AppendixGovernment response |
The Environmental Audit Committee published its Action
on Air Quality report on 8 December 2014. This examined progress
in air pollution policy.
The Government has noted the Environmental Audit
Committee's report and is grateful for its views. We are committed
to improving air quality.
The Government recognises that clean air is vital
for people's health. Air quality has improved significantly in
recent decades as we have addressed emissions from transport,
industry and other sources through negotiations at European and
Particulate Matter and nitrogen oxide
emissions in the UK have more than halved up to 2012 via EU legislation;
Average roadside concentrations of nitrogen dioxide levels have
fallen 15% since 2010.
We are investing heavily in measures across government
to continue this and have committed £2 billion since 2011
in green transport initiatives. We recently announced £100m
funding dedicated to air quality improvements to the strategic
road network as part of the delivery of the Road Investment Strategy.
We have also invested heavily in our forecasting and monitoring
to keep the public informed of air pollution levels.
We continue to support local authorities in identifying
the best solutions for their area, sharing best practice and consulting
on changes to reduce the administrative burden placed on councils.
The Government further supports Local Authority efforts through
various schemes including the Air Quality Grant Scheme and the
Clean Vehicle Technology Fund.
We support the aim of the new National Emission Ceilings
Directive proposal to reduce trans-boundary pollution and implement
the Gothenburg Protocol. The Commission recently announced that
the proposal will be modified to maximise synergies with the 2030
Climate and Energy Package. We will continue to work with the
Commission, the European Parliament and other Member States to
make sure that ceilings for 2030 are set at the right level of
ambition based on evidence.
A new test procedure for Euro 6 light duty vehicles
scheduled to be introduced by the Commission by 2017 will improve
type approval laboratory testing and a further new test will be
added to assess vehicles under real world driving conditions.
We will continue to work with the European Commission and other
Member States to ensure the latest standards deliver the expected
emission reductions under real world conditions.
Government's responses to the specific recommendations
The Government's responses to the Committee's recommendations
on pages 41-43 of its report are set out below:
Recommendation 1: The Government should without
any further delay introduce a national framework for Low Emission
Zones, with common metrics and a national certification scheme
for vehicles meeting particular air quality standards, to facilitate
their widespread adoption. (Paragraph
Currently, decisions on the introduction of low emissions
zones are made at a local level by local authorities to suit their
specific circumstances. Also, in 2010 the Government published
'Low Emission Strategies Good Practice Guidance' to establish
ways in which the planning system may be used to reduce emissions
from transport, in order to improve local air quality.
However, all measures are currently being investigated
further to ensure an effective package of measures to tackle air
pollution is developed. The Government is currently carrying out
a review in order to update its air quality plans. The use of
both individual low emission zones and a national approach will
form part of the review. Following public consultation the UK
Air Quality plans will be submitted to the Commission at the end
of this year.
Recommendation 2: Defra and the Department for
Transport should work urgently with the Treasury to establish
long-term goals and timescales for a step by step re-balancing
of fuel duty and Vehicle Excise Duty consistent with reducing
not just CO2 emissions but also NO2 and particulate matter impacts.
The Government's focus is on supporting cleaner vehicles
and sustainable transport in order to reduce carbon emissions
and improve air quality. The Government announced at Budget 2013
that it has no plans to make significant changes to the VED structure
in this Parliament, and announced at Autumn Statement 2013 that
fuel duty will be frozen for the remainder of this Parliament.
Since 2010, we have committed over £2bn for
a wide variety of measures that support cleaner, greener transport
and help reduce pollutant emissions. These measures have included
support for ultra-low emission vehicles, low carbon public transport
and sustainable transport including walking and cycling.
Recommendation 3: The Government should explore
regulatory and enforcement options for ensuring that, once fitted,
diesel particulate filters are not removed from vehicles, and
where filters are fitted standards are enforced through thorough
testing and monitoring. Having raised this with the Minister,
we welcome his commitment to tackle this matter and expect an
early statement on the actions planned. (Paragraph 31)
The Government is committed to preventing the removal
of diesel particulate filters (DPF) from vehicles. It is an offence
under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations to
use a vehicle which has been modified in such a way that it no
longer complies with the air pollutant emissions standards it
was designed to meet.
