EU Referendum: Energy and Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:38 pm on 12th July 2016.

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Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Substitute Member) 2:38 pm, 12th July 2016

What an absolutely fantastic, brilliant maiden speech we have just heard from my hon. Friend Dr Allin-Khan. I have served in this House for 14 years, and I have to say that that is the best maiden speech I have ever heard. It was eloquent, moving and witty. It talked about Tooting, about history, and about where we are and where we are going. My hon. Friend is a great credit to Tooting, and a great credit to her family. I know that her mother, Maria, is here, as are her brother, her best friend, Monique, her husband, Tudor, who I am very pleased to hear is from Neath in Wales—I hope to be sharing a Joe’s ice cream later in the summer if all goes well—and her supporters in the Gallery. [Hon. Members: “And the Mayor of London.”] I will be mentioning the Mayor of London. It is fantastic to hear about Tooting and it is great to have the Mayor of London back with us today.

This debate is about the environment. Our concern as we break free from Europe is that we will no longer have mandatory standards of air quality. I am very proud that Sadiq Khan, our Mayor of London, has made headway after two terms of, frankly, indolence from the previous Mayor in terms of making progress on air quality. There are about 9,500 premature deaths a year in London alone as a result of air pollution, largely from diesel cars and vehicles. The number across Britain, according to the Royal College of Physicians, is 40,000. We are talking about lung disease, heart disease and strokes, and problems for children, whether they are in the classroom or in the womb.

I am very pleased that Sadiq Khan is present. I was with him last week when he launched his new air quality standards on the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act 1956, and I look forward to ultra-low emissions zones using the latest technology. The Minister may know of the new technology from America that uses lasers to count the emissions of each pollutant from each car, thereby setting standards for emissions standards.

One of my main concerns about leaving Europe is that mandatory standards will no longer be enforceable in the courts. I am glad that ClientEarth is taking the Government to court to ensure that we deliver those standards. The fact that it has to take them to court shows that, left to our own devices, we are in danger of becoming the dirty man of Europe again, which was our embarrassing former status. The World Health Organisation has standards, but they are not enforceable. I hope that the Minister will say that we will sustain and honour our commitments not just to air quality standards, but to all EU standards. We have a responsibility to make future laws ourselves, but unless they are integrated and harmonious they will not work as a platform to make the world a more sustainable place.