VW ‘dieselgate’ [UK] payout offer outrageously low, says Sadiq Khan
The Guardian, 12 December 2016
Sadiq Khan has called on the government to secure proper compensation from Volkswagen for the “dieselgate” scandal, saying the £1.1m pledged so far was outrageous. The London mayor said the settlement was far too low compared with the £12bn payout achieved by US authorities for VW’s use of sophisticated “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests.
In a letter to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, Khan also urged the government to secure other concessions equivalent to those obtained by the US authorities. He wants UK VW owners to have a buy-back option and compensation for cities such as London, which is estimated to have up to 80,000 VW cars that have a defeat device installed.
“‘Dieselgate’ is a global health scandal, but more than 12 months after the use of so-called defeat devices came to light, the government is running scared from its regulatory responsibility to take action on VW,” Khan said.
“In the US, the authorities have secured over £12bn but so far our government has only secured an offering of a mere £1.1m – which is simply outrageous. I am now urging Chris Grayling to stand up for the British public and come forward with an urgent, strong plan of action. In London alone, thousands of Londoners unwittingly bought VW cars unaware that their ‘dirty’ diesel engines were contributing to London’s toxic air.”
He suggested compensation could fund a national diesel scrappage scheme but more pressingly wants the government to use its regulatory powers to remove affected vehicles from the streets.
His intervention, which follows a letter sent to VW bosses demanding compensation for Londoners, comes days after the European commission began legal action against the UK and six other EU countries for failing to act against car emissions cheating.
The UK is one of four countries accused of issuing approvals for VW Group cars and not applying national provisions or penalties, despite the company’s use of illegal software.
The letter to Grayling says: “Given the global scale of Volkswagen Group’s use of ‘defeat devices’, and the urgent national priority ascribed to improving air quality – especially by tackling diesel emissions – I am surprised you have not been more assertive in using your regulatory powers to secure vital action from Volkswagen to begin addressing these challenges.”
Khan urged the transport secretary to set out what urgent regulatory action he intended to take. He asked for information on the extent to which the defeat device software helped the vehicles obtain approval, so he can consider what options are open for him to intervene directly “given the lack of progress”.
The mayor wants VW to reimburse Transport for London £2.5m in lost congestion charge revenue, resulting from the defeat devices. He plans to use the money to raise awareness and reduce exposure to air pollution at schools in some of the most polluted parts of London.
The US Department of Justice reached a near $15bn dollar settlement with VW, including $10.03bn to compensate consumers and $4.7bn to mitigate the additional pollution and invest in green vehicle technology.
A Department for Transport spokesman said it had taken swift action to protect UK consumers from VW’s “unacceptable actions”. He added: “We were the first country in Europe to complete our own tests (April 2016) to ensure the issue was not industry-wide.
“We continue to push VW to take action to compensate the UK consumer. Transport minister John Hayes recently met with the MD for VW UK, Paul Willis, to reaffirm the government’s calls for compensation and press for a fix to affected cars to be carried out as quickly as possible.”