Air quality and pollution

Thank you for contacting me about air quality and pollution. As a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, I am only too aware of your concerns.

While significant improvements have been made in air quality over many years, more needs to be achieved. However I do believe that the Government is committed to tackling this issue.

Over the past five years the Government has made available over £2 billion for a range of measures: assisting bus operators to upgrade their fleets, using cutting edge technologies to reduce pollution from a range of vehicles such as refuse trucks and fire engines, and promoting the development of clean alternative fuels such as powering taxis with liquid petroleum gas in Birmingham.

Now, the Government has issued a UK plan for improving air quality. Under it, by 2020 the most polluting diesel vehicles will be discouraged from entering new Clean Air Zones that will be introduced in the centres of Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby. This will affect old polluting buses, coaches, taxis and lorries, but not newer vehicles that meet the latest emission standards, or private cars. Similar zones in Germany and Denmark have been shown to produce improvements in air quality.

One of the main reasons cities continue to face air quality problems is that diesel vehicles have failed to deliver expected emission reductions in real world driving conditions. The Government has therefore won agreement to introduce more stringent emissions testing, ensuring vehicles live up to their low emission credentials.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.