Air Pollution: Legal Costs

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 1st February 2011.

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Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Liberal Democrat, Cheltenham

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will estimate the cost to the public purse of litigation and fines in respect of the UK's air quality exceedances of (a) particulate matter and (b) nitrogen dioxide.

Photo of Richard Benyon Richard Benyon The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The UK seeks to comply with EU law and the Government made a commitment in the coalition agreement to work towards EU air quality standards. We are making great efforts to ensure that we do so.

The Commission is able to request the European Court to impose a daily fine, a lump sum fine, or both. As a guide to the levels which have been set by the Commission, a daily fine is calculated by multiplying a uniform flat rate (currently €640) by coefficients for seriousness and duration, and then multiplying this figure by a special factor for each member state, which for the UK has been set at 18.31. The minimum lump sum fine (for the UK) is set at €9.666 million.

Current European Commission guidance (Commission Communication SEC (2005) 1658 as updated by Commission Communication SEC(2010) 923/3) sets out three criteria which are taken into account when calculating the level of fines. These are: the seriousness of the breach (which affects the lump sum only and can be a multiple of between 1 and 20), the duration of the breach (a multiple of between 1 and 3) and a deterrent factor designed to ensure the breach is rectified and the offence is not repeated. Each case is treated on its own merits, so it is extremely difficult to estimate the level of any fine.

Any litigation costs would depend on how far the case goes, and the scope of the issues involved. It is very difficult to estimate these in advance.

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