VW scandal: Cameron condemns emissions fraud, so why won’t the government take action?

Government can’t have it both ways

The global brouhaha over Volkswagen’s emissions fraud has left the European car industry in disarray.

VW is being urged to admit which models feature the fraudulent software in Britain, and already the company has seen $25bn (£18bn), wiped from its value. BMW’s shares also dipped last week as cars faced intense emissions scrutiny.

Meanwhile, the British government is coming out of the scandal particularly badly.

This is for four key reasons.

Firstly, The Times revealed that information about the scandal was given to the government in October 2014, and no action was taken. The Department for Transport admitted receiving a 60 page report almost a year ago, which was sent to it by the same organisation that uncovered the VW scandal in the US.

Secondly, it has emerged that the British government has been actively attempting to block European moves to clean up air quality. According to the Observer, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs actively lobbied MEPs to vote against proposed legislation that would allow regulators to carry out “routine and non-routine” inspections on vehicles’ “real-world” emissions.

Thirdly, the UK has failed to follow Switzerland’s approach and ban the sale of VW diesel models affected by the scandal. About 180,000 affected cars are yet to be sold in Europe, under the VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda brands.

Fourthly, David Cameron has neatly displayed the contradictions between the rhetoric and the actions of his government. Speaking about the scandal for the first time he said: “What appears to have happened here is unacceptable. If companies are breaking the rules and fiddling the figures, that is unacceptable. Emissions standards matter and they have to be properly policed and delivered.”

Banning the sale of cars, he said, was a matter for the Department for Transport.

Today, Audi confirmed 2.1 million of its cars, 1.4m in Europe, had been sold with the illegal emissions cheat software. Affected models include the A1, A3, A4, A5, A6, TT, Q3 and Q5, a spokesman told Reuters.

Almost 30,000 deaths a year in the UK are accelerated by polluted air. Of these, at least 23,000 are blamed on the toxic nitrogen dioxide emitted by diesel engines.

In Britain, diesel is forecast to become four times more popular than petrol by 2030.

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