The chair of the Commons Transport Committee has called for ministers to ‘lead from the front’ on the issue of toxic air pollution after four parliamentary committees relaunched their joint inquiry into the issue.
The Transport, Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, and Health select committees launched an inquiry into improving air quality earlier this year but had to close it down because of the snap General Election.
The chairs of the four committees made clear that they would subject the Government’s latest plans on the issue to ‘unprecedented scrutiny’, including exploring how effectively the various Whitehall departments with responsibility for the issue work together.
Newly elected Transport Committee chair Lilian Greenwood said: 'The Department for Transport needs to harness the potential of schemes such as electric vehicles, clean buses and diesel scrappage, which all demonstrate that the transport sector is capable of coming up with solutions to tackle poor air quality.
‘Real change is possible if Government leads from the front to co-ordinate an effective response to one of the biggest issues of our time.’
In July, after the courts twice ruled that the Government’s plans to cut air pollution were inadequate, the Government released its latest air quality plan. The cross-party inquiry will examine whether this new plan goes ‘far enough, fast enough to both meet legal limits and to deliver the maximum environmental and health benefits’.
With road transport a key contributor to nitrogen dioxide pollution, the Government’s plan includes proposals for ‘clean air zones’ to limit polluting vehicles from driving in high pollution areas and an end to the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.
However, local authority leaders have criticised the plan for putting too much emphasis on local government to implement politically unpalatable measures.