Pollution: Schools and Hospitals

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at on 21 February 2019.

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Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on tackling air pollution around schools and hospitals.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State launched the clean air strategy last month alongside the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. That has been welcomed by the World Health Organisation as an example for the rest of the world to follow. As I referred to earlier, we continue to deliver our £3.5 billion plan to reduce roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations.

Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood

In my constituency, parents, schools and our local councils are working hard together to introduce school streets: timed road closures and a drop-off and pick-up time close to schools to reduce pollution, encourage cycling and walking and increase awareness of the urgent need for action on air pollution and climate change. Will the Secretary of State commit to a fully funded nationwide programme of school streets?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government are investing £3.5 billion and it is for local authorities to potentially apply to the clean air fund to undertake different activities. A lot of this is about cycling and walking and the strategy on changing transport. I am not aware of what the hon. Lady’s local authority has been directly involved in, but we have also been funding—say, through the London Borough of Islington or Spelthorne Borough Council—awareness campaigns run through schools.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

Like my hon. Friend Helen Hayes, I have many schools in my constituency that are very worried about air pollution in the surrounding area. The problem is not the powers—they have the powers to monitor it—but the finances. They do not have the resources either to monitor the air pollution or then to fix the problem. Is there any possibility of more resources being made available?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am conscious that, certainly through Transport for London, London has had a substantial amount of money to improve air quality. I know that it is keen to do more, but local authorities have statutory duties to tackle this issue. They have had funding in the past and they are able to apply for funding in the future, and I would welcome the hon. Gentleman’s authority doing so.