Emissions from Heavy Duty Vehicles

[back to previous text]

The Chairman: I call Stephen Hammond—provided that the questions are linked.
Stephen Hammond: Absolutely, Mr. Benton. The Minister gave figures of £3,833 and £2,100 that represent the initial capital costs of fitting the cleaner engines and exhaust per vehicle. However, other estimates in papers have suggested that it might cost as much as £6,000. Was any advice offered on that?
Jim Fitzpatrick: I can only confirm that those are the figures contained in my briefing—£3,833 and £2,100.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): I apologise for arriving a minute or so late, Mr. Benton, but I was in another meeting.
My hon. Friend the Minister spoke about improving the engines of lorries, of which we are all in favour. Of course, it is easy to do that with one’s own domestic hauliers, but a high proportion of the traffic through Britain, and across the continent in general, consists of hauliers from other countries. Many of those lorries entering Britain are known to be unsafe—they have undergone roadside checks and been found to be unsafe. Is it not likely that they will also have a high level of emissions that will not be policed automatically by this Government?
Jim Fitzpatrick: My hon. Friend makes a very fair point. There is concern across the country about vehicles on international journeys not conforming to basic regulations, whether on the hours that drivers work, construction and use, the overloading of vehicles or non-compliance with emissions standards. He will be aware that the Government recently provided additional funding to bolster the enforcement agency—the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency—and to focus on those hauliers. Furthermore, some two months ago we announced an additional £24 million to provide two new checking stations, two-way motion sensors, 97 new members of staff, 24/7 working at two different points in the country and additional electronic and IT kits and vehicles, which will allow us to stop a further 30,000 vehicles. At the recent meeting of Transport Ministers, the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton) raised with European partners the point about the exchange of data on, and index numbers for, such vehicles so that we can spot and focus even more on regular offenders. I can give my hon. Friend a very strong reassurance that the Department takes very seriously the enforcement of regulations across the board and has invested in it considerably recently.
Mr. John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): I would like, if may, to ask a couple of questions about the discrepancy between the Government’s figures and the Commission’s. The Minister said that as far as the Government were concerned, the worst-case scenario was 8 per cent. Did the Commission consider its figure of 2 per cent. to 3 per cent. to be the worst-case scenario or the best-case scenario?
Jim Fitzpatrick: My understanding is that the Commission’s figures are based on 2014, when the regulations will be implemented. Our worst-case scenario figures are our estimate of the position at the moment, although, as I said, we expect that the improvement that we have seen over the years in heavy goods vehicles will continue and that the gap will close. That is why we believe that there will be an improvement in our worst-case scenario figures, which leads us to believe that the cost-benefit analysis is appropriate.
Mr. Leech: So, to clarify, does the Commission’s figure of 2 per cent. to 3 per cent. take into consideration the general year-on-year improvements that it expects between now and 2014?
Jim Fitzpatrick: That is my understanding. Because we are dealing with the figures and calculations provided by our consultants today, we believe that there will be a reduction in the penalty between now and 2014. That means that the situation and the cost-benefit analysis will improve between now and then.
Mr. Leech: One final question, if I may. The Commission refused to give some information about how it had made the calculations. Have the Government been able to get any further information about how it came to its conclusion?
Jim Fitzpatrick: We do not have any more information now than we had when the Commission originally published its figures.
Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet) (Lab): May I, too, ask a couple of questions? The category V standard could be achieved either by a better emission control system or by using a fuel additive. Is it intended that category VI will be achievable by either solution, or is it a technically neutral proposal?
Jim Fitzpatrick: My understanding is that it is both.
Dr. Ladyman: In that case, if someone does not add the additive, which some operators tend not to do because it saves them money, and their emissions therefore increase, would their vehicle be immobilised under category VI?
Jim Fitzpatrick: I can only presume that if a vehicle emits a level of pollutants that is in breach of the regulations, that vehicle would have to be stopped.
Dr. Ladyman: In that case, has the Department had any discussions with the Commission about whether it will be possible, in the time scale proposed for the introduction of the standard, for vehicle manufacturers to develop systems to ensure that a vehicle will not operate unless category VI standards are achieved? In other words, might it be better to delay the introduction of the standard by a year or two and end up with a failsafe standard, rather than introduce it on the current time scale, which might allow vehicles to be produced in which people could cheat the system?
Jim Fitzpatrick: My hon. Friend has extensive experience, probably more than I, of dealing with the introduction of category V. I am not in a position to respond directly to his question at the moment, although I might be able to return to it in my concluding remarks. However, the Commission believes that the introductory date that we have settled on is achievable, and, having put down markers about our concerns, we are comfortable with it. We believe that by 2014, the improvements that will have occurred in engine technology will mean that, as the cost-benefit analysis shows, we will want to proceed.
Stephen Hammond: May I return to the line of questioning that was started by the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington? If the Government were to base their estimate of the worst case on 2014, would that estimate be 2 per cent. or 3 per cent., or would it be significantly different from what the EU suggests?
Jim Fitzpatrick: We do not have a figure that we can point at with any certainty as to exactly what the reduction will be. As I said in my opening remarks, we have seen a reduction over recent years, the manufacturers believe that that improvement will continue, and therefore the gap between 8 per cent. and 3 per cent. will be narrowed.
Stephen Hammond: In the interest of transparency and so that a judgment can be made, is the Minister willing to publish the guidelines, advice and calculations that were done by Ricardo, so that they are available for people to see?
Jim Fitzpatrick: I think that we will be able to do that. I will confirm that in my closing remarks if I may, but there ought not to be a problem with that.
