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Dieselgate: enforcement, yes; centralisation, no

The European Commission is right to look at better enforcement of rules to prevent a repeat of the Dieselgate scandal, but its proposals today risk becoming an unnecessary centralisation of power.

The EU executive today published proposals in response to the recent allegations involving ‘Defeat devices’ for new cars. The proposal include measures to strengthen the independence and peer review of testing centres for new cars, a market surveillance system that detects offenders early on, and – most controversially – greater centralisation of the approval system for cars that would allow the commission to conduct spot-checks of cars on the road and withdraw substandard cars, and to withdraw permission for testing centres if they are under-performing.

The system for approving new vehicles – known as the Type Approval system – is conducted at national level, so any new EU mechanism will likely see a shift of power from national authorities to the EU.

Daniel Dalton MEP, European Conservatives and Reformists group internal market spokesman, said:

“The European Commission is more worried about who is asking the question, rather than getting the answer right. The tests that we had in place were not sufficient and we do need better enforcement, so the proposals to make testing centres more independent would seem to be a welcome step.

“However, I fear that the EU has looked to the USA’s federal-level Environmental Protection Agency and said, ‘I want one of those’. They need to get out of the mentality that if there are failings in a system then only more centralisation and interference is the answer. There has been a lot of will from all sides to ensure that Dieselgate never happens again, but by launching a power grab with a new army of EU clipboard inspectors, the European Commission is undermining its own objective.”

Julie Girling MEP, European Conservatives and Reformists environment spokesman, added:

“We need stronger tests that are better enforced. We can begin down that road next week by supporting proposals for Real Driving Emissions tests for new vehicles. Consumers should know exactly the level of emissions their cars emit on the road, not in a test situation, so getting this system in place is crucial.

“If the European Parliament is serious about improving the system for vehicle testing then it will drop its intention to block plans for Real Driving Emissions tests next week. The emission levels are not as strenuous as I would like, but this should be about putting in place the right kind of vehicle testing regime. Once the right tests are in place we can raise the ambition levels. By blocking the proposals the European Parliament will not improve them; it will simply delay much needed tests for months, if not years. That is irresponsible posturing that does nothing to tighten vehicle testing regimes now. We have a habit of throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

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