MPs launch joint inquiry to scrutinise government's plan to tackle air pollution
MPs are to scrutinise the government’s plan to tackle urban pollution across Britain, in an unprecedented move by launching a joint inquiry with four committees on Monday.
The Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health and Transport Committees are to hold four sessions to consider the scientific evidence on the impact of air pollution on health and the environment.
"The solutions to cleaning up our air are not the responsibility of just one minister,” said the Conservative’s Neil Parish MP, chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
“That’s why we have taken the unprecedented task of convening four select committees so we can scrutinise the government’s efforts from every angle."
The inquiry comes after the government previously lost two court cases about its plans to meet the European Union’s limits on pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
Last November, the High Court ordered the government to draft new plans to deal with NO2 by 24 April, with the final plan due by 31 July.
In February, the European Commission also warned the UK, along with Germany, France, Spain and Italy on failing to address breaches of the limits on air pollution.
The Commission said within two months the UK should take steps to bring 16 zones in the country within the legal pollution limits, or risk paying millions of pound in fines.
The committees will assess the how effective the government’s policies take account of the health and environmental and how sufficient the new plans will tackle NO2 levels to meet the High Court and European Commission requirements.
Labour’s Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee said: "The UK courts have twice told the government to raise its game to clean up our filthy air because of European Union legislation.
“My Committee has repeatedly pressed ministers on their plans for improving air quality as we leave the EU; we hope that the new air quality plan, and this unique joint inquiry, will give us more clarity."
MPs will also assess how the revised plans set out effective and proportionate measures for reducing emissions from transport and if there is sufficient cross-government collaboration to ensure the right fiscal and policy incentives are adopted to ensure air quality targets are met.
"The UK economy depends on an efficient and flexible transport system but emissions from vehicles are a significant problem and the standards that governments have relied on have not delivered the expected reductions”, Labour’s Louise Ellman MP, chair of the Transport Select Committee said.
She added that the committee will ask what more can be done to increase the use of cleaner vehicles as well as to encourage the use of sustainable modes of transport.