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House of Commons Hansard
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Emissions Standards: Fines
04 February 2016
Volume 605
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2. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on the proposals by the European Commission for it to levy fines on vehicle manufacturers that do not meet emissions standards. [903445]

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In the wake of the Volkswagen engines scandal, it is extremely important both that we have monitoring in place to check the real levels of emissions of nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants from engines, and that we have proper fines in place. This Department and the Department for Transport will look very carefully at the proposals that were put forward by the Commission last week.

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I am grateful for that very positive response from the Minister. Does he agree that it is time to break the relationship between industry, testers and regulators, so that the process is truly independent and so that Government agencies, whether they be in his Department or the DFT, act wholly in the public interest?

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As a matter of principle, it is incredibly important that regulators are entirely independent of the industry they regulate. This is essentially an issue for the DFT. The reason the Commission’s proposals are interesting to ourselves and the DFT is that they include both the commitment on spot checks, with a clear indication of the fines, and a separation, as the hon. Gentleman says, the regulator and the industry.

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Car emissions are a main contributor to poor air quality in this country. Many of the former local authorities that covered my constituency were among the first to sign up to the Clean Air Act 1956, but much of that progress has gone backwards as a result of poor air quality in urban areas. Is it not time for a new clean air Act that is fit for the 21st century?

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Clean air is certainly an issue of significant concern, but air quality has improved significantly over the past 30 years. The levels of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, PM2.5 and PM10 have improved.

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Not around here.

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Air quality has also improved here. However, we will work very closely with individual local authorities on clean air zones to meet the level in the ambient air quality directive of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

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On the foot of the ongoing discussions with the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in relation to our inquiry into air quality, will the Minister hold the car manufacturers to account to ensure that car owners throughout Britain and Ireland who have been affected by the defeat devices are compensated?

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This is a DFT lead, but the issue raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) about the Commission’s proposals addresses the relationship between the manufacturer, the vehicle owner, and the kind of fines that could be imposed. That is why member states will be looking closely at that Commission proposal.