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Transport Secretary criticised over VW scandal

Still ‘no convincing answers’ over whether more car manufacturers tried to cheat emissions tests, Labour says

There are “still no convincing answers” from the government over whether more car manufacturers other than Volkswagen were involved in manipulating emissions tests, according to Shadow Transport Secretary Lilian Greenwood.

Transport Committee 2

MPs on the Transport Select Committee grilling VW UK’s Paul Willis and SMMT’s Mike Hawes yesterday (October 12)

The Labour MP for Nottingham South yesterday (October 12) criticised Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s statement on the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal for saying “nothing in his statement to Parliament today about the thousands of people whose health has suffered, or about motorists who brought these cars in good faith and now potentially face higher fuel costs”.

Mrs Greenwood also claimed that the government was warned a year ago that emission levels were higher than claimed by the car manufacturer “but did nothing”.

She was responding to Mr McLoughlin’s earlier Parliamentary statement on the scandal, in which he said he had “applied considerable pressure on the company in the UK and on EU minister to resolve the immediate situation with speed and efficiency”.

“This means clear information for affected drivers and acting quickly to put right the affected vehicles,” he explained.

Mr McLoughlin said the Vehicle Certification Agency was currently running laboratory tests of diesel vehicles in order to compare with the real world driving emissions tests it intended to carry out in future, adding that “neither the cars nor the testing facilities will be provided by the vehicle industry themselves”.

Transport Select Committee

Mr McLoughlin’s statement came ahead of his appearance before the Transport Select Committee yesterday evening (October 12) in a hearing dedicated to the VW scandal, which has reportedly affected 1.2 million cars in the UK.

Mr McLoughlin told the Committee of MPs that “so far as the responses from the manufacturers we have received so far, we are satisfied” that no other companies other than VW have been manipulating diesel emissions tests.

However, he said that the Department for Transport was still awaiting full, written responses from several carmakers and that he had set a deadline for these to be received before the end of October 2015.

Also appearing during the Committee hearing was the managing director of Volkswagen Group UK, Paul Willis, who said he did not know for sure how many ‘rogue’ engineers at VW were involved in installing ‘defeat devices’ designed to get around laboratory emissions testing.

Volkswagen UK's Paul Willis gave evidence to MPs in Westminster

Volkswagen UK’s Paul Willis gave evidence to MPs in Westminster

He repeatedly replied to MPs’ questions with “I don’t know” but apologised “sincerely and unreservedly” to affected Volkswagen customers, whom he said the company was focused on regaining the trust of.

Mr Willis was unable to answer a number of the Committee’s questions, he said, because his role involves sales and marketing and he was “not an engineer”.

This led one MP on the Select Committee to later comment during questioning of Mr McLoughlin that “Mr Willis didn’t seem to know very much, which annoyed me intensely”.

However, he confirmed that around 400,000 VW cars in the UK would need engines as well as software fixing to resolve the ‘defeat device’ issue, while the remainder of affected vehicles would just need the software fixing, with the first recalls starting in early 2016.

Mr Willis also said that several members of his own family drove Volkswagen diesel cars, although he said that his own car was a diesel-electric hybrid vehicle.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes also gave evidence at the Committee hearing, reiterating that while there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by any other companies other than VW, there were now issues with consumer confidence in the car industry, which needed to be addresses by the introduction of real-world driving emissions testing currently under discussion at EU level.

In other related news, Hollywood actor Leonardo Di Caprio’s production company Appian Way and Paramount Pictures have reportedly bought the film rights to an as-yet-unwritten book about the VW scandal.

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