Skip to main content

Air Pollution

Volume 603: debated on Thursday 17 December 2015

Today we have laid out how we plan to tackle air pollution hotspots in our towns and cities while minimising the impact on businesses and families.

I thank the Secretary of State for her answer, but she may be aware of the GB freight route scheme, a proposal to build a dedicated freight railway line linking the channel tunnel with all the major economic regions of Britain and with a gauge capable of transporting full-size lorry trailers on trains. The route could take over 5 million lorry journeys off our roads each year and save thousands of tonnes of polluting emissions. The Department for Transport is taking an interest in the scheme. Will the Secretary of State use her good offices to encourage her colleagues in the Department for Transport to support this scheme?

I am certainly very happy to look at that, and today I have launched plans for clean air zones in five cities outside London to make sure we are in compliance with air quality limits.

One reason why emissions are so high in this country is the systematic fitting of defeat devices—the cheating software—by Volkswagen. Enforcement action is under way in the United States. Can the Secretary of State update the House on what action the British Government— her Department, the Environment Agency or the Department for Transport—are taking in this area?

The hon. Lady is right to say that the American authorities are taking action. My right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary is looking carefully at this, as well as ensuring that vehicles are appropriately tested. We have reached agreement at European level to ensure that what is being emitted from cars are the real emissions. That will help us to deal with our air quality issues.

The Secretary of State will know that many people regard the legal limits for maritime cruise ships berthing in cities as inadequate. Regulations in cities such as Gothenburg, and others in the European Union, place higher requirements on vessels, including a requirement for ship-to-shore energy supplies. Why cannot we have that for London?

We are certainly looking at the issue that the hon. Gentleman identifies. We are determined to fulfil our environmental obligations, and we will be bringing the whole of the UK into compliance.