Vehicle Emissions

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd May 1995.

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Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown , Cirencester and Tewkesbury 12:00 am, 22nd May 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what were the total vehicle emissions in the United Kingdom for carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen (a) in 1970 and (b) at the latest available date. [23878]

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

Road transport emissions of carbon monoxide were 2.4 million tonnes in 1970 and 5.1 million tonnes in 1993; emissions of nitrogen oxides were 0.6 million tonnes in 1970 and 1.1 million tonnes in 1993; emissions of volatile organic compounds were 0.6 million tonnes in 1970 and 0.9 million tonnes in 1993.

Over the same period, total traffic rose from 200 billion to 410 billion vehicle kilometres.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Do not those figures prove not only that we can meet our existing targets on emissions for the year 2005, but that if the 20-point plan outlined in the document "Air Quality: Meeting the Challenge"—commissioned jointly by the Departments of Transport and of the Environment—were implemented in full, we should do considerably better than that? Does that not show that ours is the only party with realistic policies to deal with such difficult environmental problems, and that the Labour party is bereft of such policies?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

My hon. Friend is entirely right. The Conservative party has consistently shown itself to be the only party prepared to grapple with the genuinely difficult issues involved in air quality. He is also right that the air quality statement produced by the Government will enable us to fulfil our Rio targets.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

It is difficult to understand how the Government can claim such credit when they are merely looking through rose-tinted spectacles. People throughout the country are concerned about pollution, just as people were concerned about smog years ago. We have still heard nothing about how the Government intend to monitor emissions of PM10, which is clearly a major pollutant. What powers will now be given to local authorities so that we can start to improve the quality of life for people in both urban and rural areas?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

The facts are quite the reverse. As the hon. Lady knows, it is the Government who are introducing tighter emission standards more than a year before the date when we are required to do so by the European Commission, and that it is her hon. Friend the well-known working-class Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) who has consistently refused to commit himself to any air quality policy; he is frightfully good at defining the problem, but pretty poor when it comes to the solution.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Honiton

I declare an interest as chairman of the National Asthma Campaign. Will my hon. Friend consult Ministers at the Department of Health to ensure that, when there are major inversions in the weather and we experience the problem encountered four weeks ago, the Government can warn people about the conditions that are likely to result from monoxides in the air? It would be helpful if the Government took the lead.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

As my right hon. Friend will know, the Committee of Medical Experts on Air Pollution study set up by the Department of Health, with input from the Department of Transport, is addressing that important question. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made it clear that, given his experience of health matters, he gives high priority to this aspect of pollution control.

As for powers to control specific episodes of high pollution, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has accepted that we should explore the possibilities and ensure that the appropriate powers are in place, with one caveat: we ought not to consider only how to deal with the rare occasions on which air quality deteriorates badly because of atmospheric conditions—we need long-term measures to improve air quality permanently.