London Assembly Member, Murad Qureshi, writes open letter to environment secretary Liz Truss warning against using UK air quality breaches as “bargaining chipâ€? in EU membership debate
In an open letter to environment secretary Liz Truss, London Assembly Member for Labour, Murad Qureshi, warns against using UK compliance with air quality limits as a “bargaining chipâ€? in the debate over EU membership.
Dear Secretary of State,
Before the election the Supreme Court handed down a historic ruling ordering the new government to “prepare and consult on new air quality plans for submission to the European Commission … no later than December 31 2015â€?. This ruling came after years of campaigning led by ClientEarth but embraced Londoners of all backgrounds, from concerned parents to some of our most eminent scientists.
Whilst the Supreme Court ruling is a positive development, I am troubled by the wider politics surrounding this judgement. Drawing up a new plan before the close of 2015 will be at the very top of your in tray after your reappointment as Environment Secretary. I am intensely conscious that debate surrounding our relationship with Europe is likely to reach a crescendo in the coming months. Government policies in every area from migration quotas to financial regulation to the CAP and of course the Air Quality Directive are liable to be moved across the political chess board as pawns in a high stakes game of political brinkmanship.
I am writing this letter today, on behalf of the thousands of Londoners who suffer poor health and face premature mortality to implore you to not allow UK compliance with the Air Pollution Directive to become a political bargaining chip in future membership negotiations. Air pollution is one of the most important public health challenges facing London, with evidence building all the time of the impact on the health of vulnerable Londoners. Allowing this issue to be used as a political football would be deeply irresponsible and endanger lives, this isn’t about Europe, it’s about the health of our citizens.
It is believed that as many as 7,500 Londoners died prematurely last year from toxic air. The most commonly associated ailment with poor air is respiratory problems but we now know that there are also strong links between exposure to pollutants and heart attacks and strokes. School children are at particular risk with evidence suggesting pupils who walk alongside congested roads on their way to school run greater risk of having stunted lung growth. Put simply, over sixty years after the Great Smog air pollution remains a great danger to public health in London.
The fact it has taken a European ruling for the Government to get serious about progress on air quality is a tragic state of affairs. Compliance with the Air Quality Directive is too important to be traded away in a Brussels conference room. The lives and future health of thousands of Londoners depend on the new government not seeking any special opt out for the UK but in pressing ahead with a robust plan to take us to compliance and clean up the capital’s air.
I and the millions of Londoners I represent, hope you will stand firm against pressure from your backbenches on this important issue and accept, this isn’t about Europe, it’s about cleaning up London’s increasingly toxic air.
Murad Qureshi AM (Labour Londonwide Assembly Member)