Four House of Commons committees have
teamed up to scrutinise the government’s plans to reduce the harmful effects of
air pollution on public health and the environment.
The Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit,
Health, and Transport Committees have re-launched their joint inquiry into
improving air quality.
In July 2017, after UK courts twice ruled that the government’s
plans to cut air pollution were inadequate following publication of its new air
quality plan. The
cross-party inquiry will now examine whether the new plan goes far enough, fast
enough to both meet legal limits and to deliver the maximum environmental and
Road transport is a key contributor to air pollution. The government’s
plan includes proposals for ‘clean air zones’ to limit polluting vehicles from
driving in high pollution areas and an end to the sale of petrol and diesel
vehicles by 2040.
Lilian Greenwood MP, chairman of the Transport Select
Committee, said: “The Department for
Transport needs to harness the potential of schemes such as electric vehicles,
clean buses and diesel scrappage which all demonstrate that the transport
sector is capable of coming up with solutions to tackle poor air quality. Real
change is possible if government leads from the front to co-ordinate an
effective response to one of the biggest issues of our time.”
Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, chairman of the Health Committee,
said: “There is an increasing amount
of evidence showing the impact of nitrogen dioxide and invisible particulates
on human health. Many people are aware of their impact on our lungs and hearts,
but new evidence suggests that they could also contribute to diseases a
disparate as dementia and diabetes.”
Local authorities played a
central role in delivering plans on the ground, said the MPs, and leaders from a
number of councils across England have written to ministers criticising the
Mary Creagh MP, chairman of the Environmental Audit
Committee, said: “The government is on
its third attempt to meet legal air quality standards. Local authorities have
said the government’s plan for air pollution does not go far enough to help the
millions of people living with illegally high levels of air pollution today.
Ministers will now face unprecedented scrutiny in Parliament to ensure they are
doing everything necessary to protect people from filthy air.”
With several government
departments having a role in managing air pollution, the inquiry will explore
how effectively departments work together across Whitehall to tackle air
Neil Parish MP, chairman of the Environment
Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said: “When the leaders of Liverpool, Leeds, Southampton,
Oxford, Leicester and Birmingham say that the government’s plans to reduce
pollution will not allow them to meet legal pollution limits, it is a cause for
concern. Our joint inquiry allows MPs to hold to account ministers from key departments
on how effectively the government is joining up work to clean up the UK’s air.”
The Committee has asked for written
submissions on the following key questions by 5pm on Thursday, 9 November:
- How effectively do government policies
take into account the health and environmental impacts of poor air quality?
- Do those plans set out effective and
proportionate measures to achieve necessary emissions reductions as quickly as
- Are other nations or cities taking more
effective action that the UK can learn from?
- Is there enough cross-government
collaboration to set in place the right fiscal and policy incentives?
- How can those charged with delivering
national plans at local level be best supported and challenged?