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MPs to questions officials over air quality

Representatives from Defra, Environment Agency and the GLA to face questions over UK performance against air quality targets, writes Amy North

Government officials are set to appear before MPs next week (June 27) to be questioned over the action the UK government is taking to meet air quality targets.

Representatives from the Environment Agency, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and the Greater London Authority are set to answer questions on air quality from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA).

The meeting will take place at the Palace of Westminster on June 27

The key areas of discussion will include:

  • National and London performance against EU and national air quality targets;
  • The effectiveness of measures being taken to improve air quality;
  • Health impacts particularly in areas breaching current standards, such as London;
  • Roles and responsibilities of key organisations including local government, Environment Agency and Defra.

The meeting is a one off evidence session however a second session could take place if the Committee wishes to hear fromthe minister.

The Committee meeting is set to take place at the Palace of Westminster. Those giving evidence are: Matthew Pencharz, newly appointed political adviser to the Mayor, Greater London Authority; Elliot Treharne, air quality manager, Greater London Authority; Simon Birkett, founder and director, Clean Air in London; Dr Colin Powlesland, environment and business manager, Environment Agency; Daniel Instone, head of atmosphere and local government programme, Defra; Dr Sarah Honour, head of the air quality evidence team, Defra; and, Steven Beard, director of operations, Blaby district council.

The Committees findings, following the meeting, are expected to be published in a report before the summer recess.

Background

The EFRA Committee is scrutinising the action taken by the government on air quality, which is often found to be worse in built up areas such as London.

Transport remains one of the worst contributors to poor air quality in the UK and a report published earlier this year by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that combustion emissions are responsible for a 13,000 premature deaths in the UK each year (see airqualitynews.com story).

In December the government was found by the High Court to be failing to meet its legal obligations to keep air pollution within EU limits. ClientEarth said it brought the legal challenge after it was revealed that air quality plans for 17 regions and cities would not achieve legal limits of air quality until after 2015.

However at the end of May the Court of Appeal ruled that any action to force the government to submit a new strategy for improving air quality would have to be carried out by the European Commission (see airqualitynews story).

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