Top figures savage 'toothless and feeble' government pollution plan

Posted On: 
5th May 2017

Top figures from across the political divide have blasted the Government’s “feeble” air quality strategy after ministers were forced to publish it against their will.

The High Court forced ministers to publish the plan before the general election
Credit: 
PA Images

Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan branded the draft plan “toothless” while Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas accused ministers of “standing idly by while Britain chokes”.

The strategy proposes paying diesel owners to scrap their cars in a bid to clean up the dirty air in England, which is thought to cause 40,000 premature deaths each year.

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Ministers had tried to delay publication until after the general election, but after losing a battle in the high court due to the severity of the issue they caved in and released the document today.

It acknowledges proposals that say a “targeted scrappage scheme for older, more polluting vans or cars could be developed to contribute to the cost of purchasing a cleaner vehicle”.

And it adds: “Such a scheme would have to be targeted at those most in need of support and be limited in scope.”

Elsewhere the plan proposes support for alternative fuel vehicles and more charge points for electric cars, alongside backing for ‘retrofitting’ older vehicles with new parts to make them cleaner.

'WOEFULLY INADEQUATE'

But London Mayor Mr Khan said the plan to tackle the “public health emergency of our generation” was “toothless and woefully inadequate”.

“This is a weak plan that lacks any sense of urgency. That means thousands of people will continue to die prematurely and unnecessarily, and many more children having to live with long-term health problems, he said.

He complained there was no commitment to a scrappage scheme and no tax changes to incentivise people to buy cleaner cars and he called for a “comprehensive Clean Air Act”.

Ms Lucas meanwhile blasted: “The Government is standing idly by while Britain chokes. This feeble plan won't go anywhere near far enough in tackling this public health emergency. 

“We needed a huge investment in public transport, serious taxation changes and a new Clean Air Act - but none of these solutions are in the plan."

But Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom insisted: “Improving air quality is a key priority as we support businesses in building a stronger and cleaner economy.

“Our plan today sets out how we will do just that – including presenting options for targeted diesel scrappage schemes.

“But in contrast to this common sense way forward, Jeremy Corbyn’s only solution would be to hit you in the pocket with higher taxes.”

Ministers were forced to redraw the plan after they were handed a “final warning” by the European Commission over pollution breaches - raising the spectre of court action and millions of pounds in fines.