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Lord Nathan: In supporting this amendment, I point out that the main theme of the Government, particularly in relation to Part I of the Bill, has been an emphasis on sustainable development. Therefore, in that context it came as a surprise to find no adequate reference in the Bill to problems relating to air pollution. They are there by implication in relation to HMIP, whose responsibilities are confined to exceptionally difficult industrial emissions.

As the noble Lord, Lord Lewis, said, there has been increasing concern among the public generally on health grounds, particularly perhaps in relation to asthma. It is said that one in seven children now suffer from asthma. It is quite generally thought that some air pollution is responsible for that trouble. It seems to me, and others, that provision in the Bill relating to air pollution is of the first importance.

That view is clearly shared by the Government. On the second day of the Committee stage of the Bill the Government issued their paper relating to their policy on air pollution. It was, if I may say so, an excellent paper. I believe that this amendment, though drafted and published before that document was issued, is closely in line with the Government's policy, as disclosed in that paper.

The amendment lays the foundations for effective air pollution control, which would ensure that investment is related to risks to health, amenity and conservation; that air quality is protected and improved at least cost by a balance between national and local measures; that local measures are focused on point, mobile and diffuse sources related to the locality and cost-effectiveness of pollution abatement; and that pollution control is carried out at the level appropriate to the task.

Subsection (5) of the new clause places a statutory duty on local authorities, as local air quality management authorities, to prepare local air quality management plans and to revise them periodically to keep them up to date. Using central guidance, they will identify the most cost-effective and socially acceptable

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package of measures to achieve nationally agreed air quality standards in their locality. It is important that the duty to prepare plans should be statutory, otherwise the current position of air pollution monitoring, to which the noble Lord, Lord Lewis, referred, will recur: patchy coverage with poor co-ordination and often a waste of resources.

I emphasise a number of points. First, with regard to the designation of air quality management areas, it is in these areas that the most active control measures will be taken. Concentrating effort where the air quality standards are, or are likely to be, exceeded saves cost and effort. The long experience of local authorities in air pollution control and the expertise of the environmental health officers give the assurance that they will be able to do the job.

Consultation and co-operation with neighbouring authorities are routine. But the southern England radiation monitoring network, covering West Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, is worth mentioning as an example of co-ordinated operation involving common standards, co-ordinated at Southampton University, of monitoring by sample—for instance, seaweed and growing crops, shellfish and air quality. The local authority radiation monitoring control committee was established in that context. So there is nothing unusual in foreseeing co-operation between local authorities in the context of air pollution control, as proposed in the amendment.

The Government expressed their intention to achieve air quality targets by the year 2005 in the document to which I referred. That means that the wheels must be put in motion now. I believe that the Government must take this legislative opportunity. They cannot afford to wait for another.

Finally, I must refer to money. However cost-effective and efficient the arrangements, inevitably they will involve expenditure. Local authorities must be funded adequately by express provision for the purpose. I hope that the Government will give an assurance that that will be done.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: I support the amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Lewis and Lord Nathan. I also support, in the following group, the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. This is the one legislative opportunity that we have to put into effect the Government's proposals on air quality. It is opportune that their document was produced during the passage of the Bill. It is an occasion for them to seize the opportunity to amend the legislation, if we ourselves do not achieve that today.

The Government are to be commended for proposing the establishment of a framework of national standards which focus on the main pollutants that concern us. They do not go far enough in dealing with the problem of car emissions, which nowadays is the major pollutant. It used to be the burning of coal fires and so on and the clean air Acts dealt with that. We need now to adopt a

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strategic approach to managing air quality based on setting clear national standards, as was said by the mover of the amendment.

Also, it is essential that air quality considerations are integrated with planning, transport and other agencies. One of the omissions in the Government's plans is the provision of a good quality public transport system, so that people are less tempted—as we all are—to use their cars to get to work.

The amendments are supported by the local authority associations. They see very little that is controversial in them and much that is commendable. They also accept that air pollution does not respect local authority boundaries and that each authority should face a duty to act as an air quality management authority. Therefore, it is vital that the new scheme has nationwide coverage and it is not left to local authorities to implement on a piecemeal basis.

As I said, the key weakness of the Government's proposals is in the area of transport. We need to address that issue. Most of the 20 recommendations in the Government's report are of a research, planning or policy nature. Apart from the promise of more testing for London taxi exhausts and the possible addition of a new statutory measure covering exhaust fumes, there are very few new policies or commitments. Therefore, the Government's paper does not go far enough. We need legislation at this stage. We should seize this golden opportunity to legislate today and take action, as in the following group of amendments, against excessive emissions from vehicles. We should also be conscious that motor vehicles contribute to the greenhouse effect. That may be discounted by some experts; nevertheless it is clear that we are pumping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the upper atmosphere.

We enthusiastically support these amendments and those in the following group.

Lord Renton: Any proposal to reduce air pollution deserves serious consideration. I have lived with this subject for 40 years, since I had the responsibility of helping to pilot the first of the clean air Acts through another place. Pollution arises from three causes—industrial, domestic and vehicles—and I will say a quick word about each of them. In the last century attempts were made to control industrial pollution, but they were very unsuccessful through lack of enforcement. They are still not perfect. As to domestic pollution, the Clean Air Act was very effective in dealing with that. It was a good Right-wing effort. The late Lord Duncan-Sandys piloted the Bill through. He introduced it as Minister of Transport with the help of his Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Enoch Powell, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power, your humble servant.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale: I should like to make a very small point. I believe it was the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, not the Ministry of Transport.

Lord Renton: Did I say the Ministry of Transport? I am sorry. The noble Lord is quite right, it was the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. It was a slip of the tongue, for which I apologise.

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That Act, I am glad to say, has been pretty effective. The reduction in the use of coal—bituminous coal especially —for domestic heating has been one of the principal causes of the improvement.

The main trouble now is the pollution caused by vehicles—that is, motor vehicles and mechanical vehicles of all kinds. That is why the amendments which are to follow will require even more serious consideration than this one. As to this amendment, what worries me is that it would overlap with existing arrangements for monitoring and enforcement, and the cost would be quite considerable. Therefore, with deep respect to the noble Lords who have moved and supported the amendment, I somewhat doubt whether it is really necessary. I will be interested to hear what my noble friend has to say about it.

Lord Moran: I should like to express my strong support for the amendment. We all know about the serious problems of air pollution in London and other cities, but air pollution affects not only towns but is also a significant problem in the countryside. In 1994 the expert panel on air quality standards, reporting on ozone, pointed out that in 1990 the standard was exceeded on 56 days—a considerable number—and that that applied to many parts of the countryside.

As to monitoring, I strongly support my noble friend Lord Lewis. The quality and extent of monitoring at present are none too good. The United Nations, under its environmental programme, reported recently on air pollution in the mega-cities of the world and expressed concern about the quality of monitoring in London. Monitoring should be standard and comprehensive throughout the United Kingdom and, above all, related to where the problem is most acute. It is no good monitoring the level of air pollution in London from the top of buildings; it should be done at what I would call pushchair height.

Let me make a brief point about public information. Last October the Transport Committee in another place, in its sixth report on transport-related air pollution in London, recommended that where air quality falls to levels which have potential health implications, bulletins should be issued to the public. That is important and I hope that the Government will pay attention to it. It is important that when pollution is bad the public should be informed by means of radio, television and the press.

Finally, I ask the Government what is happening about the admirable recent 18th report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. There seem to be a lot of plans and strategies but not, so far, very much action. For example, nobody is stopping the cars coming down the Cromwell Road. So far, plans to control traffic in order to reduce air pollution seem to be missing.

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