There is a momentum behind the idea of a new Clean Air Bill that can’t be stopped. My own finalised Bill is being submitted in the Lords, while Geraint Davies MP is putting his forward for its first reading in the Commons. Between them, these two Parliamentary bills cover all the ground. Geraint’s is focused upon the practical measures and changes needed to ensure that we improve human health and includes all those basic steps that the Labour, Conservative and Coalition Government have failed to take in the last eighteen years. My bill enshrines clean air as a human right and would restore crucial environmental principles into UK law, such as polluter pays and the precautionary principle. It also creates an enforcement mechanism with the Citizens Commission which can support individuals and communities who want to take legal action to make their right to clean air a reality.
The government has lost several court cases because of its failure to reduce pollution. The European Commission has finally acted and is escalating its own enforcement action to the European Court. Meanwhile, the government has used the EU Withdrawal Bill to dump the environmental principles that were part of EU law and to avoid giving its new enforcement body any legal teeth. They have been forced into making concessions, but their consultation on a new enforcement body falls way short of what we need.
Change has been a long time coming, but we are going to get clean air as a human right and we are going to have a world class environmental enforcement agency. The decision to expand Heathrow adds even more urgency to this, as the only way the Government can justify this huge backwards step is to talk about making the regulations tougher. Public opinion has shifted as people have woken up to the poisoning of our air and these Parliamentary Bills give us a detailed blueprint for making the necessary changes.