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Environment Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:47 pm on 26th February 2020.

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Photo of James Davies James Davies Conservative, Vale of Clwyd 5:47 pm, 26th February 2020

It is a pleasure to follow David Linden and his comments on nappies—an issue I know plenty about—as well as numerous other speeches from excellent contributors today.

I welcome the Bill and the significant focus that the Government are placing on our environment. Recent flooding, including in St Asaph in my constituency, highlights the fact that the provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008 are more important than ever. The Bill will help to underpin some of the changes we need to fulfil its net zero target as well as to achieve much more.

As we move away from oversight by the EU, we need a new domestic framework for environmental governance and, as has been heard, the Bill will set up a new Office for Environmental Protection not only to provide advice, but to monitor, scrutinise and enforce environmental law across the UK. We have an opportunity to lead the world on environmental matters, and I welcome the fact that the Bill makes provision in a number of specific areas. I would like to focus today on two of those areas: air quality and waste reduction.

First, up to 36,000 deaths in the UK are linked to air pollution each year, which is known, above all, to contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Much attention is focused on fine particulate matter—solid and liquid particles from various sources of 2.5 microns or less, which can penetrate deep into lung passageways and enter the bloodstream. It is important to recognise that, although the very worst levels of air pollution are found in our major cities, air pollution affects all parts of the country. Recently, I carried a British Heart Foundation particulate monitor around my constituency as part of a wider study being conducted by the University of Edinburgh. Daily exposure to fine particulate matter was relatively low at 11 to 43 micrograms of matter per cubic metre, but for brief periods in the vicinity of main roads, I recorded levels greater than 10 times the current EU limits we subscribe to, and more than 20 times the World Health Organisation recommended levels. These figures are concerning, and I am pleased that the Bill contains a commitment to a new legally binding target for levels of fine particulate matter. I encourage Ministers to go further and consider whether a specific figure should be included in legislation at this point, based on WHO recommendations of an annual mean level of 10 micrograms per cubic metre.