Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY 2002
BENDER CB, MR
60. I accept that. I am not entirely happy about
the fact that you just assumed it might come from other places.
I would have thought the fact it might come from other places
(Mr Williams) There is very good data on the other
routes of exposure to humans from lead in water and other sources.
61. The fact you have got it in other places
I would have thought would make it more important, not less important.
(Mr Bender) Then it gets to a question of proportionality.
Is it worth imposing the additional costs of reducing even further
the lower route or concentrating on some of the more important
62. Can I come on to another facet of that and
ask to what extent have you considered itand air pollution
is a particularly obvious example but other things as wellin
terms of the difference it could make if you got much higher concentrations
in some parts of the country and lower concentrations in other
parts? Just looking at the overall effect of air pollution does
not seem to me to answer the question.
(Mr Williams) You mean air pollution generally or
63. Lead is an obvious example. You might have
localised sources of pollution. What I am interested in generally
is whether it might be more important and more cost-effective
to do something because you have got very high concentrations
in localised areas even though you have not got a very high concentration
over the country.
(Mr Williams) That is exactly where the advantages
of the national approach together with what we call local air
quality management (LAQM) come in. We have been very careful in
the strategy to not over-egg the national measures, if you like,
which could potentially be over-burdensome, but where there are
local solutions to be made for those particular hot spots, we
have left that to local action as more proportionate and more
efficient. We can do that because we have a very sophisticated
measuring and modelling capability that allows us to identify
those hot spots and to give the local authorities the signals
and so on to develop their local policies in conjunction with
our national ones.
64. Let me go on to ask you about a number of
other pollutants not being considered. Does your Department deal
with carbon dioxide?
(Mr Williams) My colleagues who deal with climate
change do, yes, but we have not included it in the Air Quality
Strategy because, apart from the asphyxiation effect, there is
no conventional damage at normal levels from CO2 in the sense
that the other pollutants are damaging. The main problem is climate
change issues and that is being addressed by large parts of my
(Mr Bender) The point is that there is a Government
policy, as you well realise, on the reduction of greenhouse gas
emissions, but it is a different policy from air quality because
the Air Quality Strategy is dealing with pollutants of the sort
that are dangerous to health.
65. Excessive carbon dioxide in the end can
be extremely dangerous to health. If you are saying that two different
departments are dealing with this then there is not a lot of inter-departmental
work going on.
(Mr Bender) It is part of my Department but the carbon
dioxide emissions is taken in the context of the Government's
approach to greenhouse gases and climate change overall. This
strategy is primarily not concerned with climate change but concerned
with short and long-term health effects of pollutants which are
inhaled. I appreciate that there is an overlap between the two,
but essentially they are policies targeted at different issues.
66. Let's go on to one more obviously targeted
health issue which is radioactive particles.
(Mr Williams) Again, the answer is really analogous
to the one we have already given on CO2 Yes, the Department recognises
the problem of radioactive substances and there is a section of
the Department that deals with them. Again, they are not incorporated
in the Air Quality Strategy because, again, the problems are somewhat
of a different nature. There are, of course, potential health
effects from radioactive particles but the problem is a different
one from the sort of things we are addressing here, the sources
are different, and the control mechanisms and strategy-making
67. The sources for a lot of these different
pollutants are different but the controls for these different
strategies are not so different.
(Mr Williams) The difference between the sources of
pollutants in the strategy are not so great as the differences
between the pollutants in the strategy and radioactive pollutants.
What is more, the pollutants we are dealing with here are handled
and managed through a much more coherent common legislative framework.
68. What worries me, I have to say, about all
your answers is that you seem to be speaking in a mind-set, "This
is one problem so they deal with that, this is another problem,
they deal with that problem, this is a third problem, they deal
with that problem." One of the things this Committee keeps
coming up against is a lack of inter-departmental working.
(Mr Bender) First, can I say that this is within one
69. That is even worse.
(Mr Bender) Therefore, I would like to reassure you
that it is not the case. In response to the earlier questioning
I think it became clear that this is a very complex issue as it
stands so we have a strategy for dealing with these pollutants
in this sort of way. In a different part of the Department we
have a strategy that deals with radioactive pollution, and we
have a strategy that deals with greenhouse gases and climate change.
That is part of the Department's overall environmental protection
strategy but if we drew it all together in one box it would look
even more complicated than it is.
70. There are clearly common issues. One of
the examples that has come up again and again already in questioning
which I think is very, very relevant is the lack of good information
about the possible benefits. Clearly if somebody dies young, whether
they die young from a radioactive particle or lead poisoning,
you will still get the same cost benefit which would be there
if that person were saved. All sorts of issues do cross these
different pollutants and the fact that you think one is one problem
and one another does worry me.
(Mr Bender) We are not being as clear as we should
be. They are related. There are specific strategies to deal with
the three sets of issues you have described. They all come together
in my Department under the Director-General for Environmental
Protection, and there is a common team of scientists and economists
who look at these things and look at them in common with the Department
of Health and other departments. This is not a left-hand, right-hand
type of job as we may have been giving the impression.
71. I am glad to hear it. You certainly have
been giving that impression. What about pollution from aeroplanes,
that hardly seems to get a mention here?
(Mr Williams) They play their part along with all
the other sources and would form a part of the ongoing strategy
to achieve our objectives.
72. So do you have a strategy in the Department
to reduce the use of aeroplanes?
(Mr Bender) The contribution aircraft make to air
pollution is taken into account in the Air Quality Strategy. The
Government policy on aircraft travel is led, as you well know,
by DTLR and, as I said earlier,
73. That is another department, so it does not
(Mr Bender) I was about to say, as I said earlier,
that is an example of a case where we engage with DTLR so that
their forthcoming consultation, speculated on in today's press,
about additional runway capacity, and therefore potentially additional
aircraft movements in Southern England, will take into account
the environmental aspects, including air pollution. We are in
charge of the Strategy. We are responsible for the Strategy in
Government but some of the levers and the contributors to that
are in the hands of other Government departments: transport policy,
industrial policy, fiscal policy.
74. So when, for example, the investigation
of the fifth terminal at Heathrow was going on you fed into that,
I would hope, data on how many extra deaths you expected to be
incurred because of the extra runway capacity at Heathrow?
(Mr Bender) The issue was, indeed, fed in and the
DTLR Secretary of State's letter on the Terminal 5 decision drew
attention to obligations under Air Quality Directives and underlined
the inspector's recommendation that BAA should be required as
a planning condition to produce and keep under review an action
plan showing how they intend to minimise emissions from and attributable
to Heathrow. That is an example of the departments working together.
75. I am delighted to hear that. Presumably
you do this for all new road strategies, do you?
(Mr Bender) There is an ongoing dialogue between DTLR
and my Department on the environmental effects of all transport
76. Can we turn to another air pollutant. What
about tobacco smoke?
(Mr Williams) It is of concern to the area of the
Department that deals with indoor air quality.
77. So that is a different group again, is it?
(Mr Williams) It is all within the same group in the
Department and we all talk to each other quite a lot.
78. Over a fag!
(Mr Williams) There are, of course, limits to what
one can do on environmental tobacco smoke. One can control outdoor
sources of pollution to a much higher degree than one can control
79. It depends whether indoor is in public or
in private I guess.
(Mr Williams) That is right. The Department has provided
advice and recommendations, along with the Department of Health
as you will be familiar with, in terms of potential effects of
tobacco smoke and the sorts of behaviour that one might expect
in public places as well as indoors. There are limits to the extent
to which one can go beyond that. We cannot control emissions from
cigarettes in the same way that we can from cars.