The danger is that China will try to acquire some of those brand attributes. After all, China owns MG, does it not?
I accept that point, but Chinese manufacturers are intending to bring to the UK a load of brands that are anonymous and bland and they will not have the same attractiveness to the consumer.
On the incentives to acquire an electric vehicle, in recent years, there has been a cash grant to offset the extra cost of an EV. That now stands, I think, at £1,500 towards a vehicle costing less than £32,000. One way the Government could make a change and provide a reason for many private buyers to buy EVs is to level the playing field between private buyers and company car users. We have already heard that company drivers benefit from favourable benefit-in-kind rates, which means that they can save hundreds of pounds each month if they choose an EV over an internal combustion engine. One reason that employers are keen to encourage that is that they make savings on employers’ national insurance contributions. That is why many of the EVs on our roads are company cars. An increasing number of companies are also offering salary sacrifice schemes as a method of getting staff to switch to an EV. It would be beneficial if the parliamentary authorities were to launch such a programme in Parliament as a way of getting MPs and staff here to consider making the change.
On electrical vehicle charging, in our Select Committee report, we spent a lot of time considering charging infrastructure. We know that, in addition to the higher capital cost, range anxiety is a key reason drivers will not switch. Frankly, I hope the Minister will accept that the picture here is less rosy, with public charging in particular failing to keep pace with increasing numbers of electric vehicles.
I got a sense of the challenges when the most recent motorway services opened at junction 1 of the M6 at Rugby in 2021. At one point, because of the lack of power infrastructure, it looked as though the site would open with only two charge points. It was a real challenge to get enough power but, fortunately, good work by the site operator and the power network enabled 24 charge points to be available at the opening. Thanks to additional provision since 2021, there are now 40 charge points at junction 1 of the M6 at Rugby. It is a great place for people to stop in the middle of a long journey across England.
Too often, chargers are busy or are not working. I happened to notice a letter in The Times today from a driver of an electric vehicle, who recounts that he restricts his round trips to his battery’s limit of 240 miles and takes public transport for longer journeys. In fact, he questions—perhaps with tongue in cheek—whether that is the Government’s intentional strategy. Clearly we will not achieve the transition we need if every electric vehicle has that issue.
I appeal to the Minister to intervene with my local authority. Warwickshire County Council is providing public charge points but is allowing anybody to park in front of them for as long as they like, so someone who has identified a vacant charger via the app may get to a site and find a diesel internal combustion engine-powered vehicle occupying it. That seems absolutely crazy. I ask the Minister to put pressure on local authorities to ensure that parking in front of public EV chargers is available only to electric vehicles, and that they move off once they have finished charging.
A further issue for many EV drivers is that charging at a public site has a higher cost than charging at home. I suspect most EV drivers expect to pay more for using the facility and for charging faster, but I do not know how many realise that they are paying 20% VAT, compared with just 5% at home. That is why I supported the campaign by the motoring journalist Quentin Willson to reform VAT and equalise the charge.
We spend a lot of time talking about battery manufacture; in fact, the Business and Trade Committee is conducting an inquiry into it. The conventional thinking is that because a battery represents 40% of the value and weight of an electric vehicle, assembly will migrate close to where the batteries are manufactured. West midlands MPs, including me, have been calling for the development of a gigafactory at the Coventry airport site, adjacent to the traditional heart of UK automotive manufacture. I very much welcome the investment coming to Somerset from Tata Sons, with 40 GW of capability, but it is well accepted that we need 100 GW to keep business operating at the same level. To achieve that, we will need one more gigafactory, or maybe two. I very much hope that that will happen in the midlands, at the Coventry airport site.
Five years on from our Select Committee report, automotive remains an important sector and a major contributor to the UK economy. The transition to EVs presents real opportunities for manufacturers, the supply chain and the associated sectors. The one thing I know from my business career is that businesses need certainty. Having embarked on change for all the right reasons, the Government must maintain their course and create the climate for further growth in future years.