The call for action comes seven years after the ‘dieselgate’ scandal first emerged, when Volkswagen was found to have installed illegal “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests.
The Midlothian MP was speaking after attending a parliamentary event hosted by law firm PGMBM, together with pioneering UK clean air NGOs including UK100, ClientEarth, Asthma + Lung UK, Clean Cities Campaign, Global Action Plan and Mums for Lungs.
Research by PGMBM estimated that every vehicle fitted with a defeat device is the equivalent to having an extra 2.2 vehicles on our roads. This would amount to 10.2 million diesel vehicles in the UK, over a million in Scotland, emitting harmful emissions.
Mr Thompson said: “I am backing tougher action to cut air pollution. We must better protect people’s health from this silent killer. With Midlothian the fastest growing part of Scotland, it’s particularly important as more houses are being built, that we take robust action to reduce emissions.
“The UK Government consistently missed EU targets on air pollution, so now that we are out of the EU I am concerned that measures to protect our air will be weakened and we will fall further behind.
“Seven years have passed since the dieselgate scandal but unlike other countries, the UK has missed an opportunity to reduce avoidable pollution that will have contributed to thousands of unnecessary early deaths. Figures for Midlothian alone show the impact of dieselgate – with excess NOx emissions the equivalent to an extra 17,375 diesel vehicles on the road here.
“We need a different approach from car manufacturers and tougher action from government, to build back a safer environment and cleaner air for future generations.”
Tom Goodhead, managing partner at PGMBM said: “This research shows the effect that the Dieselgate scandal has had on our country. We’ve already settled one case with Volkswagen and we hope the other car manufacturers will now take notice. We want justice and compensation for our clients and to hold the car companies to account so they change their approach.”
It is estimated around 40,000 people die prematurely from air pollution in the UK every year.