Removal of a DPF will almost invariably contravene
these requirements, making the vehicle illegal for road use. The
potential penalties for failing to comply are fines of up to £1,000
for a car or £2,500 for a light goods vehicle.
In February 2014 the Department for Transport introduced
a change to the MoT test to require a visual inspection of the
exhaust system of diesel vehicles to ensure that where a DPF was
fitted to the vehicle from new, it is still in place. This brings
the MoT inspection of diesel vehicle exhausts in line with the
petrol inspection which requires a check for the presence of a
catalytic converter. To date approximately 350 vehicles have failed
their MoT as a result of this change. The Department of Transport
will be working over the next 12 months to explore ways to strengthen
its legislative framework to take action where emissions control
equipment is deliberately tampered with in such a way that air
quality will be adversely affected.
Recommendation 4: We recognise that the rationale
for previous moves to promote diesel to reduce carbon emissions
was sound at the time. In the light of increasing public health
concerns, however, we need to change policy direction. The Government
should consider the scope for subsidising diesel vehicle owners
to retrofit their engines or a national diesel vehicle scrappage
scheme on the basis of a full cost-benefit analysis that reflects
the different circumstances, costs and benefits in urban and rural
areas. (Paragraph 32)
The Government's goal is to support measures to encourage
cleaner, more sustainable vehicles and transport systems. We have
taken a fuel neutral approach to achieving this objective.
Since 2010, we have committed over £2bn for
a wide variety of measures that support cleaner, greener transport
and help reduce pollutant emissions. These measures have included
support for ultra-low emission vehicles, low carbon public transport
and sustainable transport including walking and cycling. There
are no current plans for a national diesel scrappage or engine
retrofit scheme. But as part of revising our national air quality
plans by the end of 2015, all feasible measures including those
recommended by the committee are currently being investigated
further to ensure an effective package of measures is developed
to deliver compliance in the shortest possible time.
Recommendation 5: The Government should continue
to work with the European Commission to develop Euro VI/6 standards
and the vehicle emission tests to reflect realistic driving conditions.
It should maintain pressure on the Commission to deliver that
testing regime in 2017, as planned. (Paragraph 36)
The Government has sought to reduce the public health
impact of road transport emissions, especially emissions of particulate
matter (a contributing factor to cardio-vascular mortality), and
has worked actively with the European Commission and Member States
to deliver significant improvements in new vehicle emissions.
The Government has been engaged throughout EU discussions
to ensure that future standards deliver the intended improvements
in air quality. A new test procedure scheduled to be introduced
by the Commission by 2017 will improve type approval laboratory
testing and a further new test is being added that will assess
vehicles under real world driving conditions on the road. We will
continue to work with the European Commission and other Member
States to ensure the latest standards deliver the expected emission
reductions under real world conditions.
Recommendation 6: The Office for Low Emission
Vehicles should work with departments, including DECC, to bring
a step change in reducing air pollution and carbon emissions.
The Government should consider the scope for financial incentives
for a range of alternatively fuelled cars, including gas-fuelled
cars, while taking care not to reduce the momentum now emerging
for expanding electric vehicle usage or to cause doubts about
the Government's commitment to the electric vehicle technology.
Such financial support, however, should be based on a strategic
assessment of the relative benefits of the different options for
using limited available funds, mindful for example that financial
support might also be used to support local authorities in introducing
low emission zones. (Paragraph 40)
Part of the over £2bn invested in delivering
a greener transport system is to support a range of alternative
fuels such as gas and electric vehicle technology.
In April 2014 the Office for Low Emission Vehicles
announced the initial funding allocations for their £500m
package of support for Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) for
the period 2015-2020. This included:
new £35m Cities Scheme competition, which will provide
support to a small number of cities seeking to implement specific
ULEV-centric policies to drive a step-change in ULEV adoption.
million to encourage a new generation
of ultra-low emission taxis on our local roads.
million boost to the ULEV bus market,
building on the successful Green Bus Fund.
