Charlie Elphicke, a Conservative MP who campaigns for fair fuel prices, said Labour were to blame for the crisis over diesel cars. He said: “It’s incredible that Labour encouraged people to go diesel and drivers now face being punished for it. This is yet another example of Gordon Brown’s toxic legacy… Much of the pollution in cities comes from buses and it would be right for action to be taken to modernise bus fleets rather than hit drivers.” However, Alan Andrews, a ClientEarth lawyer, said: “It’s clear we need a national network of clean air zones, just like Defra had originally planned before the Treasury squashed that plan. The government must consider including the most polluting cars in this scheme, something which it has refused to do until now. We would like to see this coupled with a targeted scrappage scheme for the most polluting vehicles and a major investment in clean public transport, cycling and walking – so people have clean alternatives to driving their dirty diesel cars.” The group argued that the Government was “basically doing the bare minimum and hoping the problem would disappear by 2020.” A Defra spokeswoman said after the High Court ruling: “We will now carefully consider this ruling, and our next steps, in detail.”Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “It’s a public health crisis.” The ruling comes a year after motoring giant Volkswagen was plunged into scandal over emissions-fiddling on its diesel engines. The Government announced last December that “Clean Air Zones” were to be introduced in Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton by 2020. In response, the official spokeswoman for Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said: “We are accepting today’s court judgment and will consider now the details and set out next steps in due course.”Mrs May told the House of Commons: “We have taken action, there’s more to do and we will do it.”In July, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, announced he was consulting over £10 “T-charge” which would apply to all vehicles, diesel and petrol, with pre-Euro 4 emission standards, broadly those registered before 2005.ClientEarth, a campaign group which won a landmark Supreme Court ruling in April 2015 over the same issue, had argued the current Air Quality Plan “must be quashed” and replaced by a modified, improved plan.Martin Vickers, Conservative member of the Transport committee, said removing diesel cars from city centres would be a “big step” that “would need very serious consideration”, but added: “It would have an enormous impact on a great many people.” Diesel car drivers could be charged for entering city centres after the High Court ruled the Government was failing to meet European emission standards.Ministers will be left with little choice but to penalise motorists, industry leaders warned after senior judges agreed current measures to tackle the pollution crisis were “flawed” and “woefully inadequate”. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs must now look again at measures to cut street levels of nitrogen dioxide (N02), a primary cause of 50,000 premature deaths a year from fumes. Mr Justice Garnham, sitting in London, ruled that the current plan discourage heavy goods vehicles entering five major cities does not go far enough. In his ruling he suggests that the government look again at its previously rejected options, which included a levy on all diesel vehicles emitting dangerous levels in “clean air zones”. Limits for N02 had been introduced by EU law in 1999, and were to be achieved by 2010. On Wednesday the judge attacked the Government for overunning and said minister “fell into error by adopting too optimistic a model of future emissions”.Industry experts said it was “inevitable” ministers would now be forced into a U-turn after ruling out charges for diesel car drivers as they announced five new low emissions zones last December. Nick Molden, founder and CEO of Emissions Analytics, a leading testing company, said: “The precedent is set of linking nitrogen dioxide emissions to money and in my view that is an obvious mechanism to roll out elsewhere. Vans will adopt the same regulations as cars so it is possible small businessmen will be hit too.” Government sources said there would be a period of scientific testing before new legislation was confirmed. However, Karl McCartney, a Conservative MP on the Transport Committee, said he would urge colleagues to “consider the various implications, negative or otherwise, of perhaps extending zones where diesel cars have to pay to enter cities with a view to cutting pollution, or congestion, further”. The AA, RAC and other motoring campaigners said a blanket charge would be unfair on families who had bought diesels on the understanding that they were environmentally-friendly. “It’s would be very disappointing for those families who had followed the ‘dash for diesel’ under the previous government,” said Edmund King, president of the AA.Simon Peevers, business services spokesman at RAC, added: “This ruling will set alarm bells ringing for millions of motorists and businesses who are reliant on their diesel vehicles.”ClientEarth, which first launched legal action in 2011, said 37 out of 43 zones across the UK “remain in breach of legal limits” and successfully argued unlawful weight was given by the Government to “cost and political sensitivity” when drawing up a 2015 plan. Mr Khan said of the ruling: “This must now act as a real wake-up call to Government to finally get to grips with this national health emergency that is causing 9,400 deaths every year just in London alone.”Rupert Pontin, director valuations for the Glass’s Guide, also said some charges were now “fairly inevitable”.”It will change the usage of the diesel car,” he said. “Potentially you might have a downturn and there will be a lot of lobbying for a scrappage scheme.”However, recent research by the AA found diesel cars in London can account for as little as five per cent of the city’s nitrogen dioxide levels. Quentin Willson, the motoring broadcaster and fuel price campaigner, added: “Punishing millions of diesel drivers for mistakes in past government policy is neither fair nor honest.”Howard Cox, founder of the FairFuelUK campaign group, said diesel drivers “are already punitively taxed more so than those in Germany, France, Greece and other EU economies”.In his ruling on Wednesday, Mr Justice Garnham agreed that a 2015 plan to cut emissions failed to comply with Article 23 of the EU Air Quality Directive and linked air quality standard regulations. He ruled new legislation must be drawn up at the “soonest date possible.” VW is already facing stiff penalties after it was plunged into an emissions crisis last yearCredit:Getty Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.