The 2023 Labour and Conservative party conferences have been and gone, and both sides have big plans for the country’s motorists. Read on for all you need to know.
Conservative party conference 2023: Transport Secretary demands review of 15 minute cities
Prior to the Conservative Party Conference, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the ban on petrol and diesel car sales in the UK would be pushed back from 2030 to 2035. Now, Transport Secretary Mark Harper has outlined more policies aimed at motorists.
He called for a review of 15 minute cities, calling them “sinister”. But what exactly is a 15 minute city?
Essentially, a 15 minute city is one where people can get to all the necessary amenities within a 15 minute walk or cycle ride, including things like shops, schools and doctors surgeries.
While this seems idyllic, it has been a source of controversy for some time now because people believe they discourage driving and limit freedom of movement in their cars. You can read more about 15 minute cities in carwow’s guide.
Talking at the Conservative Party Conference, Mark Harper said: There’s nothing wrong with making sure people can walk or cycle to the shops or school, that’s traditional town planning.
“But what is different, what is sinister, and what we shouldn’t tolerate, is the idea that local councils can decide how often you go to the shops, and that they can ration who uses the roads and when, and that they police it all with CCTV.
“So today, I am announcing that the Government will investigate what options we have in our toolbox to restrict overzealous use of traffic management measures including cutting off councils from the DVLA database if they don’t follow the rules.”
Mr Harper also hit out at the blanket use of 20 mph speed limits, saying that they are “yet another way to punish drivers”, a sentiment which was shared with the leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Senedd Andrew Davies following the rollout of a default 20mph speed limit across Wales.
Mr Davies said: “Nearly half a million people have signed a petition calling for Labour’s blanket 20mph speed limits to be scrapped. But Mark Drakeford won’t listen.
“And the Labour minister who imposed blanket 20mph speed limits on Wales arrogantly dismissed the decent Welsh people who signed the petition as anti-road safety.”
He also claims that the new 20mph speed limit will cost the Welsh Government up to £9 billion, with up to £40 million going towards the changing of road signs.
UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper argued that introducing blanket 20mph speed limits may result in drivers ignoring them when they are truly needed. He said: “20mph zones are a good way to protect schools, for quiet residential areas, or areas that are becoming rat runs.
“We will change the DfT’s guidance, requiring councils to only use 20mph zones where there is good reason, and underlining that 30mph is the default speed limit on urban roads.”
Labour would introduce standardised battery testing for used EVs
The focus at the Labour Party Conference was more on railways than roads after the recent scrapping of the HS2 high-speed rail service. That said, there were a few mentions of motoring.
To speed up the adoption of EVs, Labour said it would introduce standardised battery testing on used electric cars, giving buyers more confidence when buying second hand, as well as giving more realistic estimates of the real-world range of new electric vehicles.
Speaking at the Labour Party Conference, Shadow Business Secretary Jonathon Reynolds said: “Every family deserves the chance to have an affordable, reliable car in their driveway. Labour knows the value of vehicles to our economy and society – that’s why we have a plan to drive the British automotive industry confidently into the future.”
Mr Reynolds also addressed the UK’s electric car charging infrastructure, vowing to install reliable charging networks in every part of the country, as well as promising to increase domestic battery manufacturing amid concerns about the looming rules of origin changes.
The Rules of Origin specify that 40% of the parts value of an electric car have to be ‘local’ content, meaning the parts come from the country in which it’s built. Cars which don’t meet this criteria will have a 10% import tariff if exported to the EU.
However, these rules are changing as part of a trade deal between Britain and the EU, the percentage of local content an EV must be made from is increasing from 40% to 45%. Because the battery makes up such a large percentage of an EVs value, increasing local battery production is important for car makers to avoid this import charge.
With a general election coming next year, you can expect both parties to come out with new policies on motoring over the next few months. Keep an eye on this page to stay up to date.