Ministers are considering prosecuting carmaker Škoda over the alleged use of defeat device software in models approved in the UK.
In a recently published letter to the Transport Select Committee, minister Robert Goodwill stated that the Government is assessing whether to bring a prosecution of the company, which is owned by VW, over the use of engines equipped with software designed to cheat emissions tests.
A number of Škoda models received type approval in the UK
Although Škoda is a Czech-based company, EU-wide vehicle type approval for a number of its models was granted by the UK’s Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA).
In the letter last month, Mr Goodwill stated that under the Road Vehicles (Approval) Regulations 2009 ‘it is an offence for a person to knowingly or recklessly make a false statement for the purpose of obtaining vehicle type approval’.
He explained that in order to bring a prosecution, ministers ‘must establish that Škoda officials had knowledge of the use of a prohibited defeat device in VW diesel engines and made false statements in that regard when they presented the vehicles to VCA for type approval’.
Mr Goodwill said criminal counsel was instructed in January and gave preliminary advice the following month.
He said counsel was reviewing that advice in light of more recent events, including the publication of DfT's Emissions Testing Report, adding ‘it is envisaged that he will provide updated advice by the end of May 2016.’
According to the minister, European prosecuting authorities are liaising and coordinating their investigations. He said: ‘DfT officials have been part of those coordinating efforts and continue to monitor the progress of those investigations and, where necessary, press for information.’
Mr Goodwill also told MPs that the reason no VW cars in the UK had been fixed in respect of ‘defeat devices’ was that the German type approval authority had not been satisfied with the technical solution presented.
He explained: ‘We understand this was because their proposed tests had showed an increase in C02 readings from the affected vehicles.’
As the type approval authority for Škoda, the VCA is responsible for assessing the fix for those cars. Mr Goodwill said it is ‘important we only approve a solution that does not negatively impact the car's performance in any other way to ensure consumers are protected’.
He added: ‘DfT officials are being robust with Skoda.’
Transport Network is waiting for an update from DfT on the current situation.