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Volkswagen has been challenged by the head of a committee of MPs over its “contempt” for British motorists affected by the diesel emissions scandal.

Labour MP Louise Ellman, chair of the Commons’ Transport Select Committee, claimed the German manufacturer has shown a “reluctance to account for itself”.

In a letter to Hans Dieter Potsch, chairman of Volkswagen’s supervisory board, Ms Ellman wrote: “The refusal of Volkswagen to provide UK customers who were deceived by the company with compensation is deeply unfair, especially given the generous compensation being paid to US customers.

“Please explain Volkswagen’s rationale for refusing compensation to European customers.”

In the US, the firm has offered affected motorists 1,000 dollars (£780) in gift cards and vouchers, but no payouts are being made to UK customers.

Volkswagen’s UK boss Paul Willis told the Transport Committee in February that fewer than half of the UK vehicles caught up in the scandal had been fixed.

He said about 470,000 of the 1.2 million vehicles fitted with software to cheat environmental tests had now been dealt with.

Volkswagen has been ordered to pay a 2.8 billion dollar (£2.2 billion) criminal penalty in the US, but Mr Willis said the company in Europe did nothing wrong.

Ms Ellman said: “This scandalous affair – cheating in vehicle testing, the contempt shown towards British consumers and a complete disregard for the public’s general health – has shaken public confidence.

“UK consumers must not be the poor relations while the US benefits from proper redress. They deserve a full response to their concerns. The Transport Committee has consistently pushed for fair treatment for Volkswagen customers and for the general public.”

She also wrote to transport minister John Hayes to ask when the Department for Transport expects to make a decision on “taking further action” against Volkswagen.

The scandal came to light in September 2015 when the Environmental Protection Agency in the US said a number of Volkswagen-built diesel cars had been fitted with sophisticated software to cheat emissions tests.

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