London Mayor denies misleading MPs over air quality

Mayor says his work to address air pollution in the capital is “entirely transparent” and refutes suggestion London has worst NO2 levels in the world

The London Mayor’s office has denied claims from campaigners that Boris Johnson mislead MPs during a recent evidence hearing as part of an enquiry into air quality in the UK.

The Mayor, Boris Johnson, appeared before the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) in September (see story), during which he refuted suggestions that London has some of the worst nitrogen dioxide levels in the world.

Boris Johnson has denied misleading the Environmental Audit Committee during a hearing last month

Boris Johnson has denied misleading the Environmental Audit Committee during a hearing last month

His comments followed a Sunday Times interview with King’s College London’s Dr David Carslaw in July, in which Dr Carwlaw suggested that Oxford Street had the highest hourly and annual mean readings for nitrogen dioxide in the world and were “as high as they have ever been in the long history of air pollution” (see

And, in letter correspondence published by campaigner Simon Birkett of Clean Air in London (CAL), the Mayor’s advisor Matthew Pencharz again privately refuted Dr Carslaw’s claims to King’s College London’s Environmental Research Group (ERG), stating that he was “surprised and disappointed” with the comments in the Sunday Times.

Mr Pencharz wrote: “I believe the statement to be misleading for three reasons: pollution levels in London are lower than for many other world cities, other monitoring sites are currently recording higher concentrations of NO2 than at Oxford Street and various monitoring sites have reported much higher concentrations of NO2 in the past.

He also wrote that it was “important that public statements are supported by evidence and set in proper context”, adding that “I look forward to work with King’s ERG and trust that in future more rigour will be applied to public statements made by members of the Group’s staff”.

However, CAL’s Mr Birkett questioned the data and methodology in a September report by consultancy AMEC commissioned by the Mayor, which found that London ranked 9th on the health impacts index, 15th on the city wide index and 17th on the traffic-focused index in a comparison of 36 world and European cities (see story).

Mr Birkett said that as a result the EAC “may have been misled” by Mr Johnson over his comments regarding nitrogen dioxide levels on Oxford Street, and that King’s College London scientists were “unfairly criticised” by Mr Pencharz.

Mr Birkett said: “In CAL’s considered opinion the Mayor has made statements to the EAC and elsewhere the effect of which is to distract people from the original revelation — i.e. to suggest media coverage was about air quality in general not the highest NO2 in particular.”

London Mayor

However, responding to the claims, a spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “These claims are completely untrue and unfounded. The Mayor’s work to assess and address London’s air quality challenge is entirely transparent. He continues to take the problem extremely seriously and is working with a wide range of stakeholders to take forward a comprehensive range of measures to reduce air pollution and protect the health of Londoners.”

The Mayor’s spokesperson said that the AMEC study was independently peer-reviewed to ensure the methodology it used was “robust and fair”, adding that any claims that the Mayor misled the Environmental Audit Committee “are categorically false”.

In related news, Mayor-championed proposals for an ultra low emission zone in the capital by 2020 are expected to go out for public consultation next week, although a spokesperson for Transport for London was unable to confirm a date.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top