Diesel vehicle owners could be compensated, suggests transport minister

"The Government will not penalise those who are worse off"
"The Government will not penalise those who are worse off"
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A transport minister has suggested owners of diesel vehicles could be compensated after vowing to consider proposals for a new means-tested scrappage scheme.

Conservative frontbencher John Hayes said the Government will "not penalise those who are worse off" as it bids to tackle air pollution with a "new vigour and determination" via so-called clean air zones.

Neil Parish, Conservative chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, has proposed a new scrappage scheme which would offer cash to those motorists willing to replace their "older, dirtier" diesel vehicles before clean air zone charging is implemented.

He said this scheme could be targeted to "pollution hotspots" in the UK and apply to motorists who own the 5.6 million diesel cars which were on British roads before 2005, considered to be more polluting.

Mr Parish suggested the scheme could mirror a previous scrappage scheme from 2009 by offering a £2,000 discount on a new vehicle - £1,000 from government and £1,000 from car manufacturers - with funding capped at £500 million or time-limited.

Replying to a Westminster Hall debate, minister Mr Hayes said air quality in the UK has improved but added: "Let's be clear - we must do more."

Mr Hayes said clean air zones - which potentially include supporting low emission vehicles, promoting cycling, upgrading buses and taxis, plus charges for the most polluting vehicles - are being designed and will "support the transition to a low emission economy".

He said the Government is considering how to lessen the impact of the policy on "those worst affected".

Mr Hayes told MPs: "(Mr Parish) has suggested a scrappage scheme which is means-tested could address some of those issues.

"He's emphasised the fact that his scheme be means-tested and he's done so with passion - and Hegel says 'Nothing great in this world has ever been accomplished without passion' and (Mr Parish) has displayed that very passion today.

"Let me be clear with him, I note his points and I'd ensure they are considered as part of our consultation and part of our work.

"Again, I don't think you'd get much better than that typically in Westminster Hall.

"It's absolutely right that the Government's clean air zone policy recognises all of the challenges that have been set out by various contributors to this debate and tackles the most polluted places knowing low-cost transport is vital to people's opportunities and to their wellbeing."

Mr Hayes went on: "This Government is determined to put the wellbeing and welfare and health of our people at the heart of all it does.

"We will bring forward that plan and policy, it will be balanced and it certainly will not penalise those who are worse off."