution" . Mr Letwin was speaking in answer to questions from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Commitee.

Mr Letwin was invited to address the Committee following his recent appointment as Chair of a new inter-departmental ministerial 'Committee on Clean Growth'. The inter-departmental group was set up late last year to discuss issues relating to air quality and decarbonisation where these require attention across several government departments. 

Speaking in answer to questions from the Chair of the EFRA Committee, Neil Parish MP, during a session of the air quality inquiry, Mr Letwin said: "There's a colossal opportunity for Britain to play a leading part in an industrial revolution - which is probably going to happen anyway - but where we have a choice either to be a major part of it or to lag behind it....and we want to be a major part of it.

"We can turn a series of very, very great challenges into a series of very, very great opportunities...and that, I think, is the prize."

Several of the issues raised by Mr Letwin and Rory Stewart, the Defra minister responsible for air quality who was a witness at the same committee session will be debated at a joint seminar/reception organised by the LowCVP in collaboration with the Clean Air Alliance on 1 March (more details below).

Mr Letwin particularly highlighted the opportunities provided through vehicle electrification. He said that there are "huge opportunities" and that "there are pretty well uniform views across the (inter-ministerial) group that the long-term - or even medium-term - solution lies in the electrification of our car fleet. 

"There are huge advantages we can have here which don't lead to conflicts between carbon dioxide and NOx for example;  electric engines sort out both problems."

The Cabinet Office minister said that a new Government strategy would be unveiled within two years to give Britain 'pole position' in the electric car revolution in both usage and production.

During the EFRA evidence session, Mr Letwin also revealed that talks are under way with an Indian car manufacturer for mass production of a long-range electric car at a “very affordable” price.

The inter-departmental ministerial Commitee on Clean Growth was formed in the wake of last year's VW emissions scandal. According to a letter from the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, to the Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, the group (chaired by Oliver Letwin) has been set up "to consider issues relating to air quality and decarbonisation, where these have a cross-departmental aspect. The group meets as and when required and its members include ministers and officials from the relevant departments including DECC, Defra,  DfT, DCLG and BIS". (During the EFRA Committee evidence session, Mr Letwin added that representatives of Treasury also take part in the group's discussions).

Mr Letwin predicted a “tipping point” at which the take-up of electric vehicles would dramatically escalate. For taxi, bus and van fleets this could be just “around the corner”, to be followed by mass adoption of the technology for cars then lorries.

The LowCVP Managing Director, Andy Eastlake, had provided evidence to the EFRA Committee's inquiry into Air Quality during an earlier evidence session. (Link here)

The LowCVP and the Clean Air Alliance (CAA) have joined forces on an initiative which aims to bring the climate change and air quality communities closer together and to help ensure that UK vehicle and transport fuel policy is most effectively oriented towards tackling these twin threats. The initiative will be launched at a Parliamentary Reception which follows a related seminar on Tuesday March 1. MORE DETAILS HERE.

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