Motion to Approve
My Lords, the instrument before you includes the measures to phase out the supply of the most polluting fuels used in the home. These fuels are traditional house coal and wet wood, or wood with a moisture content of more than 20% when sold in units under two cubic metres. It also introduces sulphur and smoke emission limits for manufactured solid fuels. These measures will come into force in a staged process from 1 May 2021 to 2023.
As noble Lords will know, the Government have made a commitment in the clean air strategy to tackle harmful emissions from domestic burning and to improve air quality. In February, the Government published national statistics on emissions of air pollutants in the UK. It is clear from these statistics that domestic burning is a major source of fine particulate matter emissions. These emissions can have a considerable impact on human health. The tiny particles can enter the bloodstream and internal organs, leading to long-term illness and reduced life expectancy, mainly due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and lung cancer. Indeed, the World Health Organization has identified fine particulate matter as the most damaging pollutant in its impact on human health. Given this, the Government consider it vital to take action to protect the health of householders and their neighbours.
We know, of course, that domestic burning is not the only source of fine particulate matter emissions. However, while we have secured a reduction in the amount of emissions from transport and industry, emissions from domestic burning are increasing. The clean air strategy states that we should be looking beyond transport and industry and we should now take steps to deal with pollution from other sources including the pollution caused by heating our homes. The instrument before us will make a substantial contribution towards the reduction of fine particulate matter emissions, which are causing considerable harm.
The Government also recognise that better management and restoration of our peat-lands is needed. We have always been clear of the need to phase out the rotational burning of protected blanket bog to conserve these vulnerable habitats; we are now looking at how legislation could achieve this.
I want to set out in broad terms what the instrument before us will do and make clear what it will not do. The regulations introduce measures which will apply to domestic burning only. The measures will not apply to businesses or the heritage sector. The regulations do not ban domestic burning. We are fully aware that many people enjoy using open fires and wood- burning stoves; we are not looking to stop them. Instead, we are looking for people to move from using more polluting fuels to less polluting fuels. That is why we are phasing out the sale of traditional house coal and wet wood sold in smaller volumes, and requiring that all manufactured solid fuels meet sulphur and smoke emission limits. These regulations will enable people to make informed choices and source cleaner fuels, thereby protecting the health of their families and neighbours.
I will now set out in more detail why it is necessary to regulate the supply of each of the fuels regulated through this legislation—that is, traditional house coal, wet wood and manufactured solid fuels. The amount of fine particulate matter emitted from the domestic burning of coal is less than that emitted by burning wood. However, the Government have taken into account evidence indicating the level of harm that the emissions from coal can cause. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has advised that the smoke from burning coal is carcinogenic. The agency has also highlighted the harmful elements and compounds which are released when coal is burned. These include arsenic, mercury, lead, fluorine and selenium. It is government policy to reduce people’s exposure to these more harmful pollutants, as set out in the clean air strategy. That is why we need to regulate the supply of coal used in the domestic setting. These regulations will encourage people to switch from traditional house coal to smokeless coal and low-sulphur manufactured solid fuels.
The regulations also tackle the domestic burning of wet wood. Burning this type of wood releases significantly more fine particulate matter, smoke and soot than burning wood which has been seasoned. Our estimates indicate that 24%—or nearly a quarter—of all the wood burned domestically is burned at least partly wet. We understand that wood burned in smaller units is more likely to be bought for immediate use. Under these regulations, wood sold in smaller units must have a moisture content of 20% or less. It will be easy to tell whether wood meets the new requirements. To be sold in these smaller units, the wood will need to be certified and bear a logo indicating that this is the case.
The regulations encourage people to switch from traditional house coal to manufactured solid fuels. We want to avoid unintended consequences arising from this switch in fuels, and we want industry to manufacture these solid fuels to the cleanest specifications. Unlike coal, the amount of sulphur and smoke emitted by these fuels can be controlled. That is why these regulations extend the sulphur and smoke emission limits which currently apply in smoke control areas across England. This will mean that manufactured solid fuels sold throughout England will need to meet a 2% sulphur limit and emit less than 5 grams of smoke per hour. Again, it will be easy to tell whether a fuel meets these requirements, as all fuels of this type will need to bear a logo showing that they have been tested and certified.
