Two Labour MPs have hit out at government proposals to remove obligations for local councils to monitor air quality
Labour MPs and air campaigners have slammed government proposals to scrap obligations for local authorities in England to regularly monitor air quality.
Denton and Reddish MP Andrew Gwynne described the proposals as “an absolute scandalâ€?, while fellow Labour MP for Don Valley said that the government needed “to think againâ€?.
The MP’s comments come after the government launched a consultation on its proposals to remove obligations for councils in England to monitor local air quality after declaring an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), which runs until August 30 2013 (see airqualitynews.com story).
The proposals concern regulations in the Environment Act 1995, which established the Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) system under which all local authorities are required to regularly review and assess air quality in their areas against national objectives for several air pollutants.
However, according to Defra, the LAQM has not been comprehensively reviewed since it came into operation in 1997 and there is a need to ‘reinvigorate and refocus LAQM’.
But, the Labour MPs claim that this means there will be no local data about the health risks of air pollution at a time when air pollution causes 29,000 early deaths each year in the UK. They also site the UK’s failure to meet EU legal limits for nitrogen dioxide in 40 out of 43 zones in 2010.
The government’s consultation document itself states that meeting EU limits is a ‘significant challenge’ and that there is also a ‘significant infraction risk’ from the EU for not meeting these limits.
Mr Gwynne said: “Instead of sorting it out, ministers want to stop anyone knowing how bad the pollution is, and remove the duty on councils to assess and report the data. Given parts of my constituency are covered by the Greater Manchester Air Quality Management Area, this is an absolute scandal.â€?
Also commenting on the proposals, Caroline Flint MP said she supported measures for Doncaster to measure air quality when the Robin Hood Airport opened in 2005.
She said: “The airport responsibly agreed that air quality should be monitored, just as happens across the borough. Does anyone actually think it can be good for the facts about air quality to be hidden away or worse, never measured at all? The government needs to think again.â€?
The Labour MPs’ campaign against the proposals is also being supported by several air quality campaigners.
Maria Arnold of the Healthy Air Campaign said: “Caroline Flint is doing the right thing by stepping in to protect the health of local people. Air pollution is an invisible killer, causing heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory disease. Children living near busy roads have been shown to grow up with underdeveloped lungs, and that’s not acceptable.â€?
Furthermore, Simon Birkett, founder and director of campaign group Clean Air in London, said he “applaudsâ€? Andrew Gwynne MP for his stance on the issue and “highlighting these injusticesâ€?.
Mr Birkett said: “Air pollution kills more than 10 times more people than road traffic accidents. Astonishingly, two-thirds of Conservative MPs responding to a survey said road traffic accidents are a bigger risk.
“The government has been caught red-handed trying to hide the facts about air pollution. It wants to reduce local monitoring and reporting of air pollution and has still not published estimates of deaths attributable to air pollution for every local authority in England.