Air Quality

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

What recent steps her Department has taken to improve air quality.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Our clean air strategy sets out an ambitious programme of action to reduce air pollutant emissions from a wide range of sources. The World Health Organisation has recognised the strategy as an example for the rest of the world to follow. We have also put in place a £3.5 billion plan to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations, and our Environment Bill makes a clear commitment to set a legally binding target to reduce fine particulate matter.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

May I echo the tributes being made to your chairmanship, Mr Speaker, although I did not get the memo about sending a bottle to your office as part of it? I very much welcome the inclusion of air quality provisions in the Environment Bill. May I urge the Minister to look at some of the technological solutions, including one from a company in my constituency which is producing paints and coverings that neutralise nitrogen oxide emissions, not just absorb them? May I also ask her to look at the issue of air quality monitoring, because it turns out that several bits of air quality monitoring equipment in my constituency have not been working for some time? Although we have obligations on local authorities to reduce air pollution, we do not appear to have similar requirements on them to make sure they are monitoring it properly and accurately, and that needs to be looked at.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I thank my hon. Friend for raising these important points. Officials would be pleased to hear about any technologies, because the use of innovation and tech is absolutely the way we are going to solve lots of these problems. So I would be grateful if he would like to feed them in so that I can pass them on. Monitoring is also key, and it is all about science and data, which are very important. Our landmark Environment Bill requires us to set legally binding targets on this fine particulate matter, which is what authorities are mostly monitoring, as well as nitrogen dioxide, and to have separate long-term air quality targets to improve air quality nationwide. So we are moving in the right direction.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

We are hearing commitments and good words from the Government but we are seeing very little action. They have been lackadaisical towards the breaking of legal limits on air pollution, including at 50 sites across London. The Mayor of London has taken effective action, through the ultra low emission zone, and has taken practical steps to reduce air pollution. Is it not time we saw the same sort of determination from the Government?

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

A great deal of action is taking place: local authorities have a duty to tackle air pollution and this year clean-air zones are coming into major cities right across the nation. The Department is working closely with others on the introduction of those zones, about which the House will hear more shortly.