· At least
£200 million on the continuation of the Plug in Grant,
which provides grants of up to 75% towards the installation of
home and on-street charging, rapid chargers in key locations and
chargers at train stations and the wider public estate. The grant
will remain at £5,000 until 50,000 grants or 2017.
million grant support for other ULEV sectors,
· At least
£32 million on new infrastructure including £20
million to extend the number of rapid chargers on our roads.
million to support the early deployment
of 'open access' (i.e. publicly accessible) gas refuelling
stations for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). This support will
enable operators who tend to refuel at base to extend their operational
routing of gas HGVs resulting in the ability for longer trip distances
and increased payloads.
million of funding to support the establishment
of 15 hydrogen refuelling stations and support for the deployment
of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the public fleet.
Also, the Department for Transport is currently undertaking
a research programme on a range of gaseous fuels (including compressed
natural gas and liquefied natural gas), to determine their feasibility
in contributing to improvements in the UK's air quality as well
our renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.
It expects to produce initial outputs from this research by early
Recommendation 7: The Government should identify
best practice in managing bus fleet pollution and provide local
transport authorities with advice on how this issue can be addressed
when putting out bus route tenders for contract. The Government
should also put an emphasis on tackling pollutants as well as
carbon emissions in its Green Bus Fund and the Clean Vehicle Technology
Fund when helping to meet the costs of upgrading vehicles. (Paragraph
Since the last EAC report, the Government has made
great strides in supporting low emission buses. Since 2009, we
have provided £89m of grants through the Green Bus Fund,
which has helped bus operators and local authorities in England
purchase around 1200 new low emission buses. In April 2014, we
announced as part of our £500m Ultra Low Emission Vehicles
package, a £30million boost to the ULEV bus market.
The Government is also supporting local authorities
to reduce emissions from their older, more polluting buses by
funding national retrofit schemes. In 2013, the Government committed
£7.3m to help local authorities outside London upgrade older
buses operating in congested areas with nitrogen oxides emission
reducing technologies, through the Clean Bus Technology Fund.
In 2014 we built on this ambition by providing up to £9m
funding through the Clean Vehicle Technology Fund to support the
retrofit of over 1000 vehicles, including buses, taxis, ambulances
and fire engines.
All local authorities are able to introduce 'Quality
Partnership Schemes where they can, for example, invest in new
bus lanes or other facilities and require buses using those facilities
to meet certain environmental standards. These can include air
quality standards. Guidance on Quality Partnership Schemes can
be found here
Local authorities, outside London, are also able
to input into local bus service registrations in their area. Bus
operators must register their local bus services with the relevant
Traffic Commissioner. Local traffic authorities can request to
a Traffic Commissioner to impose traffic regulation conditions
regulating the operation of local bus services in defined areas
where they are causing particular concern. Traffic regulation
conditions can regulate routes, the stopping places of services,
the emission levels of vehicles used, the noise pollution levels
that may result from the operation and limit the number of vehicles
Recommendation 8: The Government should issue
NPPF guidance which makes clearer the great importance of protecting
good air quality including protecting green spaces in development
planning. Specifically, the NPPF should make it impossible to
build new schools, care homes or health clinics near existing
air pollution hotspots, and any redevelopment of such existing
buildings should only be approved if they reduce pollution exposure
for their users. Building regulations should provide for existing
schools sited near pollution hotspots to be fitted with air filtration
systems. (Paragraph 60)
The Government recognises that clean air is vital
for people's good health and this concern is reflected in the
National Planning Policy Framework which sets out the highest
level of protections on the matters raised by the Committee. The
Framework is clear that new development should be appropriate
for its location, taking proper account of the effects of pollution
on people's health. There are also strict tests in place to protect
open space and the Framework introduced a new Local Green Space
designation which enables communities to designate land of particular
importance to them for special protection.
Local plans, prepared by local councils working with
their local communities are at the heart of the planning system
and key to delivering sustainable development. They inform individual
decisions on the location of new development, including new schools,
care homes and health clinics. Local planning authorities are
therefore well placed to judge planning applications taking account
of local circumstances and whether what is proposed is sustainable
development, in line with the framework and supporting guidance.