The Government are aware of concerns that these regulations could have a negative impact on people who are reliant on coal and are in fuel poverty. We have taken these concerns very seriously, and we want people in fuel poverty to share in the benefits of this legislation. We consider that they should be protected from the harmful effects of more polluting fuels just as much as anyone else. We have commissioned research which indicates that they may also be better off financially, as manufactured solid fuels have been shown to be cheaper than coal when energy efficiency is taken into account.
We recognise that vulnerable people who are used to burning coal will need some time to adjust and make the switch to appropriate alternative fuels. That is why these regulations include a transitional period when approved coal merchants will be able to sell loose coal direct to their customers. This will run until 1 May 2023. During the transition period, these coal merchants will work with their customers to inform them and help them find appropriate, cost-effective fuels which are far better for their health.
We have engaged with colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the measures they are taking forward to tackle fuel poverty such as the updated fuel poverty strategy, which will be published later this year. BEIS also runs the national concessionary fuel scheme. Under these regulations, everyone receiving fuel as part of the scheme will continue to be entitled to it. Over 90% of recipients will not need to make any adjustment as they are already receiving fuel which complies with the new requirements. We will work through approved coal merchants so that others can move to compliant fuels which meet their needs. These will be available at no extra cost.
These regulations give small wood producers an extra year to comply with the new requirements. The suppliers qualifying for this transitional period are those who produce less than 600 cubic metres a year. We understand that these suppliers may struggle to meet the 20% moisture requirement immediately; this period gives them time to season their wood to the required level or to consider changes to their business model.
I am aware that there has been some concern about the impact these regulations may have on the heritage rail sector. As I said earlier, this legislation applies to domestic burning only. It will not apply to heritage rail. It may have some indirect impact on how this sector sources its coal, but the regulations give time for the sector to make any necessary adjustments. We will make guidance available to the manufacturers, distributors and suppliers of fuels affected by this legislation so that they are aware of the new requirements. We will also provide guidance for local authorities so that their enforcement officers understand their role in enforcing this legislation.
In summary, the instrument before us takes forward a key component of the clean air strategy, helping us to meet our national and international obligations to reduce polluting emissions, and dovetails with measures which the Environment Bill will deliver. The regulations will make sure that householders are able to make informed choices and can protect themselves and their families from the effects of the most polluting fuels. The measures in these regulations will deliver benefits to the environment and to the health of our citizens. They will also reduce the burden that illness caused by air pollution places on the National Health Service. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have tried for the last two decades to persuade previous holders of the Minister’s post, and others in various Governments, on this issue. The general drift of these proposals is in the right direction; I have no specific objection to what the Government are proposing, but I fear that they will not achieve everything they intend.
For clarity—from my understanding of what I have read and what the Minister said—there will be no criminalisation of a householder. The seller is the one who will be caught by these regulations. I would like that clarified by the Minister as I have been in many of the households directly affected over the years and I know many affected households. I think it is fair to say that not everybody uses the official market in their supply of heating products, particularly in former coal-mining areas where the tradition of open fires in many households disappeared quite a long time ago. They have something quite antiquated in terms of technology, akin to a wood burner, in which solid fuels such as coal were burned—previously including concessionary coal or any other coal obtained—but where people have now migrated to burning waste and, in particular, burning wood. They get those supplies of wood in many different ways, not always, indeed rarely in my experience, from petrol stations, supermarkets or DIY stores selling it.
I fear that there will be a continuation of the entrepreneurial spirit of the old coal miners. Some of them cannot read all the guidance, in my experience, but if they can they tend not to bother with the fine print. If they cannot buy in a store, they may find a supply elsewhere, which comes to what I have been banging on about to Minister after Minister. I will put it simplistically but, I think, accurately.
