The government has insisted the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 will not be changed, amid speculation that it could be scrapped.
Last week, Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said that the deadline for the ban was “immovable” even as the government appeared to be considering weakening its net zero policies.
Concerns about the policy’s future were raised after a government minister appeared to suggest it was being considered before retracting his remarks, and the prime minister refused to commit to a specific time.
Andrew Mitchel, a Foreign Office minister, said during a round of interviews that with regard to the 2030 ban he couldn’t “prophesise for the future” and told Times Radio, “I think the important thing is to wait for any announcement from the government.”
However, he stated that the policy had not changed after further questions around the issue.
On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he was asked whether the ban on the sale of new petrol cars from 2030 is still in place, to which Mr Mitchell replied: “It absolutely is,” adding, “and will remain in place.”
Last Tuesday, Michael Gove, Housing Secretary, informed Times Radio that the deadline for the ban would not be put back. Questioned on Times Radio if it was “immoveable,” he replied: “Yes.”
He later told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re committed to maintaining our policy of ensuring that by 2030 there are no new petrol and diesel cars being sold. I’m sure there are some people who would like to change that policy, I understand. But that policy remains.”
After Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refused to explicitly recommit to the ban, a spokesperson for him said that the 2030 deadline “remains our commitment.”
Asked after Mitchell’s interviews whether he is continuing with the target for banning new fossil fuel car sales, Mr Sunak insisted: “We’re going to make progress towards net zero but we’re going to do that in a proportionate and pragmatic way that doesn’t unnecessarily give people more hassle and more costs in their lives – that’s not what I’m interested in and prepared to do.”
He did not make it clear, however, whether or not the so-called “Aston Martin exemption” for smaller cars could be introduced, or whether the 2030 deadline will remain in place.
After his comments, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “That [the 2030 ban] remains our commitment. I think as you heard from the Prime Minister this morning, what we want to do is ensure that this approach is proportionate and pragmatic and doesn’t unfairly impact the public. I think that’s what the public and indeed businesses would expect. But obviously the the 2030 approach remains our commitment.”
The official added: “It is right that if the situation changes and new technology evolves that we keep our approach under review and make sure that it is the right one. Equally at a time of global high inflation, which is hitting the public hard, we need to make sure that we’re getting the balance right.”
The 2030 ban will stop the sale of all new cars and light vans powered purely by petrol or diesel engines. Hybrid models that can travel “significant distances” on electric power alone will see sales allowed to continue until 2035.
However, the government also intends to impose an EV mandate, which will force at least 22% of all new car sales in the UK to be zero-emissions vehicles.
The ban being pushed back or exceptions being made has been suggested as the government faces challenges on how its net zero policies will affect households dealing with the cost of living crisis.
A “rethink” over the speed at which net-zero goals are pursued is being called for by some Tory MPs, including the 2030 ban, which the government says puts the UK on course to be the fastest G7 country to decarbonise cars and vans.
The remarks follow reports that the Tories’ victory in the Uxbridge by-election was partially attributed to public outrage over London’s ULEZ development.
However, those involved in the UK’s electric car industry warned against any softening of the ban. Melanie Shufflebotham, co-founder and COO of charger mapping service Zapmap said: “The country’s future climate commitments should not be a political football, especially when the signs of global heating are so visible today. Road transport accounts for around 20% of all our emissions, and electric vehicles are a proven technology solution.
“The 2030 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars has given businesses the confidence to invest — an entire industry is working towards meeting this deadline, and it is well within reach. The government must be like a handbrake-less electric car and not roll back.”
A spokesperson for ChargeUK, which represents public charging operators, added: “The phase out of petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 will be gradual. If government fails to stand firm to its commitments this investment and the supply of EVs entering the market will be at risk.”