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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:15 pm on 20th April 2017.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport) 2:15 pm, 20th April 2017

The hon. Lady is of course right, and I will say more about that. She will know that some of the work we have been doing domestically, as well as that which we have been doing to change assumptions pan-nationally, is born of the fact that we agree with her that we can and must do more. Although it is true that a contributory factor to the problem has been the failure of the standards, she is right to say that there are other things that we do and can do better.

Let me move to the substance of today’s debate. A good starting point would be to begin where the hon. Lady began, which is with what Volkswagen actually did. Benjamin Disraeli said:

“Circumstances are beyond human control, but our conduct is in our own power.”

In our judgment, Volkswagen used a defeat device, as defined by EU regulation. The cycle recognition software that VW employed in the course of the albeit imperfect tests, which I described earlier, was a defeat device. We do not consider that any of the exceptions to the prohibition of defeat devices apply here, or that Volkswagen has established any justification for the use of that device. We do not think there is any get-out-of-jail card for Volkswagen, despite what it claimed or said to the Transport Committee. On that basis, the Department’s view is that Volkswagen used a prohibited device. I have been consistently clear that Volkswagen must therefore face appropriate consequences for the manipulation of those emission tests, and I am confident that progress is being made in the jurisdictions where the major wrongdoing occurred.

A number of contributors to this debate asked me about the work we are doing across jurisdictions, including Germany, for obvious reasons, and the USA. We intend to discuss this further with US and German counterparts. We have also been working with the European Union, because a number of EU countries were affected by the consequences. We plan, wherever we can and at whatever point, to ensure that the action that is taken by others is consistent with the action we take. We will not be laggards. Far from it: we want to encourage that sort of joint approach at every opportunity. Those discussions are continuing, and I hope they will be productive.

The issue of EU-wide action was also raised. I have to say that, at this juncture, the EU as a body does not seem to have moved with any great enthusiasm, and certainly not with any alacrity. That is why we plan to engage particularly with German counterparts. That is where the wrongdoing largely took place and where much of the evidence lies, as the Secretary of State said when questioned previously. Action across national boundaries would be the most effective approach. To be clear, it is not the only action we should take, but it is an important part of the determined approach we intend to continue to adopt.