What I have said repeatedly is that I can persuade any pensioner household living in an old pit house or bungalow to take green technology if it would give them free energy, if someone would only install it. Some of them will grumble and then sign on the dotted line, while others will openly embrace it. When it came to solar panels, I found that nothing was easier. If it went on the green arguments, we might get into something of a side-tracked debate but if we went into the economic arguments, it was very straightforward: “We’ll stick them on your roof and you’ll get some free energy. How much, we don’t know.” I never used to promise what I was technically incompetent to deliver and had no authority on, but I could guarantee that there would be some considerable savings. That proved always to be the case. It was less so with ground-sourced heat although there remains a huge potential for it, which has hardly been tapped. I can think of some council bungalows near me, where 24 of them were some of the first in the country to be done. I never heard a complaint afterwards because people were getting at least their hot water for free and sometimes more.
There is the idea of retrospectively fixing these old pit houses by doing this, that or the other to make them more environmentally sound. That is true, but proportionately much less so than for other properties. These houses are well built and well insulated. They do not need retrofitting like the new thin-bricked houses. These are solid properties with solid roofs, therefore they self-insulate anyway. We might add a bit extra insulation and have better windows and doors. That is very welcome and would save on their bills.
On the Minister’s strategy, if he could find a way of incentivising getting this green technology installed on houses, particularly for pensioners, then those who have not already will do so. It will get into this small number of the most vulnerable, who are the most fuel-poor. I can hear those who have not done so saying no to me now; if I went to meet them next weekend, they would say the same thing but if it could be installed for free, they will go with it. They are the ones who will continue, one way or the other, in burning whatever they get hold of. Whether it is full of creosote because it is an old railway sleeper or something else industrial, they will source it. They will chop it up, burn it and save money by doing so. The only way that any Government will crack that is by incentivising the putting-in of the green technology.
The Minister has a reputation for being one of the greenest Ministers in our history, which is deserved. This is an opportunity for him to make his mark in areas where his name is perhaps less well known but could become famous, if he can get into these areas of fuel poverty and persuade this tiny but important minority of households, but he is going to have to incentivise it. I would say: make it pensioners only, make it free and get it delivered. The capital cost would be small, but I put it to him that the payback in PR and the real payback for the environment would be hugely disproportionate. These will be the people who carry on burning the stuff the Government do not want them to burn, even if they cannot get it through their usual, traditional suppliers. Let us therefore target them and be adventurous. It would be British technology and British jobs, and the Chancellor and Prime Minister will look favourably on this Minister when it comes to future promotions.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for setting out the rationale for this important statutory instrument. The air we breathe has to be clean. Many of our children and adults suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases. They are not helped by pollutants in the air. I fully support the measures proposed to ensure high air quality and welcome the Minister’s commitment to address the issue of burning blanket bogs.
What we are debating and the improvement it will make to air quality is a far cry from the air which I often encountered in my childhood in Bristol. Not knowing anything whatever about the impact of poor air quality, I often travelled on a bus in the late winter afternoons and was unable to see anything out of the window. The outside was a very odd, dense yellow colour. People were hurrying along with their heads down and scarves pulled up over their mouth and nose. As a child, this seemed quite exciting from the safety of the warm bus but it was a different matter when we alighted and had to walk home from the bus stop with the fog swirling around us, making us damp and our eyes water. Mercifully, today such smogs are rare in our country but it is vital that we monitor air quality at all times and do everything possible to improve it.
Wood burners are very popular; I declare an interest, as we have one in our home. They are extremely efficient and produce a good heat in a short space of time. But what we burn on them needs to be of good quality—wood that has been allowed to dry out—and if solid fuel is added, it has to be smokeless and sulphur-free, burning with a clean heat that does not produce particles and pollutants.
The Government’s clean air strategy, published in 2019, covers the use of wood burners; it also covers other important measures to improve the air that we breathe. Idling cars alongside schools at pick-up and drop-off times do nothing for the lungs of the children going in and out of school. PM2.5, already referred to, is an atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, which is about 3% of the diameter of a human hair. Particles in this category are so small that they cannot be detected without an electron microscope. Even at moderate levels, particulate matter can still be harmful to sensitive people. When air pollution levels are lower, the cardiovascular and respiratory health of a person will be much improved in the long and short term.
