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

I agree. I believe that the consumers affected by the scandal should be compensated. I have called on the company to offer UK consumers a similar package to that given to their US counterparts—the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire. The company will claim again, as they already have, that the United States has a different legal system with different requirements, and that that is somehow a justification for not doing what I have just called for. However, I think that the company has an ethical responsibility to do so.

We need a fair outcome for UK vehicle owners. To that end I have met legal firms that are considering taking action against Volkswagen on behalf of affected customers. I am now actively considering ways in which we can support the firms to optimise the chances of their claims succeeding—those discussions are ongoing. My officials are speaking to vehicle owners’ legal representatives, and I am happy to meet those people again. I encourage the owners of affected vehicles to look carefully at the actions the legal firms are taking and to consider whether it is right for them to join them. Compensation, far from being off the agenda, is still very high on my agenda for the reasons I have given.

Let us not forget that the issue has, as I said, left people with vehicles that they bought on one assumption but now know not to fit the bill. At the technical level, it is important that the consumers affected have their cars fixed. Volkswagen has developed technical solutions to remove the cycle recognition strategy for vehicles across their four affected brands. We have of course not relied on Volkswagen’s opinion that the solutions are appropriate, but have performed our own checks to verify the accuracy of the company’s claims and the efficacy of the devices.

As the original approval authority in the UK, the Vehicle Certification Agency has direct responsibility for signing off the Skoda technical solutions. The VCA checks that vehicle emissions, such as nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide, and vehicle noise remain below the legal limits. As part of the testing, the VCA also checks for any adverse effect on CO2 emissions and maximum rated engine power. I am aware that those factors have been of serious concern to affected consumers and I want to reassure people that we are closely monitoring the issue.

I have pressed Volkswagen to ensure that it implements those technical solutions as soon as possible. As of 10 April, Volkswagen had applied the fix to approximately 592,000 of the 1.2 million affected vehicles in the UK. It has put extra resources into the process as a direct result, in my view, of the pressure that I have exerted on it. I told the company I wanted that done quickly, properly, efficiently and conveniently for the customer. We are making progress, but the Department’s officials are monitoring the process carefully. I asked Volkswagen for regular updates on progress, which we are getting.

Of the seven technical solution clusters that Skoda proposed to the VCA, we have so far signed off two. Since then we have been made aware of concerns that the durability of the emissions regulation system may be adversely affected by the technical solution. The Department’s technical experts have frequently requested—I have been to meetings with Volkswagen about this—detailed information from Volkswagen, which it has often taken far too long to provide. As a result, we have had to delay the sign-off of the remaining vehicles while we continue to assess the evidence presented so far.

Separately, we are pressing Volkswagen to provide UK customers of the four VW brands that have the technical upgrade applied with a meaningful statement of its goodwill policy. Volkswagen must provide a meaningful statement of its goodwill policy—I repeat that for the sake of emphasis, though I do not want to become a creature of habit in employing the device of repetition. The company must investigate any complaints that arise from the service action, taking appropriate measures to rectify them swiftly and appropriately.