Please be assured that I take this issue very seriously and led the Health Select Committee part of the joint inquiry into air quality in Parliament a few years ago. In addition, I regularly ask Central Bedfordshire Council to make use of the powers which they have to apprehend parked vehicles which leave their engines idling.
I would also like to make clear that the Government remains fully committed to reducing emissions of the five key air pollutants and achieving the ambitious emission reduction targets set out in the National Emission Ceilings Regulations (NECR). The targets in the NECR are unchanged by the Retained EU Law Act.
Furthermore, going forward there will continue to be transparency and scrutiny of the UK’s progress in achieving its emissions targets. The Government is maintaining all provisions regarding the publication of emissions inventories and projections, which will show, on an annual basis, whether the UK has achieved its current emissions targets and whether it is on track to achieve future targets on the basis of firm and funded policy measures.
In addition, the Government will communicate progress on policies through existing air quality communications such as the statement made to Parliament on air quality under s80A of the Environment Act 1995.
I understand that the intention behind the proposed reforms to the NECR in regard to the National Air Pollution Control Programme (NAPCP) is simply to reduce administrative burdens and aid transparency around air quality emissions policy by streamlining communications on air pollution policy with existing national strategies. In the most recent NAPCP consultation, of those who expressed an opinion, a majority agreed that the format of the NAPCP could be improved, with a consensus that the format was too lengthy and too technical. Indeed, the substantive policy content of the NAPCP is a duplication of material contained, in a more accessible format, in national policy statements.
Moreover, the NAPCP consultation does not engage significant numbers of interested parties. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs carried out a full UK public consultation on the NAPCP last year requiring the use of official and ministerial time. The consultation only received 55 responses. In addition, all the policies and measures included in the Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) have either been consulted on individually or will be consulted on during the policy development process.
It is in my view, more important that we get on with delivering the policies that will actually clean up our air – as set out in the EIP – than consult on and revise an NAPCP.