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Leaving the EU: Air Quality

Volume 635: debated on Thursday 25 January 2018

I am pleased to say that the Government will continue to improve air quality, supported by the new comprehensive clean air strategy that we are developing and will publish later this year. We have already put in place a £3.5 billion plan to improve air quality, with a particular focus on transport, and we have significant targets to reduce emissions of the five damaging air pollutants. The hon. Gentleman will recognise that this is a devolved matter, and the Welsh Government are actively considering how to improve air quality in Wales.

By when does the Minister think that Volkswagen will face criminal charges in the UK for its emissions scandal?

I am not a Transport Minister, but we all recognise that consumers—including, I expect, people in the House today—will have felt duped by the dodgy practices that took place. Transport Ministers are actively engaged with this issue.

I represent a car-manufacturing constituency. Will the Minister acknowledge that the UK car industry has made significant contributions through its investment in low emission cars, which is a key part of the strategy to improve air quality?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that we have been investing in improving and cleaning up transport infrastructure. We have introduced legislation to require the deployment of far more electric charging points. I am pleased that the money we are investing is helping to clean up buses, which is key to improving air quality, particularly in urban centres.

The Minister will recognise that there is an air quality crisis now, particularly in respect of the impact on children. Some of the problem is down to the most polluting vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles and buses. What will this joined-up Government do to make sure that we get those vehicles off our roads?

This is why the Government are investing—we have been for several years—to clean up things like the bus vehicle fleet. We have the clean transport fund. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be keen to work with his council and Greater Manchester to work on an air quality plan, because it is important that we have local solutions that tackle the local issues.

The Government’s air quality plans are simply inadequate, and they have been taken back to court yet again. With an estimated 40,000 premature deaths attributed to illegal air pollution every year, just how critical does the situation have to get before the Government finally act to comply with the High Court ruling? Will the Secretary of State and the Minister support Labour calls to introduce a new clean air Act to deal urgently with this matter?

We need clean air action and that is what the Government are delivering. We are working with local councils, and I wish the hon. Lady would encourage Labour councils to get on with it. I have had to issue ministerial directions to get councils to bring forward plans, and that is a real problem. I wish that we could work collegiately on this, because what matters is improving the health of the people we represent. I am keen to do that, and I would welcome the hon. Lady’s support in working with Labour-led councils to achieve that.