Statistics show that the number of days last year when air pollution in urban areas was above health-based standards fell by 38% from 1997 - 40 days to 25 days - and to less than half the rate in 1993 (60 days). Rural air quality also improved by a record 25%. However, Prescott said pollution levels were still unacceptably high and renewed his calls for 'everyone to do their bit' to deliver cleaner air. He made his announcement in Southwark having arrived in a gas powered Vauxhall Vectra.
'Cleaner vehicles coming on to the market will help tackle the problem,' said Prescott. 'Government can do its bit by buying green vehicles. Local authorities are doing the same. In addition, we as individual motorists can do our bit to improve air quality.' The Government Car Service has 30 gas-powered cars, out of a total of about 130 vehicles, and is committed to converting at least 50% of its new vehicle purchases which are technically capable of running on gas. The commitment is part of its wider strategic aim of converting all its fleet where possible to alternative fuels by 2003.
Prescott also announced changes to the Government's air quality targets which see the target date for achieving reductions in carbon monoxide and benzene pollution being brought forward from 2005 to 2003, while the deadline for reducing PM10 pollution is to be relaxed because it is seen as unrealistic.