MPs from four select committees
have, for the first time, combined forces to launch a joint inquiry on air
quality to scrutinise cross-government plans to tackle urban pollution hotspots.
The House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee,
Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Health, and Transport Committees will hold
four evidence sessions to consider mounting scientific evidence on the health
and environmental impacts of outdoor air pollution, which includes transport.
The investigation has been launched in the light of the
government losing two UK court cases about its plans to tackle the key
pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The High Court has ordered the government to
publish a draft new clean air plan to tackle NO2 by 24 April, with a final plan
by 31 July.
MPs will examine whether revised government plans
required by the courts to be published by 24 April will go far enough to cut
pollution, not only to meet legal limits but also to deliver maximum health and
Louise Ellman, chairman of the Transport Select Committee
said: “The UK economy depends on an
efficient and flexible transport system but emissions from vehicles are a
significant problem and the standards that governments have relied on have not
delivered the expected reductions. We will be asking what more can be done to
increase the use of cleaner vehicles as well as to encourage the use of
sustainable modes of transport.”
Dr Sarah Wollaston, chairman of the Health Committee,
said: “Poor air quality is affecting
on the health of millions of people across the UK because of the impact of
invisible particulates and other pollutants. Our joint inquiry will include an
examination of the scale of the harm caused and the action necessary to tackle
Mary Creagh, chairman of the Environmental Audit
Committee said: “The UK courts
have twice found that the government has failed to deal with our air pollution
problem properly. Now, ministers will face unprecedented scrutiny in Parliament
to ensure they finally step up to the mark to ensure adults, and children in
particular, do not have their health damaged by filthy air.”
Neil Parish MP, chairman of the Environment Food and
Rural Affairs Committee, said: “The
solutions to cleaning up our air are not the responsibility of just one
minister. That’s why we have taken the unprecedented task of convening four select
committees so we can scrutinise the government’s efforts from every angle and
look for holistic solutions that are good for health, transport and the
The Committees will be considering:
How effectively government policies take account
of the health and environmental impacts of poor air quality?
Are the government’s revised plans for tackling
nitrogen dioxide levels sufficient to meet the High Court and European
Commission requirements for urgent action?
Does the revised plan set out effective and
proportionate measures for reducing emissions from transport?
Is there sufficient cross-government
collaboration to ensure the right fiscal and policy incentives are adopted to
ensure air quality targets are achieved?