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Vehicle Emissions

Volume 600: debated on Monday 12 October 2015

I wish to inform the House of the latest developments on vehicle emissions testing, following the revelations of Friday 18 September that Volkswagen Group had been fitting so-called defeat devices to some of its vehicles.

Volkswagen Group has admitted that defeat devices are present on almost 1.2 million vehicles in the UK. These are diesel-powered vehicles tested and approved under the Euro 5 standard. Other vehicle manufacturers have confirmed that defeat devices do not exist on their vehicles. We, of course, will be testing this for ourselves.

I have taken a series of actions to defend the interests of UK consumers, both in the immediate and longer terms. The actions of the Government will continue to be guided by the over-riding principle of protecting consumers.

First, I have applied considerable pressure on the company in the UK and on EU Ministers to resolve the immediate situation with speed and efficiency. This means clear information for affected drivers and acting quickly to put right the affected vehicles. I have been clear that I expect VW to take every step necessary to protect its UK customers but it is right that the Government carry out their own thorough and independent investigation.

Therefore, secondly, I have announced a UK programme to retest vehicles. The Vehicle Certification Agency, the UK regulator, is running laboratory tests starting with those VW Group vehicles for which VCA has provided approvals. These tests will compare real world driving emissions against laboratory performance. We are taking steps to ensure independence; neither the cars nor the testing facilities will be provided by the vehicle industry themselves.

Thirdly, I have called for swift action by the European Commission to co-ordinate a pan-European approach. This is vital for ensuring that test results are available to consumers on a timely basis and to avoid duplication across different European countries.

Fourthly, a key element of regaining consumers’ long-term trust in vehicle emissions testing is to have tests that mean what they say. The UK was in the minority among member states earlier in 2015 in calling for “real driving emissions” to be speedily introduced. These tests will provide useful information that consumers can trust.

I met my fellow EU Transport Ministers in Luxembourg on 8 October and tabled the issue of vehicle emissions testing. I pushed for both a co-ordinated approach to retesting of vehicles across Europe and for real driving emissions to be introduced as quickly as practicably possible. I will continue working with my European colleagues to achieve the UK’s objectives.