Michael Gove has flat-out denied that the government will alter plans to ban the sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, confirming “the policy remains”.
This comes as following comments from the Prime Minister that threw the green law into doubt.
Speaking yesterday, Rishi Sunak failed to confirm whether the ban would still go ahead as originally planned, as rumours mounted that any new climate-focused laws that "unfairly impact the public" would be toned down.
He said the UK would “make progress towards net zero” but “in a proportionate and pragmatic way” that “doesn’t unnecessarily give people more hassle and more costs in their lives”, adding: “That’s not what I’m interested in and prepared to do.”
However, this morning, Gove, who is Secretary of State for levelling up, housing and communities, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that this wasn’t the case.
"No, it shouldn’t,” he responded when asked if blocking the sale of new pure-ICE cars in 2030 would impose excessive costs on people.
“We’re committed to maintaining our policy of ensuring that by 2030 there are no new petrol and diesel cars being sold."
He added: “I’m sure there are some people who would like to change that policy, I understand, but no, that policy remains."
Sunak's comments came after ministers, mainly from a new group of right-wing Conservative MPs, called for a rethink on some green policies.
In response, he said: “I’m standing up for the British people because I’m also cognisant that we’re living through a time where inflation is high. That’s having an impact on household and families’ bills. I don’t want to add that. I want to make it easier.”
The ICE ban, arguably the biggest policy change to hit the automotive industry to date, would mean only hybrid and electric cars would be allowed to be sold from 2030, with sales becoming EV-only from 2035.
The move has also been adopted by the European Union.
When asked about his commitment to the ban – which was three years ago brought forward from 2040 to 2030 as part of an effort to accelerate the government’s 2050 net zero target – Sunak said: “Of course net zero is important to me. So, yes, we’re going to keep making progress towards our net zero ambitions and we’re also going to strengthen our energy security.”
But he said other avenues should be explored too. “I think the events over the last year or two have demonstrated the importance of investing more in home-grown energy, whether that’s more nuclear or offshore wind. I think that’s what people want to see and that’s what I’m going to deliver.”
The PM's comment comes just days after JLR owners Tata confirmed plans to build a £4 billion battery factory in Somerset.
UK sales ban remains government’s commitment
Following the comments, which seemed to leave the door open for a policy change, the prime minister’s official spokesman was asked to give a cast-iron commitment that the ban would be implemented in 2030.
He told The Telegraph: “That remains our commitment. I think as you heard from the prime minister, what we want to do is ensure that this approach is proportionate and pragmatic and doesn’t unfairly impact the public.
“I think that is what the public and indeed businesses would expect. But obviously the 2030 approach remains our commitment.”
He added that the government wanted to “make sure that all” net zero policies were “proportionate and pragmatic and that is what we are doing now”.
“Aston Martin exemption” to 2030 ban
The government is also contemplating an "Aston Martin exemption" to the car sales deadline, reports the Times, which would mean low-volume car makers would be given longer to switch to electric vehicles.
This follows Autocar’s report in February that European Union law makers had confirmed these 'niche' manufacturers may continue to sell ICE cars in the EU after the 2035 ban (when Europe will also go EV-only).
Manufacturers that register fewer than 1000 cars annually will be exempt from the ban.
This is something also being considered by the UK government. Back in February, a spokesperson for the Department for Transport told Autocar it didn't rule out the prospect that this could be included.
Rishi Sunak’s car ban comments criticised
The prime minister's comments have been criticised by member of the automotive industry
One of those is the body that represents the UK’s electric charge point operators.
ChargeUK said its members have “committed over £6 billion to roll out EV infrastructure in all parts of the UK at an unprecedented rate” as part of the ZEV mandate.
This has “created good, sustainable jobs, supporting the switch to EVs and thereby reducing emissions and improving air quality for all”.
It added: “If the government fails to stand firm to its commitments, this investment and the supply of EVs entering the market will be at risk.
“ChargeUK members are already providing the infrastructure to support the electrification of transport and to usher in a cleaner future. ChargeUK members are committed to making the UK the best place to own and charge an EV and key to that is having the right charging infrastructure in the right place."
Another to launch heavy criticism was Instavolt, who called the comments "completely unacceptable".
CEO Adrian Keen said: "The timing of these calls is particularly eye raising given the wildfires in Rhodes and record-breaking temperatures this week. It shows a lack of ambition and selfishness from politicians who somehow seem to forget the climate crisis isn’t on the way, it is already here.
“These pledges and their outcomes will provide tangible improvements and help clean up dirty air. We know these policies aren’t always easy to deliver on, but they are integral to the delivery of sustainable transport in polluting cities and towns.
"Without government advocacy and support, consumer confidence will continue to dwindle when we need it most. The government said they would “Build Back Green” – these rumblings fly in the face of these pledges.”