PM2.5 causes numerous adverse effects such as breathing difficulties, eye irritation, dryness of the nose and mouth, throat infections and a feeling of claustrophobia, as well as numerous psychological effects. It has been identified as the most damaging air pollutant by the World Health Organization. The Explanatory Memorandum indicates that 41% of pollutants came from PM2.5, with 16% coming from industrial combustion and 12% from road transport. However, the EM also admits that these figures are only estimates and that it is difficult to accurately estimate the extent and nature of domestic burning and emissions.
This brings me to the crucial test in this matter. How are the Government going to monitor whether domestic properties are adhering to these new restrictions? The noble Lord, Lord Mann, laid out that case clearly. What measures will be in place to ensure compliance? What will be the penalties for the hapless households not adhering to the rules? Paragraph 7.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum indicates what the exact limitations will be, while paragraph 7.4 goes on to say that the Government are not banning stoves or open fireplaces.
To me, indicating this shows that the Government had considered it, although the Minister said that they would not be doing it. I want to give a personal example of why I would fight tooth and nail against such a ban.
When my first child was six months old, we lived in a house that was entirely electric but had an open fireplace. It was winter, and there was heavy snow, bringing power cuts to the whole village and the larger surrounding area. After 24 hours, the main road was cleared, and so my husband and others carefully went off to work in the town four miles away. I was left keeping the baby warm in front of the open fire. After three days, the village was connected except for the five houses on our side of the street. It seemed our electricity came over the fields from a neighbouring village and had not been reconnected. When my husband came home that night and asked why I was still sitting in candlelight, I seriously considered divorce proceedings. However, with the intervention of a neighbour, electricians worked throughout the night to reconnect us. At that time, I swore that I would never again be totally dependent on electricity for heat and cooking facilities, and I have kept to that.
The Government are right to encourage households to switch to cleaner energy forms, but it would be very unwise to legislate to ban stoves and open fireplaces completely. There will be many who, like me, want a fail-safe back-up for when there are electricity outages, as is so often the case, especially in very rural areas.
I welcome smaller suppliers being given more time to comply with the regulations, and I am encouraged that the freeminers in the Forest of Dean are exempt. Can the Minister say whether this exemption is for the lifetime of the current freeminers or in perpetuity?
I note that paragraph 11.2 of the EM indicates that local authorities will be expected to issue certification schemes and enforce the legislation. The guidance will be issued three months prior to restrictions. Many households will have stocks of fuel that will last more than three months and could become liable to fines, if there are any for individual households. The cost to local authorities is estimated at £1.2 million over 11 years. Are the Government going to cover this cost? Local authorities are extremely short of cash due to funding social care and the Covid-19 crisis. They will not be able to cover this additional cost.
I fail to see that the reduced sale of wood is likely to cause a £14 million loss over an 11-year period due to less dry wood being used than wet wood. It is far more likely that the cost of kiln-drying wood will push the price up at the point of sale. The SI refers to an “approved wood certification body”. Can the Minister give a little more detail on what this body will look like and what powers it will have?
I note that the phrase “best endeavours” has crept into the SI in Regulation 5(6)(b), referring to the certified supplier ensuring that their wood is consistent with the sample they have provided in order to gain certification. I see a loophole here for the unscrupulous operator who will provide a sample that fits the criteria and then supply a very different product to the customer. There is the threat of a fine, but again I ask: how will this be monitored? If the wood thus produced is cheaper, will those on low incomes be likely to report that their wood is producing more smoke than anticipated? Do the Government believe that the £300 fine will be sufficient to deter illegal trading?
The SI says that:
“The Secretary of State must appoint at least one person to be an approved manufactured solid fuel certification body.”
I suggest that a lot more than one will be needed. Some areas of the country are more likely to use wood-burners and open stoves than others. It will be necessary to have access to more than one certification body, especially as small producers—often sole traders—are involved here, not large multinational companies.
