The warning system, which will be compulsory by 2000 and will add between pounds 200 and pounds 400 to the price of new cars, has been agreed by the European Commission .
The aim is to cut the main types of air pollutant from vehicles by 60 to 70 per cent over the next 15 years, even while the total number of cars, buses and lorries continues to rise.
Cars will need equipment which senses whether emissions are within legal limits by continuously checking the engine and catalytic converter.
If the warning light glows, the driver will be under a legal obligation to right the problem. The proposals also include phasing out leaded petrol by 2000 and changes in the composition of petrol and diesel to make them "cleaner". It was agreed this week after more than a year of negotiations with the oil and vehicle-manufacturing companies, and months of argument within the commission.
The package has to be approved and amended by the governments of the 15 member states in the Council of Ministers and by the European Parliament. Britain's Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders gave a grudging approval for the package, having played a part in negotiating it. "The commission has set targets which are rather challenging, and meeting them is going to be expensive," said its head of policy, Mike Hollingsworth.Reuse content