Belfast Telegraph

Transport Secretary urged to 'step up a gear' on UK Volkswagen compensation

Ministers have been urged to "step up a gear" and secure compensation for UK motorists affected by the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

The car manufacturer has agreed to payouts for drivers in the US after admitting that 482,000 of its diesel vehicles there were fitted with defeat device software to beat emissions tests.

And just over one million vehicles were affected in the UK, but no compensation package has been agreed, with VW disputing whether the software constitutes a defeat device in the European Union.

But Labour has now called on Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to make sure drivers in the UK get similar treatment to their counterparts in America.

The calls from shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood follow an appearance by Transport Minister Robert Goodwill in front of the Commons Transport Select Committee on the issue earlier this week.

Ms Greenwood said during Transport questions in the House of Commons: "On Monday the Minister of State said that Volkswagen hasn't fixed any cars yet in this country.

"NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions pose a serious health risk to drivers, indeed to everyone, and as he acknowledged we now know that all manufacturers produce diesel models that pollute above approved limits.

"How are you going to address the problem of higher NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions across all models and will you now take urgent action to make sure that when it comes to Volkswagen the UK isn't left at the back of the queue?"

Mr McLoughlin said the Government "certainly will" address the issue before accusing Labour of starting the "dash for diesel" when Gordon Brown reduced duty on low-sulphur fuel in 2001.

Mr McLoughlin said that decision had increased annual diesel car registrations in the UK from 3.45 million to 8.2 million.

Ms Greenwood said those decisions were "based on the science at the time".

She said: "As you know, American owners may be entitled to up to 5,000 US dollars (£3,430) in compensation while the owners of 1.2 million VW vehicles in this country are not receiving a penny.

"Last week the Number 10 press machine was assuring us that the Transport Secretary has pressed VW on the specific issue of this discrepancy of compensation.

"But on Monday the Minister of State said that compensation was a matter for the courts and not ministers.

"This is a matter of basic fairness so when is the Transport Secretary going to step up a gear and fight for a decent compensation deal for UK Volkswagen drivers?"

Mr McLoughlin said the Government's position on the issue had been made "perfectly clear" and that ministers take the subject of compensation "very seriously".

He said: "We want to see action taking place but I'm glad you said when you responded to the huge increase in diesel cars in this country that was based on evidence at the time.

"It just shows that not the proper research was done at the time."