MPs on four Parliamentary committees have published a joint report on improving air quality calling on the Government to impose tougher restrictions and sooner.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health and Social Care, and Transport Committees launched their joint inquiry amid concerns over the inadequacy of the Government's plan to improve air quality in the UK.
It wants the Government to introduce a new Clean Air Act, a clean air fund financed by the transport industry, a national air quality support programme for councils, and to require manufacturers to end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars earlier than the current 2040 target.
Lilian Greenwood, chair of the Transport Select Committee, said: "Transport is the key to improving air quality, but it requires real political leadership and co-ordinated action from the Government and local authorities.
“The solution isn't just about reducing the pollution each vehicle produces, we also need policies that will reduce our reliance on cars. This requires more urgency, imagination and innovation than is being demonstrated by the Government, local councils or transport service providers.”
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says an outright ban risks undermining the current market for new cars and the automotive sector which supports more than 800,000 jobs across the UK.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: "The industry instead wants a positive approach which gives consumers incentives to purchase these cars. We could undermine the UK’s successful automotive sector if we don’t allow enough time for the industry to adjust."
Despite a series of court cases, the report says the Government has still not produced a plan that adequately addresses the scale of the challenge. Nor has it demonstrated the national leadership needed to bring about a step change in how the problem of air quality is tackled.
The Government’s approach, it says, is more concerned with box-ticking and demonstrating compliance than taking bold, affirmative action.
Neil Parish, chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said: "We are concerned that the Government is treating air quality as a box-ticking exercise. Real change will require bold, meaningful action.
“We are calling on Government to develop a properly resourced support scheme available to all councils struggling with air quality, and to require manufacturers of polluting vehicles to pay their fair share by contributing to an industry-financed clean air fund.”
The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), whose members own and operate nearly five million cars, vans and trucks in the UK, has welcomed the publication of todays Joint Select Committee report into Air Quality.
Gerry Keaney, chief eexecutive of the BVRLA, said: “We are happy to see that this Joint Committee has responded so positively to our submission, which focussed on the need to promote transport behaviour change, provide more support for electric vehicles and deliver a managed transition away from dirty diesel.
“We strongly welcome the Joint Committee’s recognition that there needs to be a greater alignment between the tax regime and efforts to improve air quality. The tax system is crucial to incentivising the right vehicle choice.
“We recently wrote to the Chancellor urging him to accelerate the introduction of its 2% Company Car Tax band for zero-emission vehicles. This tax band is currently scheduled to increase over the next two years to a high of 16% in 2019/20, before dropping to 2% the year after. This is putting the brakes on new EV registrations from company car drivers, many of whom are keen to make the jump to zero-emission motoring.
Keaney added: “We are also pleased to see the Joint Committee highlighting our Mobility Credits proposal, which suggests using a targeted scrappage scheme that encourages local motorists to give up their polluting old diesel car in favour of a credit that can be used on public transport, bike share, car rental or car club journeys.”
“The report is also right to highlight the need for a more joined-up approach from government departments, together with more centralised support for local authorities, delivered by the Joint Ait Quality Unit (JAQU).”
The Government says it will publish its plan later in the year. To read the full report click here.
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