John Woodcock MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Minister, has written to the Permanent Secretaries of Downing Street, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Transport after Ministers chose the day of national strikes to slip out news they were tearing up a promise to create a national network of charging points for electric cars.
‘Making the Connection: the Plug-In Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy’ was placed on the Department’s website without a ministerial statement or press release. It contradicted the commitment set out in the Coalition Agreement to ‘mandate a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles’, declaring that this would be ‘not necessary’ and ‘uneconomic’.
In the letter to Lin Homer, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport, John Woodcock MP wrote:
‘The lack of fanfare for the electric cars announcement, and the fact it was published on a day on which the news agenda was dominated by the public sector strikes suggests that Ministers were attempting to bury bad news.
‘Given previous controversy that engulfed the Department for Transport, I trust you will want to comply with my Freedom of Information request as quickly as possible, so members of the public can judge for themselves whether this was a deliberate attempt to slip out another broken promise without proper scrutiny.’
John Woodcock said:
“The Conservative-led Government is desperate to hide the fact it is failing to live up to its boast to be the ‘greenest government ever’.
“People will be highly suspicious about the way Ministers have quietly slipped out this broken promise to help drivers switch from the combustion engine to electric vehicles.
“Sticking a major retreat on a website when everyone is focussing on the strikes is not on – Ministers need to come clean about whether they or their political advisers influenced this attempt to bury bad news.”
This latest Government retreat follows the decision not to commit beyond this financial year to continuing the grants set up by the previous Labour Government to cut the cost of buying new low carbon cars. The scheme, which can lower the cost of an electric or hybrid car by up to £5,000, is set to run out by March 2012. The £230 million, committed by the previous Labour government, has been cut to just a one year £43 million fund. Labour had no plans to review the scheme after only one year.
The Committee on Climate Change is clear that if the UK is to remain on course to hit ambitious carbon-reduction targets, we need to have reached 1.7 million electric vehicles by 2020.