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Air Quality

Volume 679: debated on Thursday 10 September 2020

What representations he has received on the potential merits of amending the Environment Bill’s provisions on air quality. (905808)

What representations he has received on the potential merits of amending the Environment Bill’s provisions on air quality. (905823)

Measures to improve air quality are a key part of the Environment Bill, and we have engaged with stakeholders through the development of these measures to ensure that they are ambitious and impactful. We are confident that these measures, including the commitments to set two air quality targets, will deliver real benefits for air quality, and we will continue to engage and collaborate with stakeholders, parliamentarians and the public as we work to implement these measures.

Until lockdown, air pollution blighted the life expectancy and health of many of my constituents and, as traffic levels are starting to rise again, we are seeing the same problems of air pollution arise. Will the Government commit to including the World Health Organisation’s guideline on air pollution limits in the Environment Bill, and will they also include particulate matter as well as nitrogen dioxide in the legally binding targets?

As I have said, we have two air quality targets already in the Environment Bill and the WHO’s PM 2.5 is on there. We will consult on exactly how that will come through, which is absolutely right. All experts agree with that. The hon. Lady makes good points about coronavirus and the impact on air quality. The Air Quality Expert Group and others have done some very useful and significant research, which will be looked at in great detail to ensure that the right measures are coming forward.

Local modelling has revealed that 21 locations across Stockport will have nitrogen oxide levels above the legal limit in 2021. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury), I ask the Government to commit today to including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter as legally binding targets in the Environment Bill.

The Environment Bill has a big section on tackling air quality, with two targets to be set. Many other air pollutants—five in total—are also tackled, and we already have targets in place for them as part of the clean air strategy. We have a comprehensive strategy, because we appreciate just how serious the issue of air quality is. We as a Government will be tackling that, including with clean air zones across the country, many of which are coming forward in the near future.

I thank the Minister for her responses to my hon. Friends the Members for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) and for Stockport (Navendu Mishra), but may I press her further? According to Labour research, almost 60% of people in England are living in areas where levels of toxic air pollution exceeded legal limits last year. That shocking statistic should jolt the Government into action. Will the Minister commit to incorporating World Health Organisation air-quality standards into the Environment Bill?

I welcome the shadow Minister to her place. As I have said, the Bill contains two targets, and PM2.5 is one of them. We understand that that is the most significant and impactful pollutant of our health, but we must consult on this issue. I have met many experts and specialists in this area, and we must wait for the actual data before we can finally bring those measures into the Bill and ensure that we get this right. As I said, clean air zones are being introduced across the country to tackle this issue through our clean air strategy.