A committee of MPs has accused ministers of failing to grasp the serious impacts of poor air quality and demanded action to reduce pollution as soon as possible, including funding Clean Air Zones (CAZs) across the country.
The criticism comes in a letter from Neil Parish MP, chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, to environment minister Therese Coffee, following her appearance before the committee alongside transport minister John Hayes.
Neil Parish MP
Mr Parish wrote: ‘We are extremely disappointed that, despite the courts twice rejecting its plans, the Government has failed to grasp the serious impacts of poor air quality on British people.’
He added: ‘We seek your assurance that the new plans Defra and the Department for Transport are now developing will ensure action is taken to deliver reductions in pollution at the earliest possible date.’
Recognising that the plans ‘must be delivered in partnership action with local communities’, Mr Parish wrote that MPs ‘expect the Government to demonstrate firm leadership to ensure effective delivery, including through sufficient funding’.
He added that the funding available was ‘simply insufficient’ for councils to deliver CAZs across the country ‘in the dozens of cities that are likely to breach EU limits for many years to come’.
The committee has called a parliamentary debate on air quality on Thursday afternoon (15 Dec) where it said ‘Ministers will face questions over a lack of funding to deliver a network of Clean Air Zones’.
During the hearing, MPs had raised the issue of the proposed Enderby cruise liner terminal in Greenwich and the inability of local and national government to ensure that ship-to-shore electricity connections are in place in such facilities to prevent ships running their engines while in port.
Mr Parish wrote: ‘We were dismayed that different levels of Government continue to blame each other for a failure to act.’
A Government spokesperson said: ‘We are firmly committed to improving the UK’s air quality and cutting harmful emissions. That's why we have committed more than £2bn since 2011 to increase the uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles, support greener transport schemes and set out how we will improve air quality through a new programme of Clean Air Zones.
‘We will update our air quality plans next year to further improve the nation’s air quality.’