Labour says Government ‘dodging responsibility’ on air quality

Labour Party analysis of air quality breaches in 2016 has revealed over 60% of people in England lived in areas that breached legal air quality limits. 

It also found 145 Local Authorities across England had pollution breaching legal limits, including 8 ½ million people living in 32 out of the 33 London Boroughs.

In November, the first of more than 300 signs went up across the capital – in preparation for the introduction of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in the centre of the city from April 2019.

Outside of London; Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest percentage of people living in areas breaching limits (82%, 4.4 million people), followed by the North West (76%, 5.5 million people) and the West Midlands (65%, 3.7 million people).

Sue Hayman, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: ‘The Tories have completely failed to tackle the problem of air pollution across the country.

‘Despite losing repeatedly in the courts on this issue, hey continue to dodge responsibility, leaving millions of people living in areas of illegally high levels of pollution.

‘Labour has promised a new Clear Air Act – including a network of clean air zones – to get a grip on the illegal levels of pollution across the country.’

Labour also questioned how air quality limits will be enforced following Brexit, in a role currently filled by the EU Commission. With the UK set to leave the EU in March, the Government has so far only promised to ‘consult’ on a new body.

Responding, Environment Minister Therese Coffey told Huffington Post that Labour are trying to ‘mislead and scare millions of people.’

‘Labour deliberately encouraged the dash to diesel which has directly led to air pollution in our towns and cities,’ she added.

‘Worse than that, they ignored official advice that their policies would create health problems.

‘We’ve made progress cleaning up the dirty air we inherited from Labour, with NO2 emissions down 27% since 2010. We’re investing £3.5 billion in cleaning up our air and we’ve been praised by the World Health Organisation for our radical Clean Air Strategy.’