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Schools and Hospitals: No-idling Zones

Volume 657: debated on Thursday 28 March 2019

8. What discussions he has had with local authorities on no-idling zones outside schools and hospitals to tackle poor air quality. (910079)

9. What discussions he has had with local authorities on no-idling zones outside schools and hospitals to tackle poor air quality. (910080)

It is already an offence to leave an engine running unnecessarily when the vehicle is stationary on a public road. Local authorities can issue fixed penalty notices to drivers who leave engines running after being asked to turn them off. Westminster Council is probably the most successful at this, but I encourage local authorities to use their powers so that more people stop idling unnecessarily.

What discussions has the Minister had with the Chancellor about the need to establish ring-fenced funding for local authorities to implement measures to protect our children’s health where they are disproportionately affected by toxic air in areas where they live, learn and play?

The Government are investing more than £3.5 billion in the strategy to improve air quality. I remind the hon. Gentleman that this matter is devolved to the Mayor of London. I know that he is seeking to be active on this, but there is more that local authorities can do today that is self-financing in order to improve air quality, including on this issue of idling.

Given that the Secretary of State accepts that air quality is a matter of social justice and health inequality, why is he doing so little to support low-income households to switch to cleaner forms of transport?

I am not sure where the hon. Gentleman gets that impression from. We have offered grants to people who want to switch to electric vehicles. We are investing several billion pounds in different strategies to help people make that switch. We outlined other issues of air quality in our clean air strategy, which the World Health Organisation has said is something that every other country in the world should follow.

Will the hon. Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) not seek to intercede at this time? His question might not be reached, but he has a similar inquiry. Get in there, man.

12. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I was just thinking the same thing, but I did not want to break protocol by trying.What assessment has the Department made of air quality on the M6 from junction 9 to 10A, where it cuts through my constituency, and what work can be done to mitigate the effect of traffic on air quality? (910083)

I have met Highways England with the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), on several occasions. The chief executive holds a fortnightly meeting to discuss air quality and the progress that it is required to make under our air quality plan, and I am convinced that I can organise a direct meeting for my hon. Friend with him to discuss his specific issue.

Air quality around schools is a concern, and in my constituency and west Cornwall we are working up a plan to plant 20,000 trees with our school children by the end of 2020 to improve their air quality. Will the Minister meet me to see how we can deliver that ambition?

I welcome anyone who wants to plant trees. I think it is fair to say that the scientific evidence does not definitively say that trees help air quality, but they are good in so many other ways. It is about improving the local environment. We must continue to do more to ensure that children are not affected by poor air quality, and I welcome activities around the country to achieve that.