UK prime minister Theresa May appeared to hint at an upcoming diesel scrappage scheme following the announcement that London’s ultra-low emission zone (ULEV) would be implemented a year earlier than initially planned.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan brought forward his predecessor’s plans from 2020 to 8 April 2019. From this date, drivers of petrol cars which do not meet Euro-4 standards and diesel vehicles that do not meet Euro-6 emissions standards will be charged £24 a day.

The measures followed months of clean-air consultations, and may result in similar policy being unveiled in a range of British cities, which would see drivers pay £20 a day.

In December, Leasing Life investigated the likely impact of such a measure on light commercial vehicle fleets, and found that smaller fleets, without funds readily available to update compliant models would be hit the hardest.

Theresa May told the BBC: “Decisions will be taken when we produce that [air quality] plan. But I’m very conscious of the fact that past governments have encouraged people to buy diesel cars and we need to take that into account when we look at what we do in the future.”

The remarks were taken as a hint that the government may introduce a scrappage scheme for diesel cars. In February, it was reported that the Department for Transport and the Department of Environment, Forestry, and Rural Affairs (Defra) had begun work on the scheme. Andrea Leadsom, environment secretary, is widely expected to unveil air pollution measures this week.

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John Leech, head of automotive at KPMG UK, said: "As older vehicles are far more polluting than modern vehicles, this, together with a potential scrappage scheme will bring a substantial benefit to London’s air quality and also support wider climate change objectives."

John Chuhan, chief risk officer at Alphabet, said that businesses needed to adjust for the “sustainable, low emission future of transport” sooner rather than later.

He said: “If organisations want to continue to access metropolitan areas to do business, avoid incurring significant additional costs, attract the next generation of talent and live up to their CSR commitments then they need to put measures in place now.”