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Vehicle Emissions Regulation

Volume 601: debated on Thursday 29 October 2015

1. What the implications are for his Department's policies on vehicle emissions regulation and low-emission vehicles of Volkswagen Group’s use of defeat devices. (901862)

The current differences between laboratory testing and real-world emissions are unacceptable. The UK has been actively pressing Europe to address this problem, and the agreement we secured in Brussels yesterday to introduce real-world testing in 2017 is an important milestone. However, we will continue to press at EU level for a comprehensive approach on emissions testing that restores consumer confidence and delivers our wider air quality and climate objectives. In addition, we will continue our programme of support for ultra-low emission vehicles.

Volkswagen’s new CEO has said that all the affected vehicles will be fixed by the end of 2016, but the UK managing director has said that this might not be deliverable. What assurance can the Secretary of State give that he is working with Volkswagen to ensure that the affected vehicles will be fixed by the end of 2016?

I will be looking to Volkswagen—which, it has to be said, has acted disgracefully in this whole episode—to ensure that it lives up to the expectations that it promised originally, and we will be working to make sure that that does happen.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Volkswagen has shattered trust in motor vehicle testing and that we need to move at pace to real-world testing to restore confidence among the public?

I certainly do agree with my hon. Friend. When I appeared before the Select Committee a few weeks ago, I made that position abundantly clear. The progress we made yesterday is progress in the right direction.

The still-unfolding scandal of Volkswagen has lifted the lid on a much more widespread problem about emissions testing that was known about for a very long time. Why did not the Department act sooner to do something about it?

The hon. Lady says that it was known about for a long time. In 2001, the number of diesel vehicles sold in this country was 460,000, or 17%, while in 2009 it was 815,000, or 41%. So if it was known about for some time, it is not this Government who are culpable but the previous one.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the quest to improve air quality in our cities will be assisted by the new zero-emission-capable TX5 London taxi that is being developed in my constituency?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. I have had the opportunity of travelling in one of those taxis. As I said, part of the answer is that we will continue our programme of support for ultra-low emission vehicles. That is very important.

Some 1.2 million cars have been affected across the UK. It is important to be mindful of the innocent drivers, as of course they all are, who are now facing a higher road tax bill and a decreased sale value. Does the Secretary of State agree that the full financial implications of this disgraceful thing that has happened should be placed at the feet of Volkswagen and Audi?

Motorists will not face any increase in taxes—we have made that fairly clear—but this is one of the issues that VW will have to address in due course.

Is not the reality, though, that Ministers’ statements are leaving motorists and people concerned about air quality none the wiser? Will the Secretary of State clear the air on one point, which is what happened at the EU Technical Committee yesterday? It was not just about setting a timetable for new cars to conform with existing emissions, was it? Did it not also involve an open-ended permission to breach those limits by 50%, and is not that what the UK representative voted for?

What was important yesterday is that we got agreement for real-world emissions testing right across the whole of Europe. That has been objected to in the past. We pressed for it in May, and I am very pleased that we achieved it yesterday. If the hon. Gentleman says that it is not as much as he would like or as fast as he would like, I would say that we have made more progress in six months of this new Conservative Government than was ever made by the previous Government.