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Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill [HL]

Volume 825: debated on Friday 2 December 2022

Third Reading


Moved by

My Lords, I shall test the patience of the House by saying a few things. This is quite a momentous day, for me and for many other people. I record my thanks to the whole House for letting this Bill progress so quickly after topping the ballot. As it heads to the other place, I should like very quickly to highlight a few points.

First, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the great smog, we should learn its greatest lesson, which is to take action. The Clean Air Act 1956 showed how clean air legislation could drive innovation and deliver dramatic gains for a happier, healthier and fairer society. It also made us a world leader.

Secondly, Parliament has the need, the power and the opportunity to enshrine the human right to clean air precisely and explicitly in England and Wales law. Doing so would improve the quality of decision-making at all levels of government overnight.

Thirdly, my Bill is reasonable. It would establish the right to breathe clean air, confirm clean air targets for pollutants and greenhouse gases, set deadlines while allowing postponements, encourage renewable energy and energy efficiency and ensure a proportional approach to enforcement.

Fourthly, I remind the Government that the very first Clean Air Act was enacted by a Conservative Government—

—after Sir Gerald Nabarro MP, a Conservative MP, also topped the Private Member’s Bill ballot, with a Bill that would implement the Beaver committee’s recommendations for actions after the great smog. I therefore hope that MPs will support my Bill and that the Government will allow it time to progress in the other place and reach Royal Assent. If they do not, I hope that all other political parties will adopt it in their manifestos for the next election.

Lastly, I pay tribute to Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who is with us again today, and whose daughter Ella is going to give her name to this law. I hope this House’s action in sending my Bill to the other place will demonstrate, more clearly than I can say, that we hear Rosamund’s call for action. I give your Lordships Ella’s law.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness and all those who have campaigned to achieve this. My own city of Sheffield was the first to take up the 1956 Act. I hope we can make real progress once again on this critical issue.

My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, on bringing the Bill forward and on her tenacity in keeping going with it and tabling some helpful amendments.

I welcome Rosamund once again. It is good to see her, and this should be progress in her name as well as her daughter’s.

I say to the Minister that I was pleased to hear, in our discussion of statutory instruments the other day, that the targets for air quality and air pollution will be seen at some point in the near future. I look forward to seeing them. I hope they will be ambitious because, as the noble Baroness said, the Conservative Party has brought in air-quality legislation before so it should not be coy about supporting this and doing everything it can to improve the pollution problems.

My Lords, I express my thanks to all those who have contributed to the passage of the Bill, both today and since First Reading in the House back in May. I must express my gratitude in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, who has been so dedicated in raising awareness of this vital issue and driving her Bill forward.

I know that noble Lords across the House understand that action on air pollution is an absolute necessity to ensure the health of our people and our environment. Nothing has made that clearer than the tragic death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, and I pay tribute again to her mother, Rosamund, and her family and friends, who have campaigned so tirelessly in support of improving the air that we all breathe.

I know that noble Lords have also been horrified by the death of Awwab Ishak, caused by prolonged exposure to mould. My deepest sympathies, and I am sure the sympathies of the whole House, go to his family and friends. This reminds us of the importance of safeguarding indoor air quality in our homes. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Michael Gove, has taken immediate action on the quality of social housing.

I will not repeat the detailed arguments made at Second Reading or by my noble friend Lord Harlech in Committee. The Government absolutely recognise the need for action on air quality, and we are able to take that action, supported by our robust and comprehensive existing legal framework, now improved by the Environment Act 2021. That is why we have reservations with regard to how the noble Baroness’s Bill would be delivered.

In protecting people from the effects of harmful pollutants, we must take action not only to drive down emissions but to drive up public awareness. The noble Baroness’s Bill and her hard work in campaigning in support of it have undoubtedly furthered that aim. I thank her again because, as we meet the challenges of improving air quality across all sectors of the economy, we need to bring society with us. We must give people, particularly the most vulnerable, the information that they need to reduce the impact of air pollutants on their health.

To respond to the point rightly made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, when I say to her that those targets will be published soon, I understand that it is one of the frustrations in this House when a Minister cannot be specific, but it will very soon. I hope that when they are published, the whole House will understand how serious the Government are about improving the quality of the air we all breathe, inside and outside the home. Let me close by reassuring the House that protecting people and our environment from the effects of air pollution is an absolute priority for this Government.

A privilege amendment was made.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.