Labour admits "wrong decision" over encouraging diesel cars

Labour’s shadow environment minister Barry Gardiner has admitted that the party made the wrong decision to base car tax on CO2 emissions, encouraging people to buy diesel cars.

In an interview with Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, which was aired yesterday evening, he said: “Hands up. There is absolutely no question that the decision that we took was the wrong decision. At that time we didn’t have the evidence that subsequently we did have and we had cleaner diesel engines which we thought meant that any potential problem was a lower grade problem than the problem we’re try to solve of CO2.”

It comes after Islington Council increased the cost of parking permits for diesel cars in a bid to completely rid the borough of diesel vehicles by 2023.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has called for a diesel scrappage scheme and Paris is planning to ban diesel cars by 2020.

The programme, named The Great Car Con, claimed that diesel cars emit 22 times more particulate matter (soot) emissions than petrol vehicles, putting people in urban areas at risk of cancer.

Meanwhile, four times the amount of oxides of nitrogen emissions could be responsible for an increased risk of heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Despite strict EU targets, the UK government recently admitted that there was too much nitrogen dioxide in 38 out of 43 areas in the UK.

Fuel consumption figures not representative of the real world

Dispatches went on to claim that official NEDC lab tests for fuel consumption were not representative of the real world.

A spokesman for the Transport and Environment campaign group, Greg Archer, said: “The carmakers have found dozens of ways of manipulating those test results, so that the car passes the test but doesn’t perform anything like as well on the road.”

The programme claimed that some manufacturers could go as far as removing rear seats to save weight when undergoing the test, as well as removing door mirrors and taping up panel gaps to make the cars before streamlined.

Archer added: “The procedures the companies have to follow don’t say you can’t disconnect the battery, and you can’t tape up the doors and grilles. Of course they don’t, because that would be stupid.”

In response, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “All the manufacturers operate within the set test. The test has to be witnessed by an independent, third-party witness, which is appointed by the government agency.

“I’m not aware of manufacturers that would basically set to cheat the test.”