Shadow Environment Secretary Rachael Maskell has today (8 September) voiced strong concerns for the future of enforceable air quality standards once the UK has left the European Union.
Speaking to airqualitynews.com today, the York Central MP said it was “totally irresponsibleâ€? for government not to commit to future air quality standards ahead of Brexit.
Her comments come after Defra parliamentary undersecretary Thérèse Coffey was grilled by the Environmental Audit Committee yesterday (8 September) as part of its ongoing inquiry into ‘the Future of the Natural Environment after the EU Referendum’.
While Dr Coffey said it would not make sense to repeal environmental laws where they worked, she was unable to give a solid commitment that air quality standards would be protected in the wake of the UK’s departure from the EU.
Ms Maskell argued the delay on post-Brexit assurances for air quality was “totally irresponsibleâ€? adding that the government was unable to recognise the impact of air pollution.
She said: “I think it’s totally irresponsible of her [Dr Coffey]. She is not recognising the impact at home or our wider contribution to climate change and what’s happening around the globe. My question is when leaving the EU how are we going to have somebody else mark our homework? At the moment we have the action being taken by ClientEarth in the courts and I think it’s important that we are accountable as a nation and have a rigorous monitoring process.â€?
The shadow minister added that she recognised it was difficult to address air quality where there is a “geographic disadvantageâ€? such as her own constituency of York. She continued that prioritising public transport over road building was a “keyâ€? feature to Labour’s Energy & Environment manifesto.
“The evidence shows the more you put tarmac down the more traffic you attract, so looking more at public transport HS2 will be part of that [environment policy].
“Where the congestion is happening in the cities, putting some restrictions in is important because people are dying. If 88 people are dying in York, then right across the country hundreds and thousands more are dying every year.â€?
The City of York council’s annual air quality report, published last month (26 August), has shown improvement across the city, with three areas above national targets (see letsrecycle.com story).