Tuesday 22 May 2018
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Clean Air Strategy
Today, the Government published their consultation on a clean air strategy. At the most fundamental level, our health and prosperity depend on the health of the planet on which we live. From the air we breathe to the water we drink, the food we eat and the energy which powers our homes and businesses, we need to ensure we have a healthy and sustainable environment.
Nowhere is this more true than in the case of air quality. Air pollution is a major public health risk ranking alongside cancer, heart disease and obesity. It causes more harm than passive smoking.
This clean air strategy sets out the case for action and demonstrates this Government’s determination to improve our air quality. Leaving the EU provides us with an excellent opportunity to be even more ambitious about achieving cleaner air for the health of the nation, and for our environment and the biodiversity it sustains. We want to do all that we can to reduce people’s exposure to pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, ammonia, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide.
Air pollution has improved since 2010, but we recognise that there is more to do. This comprehensive clean air strategy sets out how we will tackle all sources of air pollution, making our air healthier to breathe, protecting nature and boosting the economy.
Government must act to tackle air pollution which shortens lives. We are already acting to reduce concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (N02) around roads from cars, but vehicles are not the only source of toxic emissions. Air pollution is a result of the way we currently generate power, heat our homes, produce food, manufacture consumer goods and power transport. Better, cleaner technologies and simple changes in behaviour will tackle the pollution that claims lives.
The new strategy is a key part of our 25-year plan to leave our environment in a better state than we found it. It sets out the comprehensive action that is required from across all parts of government and society to meet the challenge. By 2025, we will halve the number of people living in locations where concentrations of particulate matter are above the World Health Organisation guideline limit of 10 ug/m3, protecting public health.
Through the introduction of new primary legislation, we will introduce a stronger and more coherent legislative framework for action to tackle air pollution, giving local government new powers to take decisive action in areas with an air pollution problem.
We are investing £10 million in improving our modelling, data and analytical tools to give a more precise picture of current air quality and the impact of policies on it in future. Alongside this, we will seek ways to support further investment in research and innovation, in partnership with UKRI, which will help the UK become world leaders in clean technology and secure further emissions reductions.
From farming to consumer products, a large range of other day-to-day practices, processes and products produce harmful emissions. Of particular concern is burning wood and coal to heat a home, which contributes 38% to harmful particulate matter emissions. It is why we will ensure only the cleanest fuels will be available for sale and only the cleanest stoves will be available to buy and install.
For the first time, the Government will take concerted action to tackle ammonia from farming by requiring and supporting farmers to invest in the infrastructure and equipment that will reduce emissions. The agriculture sector accounts for 88% of UK emissions of ammonia, and action by farmers can make a big difference in reducing the impacts of excess nitrogen on sensitive habitats and reducing the overall background levels of particulates in the atmosphere.
Government cannot act alone in tackling air pollution, and our strategy sets out how we will work with businesses, farmers and industry to implement lasting solutions to reduce air pollution, and the importance of each of us taking action and playing an important role in cleaning up our air for the next generation.
These actions will, we hope, ensure that this country is recognised as the leading global champion of cleaner air for the next generation.
Exiting the European Union
EU (Withdrawal) Bill: SO No. 830
I am today placing in the Library of the House the Department’s analysis on the application of Standing Order No. 83O in respect of any motion relating to a Lords amendment for Commons consideration of Lords amendments stage for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign Affairs Council
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 April. The Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Luxembourg.
Foreign Affairs Council
The Council discussed the latest developments in Syria, including the targeted US, French and British airstrikes on chemical weapons facilities. Ahead of the Brussels Conference on Syria and the region, Ministers discussed the need to relaunch a political solution to the conflict in the framework of the UN-led Geneva process. The Council adopted conclusions on Syria.
Ministers agreed on the need for unity on continuing the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA). They encouraged the diplomatic efforts to ensure that there continues to be strong commitment to the agreement by all the parties involved. Ministers also discussed other issues outside the scope of the JCPOA, in particular the role of Iran in regional conflicts, not least in Syria and Yemen, as well as the EU’s concerns at Iran’s ballistic missiles programme and its human rights situation.
The Council agreed unanimously on the continued relevance of the five guiding principles that were agreed in March 2016. Following the Salisbury attack and the European Council conclusions that were agreed in March 2018, Ministers highlighted the need to strengthen the resilience of the EU and its neighbours against Russian threats, including hybrid threats such as disinformation campaigns. Ministers commended the work carried out by the East StratComms taskforce in the European External Action Service. Ministers also highlighted the importance of supporting Russian civil society and continuing to develop people-to-people contacts.
Over lunch, Ministers discussed the Western Balkans in preparation for the EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia on 17 May 2018.
External action financing instruments
The Council held a preliminary exchange of views on the future financing of external action instruments after 2020. The Commission is preparing its proposal for the EU’s next long-term budget (the future multiannual financial framework, MFF).
Members agreed a number of measures without discussion:
The Council approved the annual progress report on the implementation of the EU strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which covers activities carried out in 2017;
The Council adopted conclusions on chemical disarmament and non-proliferation ahead of the Fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to review the operation of the chemical weapons convention on the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and on their destruction. This session will take place in The Hague on 21-30 November 2018;
The Council adopted conclusions on South Sudan;
The Council adopted conclusions on malicious cyber activities that underline the importance of a global, open, free, stable and secure cyberspace where human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law fully apply;
The Council approved the High Representative’s six-monthly report on Operation Althea, which covers the period from 1 September 2017 to 28 February 2018;
The Council adopted a decision approving Mazars and KPMG S.A. as the external auditors of the Banque de France, the National Central Bank of France, for the 2018-23 period.
Suspect Vehicles: Police Pursuit
I announced in September 2017 that the Home Office would lead a review of the legislation, guidance and practice surrounding the police’s pursuits of suspect vehicles. As I said in September, this Government are determined to get ahead of and tackle emerging threats like motorcycle-related crimes, including those involving mopeds and scooters. People must be able to go about their daily lives without fear of harassment or attack and criminals must not think they can get away with a crime by riding or driving in a certain way or on a certain type of vehicle.
I am today publishing the review’s findings for public consultation. The findings will be available on gov.uk and a copy will be placed in the Library of the House. The consultation sets out and seeks views on a number of proposals, including:
Judging whether a police officer’s driving is careless or dangerous against the standard of a careful and competent police driver of a similar level of training and skill, rather than any careful and competent driver, as now;
Requiring that specific driving tactics employed by the police are authorised appropriately and are both necessary and proportionate to the circumstances;
Making clear that the police are not responsible for the standard of driving of a suspect being pursued; and
Clarifying the various emergency service exemptions to traffic law to reduce the potential for confusion.
I have been clear from the outset that we must ensure that the end result of these changes enables the police to do their job effectively and keep us safe while ensuring that we continue to keep our roads among the safest in the world. It is important therefore that we seek the public’s views on these proposals, given their potential to affect all those who use our roads. I look forward to hearing the views of all those interested in the proposals before the consultation closes on 13 August.
Prison Service Pay Review Body
I am pleased to announce that the Prime Minister has extended the appointment of Dr Peter Knight CBE as chair of the Prison Service Pay Review Body for the period 1 March to 31 July 2018. The extension has been made in accordance with the governance code on public appointments.