Environmental Audit Committee

21 October 2009

NEW INQUIRY: Air Quality

The last Government strategy for air quality in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, published in 2007 recognises that air pollution is currently estimated to reduce the life expectancy of every person in the UK by an average of 7-8 months with estimated equivalent health costs of up to £20 billion each year. Air pollution also has a damaging effect on our environment. Despite this the UK has failed to meet the target for particulate matter (PM10) under the EU Air Quality Framework Directive. In addition DEFRA projects that without further measures the air quality target for nitrogen dioxide will not be met in parts of the country by the 2010 deadline.

The Committee is today launching a new inquiry into air quality in the UK. The purpose of the inquiry is to assess whether the Government is developing an effective strategy for meeting its obligations under the EU Air Quality Directives. The Committee will also examine whether the strategy is enough to ensure that air pollution is reduced to acceptable levels across all the UK.

In preparation for its inquiry, the Committee has commissioned a briefing on air quality by the National Audit Office. This will provide an overview of the UK's performance to date in meeting the various targets and limits for each air pollutant. It will consider the adverse health and environmental effects for each air pollutant and will map them against their target values and the current performance of the UK in meeting these values. The briefing will summarise the various plans and programmes in place to meet the EU targets and limits, particularly those in place to ensure that EU limits are achieved by 2015. Contact details for this work are available on the NAO website (see work in progress at www.nao.org.uk)

The Committee is interested in receiving written evidence that looks at:

  • the monitoring and modelling systems used by the Government and whether these provide an adequate measure of air quality;
  • the extent to which the Government fully understands and has identified the health and environmental risks caused by poor air quality;
  • the extent to which the delivery chain for air quality is coherent, integrated, coordinated and effective and whether the bodies with responsibility for managing air quality have appropriate incentives, understand their role and responsibilities, and are adequately resourced; and
  • the steps that need to be taken to ensure that air quality targets will be met in the future.

Responses dealing with one or more of the issues above are welcome as are more wide ranging responses. Those responding to this call for evidence need not confine themselves to the particular issues identified above.

The Committee invites organisations and members of the public to submit written evidence setting out their views on these issues. Submissions should be sent to the Committee by Monday 14 December 2009. Guidance on preparing submissions is set out below.

Please note

Each submission should:

  • Be no more than 3,000 words in length;
  • Begin with a short summary in bullet point form;
  • Have numbered paragraphs; and
  • Be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible.

A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to eacom@parliament.uk and marked 'Air Quality'. An additional paper copy should be sent to:

Clerk of the Committee
Environmental Audit Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank

It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals submitting written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Please supply a postal address so a copy of the Committee's report can be sent to you upon publication.

A guide for written submissions to Select Committees may be found on the parliamentary website at: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/witnessguide.pdf

Please also note that:

  • Material published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.
  • Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organisation submitting it is specifically authorised.
  • Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
  • Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.