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Pollution (London)

Volume 479: debated on Thursday 17 July 2008

I have had no recent discussions with the Mayor of London—[Hon. Members: “Shame!”] He is a very busy man. The good news, however, is that my officials have been in discussions with their counterparts in the Greater London authority on the issue of air quality and pollution, and we will continue to have regular meetings at an official level.

Why does the Minister not support Boris’s campaign against a sixth terminal and a third runway at Heathrow? The Government’s own Environment Agency points to the risk of an increase in morbidity and mortality in densely populated areas of west London such as mine if that huge expansion goes ahead. When will the environmental voice be heard at the Cabinet table in discussion on Heathrow?

I would be delighted to meet the Mayor of London and I will ensure that my diary is available to him, but, as I say, he is a busy man. On Heathrow, the hon. Gentleman rightly brings forward the concerns of his constituents. The Secretary of State for Transport set out to the House on 8 July what we intend to do in terms of the consultation on Heathrow. The hon. Gentleman mentions the report from the Environment Agency. Obviously, all reports that are submitted in relation to the proposed expansion of Heathrow will be taken into account, as has been set out by the Secretary of State for Transport.

The A406 North Circular road passes right through the middle of my constituency and 60,000 vehicles go in each direction every day, causing enormous noise and air pollution. Will my hon. Friend make it a priority to speak to the Mayor about air quality in particular? It is deteriorating daily and something needs to be done.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who sets out the concerns of his constituents in Edmonton about air quality. We have an air quality strategy, which sets out its purpose in London and the responsibilities of the Mayor. As I have said, I am more than happy to meet the Mayor to discuss how he, the Greater London authority and the Government can work best to reduce air pollution in London. My hon. Friend will know that London is a heavily polluted city, and that that pollution is principally brought about by traffic. What would life be like without the congestion charge in those parts of London? Pollution would be considerably higher.

Every mile of car travel emits 12 times as much pollution as a mile of rail travel. In his discussions with the Mayor of London, will the Minister consider commissioning a survey of the methods of reducing passenger and freight movements into and out of the capital and shifting them to rail? If we shifted the subsidies to non-road transport rather than the motorist, that would massively improve the quality of air in the capital.

This is going to be a long meeting! My hon. Friend will be aware that transport and trains are the responsibility of the Department for Transport. On freight, I can tell him that British Waterways is making a considerable contribution towards ensuring that aggregates being brought to the Olympic site will not be brought in lorries but by barges on canals. That is to be welcomed. Where we can do those things, we are, and the overall structure for ensuring that we keep pollution levels as low as possible for the development of the Olympics is, again, in the gift of the Mayor.