In doing so, they will also take into account local action to
improve air quality and mitigation measures proposed as part of
the development in question.
The Building Regulations include requirements to
provide adequate means of ventilation and apply when 'building
work' is carried out. The regulations are however not retrospective
and do not require work to be carried out to existing buildings.
For buildings in urban areas guidance is provided to minimise
ingress of external pollution through appropriate location and
control of ventilation intakes and exhaust outlets. For school
buildings, reference is made to "Building Bulletin 101 Ventilation
of School Buildings" which recognises that filters are often
fitted to mechanical ventilation systems and can provide cleaner
air but are only effective at dealing with the pollutants they
are designed for and need to be replaced and/or cleaned regularly.
For this reason effective location of ventilation intakes is a
The Government does not consider at this time, that
there is a need for additional planning guidance or Building Regulations
given the current level of protection, but we will keep this matter
Recommendation 9: We welcome the Minister's commitment
to ensure that the Strategic Highways Company (transforming the
Highways Agency to a company) will have a remit which includes
environmental performance. The Government should give it a legal
duty to protect air quality and introduce a specific clause to
that effect in the Infrastructure Bill. (Paragraph 61)
Dealing with environmental challenges, including
air quality, remains a high priority for this Government. Essential
environmental protections related to the management and mitigation
of the environmental impacts of roads are already enshrined in
existing legislation. These will also apply to the new company
(Highways England) as they currently do to the Highways Agency.
The Infrastructure Bill requires that the Secretary
of State for Transport has regard to safety and the environment
when setting the Road Investment Strategy. The Bill also places
a general duty on Highways England to consider the impact of its
operations on the environment. The impact of its operations on
air quality will be part of this general duty. Individual major
roads schemes will go through a thorough environmental assessment
including a detailed consideration of their air quality impacts
and a robust decision-making process under either the Highways
Act 1980 or the Planning Act 2008.
The Government's recently published Road Investment
Strategy (RIS) represents a major commitment to the environment.
Its measures include more than £1bn in environmental mitigation,
including the biggest-ever dedicated funds for applying environmental
standards to the existing road network (£300m general environment;
£100m air quality; £100m cycling).
Recommendation 10: The Government should add an
explicit air quality objective to the Airports Commission Appraisal
Framework. (Paragraph 63)
The Government has asked Sir Howard Davies to chair
the independent Airports Commission. The Commission will publish
a final report by the summer of 2015 for consideration by the
Government and opposition parties. The Commission published its
appraisal framework in April 2014 and this includes an air quality
objective. The final report to Government will consider fully
the environmental impact of the proposals.
Recommendation 11: The Government should set out
a clear picture of the demarcations within central government
and between central and local government on the management of
air quality, bringing greater consistency to that relationship.
The Government should work with the most polluting cities to identify
what, if any, of the powers held by London might be replicated
elsewhere to improve air quality. It should explain how far localism
should operate in this policy field. The Government should ensure,
however, that its desire to reduce red tape will not be allowed
to undermine robust air quality monitoring across the country,
which must be a responsibility that central government cannot
absolve itself from. (Paragraph 74)
Recommendation 12: Clarity about the extent of
local government responsibility for air quality would help to
present a clearer perspective for Health & Well-being Boards
on the priority they need to give to this critical health challenge.
Public Health England should engage with the Boards to ensure
that they are discharging that responsibility, and raise with
Government any evidence that local authority governance arrangements
are preventing appropriate action. (Paragraph 75)
As part of the review of Local Air Quality Management
(LAQM) in England, on which we recently held a second consultation,
we set out our intention to further clarify in policy guidance
the various roles and responsibilities for tackling air quality.
The Government assesses air quality in the UK through a combination
of monitoring and modelling. The Government reviews the arrangements
every 5 years as set out in the EU Air Quality Directive. Local
Authorities also undertake monitoring separately for the purposes
of Local Air Quality Management.
