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Air Quality (Glasgow)

Volume 597: debated on Thursday 18 June 2015

2. What discussions her Department has had with Glasgow City Council on projections for Glasgow’s air quality and compliance with EU air quality regulations. (900407)

As the hon. Lady is aware, air quality in Scotland is a devolved issue, so I have not had direct conversations with Glasgow City Council, but I saw the Scottish Environment Minister on Monday. Officials are in regular contact with Scottish Government officials about the revision of UK nitrogen oxide air quality plans, including those for the Glasgow urban area.

I thank the Minister for that response. Given the recent European Commission ruling relating to Client Earth, does the Minister consider it wise, with ongoing issues on Hope Street in Glasgow, that Glasgow City Council expedites its action on this issue in its air quality action plan?

I reconfirm that this is very much a devolved issue and one on which officials from Glasgow City Council can work closely with our departmental officials to resolve, but I do not wish to stand at this Dispatch Box and dictate to Glasgow.

The question relates to Glasgow or, at its widest interpretation, Scotland, but not Meriden or elsewhere.

Scotland, in common with 27 member states of the European Union, is non-compliant with the EC arrangements. Does the Minister agree that low emission zones can help improve air quality in cities such as Glasgow and that, in proposing a low emission zone for London, the Mayor of London has offered a good way to improve air quality?

I pay tribute to the Mayor of London for his work on air quality. I am unable, however, to connect directly the work of the Mayor of London to the question about Glasgow.

The question is certainly not about Poplar and Canning Town or Denton and Reddish, but about Glasgow.

I am glad that you recognise my Glasgow credentials, Mr Speaker, because sometimes my classic cockney accent confuses people.

I welcome the Minister to his place. In any such discussions with Glasgow, I ask that he takes into account river traffic. The Thames is busier than the Clyde, but vessels on the Clyde do contribute to emissions. Will he ensure that he remembers that addition?

Among the different sources of nitrogen dioxide emissions, river traffic is indeed a substantial emitter. Glasgow City Council and officials from the Department will take that into account.

I, too, welcome the Minister to his place. Last year, the Government wrote a letter to all local authorities, trying to blame them for the 29,000 deaths that air pollution is causing every year in the UK and saying that any fines imposed by the EU for failure to comply with the air quality directive would have to be paid by them. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that it is the Government who are solely responsible for compliance and any fines arising, will the Secretary of State write again to all local authorities to accept her responsibility and overturn her previous threatening letter?

I am very happy to discuss that matter in detail, but as the shadow Minister said—[Interruption.] “Say yes”, it is suggested from the Opposition Front Bench. As the shadow Minister has acknowledged, we need to tackle this issue in partnership with local authorities. The prime responsibility needs to reside there because the sources of the emissions are quite different from one local authority to another, and therefore the solutions will be different from one local authority to another.