Cars are lined up after coming off the production line at the Vauxhall manufacturing plant at Ellesmere Port in north west England.
A government minister has cast doubt on the government’s pledge to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
Andrew Mitchell’s comments came amid Tory splits over the party’s net zero commitments.
Right-wing Tories have urged Rishi Sunak to water down some of the party’s green commitments in the wake of last week’s Uxbridge by-election.
The Conservatives clung onto Boris Johnson’s old seat by campaigning against the expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which will see drivers of old cars charged £12.50 a day.
Former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “I would scrap the pledge to get rid of petrol cars in 2030.
“I would get rid of things that apply direct costs. We need to think about what other countries are doing, what is proportionate and affordable.”
Backbench Tory MP Jonathan Gullis said: “This is something that is concerning people and is doing harm to our automotive industry.”
Appearing on Radio Four’s Today programme this morning, Mitchell initially refused to guarantee that petrol car ban would survive.
Presenter Justin Webb asked the Foreign Office minister: “Is the ban on new petrol cars for 2030 still in place?”
Mitchell replied: “It absolutely is.”
Webb then asked: “And is it going to remain in place?”
The minister said: Well, all I can tell you is that it is in place.
Interjecting, Webb said: “Hang on a second, you’re telling me it is in place but not necessarily that it’s going to remain in place.”
Mitchell then said: “Well I’m afraid that I can’t prophesy for the future.”
The presenter replied: “What you seem to be saying is that it is in place at the moment but that you’re not sure whether it’s going to remain in place for the rest of the term of this government.”
But the minister hit back: “That is not what I am saying. I’m saying it is in place and it remains in place… and it will remain in place.”
Former minister Zac Goldsmith – who resigned from the government last month accusing Sunak of “apathy” over climate change – said it would be “idiotic” for the Tories to ditch their net zero commitments.
He told The Observer: “It would also be politically suicidal, given the very deep and wide support for action on the environment that exists right across the electorate.
And it is immoral, given that both government and opposition acknowledge the gravity of the crisis we face.