Health and Wellbeing Boards are responsible for developing
an analysis of the current and future health and care needs of
the local population and a strategy (a shared set of priorities)
to address these. In March 2013, the Department of Health published
statutory guidance to support health and wellbeing boards undertake
Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and Joint Health and Wellbeing
Strategies. The Guidance focuses on the methodology for producing
comprehensive and high quality assessments and strategies, and
emphasises the importance of understanding and addressing the
needs of the local population but it does not specify what areas
Boards should prioritise, as this is for local determination.
Recommendation 13: The Government should work
more closely with the Met Office, BBC and other broadcasters to
ensure that high air pollution forecasts are disseminated widely
via mainstream media in the same way pollen and UV forecasts are
broadcast now, together with advice on what action should be taken.
The Government should ensure that local authorities are aware
of where to find this information. Schools and care homes should
be identified and presented with air pollution advice so that
they know what to do during air pollution events. (Paragraph 80)
The Government make available daily UK air pollution
forecasts (covering five pollutants) to inform the public what
pollution levels are predicted to be over the next 5 days. The
forecasts are provided to allow people to plan ahead and take
action not just to reduce their exposure but also to reduce their
contribution to local air pollution. The information is available
on the Governments website, UK-Air, and via a range of channels
including a free automated telephone service, automated twitter
feeds and e-mail bulletins.
The Government will continue to work closely with
all the relevant stakeholders to ensure that information is accessible
to the general public and other relevant organisations. Utilising
our improved forecasting capabilities, we are exploring further
options for disseminating information more widely. This includes
working more closely with health charities, to develop communications
approaches and use their targeted networks to effectively reach
the people most at risk.
Recommendation 14: We welcome the Transport Minister's
commitment to us for a "new marketing plan" on air quality,
which should be introduced as quickly as possible. (Paragraph
The Government will continue to raise public awareness
and develop a programme of communications to support the Road
Investment Strategy's £100 million funding for mitigating
air pollution. This could include media relations, stakeholder
engagement, use of social media and marketing.
Recommendation 15: The Government should ensure
that air quality data are widely available to the general public,
including drivers, along with advice on measures to reduce air
pollution and how they can reduce their own pollution exposure.
The Government should encourage active travel such as walking
and cyclingthe ultimate low emission options. (Paragraph
The Government recognises that as well as meeting
legislative requirements, there is a need to inform people about
environmental and human health risks from poor air quality and
to provide public information services. Defra makes freely available
measurement, modelling and emissions data on its websites as well
as research reports and tools for accessing and analysing air
quality data under Open Government Licence. Improving air quality
through decreased emissions or reducing human exposure to air
pollution requires behavioural change and this can be supported
and driven by knowledge and information.
As part of the Government's £2bn investment
in green transport initiatives, measures include over £1bn
in local sustainable travel projects, which includes 'bikeability'
funding. £278 million is for cycling and walking initiatives
supported by a further £85 million of local match funding.
Local authorities implement a range of measures to
improve air quality. Measures include: improvement to public transport
infrastructure to encourage behavioural change; pollution mitigation
and awareness measures to assist and inform vulnerable people;
measures to reduce emissions and promote cleaner vehicle standards.
The Government is strongly supportive of efforts
to encourage active travel and is working to ensure that this
is embedded in all Departmental policies.
Recommendation 16: We welcome increasing examples
of 'citizen science' and other local projects that raise public
awareness of air quality issues, which central and local government
should actively support. Local Health & Wellbeing Boards and
clinicians should be taking a lead in promoting public awareness
and active travel. (Paragraph 87)
Citizen science projects can have a valuable role
in collecting additional local data and raising public awareness
of air quality and its associated health impacts. A number of
projects are supported by Local Authorities and academic institutes.
Such projects generally provide a local snapshot of air quality.
Any evidence needs to be considered within the wider context
of air quality over longer periods of time as provided by our
national air quality monitoring which has to meet very specific
requirements, as set out in EU Directives.
