COMMONS

Mayor of London questioned on air quality

23 November 2017

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health, and Transport Committees hold their first evidence session for the joint inquiry into improving air quality.

Witnesses

Thursday 23 November 2017, the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House

At 9.45am

  • Alan Andrews, Clean Air Project Leader, ClientEarth
  • Professor Stephen Holgate, Royal College of Physicians

At 10.45am

  • Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
  • Martin Adams, European Environment Agency
  • Councillor Adele Morris, Deputy Chair of the Local Government Association, Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board

NAO: 85% of UK air quality zones exceed pollution limits

The NAO has published its report into Air Quality which finds that 85% of UK air quality zones still exceed legal pollution limits years after deadlines for compliance have passed. It states that:

  • The Government estimates that compliance for nitrogen dioxide by all UK zones will not be achieved until 2026 (against an initial target of 2010)
  • Requirements on 23 local authorities to use new measures in their cities and towns to cut pollution come at a time when councils face significant funding pressures
  • It is not clear whether or how government will provide for equivalent arrangements for independent regular review of progress and financial penalties for non-compliance after the UK exits the European Union

Committees release more than 150 written responses on air pollution

The four Committees have today also released more than 150 written responses to their call for evidence on air pollution.

Key figures from public health organisations, local authorities, charities and industry bodies expressed grave concerns that the Government’s plans fall far short of what is needed to tackle the air pollution crisis. Some industry associations however cautioned that businesses should be given as much time as possible to adapt to the proposed changes.

The witnesses for the first oral evidence session, to be held on 23 November, will include the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, local government representatives and legal and health experts. The second session on 30 November will hear from Ministers from key departments.

Chairs' comments

Lillian Greenwood MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee, said:

"It’s clear that action on air quality is needed now. Waiting for almost another decade for all parts of the UK to reach acceptable levels of air quality is a deeply disappointing prospect, and simply not good enough.

Road transport contributes some 80% of nitrogen dioxide emissions at the roadside, which is where the UK exceeds the legal limits. Motor manufacturers are producing cleaner cars but this alone will not be enough. I look forward to hearing what local government representatives have to say to us next week, particularly in relation to the kinds of policies that are needed to accelerate the take up of new vehicles and technologies. I am also interested to hear how to bring about the changes in behaviour that are needed if we are to reduce the number of polluting vehicles on our roads. I suspect that many of these measures could have the added benefit of also reducing urban congestion."

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

"The Government published its air quality plan in July after its previous attempt was ruled illegal by the courts.  The Government now faces its third legal challenge and unprecedented scrutiny from this super inquiry. It must use every tool in the box to clean up Britain’s polluted air."

Andrew Selous MP, the Health Committee’s lead Member on the Inquiry, said:

"High levels of pollution have significant impacts on the health of individuals living in towns and cities throughout the country. Some 40,000 people each year have their lives cut short by diseases linked to air pollution, from heart attacks and lung disease to diabetes and dementia. For example, particulate matter can make asthma and chronic bronchitis worse, oxides of nitrogen can cause inflammation in airways and reduce lung function."

Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said:

"The current air quality plan is only part of a long-term approach to cutting the high levels of pollution. We welcome the huge interest shown by people across the country in sending us so many written submissions highlighting their concerns. The four Parliamentary Committees will use this in evidence sessions as we continue to hold the Government to account on this vital issue."

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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