Emissions and Vehicle Type Approval — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 20th April 2017.

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Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Chair, Transport Committee, Chair, Transport Committee 1:30 pm, 20th April 2017

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the Third Report of the Transport Committee, Volkswagen emissions scandal and vehicle type approval, HC 69, and the Government Response, HC 699.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe.

In September 2015, the American non-governmental organisation the International Council on Clean Transportation discovered that Volkswagen had been cheating on emissions tests around the world. The purpose of such tests is to ensure that vehicles comply with standards on nitrogen oxides—a poisonous emission. Volkswagen eventually admitted that its cheating started in 2006. Defeat device software was installed so that emissions were reduced only when the vehicle was being tested in the laboratory and did not reflect what happened on the road. The consequence was 11 million VW vehicles worldwide—1.2 million of them in the UK —pumping out poisonous gases at many times the acceptable level. This is an issue of consumer confidence and public health. Emissions standards exist to protect our health; each year, in the UK alone, nitrogen oxides cause 23,000 premature deaths.

The Select Committee on Transport was determined to find out what had happened. In October 2015 we first heard evidence from Paul Willis, the managing director of Volkswagen UK. It quickly became apparent that this was not just a case of one rogue company—it exposed deficiencies in the vehicle testing process. We launched our inquiry into VW emissions and vehicle type approval in November 2015. Our report published in July 2016 made findings in three major areas.

First, Volkswagen showed a cynical disregard in its treatment of European customers. We were astonished to hear Volkswagen apologise for what it had done, and subsequently deny that it had done anything wrong. Its continuing refusal to provide UK customers with any compensation remains deeply unfair. Secondly, the vehicle type approval process was not fit for purpose; riddled with conflicts of interest, its inadequacy meant that VW was able to cheat the emissions standards for years without detection. Thirdly, much needed to be done to improve the emissions tests overall. Like the type approval process, emissions standards have undergone review at EU level, but before the emissions scandal they had been allowed to become hopelessly out of sync with developments in vehicle technology.

We have continued to pursue this issue as regards Volkswagen’s culpability for its deception and in pressing for fair treatment of its UK customers. Doing so raises the question of the adequacy, or inadequacy, of the action of UK authorities.