The "Under the Weather" resource on climate
change adaptation for Health and Well-being Boards, developed
by the Sustainable Development Unit draws attention to the impacts
of poor air quality and suggests actions that Boards could consider
taking, including improving active travel. While it is for local
Health and Wellbeing Boards to decide priorities there is guidance
provided to highlight the opportunities to promote active travel
for its health benefits as well as the potential benefits for
other policy areas such as air quality.
Public Health England's Business Plan for 2014-15
commits it to developing a programme of work in support of national
and local government, to reduce mortality attributable to air
pollution. The intention is to focus on actions that PHE can take
to encourage measures to reduce the health effects of air pollution
at local, national and international levels, particularly those
which have co-benefits for other public health priorities. PHE
publishes estimates of the fraction of mortality attributable
to long-term exposure to particulate air pollution in each local
authority area annually as one of the indicators in the Public
Health Outcomes Framework.
A referral has been made by the Secretary of State
for Health to the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence
(NICE) for the development of public health guidance on outdoor
air pollution to start in 2015.
Recommendation 17: In the absence now of an independent
body responsible for air quality, the time has come for decisive
action and we therefore support calls for an independent public
inquiry to look at the required urgent action on air pollution.
The Government does not support the request for an
independent public inquiry to look at air pollution. We are working,
and will continue to work, with all the relevant organisations
to ensure a consistent approach to air pollution.
Recommendation 18: The Government should update
its 'Air Quality Strategy' of 2007, clearly spelling out the responsibilities
of each Government department and identifying cross-Government
actions needed to tackle air pollution. An updated Strategy should
set out detailed plans and responsibilities for addressing the
16 air quality zones that are subject to potential EU infraction
fines. The Strategy should clearly delineate the respective roles
and responsibilities of central and local government. The Government
should rationalise air quality funding schemes and provide a clear
rationale for what local authority actions will be funded by central
government and what by local authorities themselves. This would
help bring forward the needed debate about the appropriate extent
of localism in this policy area. (Paragraph 94)
The Government is currently reviewing air quality
plans to bring all zones in the UK into compliance in the shortest
possible time, not just focussing on the 16 zones covered by the
The current focus, therefore, is on how to deliver
reductions of nitrogen dioxide on the ground through local, national
and international action. We will consider how best to embed this
work into a National Air Quality strategy following submission
of the new Air Quality Plans at the end of this year.
The Government is also in the process of rationalising
Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) across England, with the Greater
London Authority pursuing a similar programme for the Capital.
We recognise that adopting a partnership approach at EU, national
and local level is the best way to forge policies and funding
schemes that can have co-benefits for carbon reduction, cleaner
transport and sustainable planning.
There is already a strong link between the Government's
annual air quality grant programme and the Mayor of London's Air
Quality Fund, where an agreed policy of match-funding between
the two schemes has greatly invigorated the scope of air quality
projects across London boroughs. Ownership of the various schemes
sit with different government departments and can include support
for projects that might not always be specific to air quality
(such as improving road surfaces) but will have a knock-on benefit.
Therefore, rationalisation is not always possible or desirable.
As part of the ongoing LAQM review to improve delivery of air
quality, we will be revising current policy and technical guidance
to ensure better link-up and knowledge of the various funding
Recommendation 19: To demonstrate its commitment
to tackling air pollution, and a required new comprehensive Air
Quality Strategy, the Government should work with the European
Commission and the Council of Ministers to make the proposed new
EU air quality directives effective and robust. (Paragraph 98)
We support work to reduce air pollution across Europe
and are working closely with the Commission, the Council of Ministers
and the European Parliament to negotiate proposals which are both
effective and proportionate.
The Commission announced on 16 December 2014 that
it will be modifying the National Emission Ceilings Directive
as part of the legislative follow up to the 2030 Climate and Energy
Package. The Government will continue to work with the Commission,
the European Parliament and other Member States to discuss the
modifications of the proposal and ensure they are realistic and
An agreement between Member States on the Medium
Combustion Plant Directive was reached at Environment Council
on 17 December. The Government will continue to work with the
Commission and Parliament to ensure the objectives of the proposal
are met in a way that is proportionate and achievable.