Fixed penalty notices appear to be the responsibility of the local authority. Does this mean that each local authority will be responsible for collecting the £300 for a penalty notice, which has to be paid within 28 days?
I note that the Government envisage publicising the logo “Ready to Burn”, so that consumers are aware both that the law has changed and how to easily identify fuel that meets the required standards. Will this be a similar type of campaign to the current television advertising campaign to try to get us to download the test and trace app?
I apologise that I have asked a lot of questions. I am totally behind the Government in this initiative to try to reduce the amount of pollution in the air that we breathe. I support this SI.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for setting out the intention of this SI so clearly and thank noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate this afternoon. The issue of toxic air quality has long concerned Members from across this Chamber, from well before the Minister was able to join us. Our criticism has always been that the action being taken is too little, too late. That is why the Government have ended up in court on this issue on a number of occasions.
We now have a proposal before us that specifically takes action on fine particulate matter which arises from the burning of wet wood and bituminous coal. As the Minister said, this is known to be the major source of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including lung cancer. These proposals are acceptable as far as they go, but do they go far and fast enough?
Having read the SI and the Explanatory Note, as well as the debate in the other place, it seems to me that since the Government set out to tackle this health hazard, they have been busy scaling back and limiting their proposals. We have national and international obligations to phase out the production of PM2.5, which has been identified by the WHO as the most damaging air pollutant. According to the impact assessment, the Government are set to miss their legally binding target for a reduction of PM2.5 by 31 kilotonnes by 2030 if no action is taken. The Explanatory Note goes on to say that this instrument will abate approximately 9.37 kilotonnes in the year 2030. I hope the Minister will help me on this because, unless I am reading these figures wrong, we still have a huge gap in meeting our legal requirements, and indeed a huge mountain to climb to meet our international obligations on this issue. Can the Minister please clarify what proportion of our 2030 target will be met by these proposals? Can he tell us when we will see the remaining pieces of legislation that will make sure that we deliver properly on our national and international commitments? Is it also true that the Government published a more ambitious draft SI earlier in the year that has now been replaced by this version which includes longer delays for implementation?
I have a number of questions about the detail of the proposals. First, can the Minister clarify the open tender arrangements for appointing the certification body? This question was raised by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and again today by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. I have experience, in another life, of ombudsman bodies being appointed to businesses in the sector that have a clear, vested interest in the outcome of their judgments. Can the Minister assure the House that the certification body or bodies will be truly independent and not able to benefit from the products that they certify?
Secondly, the proposals understandably raise concerns about people living on low incomes who rely on solid fuels, particularly in rural areas. Does the Minister accept that these families need greater financial help to transfer the source of their heating from health-damaging to safe fuels? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mann, that we could be far more ambitious on this issue. Surely this is particularly pressing, given that, as the Minister has already acknowledged, those who continue to use these toxic materials threaten not only the health of their families but that of their neighbours and the community around them.
The Minister also made it clear, as is identified in the Explanatory Notes, that clean fuels are actually less expensive than traditional fuels once energy efficiency is factored in. In these circumstances, is there really a case for a delay in the coal-burning ban beyond that which was originally envisaged, particularly when there are healthy alternatives already freely available?
Thirdly, would the Minister like to comment on a letter I have received from a producer of smokeless domestic fuels, who points out that all the makers of smokeless fuels are UK based, while all the coal we use is imported? There would, therefore, be a benefit to UK businesses in making the shift to clean fuel more quickly. Finally, will the Minister again update the House on the timing of the Environment Bill? I know that we ask this question regularly, but I am going to repeat it. The Bill is languishing in the Commons and we now understand that it is not due to leave there until Christmas, so it will not begin consideration in the Lords until the new year. We need the Bill to be passed to make broader progress on the clean air strategy. As it already seems that it will miss the end-of-year deadline, we will be left with a regulatory gap on this and other issues. Why has it been delayed? What steps is the Minister taking to chase it up?