Kelvin Hopkins: May I first welcome my hon. Friend’s answer to my earlier question about the additional resources for VOSA? Will it test specifically for emissions, as well as other aspects of vehicle safety? If not, will that not mean that there will be unfair competition with British hauliers, who live under a much stricter regime?
Jim Fitzpatrick: VOSA’s job is to ensure that vehicles that ply their trade on our roads are safe and comply with the regulations. It is the Department for Transport’s objective to ensure that British hauliers are not disadvantaged to the benefit of non-British hauliers. That is why we have given the extra investment to VOSA, to ensure that it does an even more effective job than it is doing at present.
Mr. Leech: May I draw the Minister’s attention to the supplementary explanatory memorandum on European Community legislation, dated 26 June? He did not make reference to this in his opening remarks, but paragraph 13 mentions penalties. The penalty would be the possible withdrawal of the type approval certificate, which in practical terms would result in certain vehicles not being able to be sold in the future. The memorandum goes on to suggest that in certain circumstances, there may be a criminal offence. Will he explain what would be the benefit of making non-compliance a criminal offence, rather than a civil offence? In the event of it being classed as a criminal offence, would civil action be taken at the same time?
Jim Fitzpatrick: I am not in a position to answer that, I will try to come back to it in my closing remarks.
Dr. Ladyman: The categorisation that we are discussing has had huge benefit in driving down particulates, but it applies only to people buying new vehicles. There comes a point where the old vehicles on the road are pumping out the particulates for as long as they are running. Has my hon. Friend yet had any discussions with the Commission to suggest that, either as part of category VI or in parallel with it, we should start to introduce measures to allow older vehicles that are more polluting to be taken off the road or forbidden from European roads?
Jim Fitzpatrick: I have not had any discussions with the Commission regarding what will happen as vehicles get older and dirtier. My understanding is that the number of heavy goods vehicles being withdrawn from service on UK roads every year is about 40,000. I have looked at the problem of seatbelts on heavy goods vehicles, because of the deaths caused by vehicles before 1991, when there was no requirement to have seatbelts. In that regard, there is a degree of responsibility on the owners of the vehicles to ensure that they are safe and roadworthy, but I have not had discussion with the Commission on whether older vehicles, which will become dirtier, should be withdrawn from service.
Stephen Hammond: May I draw the Minister’s attention to the UK briefing for MEPs, dated July 2008? It states that the Government support the implementation date, but not any earlier implementation dates. May I assume that that is because they calculated that the fuel penalty of earlier implementation would be greater, and if so, what would that penalty be?
Jim Fitzpatrick: The hon. Gentleman is correct. We do not support an earlier introductory date, because we believe that the gap between us will narrow. If there were an earlier introductory date, there would be less time for the gap to narrow and so the cost-benefit analysis would change.
Stephen Hammond: May I ask the Minister the second part of that question? Have the Government calculated what the fuel penalty will be? Presumably, it will be greater than 8 per cent.
Jim Fitzpatrick: We have said that the worst-case scenario today is 8 per cent., so it would not be greater than 8 per cent., but would reduce towards 3 per cent. We have strongly argued and made our case to the Commission, as have other member states, that 2014 is the appropriate introductory date, and we would not support an earlier one.
Stephen Hammond: The Minister will be aware that there are amendments before the European Parliament for a zero NOx limit and for Euro VI to be introduced one year earlier for new vehicle types and 18 months earlier for new registration. May I take it that the Minister does not support those amendments?
Jim Fitzpatrick: We have clearly stated our case today and to the Commission that 2014 is the earliest implementation date that we would support.
Stephen Hammond: I have one final question on this issue. Does that mean that Labour Members of the European Parliament will be instructed not to vote for the amendments?
Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government will make their feelings on this matter absolutely clear to all British MEPs. I hope that we can count on the Opposition to support us on that and to relay the message to their MEPs. We will certainly convey the message as strongly as possible to Government supporters on the European parliamentary Benches.
Kelvin Hopkins: I have a question linked to that of my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet about older vehicles. Heavy goods vehicles have a long working life and can be resold. Is it possible that a large number of older vehicles from outside the EU, some of which might be second-hand from British or other European hauliers, travel across the EU and Britain and have much higher emissions? Is it possible that a large number of vehicles, perhaps from some of the poorer eastern European countries, are travelling through Britain with much higher emissions than the newer, relatively more modern and efficient vehicles that British hauliers tend to buy?
Jim Fitzpatrick: My hon. Friend raises a similar point to that raised before. Cost-benefit analyses of schemes that encourage people to scrap older vehicles by offering grants have always suggested that the cost of scrappage schemes would exceed the benefits. However, I know that he is not asking directly about such encouragement. The regulations will apply to new vehicles and there will be a scaling down of vehicles through their withdrawal from service by virtue of age. In countries where the infrastructure is not so good and the economic position is not so strong, companies might not be able to afford to replace vehicles as frequently as UK haulage firms, but once the regulations are in place, they must be adhered to.
Mr. Leech: Does the Minister have any figures on the number of vehicles that are likely still to fail Euro V standards by the time the Euro VI standards are introduced?
Jim Fitzpatrick: No, Sir.
Stephen Hammond: Different manufacturers are at different stages of technological development. The Minister will know that Scania believes that it has Euro VI sorted, to use its language. MAN has asked for access to Scania technology, Renault has called for a sharing of knowledge and Volvo is urging progress on fuel alternatives. What discussions have the Government had with manufacturers?
Previous Contents Continue
House of Commons 
home page Parliament home page House of 
Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 16 July 2008