Car makers who try to cheat diesel emissions rules could face unlimited fines under tough new measures unveiled by ministers.
In a bid to prevent a repeat of the Volkswagen scandal that affected 1.2 million cars in the UK, firms that fit ‘defeat devices’ will be hit with criminal charges and substantial financial penalties.
Under the proposals, which would go further than current EU rules, manufacturers who deployed the specialist software to avoid pollution tests would face the full force of the law.
Volkswagen was hit with a massive £16bn in civil and criminal fines in the United States after it was found to have been systematically avoiding disclosure of the true levels of diesel emission from 11 million of its vehicles worldwide.
But in Britain, the firm faced no similar penalty, although the Department of Transport persuaded the German car giant to instead pay £1m towards the Government’s new Vehicles Emissions Testing Programme.
Former Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told MPs in 2015 that VW “deserves” to “suffer very substantial damage” in the wake of the revelations about its conduct.
Transport Minister Jesse Norman said the new crackdown would be put out for consultation with the public and others, but signalled the Government wanted change.
“We continue to take the unacceptable actions of Volkswagen extremely seriously, and we are framing new measures to crack down on emissions cheats in future,” he said.
“Those who cheat should be held to proper account in this country, legally and financially, for their actions.”
The new scheme would also extend to any importer who brings a “non-compliant” product to the UK.
Department for Transport is also announced on Thursday night further proposals designed to improve air quality, reduce carbon emissions and enhance road safety.
They included new requirements to give car-buyers full information from new more stringent emissions tests and fresh moves to tighten up the rules on cars previously held as ‘stock’.
The proposals are part of a wider attempt by Theresa May and Environment Secretary Michael Gove to pitch the Tories as a “green” government.
May and Gove vowed late last year to end the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars and vans in the UK by 2040.