Belfast Telegraph

Minister 'more concerned with protecting the reputation of Volkswagen'

The Government has been accused of being more concerned with protecting the reputation of Volkswagen than punishing the manufacturer after it "poisoned the people of this country".

The claim was made as the Commons Transport Select Committee questioned transport minister Robert Goodwill over the response to the diesel emissions scandal.

Mr Goodwill came under fire for refusing to state whether he believed software installed in UK vehicles to cheat emissions tests was illegal, or whether VW should pay compensation to affected owners in this country after agreeing to payouts in the US.

Committee member and Labour MP Graham Stringer told Mr Goodwill: " You're more concerned with protecting the reputation of Volkswagen into the future than you are about punishing Volkswagen, who have poisoned the people of this country."

Mr Goodwill said his " primary consideration" was to ensure that the affected cars are fixed.

Mr Stringer also claimed that the German manufacturer's lawyers would be "popping very expensive bottles of champagne tonight after this performance".

When Mr Goodwill replied that VW had probably cancelled its champagne order "some time ago" and was "in a very bad place in a number of countries", Mr Stringer commented: "Not in this country minister, they're laughing."

Fellow committee member and Labour MP Robert Flello accused the Department for Transport (DfT) of being "frighteningly complacent" as it is "more interested in getting (the problem) fixed rather than taking any sort of action".

The minister said he did not accept that the department had been complacent, saying the UK was the first member of the European Union to publish detailed results of its vehicle-testing programme after the scandal.

The figures showed that d iesel cars being sold in the UK emitted an average of six times more nitrogen oxide (NOx) in real-world driving than the legal limit used in official tests.

The investigation found that all of the 37 top-selling diesel cars tested exceed the legal limit required for laboratory tests when driven for 90 minutes on normal roads.

Ministers insisted no laws had been broken by the manufacturers as they are only required to meet lab test regulations.

The £1 million inquiry found no evidence of car manufacturers other than the Volkswagen Group fitting devices to cheat emissions tests.

VW admitted last September that 482,000 of its diesel vehicles in the US were fitted with defeat device software to switch engines to a cleaner mode when they were being tested.

It announced that almost 1.2 million vehicles in the UK are affected, but is disputing whether the software constitutes a defeat device in the European Union.