Parliament

Road air quality is not a topic going away any time soon. Road transport accounts for one third of all NOx emissions. The European Environment Agency estimates that road transport contributes to about 70% for nitrogen dioxide, and 30% for particulate matter. This poses an increasing risk to public health and wellbeing: particularly under recent circumstances where a link has been made between a higher mortality rate in areas of air pollution.

This page is dedicated to questions surrounding road air quality raised in parliament, most notably by Barry Sheerman MP, who leads this commission.


Question: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to ensure that upcoming legislative proposals protect air quality.

Answer: This Government takes its air quality obligations seriously and the world-leading Clean Air Strategy, published in January 2019, sets out the comprehensive action required across all parts of Government to improve air quality for everyone.

The Environment Bill delivers key parts of this Strategy. It introduces a duty to set a legally-binding target for fine particulate matter concentrations, the pollutant of greatest harm to human health, alongside a duty to set a further long-term air quality target. It also ensures that local authorities have a clear framework and simple to use powers to address air quality in their areas; and provides government with new powers to enforce environmental standards for vehicles.

Alongside this, the Bill will include a UK Environmental Protections policy which will allow for greater transparency and strengthened scrutiny by Parliament regarding future environmental legislation, including on air quality.


Question: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to ensure local authorities make (a) young and (b) vulnerable people within their area aware of the health risks of air pollution.

Answer: Through the statutory Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) framework, local authorities are required to assess air quality in their area and prepare an Annual Status Report providing a summary of the state of local air quality, associated health impacts and the progress on actions the local authority is taking to improve air quality. LAQM statutory guidance requires the local authority to make these reports available to the public and local stakeholders through their website.

Defra’s Air Quality Grant scheme provides funding to local authorities and supports schemes which help councils develop and implement measures to benefit local communities, including campaigns to promote greater air quality awareness.

In the Environment Bill we are mandating a regular cycle of reviews for the Air Quality Strategy, and this will provide an opportunity to outline measures focused on protecting those most vulnerable to air pollution.Question: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to ensure that local authorities are making people aware of air quality levels in their areas.
Answer: 

Through the statutory Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) framework, local authorities are required to assess air quality in their area and prepare an Annual Status Report providing a summary of the state of local air quality, associated health impacts and the progress on actions the local authority is taking to improve air quality. LAQM statutory guidance requires the local authority to make these reports available to the public and local stakeholders through their website.

Defra’s Air Quality Grant scheme provides funding to local authorities and supports schemes which help councils develop and implement measures to benefit local communities, including campaigns to promote greater air quality awareness.

In the Environment Bill we are mandating a regular cycle of reviews for the Air Quality Strategy, and this will provide an opportunity to outline measures focused on protecting those most vulnerable to air pollution.


On 2nd July 2020, Barry Sheerman MP asked whether the government will implement a mandatory sustainable transport plan for every local authority.

‘Whether the Government plan to make a sustainable transport plan implementation strategy mandatory for every local authority.’

In response, Rachael Maclean, Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, cited the emergency active travel grant. Yet, Maclean did not directly respond to Sheerman’s question of whether she would ‘support our new commission on road air quality?’:

‘I assure the hon. Gentleman that I completely share his desire to do things faster than they have been done to date. We have brought forward the e-scooter trials, which will see e-scooters being rolled out in Tees Valley and across the country to immediately harness the benefits of the green air that we are seeing as a result of the pandemic lockdown situation. A whole host of other measures are coming onstream, all backed up by £2 billion of Government support for active travel including cycling and walking. We will continue to work on this through our transport decarbonisation plan.’


On 30th June 2020, Barry Sheerman MP for Hudderfield posed a question of air conditioning in motor vehicles to the Department for Transport:

‘To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that drivers are protected from poor air quality by adequate vehicle filtration systems.’

Rachel Maclean, Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, responded:

‘The Government is determined to improve air quality and the Department’s officials are engaging with international expert groups, who are developing measurement procedures for vehicle interior air quality. There are currently no legislative requirements for vehicle cabin air filtration systems however some manufacturers install higher efficiency air filtration systems.’


On 11th October 2018, Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, responded to John Hayes, MP for South Holland and The Deepings, who asked how the department was supporting the transition to electric vehicles.

Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield, intervened and cited the benefits of having electric refuse collection vehicles. He outlined how the ‘waste trucks that pick up waste from every house in every part of our country every week are polluting vehicles’. Sheerman highlighted the ‘really good opportunity for a win’, with Dennis Eagle now producing a battery-operated waste truck as a way to decrease pollution in cities.

Grayling agreed with Sheerman, and admitted that he was unaware of this electric vehicle being produced. The Secretary of State for Transport acknowledged Sheerman’s comments and went on to say, ‘if we are going to meet air quality challenges, we need to make the kind of change he describes’.