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Red Tape Challenge

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 12 May 2011

12. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on the environmental regulations considered for possible revocation under the red tape challenge. (55098)

I want to make it clear that there is no intention of relaxing existing levels of environmental protection. As a former MEP, the hon. Lady will be well aware that most environmental legislation emanates from European directives, and their complete removal would not be possible. Nevertheless, it might be possible to improve their implementation arrangements. The red tape challenge should therefore be embraced by all as an excellent opportunity to gather ideas on how we can regulate better.

I thank the Secretary of State for her answer, by which I am not entirely reassured. Does she know that in my constituency, in Brighton and Hove, standards for nitrogen dioxide are regularly exceeded at 20 sites across the city? Much of the pollution—as well as its costly health consequences—is caused by traffic. Will she therefore absolutely guarantee to defend the regulations on air quality that set health protection standards should they come under threat from the insidious red tape challenge?

The air quality directive is a piece of European legislation. Therefore, it is not involved in any red tape challenge. I share with the hon. Lady a desire to improve air quality, as it has enormous benefits for the environment and for human health. The fact is that air quality demands at a European level are very ambitious and we are working closely with local authorities, the Mayor of London and others to do all we can to improve air quality.