UK set for new air quality minister as Rogerson loses seat

The government minister responsible for air quality in England and Wales, Liberal Democrat MP Dan Rogerson, has lost his North Cornwall parliamentary seat in a General Election strewn with casualties for the Conservative’s coalition partners.

Former Defra minister Dan Rogerson had served as MP for North Cornwall since 2005 until losing his seat yesterday

Former Defra minister Dan Rogerson had served as MP for North Cornwall since 2005 until losing his seat yesterday

Mr Rogerson, who was appointed to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in October 2013, lost his South West constituency to Conservative challenger Scott Mann by 6,631 votes. He had served as the MP for North Cornwall since 2005.

Under Mr Rogerson, Defra launched a £1 million local air quality grant programme, but declined to commit to policies recommended by the Environmental Audit Committee such as a national low emission zone framework and a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme (see AirQualityNews.com story).

As constituency results continue to be announced this morning, a picture is emerging which few pre-election polls foresaw, with the Conservative Party leader David Cameron now almost certain to continue as UK Prime Minister with a parliamentary majority.

As such, speculation will now turn to who Mr Cameron will appoint to his new cabinet this weekend, and who will take over from Mr Rogerson as the Defra minister responsible for air quality.

And, in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling that the government must produce a new UK air quality plan by the end of 2015 (see AirQualityNews.com story) the new Defra minister will need to quickly set out a number of specific policies in the new parliament to tackle air pollution for the UK to reach compliance with EU nitrogen dioxide limits.

The Conservative Party’s election manifesto had pledged “to do even more” to tackle air pollution by investing in zero emission vehicles and cycling safety (see AirQualityNews.com story).

In addition, a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union – which has been the source of a number of regulations limiting air pollution emissions across Europe – now looks very likely in 2016, with the Conservatives also pledging in to hold such a vote in its manifesto.

Also pushing for an EU referendum was UKIP, which increased its national share of the vote considerably, even though Nigel Farage failed to take the South Thanet seat from the Conservatives and has now stood down as leader. The Party’s election manifesto set out its opposition to a number of EU regulations affecting air quality (see AirQualityNews.com story).

Parliament will next meet on May 18 2015 for the election of the Commons Speaker and the swearing-in of MPs.

Labour

The Labour Party suffered what leader Ed Miliband has described as a “very difficult and disappointing” night of results, including perhaps the biggest casualty of the evening in Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who lost his Morley and Outwood seat in Yorkshire to Conservative Andrea Jenkins.

A new minister for air quality will be appointed by Conservative Party leader David Cameron in the coming days

A new minister for air quality will be appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron in the coming days

With the SNP almost wiping out Labour in Scotland, Mr Miliband is now expected to stand down as Labour leader, although Shadow Labour environment ministers Barry Gardiner and Maria Eagle both held onto their respective seats in England.

Labour had pledged a national framework of low emission zones and greater power and responsibility for local authorities to tackle air pollution in its manifesto (see AirQualityNews.com story).

At the time of writing, the Liberal Democrats had lost all but eight of their 57 seats in the House of Commons. The Party’s manifesto set out a number of policies aimed at tackling air pollution, including the drafting of a ‘National Air Quality Plan’ (see AirQualityNews.com story).

There was some success for the Green Party, which saw its share of the vote nationally increase considerably, although as it stands Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas remains the Party’s only MP. The Party promised to increase spending on walking, cycling and public transport to boost air quality (see AirQualityNews.com story).