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Air Quality

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 26 November 2020

Our clean air strategy sets out an ambitious programme of action to reduce air pollution from a wide range of sources. We have also put in place a £3.8 billion plan to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations, and our Environment Bill, which I am pleased to say is making huge progress in Committee, makes a clear commitment to set a legally binding target to reduce fine particulate matter and enables local authorities to take more effective action to tackle air pollution in these areas.

How can Bolton avoid a future of £15 congestion taxes? How can Bolton deal with being in a clean air zone akin to the distance between Westminster, where we are standing, and Watford, of almost 500 square miles?

My hon. Friend has engaged continuously on this issue and is really standing up for his Bolton North East constituency. I assure him that only the most polluting older vehicles are charged in a clean air zone, and it is not a congestion charge; the Greater Manchester plan does not include charging private cars, and the evidence provided by Manchester authorities to date shows that this is not needed. We have provided £41 million in advance of the zone to help drivers and businesses in Greater Manchester that are least able to upgrade their vehicles, with further funding to be allocated. Manchester authorities are consulting on their plan until 3 December, and I encourage people to engage with the consultation.

In Harrogate and Knaresborough there are three air-quality management areas. The one at Bond End in Knaresborough saw junction improvements a couple of years ago that improved the situation, but another, at Woodlands junction in Harrogate, continues to break NOx levels, and that must change. What help is my hon. Friend giving to local authorities to help them to reduce NOx levels?

I thank my hon. Friend for putting the case for those roads. Local authorities have a range of tools that they can use to reduce air pollution, and we are building on them through the Environment Bill to ensure that local authorities have a clear framework and simple-to-use powers to tackle air-pollution issues in their areas. We are also broadening the range of bodies required to take action to improve air quality. As a former Transport Minister, my hon. Friend will understand what I mean by getting other bodies involved—we want them to work closely on the air-quality management plans. We will also continue to provide support through the air-quality grant.