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MPs from four select committee join forces to launch air quality inquiry

MPs from four select committee join forces to launch air quality inquiry

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 environmental benefits.  

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 it.”

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 environment.”

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?