We are not going to oppose this SI, but I have to conclude, sadly, that it is a poor imitation of the kind of ambitious policies we need to clean up our toxic air and deliver on our WHO targets. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. The instrument takes forward a key component of the clean air strategy, to help us meet our national and international obligations to reduce pollution, and it demonstrates this Government’s commitment to delivering environmental benefits. The measures it contains will improve air quality and deliver benefits that improve the health of this country’s citizens and the quality of their lives. I will attempt to address in order the questions and comments put to me by noble Lords.
The noble Lord, Lord Mann, raised the prospect of unforeseen consequences, citing the example of the potential criminalisation of householders. More pertinently, he asked whether householders could find themselves being criminalised. This SI does not result in householders being criminalised; this is about the trade. The noble Lord’s logical next question was about the consequence for entrepreneurial individuals opting for a less formal, or even non-market, route to providing fuels to householders, who would not then get caught up in this legislation. He is, of course, right up to a point. Legislation rarely answers all the questions that are put to it; no legislation is perfect. We cannot stop people burning foraged wood and waste, but we are clear that burning these materials is highly damaging to their health and to that of others in the community. In addition, it is worth noting and remembering that people burning coal and switching to manufactured solid fuels could—and likely would—save money, because they would be burning a more efficient fuel than coal.
The noble Lord also asked about incentives around the uptake of clean energy and to encourage greater levels of energy efficiency. He is absolutely right; incentives are central. The payback on energy efficiency is already there. We know that money invested in energy efficiency has a faster payback than that invested in any form of new energy. The best power plant is the one that is not needed as a consequence of strategic investment in energy efficiency. That has always been, and remains, the case. My colleagues in BEIS are looking hard at the kinds of incentives that are going to be needed to see a step change in the volume and speed of energy efficiency that needs to happen around the country. I very much take the noble Lord’s point that such incentives should be targeted at fuel-poor, low-income and elderly householders.
On a broader point, the market is changing rapidly. Even in the last few years, the costs of renewable energy across the board have come down far faster than anyone anticipated. No one anticipated that, in the very early 2020s, we would be on the cusp of offshore wind being able to exist without subsidy. Most people put their assessments and predictions at around 2030-plus, but we are now right on the cusp of offshore wind being viable without subsidy. The cost of solar has come down by around 90% in the 12 years since the credit crunch. Last year, more money by far was invested in new renewable technology than in fossil fuels.
A final, interesting point on that is that coal use in the United States has declined far faster under President Trump, despite his being wildly in favour of coal, than was the case under President Obama, who was more interested in tackling climate change. This just shows that the market is racing ahead of politics, and the cost ratio is changing so dramatically that the Government’s job is to do what they can to accelerate those trends. The solution is easily within our grasp now, in terms of both energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, began by painting a vivid picture of the smogs that she was used to in an earlier part of her life. Although it is very hard to capture precise numbers of how many people’s lives were brought to a premature end as a consequence of air pollution, it is worth noting that the figures we have today are not dissimilar to those that existed at the time of the great smogs. The difference is that the pollution that damages people today is largely invisible and does not therefore have the same stark effect as the smogs which she described so well.
The noble Baroness also mentioned the importance of wood-burners to many people, including herself. I add myself to that list; I too use a wood-burner. However, in doing so she reinforced the need for this legislation. She made the case very well for a shift towards a cleaner fuel for those wood-burners. She raised the broader issue of air quality and zoned in on PM2.5, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. This is just one measure—one tool—that the Government are using to tackle air quality. We certainly would not pretend that this SI is going to crack the problem of environmental air pollution. I will come to the specific point of PM2.5 in a moment.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked about the free-mining tradition and welcomed the fact that an exemption exists for those living in the Forest of Dean. Nothing in this SI changes the arrangements they have. Their rights remain protected. There is no difference; it has no impact. So they can, I hope, rest easy. She also asked about households being fined. Householders are not going to be fined. The target of this SI is the trader. She also asked about enforcement. Local authority enforcement of this SI is meant to be light-touch. It will involve checks at retail outlets that fuels being sold comply with the legislation, such as by carrying the correct certification number and logo and being correctly stored. We are looking closely at how we can best support local authorities in their enforcement of the regulations and will be issuing guidance on that very soon. This is alongside measures in the Environment Bill, which I will come to in a moment, which will also make it easier for local authorities to tackle air pollution in their areas.
