Volkswagen owners in England & Wales have won a preliminary ruling in the High Court in their claim against the car manufacturer over its emissions-cheating software that gave rise to the "Dieselgate" scandal.

Mr Justice Waksman ruled that the software, which enabled Volkswagen cars to be certified as conforming to EU pollution standards when their emissions were actually much higher than permitted, constituted a "defeat device" under the EU rules.

The action involves about 90,000 motorists out of the 1.2m in the UK said to have been affected by the software, which also affects Audi, Seat and Skoda cars.

Volkswagen insisted that the ruling did not determine liability or causation of losses claimed in the action, but legal firm Slater & Gordon, acting for the claimants, described the ruling as a "damning judgment" which meant that it was time for Volkswagen to settle the claims.

The judge was scathing about some of the arguments made by Volkswagen, describing them as "completely irrelevant" and "highly flawed".

The car maker has already paid out billions of pounds in compensation worldwide in numerous litigations in other countries.