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Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 26 November 2020

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the effect of the easing of covid-19 lockdown restrictions in August 2020 on the level of air pollution from motor vehicles. (909302)

Average roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations remain below levels observed in the previous three years, despite some increases as the March lockdown measures were eased. Working closely with Ministers in the Department for Transport, we continue to drive forward our ambitious plans to improve air quality, and we are delivering our clean air strategy and working in partnership with local authorities to deliver measures to tackle nitrogen dioxide pollution. The Environment Bill will enable greater local action to tackle air pollution.

As we hopefully exit a respiratory pandemic, technology grants for home working, public transport vouchers and the cutting of staff parking permits could all be part of a joined-up strategy for employers to make driving into the office a thing of the past in the new normal, or at least radically reduced, with things such as vehicle scrappage, all-electric fleets and a proper charging network for those who cannot avoid driving. Will the Government adopt a proper, joined-up, cross-governmental strategy, rather than the piecemeal, far-off future targets that they have now?

The hon. Lady gives some examples, but she is somewhat aggressive in her approach. I work closely with the Department for Transport and the Department of Health and Social Care so that we do have a joined-up approach on air quality, and our clean air strategy goes across all Departments. Some £1.2 billion from the Department for Transport is being devoted to cycling and walking investment, and the bike vouchers went like hot cakes in the summer. We do work closely together. The hon. Lady raises some important points, however, and we are looking into all the options because we know that times are changing and work patterns are changing.

We are one United Kingdom, so I know that the Minister will have paid keen attention to the work happening, albeit devolved, in other parts of the country to tackle toxic air quality and pollution. Will the Minister confirm that she has read the Welsh Government’s clean air plan, and share with the House some of the tips she has picked up?

I thank the hon. Lady for bringing Wales into the discussion, but of course air quality is a devolved matter—she serves on the Environment Bill Committee, in which we have said so many times that it is a devolved matter. I hope that she and the Welsh Ministers have read our clean air strategy, because it is considered a global leader, but I am always open to ideas. If we can pick up tips from other places, I am all for it.