Defra minister Lord de Mauley tells House of Lords that it is up to local authorities to decide on level of air pollution monitoring
The government has denied that local air quality monitoring stations will be closed under plans currently under consultation to ‘streamline’ local monitoring requirements.
Speaking today (January 6), the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister, Lord de Mauley, said that the government is “not proposing a reduction of local authority monitoring stationsâ€?, adding that it was ultimately up to councils to decide on the level of monitoring they choose to undertake.
Defra – which Lord de Mauley represents in the House of Lords - launched a six-week consultation last month (December 19) on proposals to reduce the amount of air quality reports prepared by local authorities in England (see airqualitynews.com story). Critics have suggested the plans could lead to the closure of hundreds of local air monitoring stations.
And, speaking in the House of Lords this afternoon, Lord Berkley highlighted the high numbers of deaths attributable to air pollution and cited the recent news that London’s Oxford Street has breached nitrogen dioxide limits for the whole of 2015 within a few days (see airqualitynews.com story).
He then asked Lord de Mauley: “Why is Defra then consulting on proposals to remove obligations to monitor such pollutants?â€?
The minister responded: “Nothing in the consultation could lead to the closure of monitoring stations. It’s essentially about streamlining and simplifying the reporting system in order to reduce unnecessary burdens and speed up delivery of air quality action plan measures to tackle pollutants such as NO2 and particulate materials.
“We are not proposing a reduction of local authority monitoring stations, but decisions on local authority monitoring are for them, and ultimately it is up to them to decide what level of monitoring they wish to undertake.â€?
The current consultation also includes plans to remove local authority reporting requirements for four pollutants – 1, 3 Butadiene, benzene, carbon monoxide and lead.
And, commenting on this proposal, Lord de Mauley said: “The review, as I said, is aiming to reduce administrative burdens to free up local authority time and resources so that they can then focus on taking action to address air quality.
“The proposals in the consultation are split into two parts. Part one proposes the removal of pollutants specifically which have been well within limits for many years and monitoring indeed of these will still be maintained at national level.â€?
During the session, the minister also said that the “key to reducing air pollution is reducing emissions at sourceâ€?, but added that the government was also encouraging the uptake of cycling and investing billions of pounds in reducing pollution through the likes of low emission vehicles incentives and sustainable transport.
And, commenting on low emission zones (LEZs), Lord de Mauley told peers in the House: “We are working with local authorities on the feasibility and design of LEZs and we provide guidance – such as which vehicles should be covered and which standards they should meet. As well as London – Oxford, Norwich and Brighton have already introduced LEZs and others are considering them.â€?
Meanwhile, Lib Dem Lord Bradshaw called on the government to investigate air pollution emission levels from diesel powered refrigeration units, to which Lord de Mauley replied: “We have got a number of very extensive programmes going on to reduce the emissions of pollutants from a variety of particularly transport units, but I will look into what he says to see if there’s anything we can do.”
Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock also waded into the air quality debate during the session, criticising the London Mayor’s current plans to reduce concessions on the congestion charge for low emission vehicles after motorists were previously incentivised to buy them, which he described as “entirely the wrong approachâ€?.
Lord Kinnock asked the Defra minister to “contact the Mayor of London and tell him how wrongheaded he is on reducing or removing concessions on congestion charge for very low emission vehicles, which will be brought into effect from December 2015.â€?
Lord de Mauley responded: “Matters such as this are of course for the Mayor of London to decide, and I will of course do as he asks.â€?
Defra’s consultation on local air quality monitoring proposals runs until January 30 2015.