Labour deputy leader candidate Tom Watson MP seeks new Clean Air Act 1956 to include national network of low emission zones
Deputy Labour leader hopeful Tom Watson MP has launched a petition urging for a new Clean Air Act and calling on the Prime Minister and Environment Secretary to both â€œshow leadership on this issueâ€.
The MP for West Bromwich East said the Clean Air Act, originally passed by the Conservative government in 1956 to combat smogs by allowing only smokeless fuel burning in London, needed updating as â€œmany of our major cities now face a crisis on a similar scaleâ€.
Londonâ€™s â€˜Great Smogâ€™ of 1952 is thought to have led directly to thousands of deaths and many more hospital admissions, and Mr Watsonâ€™s petition follows a report estimating that more than 9,400 people each year die prematurely as a result of air pollution in London (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Launching the online petition last week (July 24), which at the time of writing has 35 signatures, Mr Watson said:
â€œIt is clear to me that we are living through a new clean air crisis and itâ€™s time to act.â€
He also criticised the Prime Minister for doing â€œtoo little to tackle the current crisisâ€.
He added that local councils had â€œlittle budget and no support from central governmentâ€ and were therefore â€œstruggling to take on the laggards of the transport industry, who continue to push highly polluting passenger and freight vehicles onto our roadsâ€.
Therefore, according to Mr Watson, a new Clean Air Act should include a national network of low emission zones to introduce a set of â€œcommon standards, tariffs and penalties across the countryâ€, arguing that this is â€œthe best way to reward transport companies who reduce emissions and punish those that donâ€™tâ€.
He also encouraged commuters in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and Cardiff to â€œplay their partâ€ by using alternative travel options such as car sharing.
Mr Watson is one of five candidates running in the current Labour deputy leadership election, with the winner set to be announced alongside the leadership election result at the Partyâ€™s annual conference in September.
And, explaining that during recent hustings for the deputy leadership election many questions had been raised about environmental policy, he called for stronger Labour policies on air pollution as the issue â€œhas received little attention in the national debateâ€.
Mr Watson said: â€œI want Labour to go into the 2020 election with clear and robust policies that allow us to redress and adapt to climate change. And we need to reassure people that we are willing to act when pollution impacts on the lives of millions of Britons.â€