The Government is seeking to delay publication of its draft air quality plan, due on Monday (24 April), on the grounds that it is prevented from doing so by the general election.
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A spokesperson for ClientEarth, the campaign group that brought the High Court case requiring ministers to draw up new plan to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, told Transport Network that the Government sent a letter to the court on Friday evening, requesting a delay until after the election.
Most nitrogen dioxide pollution comes from road traffic
ClientEarth is considering its position and will discuss the situation with lawyers before considering its response to the request.
Following the court ruling last November, environment department Defra was due to publish its draft national air quality plan by 4pm on Monday, with a final plan due by the end of July.
The Labour Party said it was ‘simply not acceptable for ministers to hide behind the general election to delay publishing plans to improve air quality’.
Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman said: ‘Purdah rules exist to stop one party using the machinery of government for their electoral advantage, not to be used as an excuse to delay acting on vital public health matters. We trust that the court will recognise this.’
She added: ‘If the Government fails to publish its plan to deal with the chronic levels of air pollution today then Labour will, within the first 30 days of our administration.’
Labour published research at the weekend claiming that up to 40 million people in Britain live in areas with levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution, mainly from road traffic, that are illegal under the EU air quality directive.
Transport Network approached Defra for comment.
Separately, it has been reported that the European Commission is to propose making cars, trucks, buses and vans pay higher road toll charges the more carbon dioxide they emit.
Reuters said that the proposal, which has not yet been finalised, will set out EU-wide principles for road tolls, including the principle that motorists must pay according to the distance travelled.