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Air Pollution

Volume 587: debated on Thursday 30 October 2014

Local authorities are key to achieving improvements in air quality. We are taking steps to support them, including enabling them to focus more on practical actions to reduce air pollution through plans to streamline reporting requirements. We have DEFRA’s £1 million air quality grant programme, and we are also funding local transport projects. For example, £560 million has been allocated from the Government’s local sustainable transport fund between 2011 and 2015.

I thank the Minister for his answer, but he will know that on 26 September DEFRA published a report on air pollution showing that there has been no improvement in the UK’s air quality over the past year and that 38 of the 43 zones exceed the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide. What is going wrong?

We are taking action locally, nationally and at the European level on the regulation of vehicle emissions, which is crucial to tackling this pollution. The Government are making progress on the issue, and we welcome what local authorities across the country are doing to engage with us on improving air quality locally and meeting our obligations.

Does the Secretary of State welcome the Mayor of London’s game-changing proposals for an ultra-low emissions zone by 2020, which would go a long way towards enabling London to meet existing agreed emissions standards? Will she ensure that London gets the support it needs from central Government to bridge the remaining compliance gap by 2020?

I welcome the fact that the Mayor of London has begun consultation on further proposals to improve air quality in London. I look forward to hearing more on the details of what he is proposing and of course remain very willing to discuss with him how we can support that action.

Further to the question from the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), given that many, if not most, of the roads breaching agreed European standards are in London, when was the last time the Minister met the Mayor of London and how confident is he that we will avoid the fines threatening the UK because of those breaches?

I have not met the Mayor of London recently, but of course our officials discuss things locally. I recently held a workshop with local authorities across the country, including those in cities in the north, which are working hard to tackle local aspects of air pollution. As I say, I welcome what the Mayor is doing—his consultation on further measures he might take—and when the Government see the details of those proposals we will be happy to discuss how we might support them.