Ella’s Law introduced to House of Lords – a comment from Barry Sheerman MP

As Ella’s Law reaches the committee stage of the House of Lords, my personal air quality monitor reveals the high levels of air pollution within the Parliamentary estate itself, underlining the urgent need for action to clean up the country’s air for the benefit of everyone.

Over the past couple of weeks in Parliament, I have been wearing a portable air quality monitor so I can measure the air quality in every part of the Parliamentary estate. When I have collected enough data, I will report it to the Administration Committee in Parliament so they can act accordingly. 

The preliminary findings make for a grim reading. The air quality in the House of Commons chamber, which is meant to be filtered, is still very polluted, well above World Health Organisation standards. In other parts of Parliament, it is twice as bad as in the Chamber. This is where we ask our employees to work, day in, day out. They are being exposed to toxic air every day, and much more must be done to clean the air in Parliament, just as elsewhere.   

As well as wearing the portable air quality monitor, I have continued to scrutinise the Government’s performance on air quality through written questions. Recently, I have been focusing on the impact of tyres on air quality as we have learned that toxic particles from tyre wear are almost 2,000 times worse than those from exhausts as the average weight of cars increases.  

Among the written questions I have submitted is a question to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asking whether he will assess the potential impact on the level of toxic chemicals in the environment of requiring changes to tyre manufacturing processes. I have also asked him what assessment he has made of the potential effects of HVO on air pollution. Another question to the Secretary of State asks what steps he is taking to incentivise car manufacturers to reduce the weight of electric vehicles. 

You can read the Government’s answers to come of these questions overleaf. The others will be published in a future issue.

In the House of Lords, Baroness Jenny Jones has introduced Ella’s Law as her private members’ bill. Baroness Jones won first place in the House of Lords ballot this time round. The Bill would establish a right to clean air and require the Secretary of State to achieve and maintain clean air in England and Wales. The Bill would also establish a Citizens’ Commission for Clean Air with powers to institute or intervene in legal proceedings. 

At the time of writing, the Bill has reached the Committee Stage in the House of Lords, and I hope it reaches the House of Commons and the Government gives it Parliamentary time. We need this Bill because it is the inalienable right of each and every one of us to breathe clean air.  

Barry Sheerman

MP for Huddersfield/ Chairman Westminster Commission for Road Air Quality