The noble Baroness’s last point related to the logo. Wood and manufactured solid fuels that meet the legislative requirements will be identifiable by the same logo and certification number on the product packaging. Details about the logo will be made public as soon as the legislation and certification body are in place, so will come back to the House when appropriate. We intend that the same logo will be used for both manufactured solid fuels and wood, to provide clarity for consumers. We do not want to overcomplicate what should be a fairly simple measure.
Finally, I would like to come to some of the questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. The failure to implement this legislation is most likely to result, as she says, in the UK failing to meet its legally binding targets for 2020, and possibly 2030, on fine particulate matter—PM2.5s, raised earlier by the other noble Baroness. Therefore, there is a consequence of this legislation not going through, and I am therefore very grateful to her and other noble Lords for supporting this legislation.
But she is also right to say that there is a big gap in terms of meeting our legal obligations. To that I say, yes, that is correct; there is much that the Government need to be doing, working with business and local authorities and other departments of government—not least the Department for Transport—to tackle the issues of air quality that are damaging the health, in some respects, of people in this country. This is just one of those measures; we are not pretending this a catch-all solution. But we are at the forefront of reducing industrial pollution in this country. We are currently consulting on bringing forward the end of the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles to 2035, or even earlier if a faster transition is feasible. We are looking closely at that now and working closely with the industry. The Environment Bill delivers key parts of the clean air strategy and is the first environment Bill in over 20 years.
The noble Baroness asked when it is going to continue its passage through Parliament. I am extremely sorry; I wish I could provide a detailed answer, but I am not able to. But I am absolutely aware that timing is an issue and that this extraordinarily important piece of legislation needs to find its way through both Houses as quickly, efficiently and effectively as possible. I make this case at every opportunity, as do my colleagues in the Department for Environment.
The “Air quality” chapter in the Environment Bill makes a clear commitment to a certain ambitious air quality target that goes beyond EU requirements and delivers significant health benefits. The Environment Bill will also enable the Government to recall the engines of non-road mobile machinery and related emission components that are non-compliant with the environmental standards they were approved to meet, and more besides. The Environment Bill really does help us deliver on and achieve the ambitions within the clean air strategy.
The final—I think—question I was asked related again to the issue of fuel poverty. I reiterate that a number of concerns were raised during the consultation process that led to this situation today: to us being able to present the SI. We took those concerns, and we continue to take those concerns, extremely seriously. We want people in fuel poverty to be able to benefit from this legislation, just as anyone else can. There is no reason why those living in fuel poverty should be exposed to more dangerous, more polluting fuels than anyone else. Indeed, were that to be the outcome of this legislation, I would say that the legislation had failed. It is very important the benefits are spread evenly and equally.
We have commissioned research that, as I said in my opening remarks, tells us that once they have made the transition to cleaner fuels, they should be better off financially because of the efficiency with which these fuels burn. It is worth taking that into account. At every step of the way, we are determined to ensure that people are not left worse off, particularly those people who are living in fuel poverty today. We are absolutely determined that this legislation will help, rather than hinder or harm, people in vulnerable households, and we will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure that that is the case.
As I have outlined, the regulations phase out the supply of the most polluting fuels used for domestic burning. The measures they contain will enable people to enjoy their wood-burning stoves and open fires, safe in the knowledge that they are using cleaner fuels which will protect the health of their families and neighbours, as well as the wider environment. I will close my remarks at this point and thank noble Lords for their contributions and their support today.
Noble Lords will be pleased to know that we are not taking a short adjournment here; we are rolling straight into the next piece of business. So those who wish to dance out of the Room now may do so: otherwise, I will move on to the next Motion. The time limit for the debate is one hour.