The London Mayor has claimed it is “impossible” to for him to give evidence in person at a parliamentary committee’s forthcoming air quality inquiry due to prior diary commitments.
However, despite the Mayor’s busy schedule, chair of the EAC Joan Walley MP has once again written to Boris Johnson urging him to attend, adding that the Committee “can I’m sure be very flexible”.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) launched an inquiry and issued a call for evidence on the health impacts of air pollution earlier this month (May 2) and had specifically written to Mr Johnson seeking his oral contribution to the inquiry on tackling air quality in London – a request turned down by the Mayor (see airqualitynews.com story).
It has now emerged that the reason Mr Johnson refused appear before the committee is because of his busy schedule in late June and early July, but that he had asked his senior environmental advisor, Matthew Pencharz, to attend the inquiry in his absence.
In correspondence dated May 8 2014 but published by the EAC today (May 19), Mr Johnson wrote: “I am sorry that my diary makes it impossible for me to attend before the Committee, but I will be submitting written evidence to your inquiry. I have also asked my Senior Adviser – Environment and Energy, Matthew Pencharz, to accept the Committee’s invitation to give oral evidence.”
Mr Johnson said he welcomed the inquiry as an “important opportunity to showcase some of the excellent progress that has been made in London”, adding that the inquiry would “make an invaluable contribution to the debate about what more should be done”.
But, after highlighting his package of air quality policies – such as plans for an ultra-low emission zone in the capital by 2020 – Mr Johnson also wrote that “the Mayor cannot alone solve London’s air quality challenge and further action is required at all levels of government, including at EU level where the ineffectiveness of vehicle emissions standards has made it harder for us to meet this challenge”.
Writing in response to the Mayor on May 13, Joan Walley MP said she was “disappointed that your diary prevents you coming to give oral evidence” and once again called on him to appear before the Committee in person.
She wrote that a “crucial issue” for the inquiry was what City Hall had been doing to highlight the actions that other bodies needed to take to help it tackle air pollution.
The MP’s letter states: “That strategic perspective, it seems to us, can best be given by you, in your role as Mayor. We would very much like to have your oral evidence, even if that means adjusting the timing of our inquiry. We would be grateful if you could let us have some diary dates when you could attend the Committee. We can I am sure be very flexible.”