UK Government seeks to delay publication of air quality plan

The UK Government is seeking to delay publishing its air quality plan until after the general election. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) was ordered by the […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

The UK Government is seeking to delay publishing its air quality plan until after the general election.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) was ordered by the court to publish its plans for tackling air pollution by 4pm today after its previous proposals were deemed inadequate.

However, Defra asked for the date to be pushed back to June last Friday “to comply with pre-election propriety rules”.

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth, who brought legal proceedings against the government, said they are considering their response to the application.

James Thornton, CEO of the environmental law group, added: “The unacceptable last minute nature of the government’s application late on Friday night, after the court had closed, has meant that we have spent the weekend considering our response.

“We are still examining our next steps. This is a question of public health and not of politics and for that reason we believe that the plans should be put in place without delay.

“Whichever party ends up in power after June the 8th will need this Air Quality Plan to begin finally to tackle our illegal levels of pollution and prevent further illness and early deaths from poisonous toxins in the air we breathe. The government has had five months to draft this plan and it should be published.”

The Labour Party said it would publish an air quality plan “within the first 30 days” of administration if the government failed to do so.

Shadow Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Secretary Sue Hayman MP said: “Labour will bring forward a new Clean Air Act, setting out how we would tackle air pollution that NHS experts say contributes to 40,000 premature deaths every year. With nearly 40 million people in the UK living in areas with illegal levels of air pollution, it is simply not acceptable for ministers to hide behind the general election to delay publishing plans to improve air quality.

“Purdah rules exist to stop one party using the machinery of government for their electoral advantage, not to be used as an excuse to delay acting on vital public health matters. We trust that the court will recognise this.”

Earlier this month, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced plans to introduce a daily tax on the most polluting cars, vans and motorbikes that drive through central London in a bid to tackle air pollution in the capital.