Diesel Vehicle Scrappage Scheme — [Mr Christopher Chope in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:45 am on 19th April 2017.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport) 10:45 am, 19th April 2017

My hon. Friend is right that in implementing any set of policies we need to be clear about the particularities of different localities. The circumstances in rural areas are different in all kinds of ways. The biggest problem with air quality and pollution is obviously in urban areas, and the Government’s approach—of which clean air zones are the exemplification—has, of course, focused on just such areas. It would be inconceivable for us not to be sensitive to different circumstances, which is why we are so determined to work with all agencies and local government in particular to ensure that the specificity of any proposals that we put into place is sufficient to deal with those particularities. He is absolutely right to raise that.

Having said that air quality has improved, let us be clear: we must do more. There is no complacency in making a bald statement about the facts. We have to go further, for, as Disraeli also said:

“The health of the people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness” depends. It is right that high nitrogen dioxide levels exacerbate the impact of pre-existing health conditions, especially for elderly people and children, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton and others made clear; it is right that we protect those most affected by poor air quality. I am absolutely committed to that objective.

People know this already, but I am not afraid or ashamed to restate it: Government can be a force for good. I mentioned the Clean Air Acts, and in those terms Governments were a force for good and can continue to be so if we get the regulatory environment right. Air pollution has reduced, but we need to tackle it with a new vigour and determination. Road transport is at the heart of that, because it is the single biggest contributor to high local concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, and it is nitrogen dioxide that has featured large in the debate.