Ministers’ ‘heads in sand’ over London air quality

Government ministers tasked with addressing London’s air pollution problem “have their heads in the sand”, the capital’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has claimed.

Speaking to, the London Mayor today (10 October) voiced his frustration over a lack of direction from government on improving air quality in the capital.

london air quality

Sadiq Khan has accused ministers of ignoring air pollution in London

His criticism of ministers followed the launch of a second public consultation on air quality in London this morning at St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School in Southwark — one of 448 schools in areas that currently breach legal air quality levels (see story).

At an evidence session of the Environmental Audit Committee last month, the minister in charge of air quality Therese Coffey was unable to guarantee that existing air quality standards would be protected in the wake of the UK’s departure from the EU.


Asked how he intended to safeguard air quality in the capital in the event of the UK leaving the EU, the Mayor said: “Having clean air, that is air that doesn’t make you sick, has nothing to do with Brexit. I can’t do it on my own though, it’s quite clear from the consultation we published in the summer the record responses, Londoners want their air to be clean.

“I was quite clear in my manifesto now I’ve got a mandate I want the air in London to be clean but I need the support from the government; help around [reforming] the vehicle excise duty and help around a national diesel scrappage scheme, and it’s just not good enough for government ministers to have their head in the sand. They need to recognise that we’ve got to clear up the air in London.”


In a recent interview with, Shadow Environment Secretary Rachael Maskell said it was “totally irresponsible” for government not to give future assurances on air quality (see story).

Questions over whether it will be possible to hold ministers to account on air quality limits are likely to be raised again next week, as ClientEarth prepares to take the government to court over illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).


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