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Air Quality

Volume 447: debated on Thursday 22 June 2006

The Greater London Authority Act 1999 gave the Mayor responsibility for improving air quality in London. He published his air quality strategy in September 2002, setting out proposals for implementing policies in the air quality strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which is currently under review. Local action under the Mayor’s strategy is supported by a range of actions at national and international levels.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. It is all very well saying that this issue is the responsibility of the London Mayor, but the European Commission is threatening to impose huge fines on this country for the very poor air quality in London, and it is the Government, not the Mayor, who will pay the fines. One measure that the Secretary of State might consider is doing something about the traffic flow in London to get it moving again. The Government’s statistics show that in the past decade, traffic volumes have been static, whereas traffic speeds have actually gone down—from 13.7 mph to 12 mph. Why does he not do something about it?

I admire the hon. Gentleman’s brass neck. The party that opposed the congestion charge root and branch is now complaining about the speed of London traffic. The party, I hasten to add, whose policy it is to force cyclists on to the pavements is now—

Order. It is not for the Secretary of State to talk about the policy of the party concerned. I call Mr. Edward Garnier.

Does the Secretary of State agree with me that one influence on air quality in London is air traffic and aviation pollution? Will he apply his mind to discussions with his colleagues in the Department for Transport, to ensure that efforts to deal with aviation pollution lead to an improvement in air quality not just within London but, for example, in the region of Nottingham East Midlands airport?

As we discussed earlier, it is the Government’s policy to ensure that airline emissions are included in the European emissions trading scheme. I can also reassure the hon. and learned Gentleman that we are working hard in Europe on the ambient air quality directive, which I will discuss in Luxembourg on Tuesday. I can further reassure him that I will discuss it with mainstream Christian democratic and socialist parties, not with the Latvian peasants’ party.