UKIP’s transport spokeswoman Jill Seymour has accused the Government of refusing to act against the growing demonisation of diesel drivers.

She was speaking after she received an official response to a petition she launched calling on parliament to prevent local authorities from being able to impose extra charges on diesel vehicle owners who drive or park in city centres.

In its response, the Department for Transport said: “The setting of charges for on- or off-street parking is a matter for local authorities.

“The Government recommends that authorities set charges at levels that are consistent with the aims of the authority’s transport strategy, including its air quality, road safety and traffic management strategies. Authorities should never use parking charges just to raise revenue.”

Seymour said: “I’m saddened and disappointed that the Government seems to have missed the point of this petition completely.

“It is not a call to ignore concerns with emissions. It is a call for common sense when looking at these issues.

“For the past two decades, Government policies have promoted diesel engines, as they are far more fuel efficient and release far less CO2.

“With manufacturers across Europe following this lead, huge investment has been made in clean diesel technologies which have reduced tailpipe emissions enormously.

“It is madness to suddenly throw all this investment, research and manufacturing capacity away due to a change in policy.”

She added: “I fully support the move towards zero emission vehicles and government investment towards achieving this, but it is unfair and wrong to penalise both drivers of diesel cars and manufacturers who have in good faith moved towards diesel cars because of policy direction from the very governments now seeking to demonise their choice.

“I agree that electric vehicles are the future, and we should incentivise these. Workplace charging stations and public car parking with charging facilities should be rolled out as fast as possible along with tax incentives towards zero emission vehicles.

“However, this is a little way away and while manufacturers move to new technologies, it is unwise to target drivers of vehicles which were only a few months ago, being promoted as low carbon.

“So I repeat my call for Theresa May’s Government to stop demonising diesels.

“They must promote new technologies and allow people with diesel the time to get the value from their vehicle over time, without Government policies reducing their significant investment to nothing overnight.”