U NCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 457-i

House of COMMONS

Oral EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE the

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Air Quality

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Matthew Pencharz, Elliot Treharne and Simon Birkett

Dr Colin Powlesland, Daniel Instone, Dr Sarah Honour and Steven Beard

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1-109

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

on Wednesday 27 June 2012

Members present:

Miss Anne McIntosh (Chair)

George Eustice

Mrs Mary Glindon

Neil Parish

Dan Rogerson

Barry Gardiner

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Matthew Pencharz, Advisor for Environment and Political Affairs, Greater London Authority, Elliot Treharne, Air Quality Manager, Greater London Authority, and Simon Birkett, Founder and Director, Clean Air in London, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Good afternoon and welcome. I will invite you each to introduce yourselves for the record. We are very grateful to you for participating in our inquiry on air quality. Just say who you are and the position you hold.

Simon Birkett: Thank you. I am Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, a not-for-profit company that runs a cross-party campaign to achieve World Health Organisation guideline compliance for air quality throughout London.

Matthew Pencharz: Matthew Pencharz, the Mayor of London’s Environment Advisor appointed after the recent election.

Elliot Treharne: I am Elliot Treharne, the Air Quality Manager at the Greater London Authority.

Q2 Chair: Thank you. I am going to ask each of you a question in turn. I will come in just a tick to this week’s Commission decision, but if I could start with you, Mr Pencharz, what are the main reasons for London failing to meet EU standards for air quality relating to particulates and nitrogen dioxide?

Matthew Pencharz: The Mayor’s actions on PM10 have meant that we are now pretty much within the compliant mean. Nitrogen dioxide is a very difficult problem to address. We are not alone, as you will have heard with the Commission’s decisions yesterday. It is not just big cities such as London; relatively small cities such as Liverpool and Coventry are also having difficulties dealing with nitrogen dioxide. There has been a failure of the Euro emission standards that is making it all a lot harder than we were otherwise led to expect. We had hoped that some of the Euro standards were going to deliver better emissions than we had been led to expect. It is also worth noting that the last two years have shown a flattening out of the improvement of London’s air quality because of the weather we have had, linked also to the drought. So we have had broadly easterly winds rather than broadly westerly winds, which has brought in pollution from the European continent. In fact, on some of the monitoring stations, we would have exceeded the EU limit values even if there had been no local pollutants whatsoever, which shows that this is a national and international problem for us all to address.

Q3 Chair: To press you slightly, we have known since 2008 and obviously, in all the period in the lead up to the Directive being adopted, we have had quite a long time to meet these standards.

Matthew Pencharz: I would repeat the point, Madam Chair, that we are not alone in this problem. I was at the Commission yesterday and 22 out of 27 nation states are at risk of infraction proceedings by the European Union, so it is not just London that has the problem. Obviously, we are the biggest city in Europe, which makes it a more difficult problem to address here than in other parts of Europe.

Q4 Chair: Yes, but we have Paris, we have Frankfurt, we have Berlin; they are quite big cities.

Elliot Treharne: And they are not meeting nitrogen dioxide levels either, Madam Chair.

Q5 Chair: Are we suggesting that the targets were set too high?

Elliot Treharne: No, no, not at all. If you don’t mind my coming in on this point, I think part of the issue that we have seen is very much around the Euro standards for vehicles which have not delivered the expected level of reduction. This is important because there is a natural process whereby the vehicle fleet replaces and, as that happened, the most cost effective way of reducing overall emissions was to improve the standards of those engines on those vehicles. However, due to the poor design of those Euro standards, they have not delivered the significant level of emissions reductions that we were expecting.

Q6 Chair: On that point, Mr Treharne, will the fact that the Commission has turned down the UK application to extend the deadline for meeting the NO2 limits in a number of UK zones outside London have ramifications for London as well?

Elliot Treharne: In terms of?

Chair: Not meeting the targets.

Elliot Treharne: What it underlines is that all these areas and the entire European continent is facing a very similar issue, which is that the standards that the European Commission introduced to basically drive down those emissions to improve those concentrations have not delivered in the way that we expected them. That is why so many different cities and many different regions across the EU are facing the same problem. The solution to this-I think it is important that we focus on how we improve things going forward-is that obviously in the future there will be a new Euro standard called Euro 6 and it is hoped that this will be a much more effective standard. Some of the initial analysis that Transport for London has done on its bus fleet suggests that Euro 6 could reduce NOx emissions from buses by between 90% and 99%, so obviously significant reductions. The question then becomes how you accelerate the introduction of Euro 6 vehicles into our vehicle fleet and speed up the natural process of vehicle replacement.

Q7 Chair: I think we are coming on to that. Could I ask Mr Birkett what action you would expect local government in London and Defra to take in response to the Commission’s decision this week?

Simon Birkett: It is a huge wakeup call to the whole UK to act on air pollution, which is the biggest public health risk after smoking. London has the highest concentrations of nitrogen dioxide of any capital city in Europe. The UK, with 43 zones, has the highest percentage of zones exceeding the limit value for nitrogen dioxide plus a margin of tolerance of any of the 27 member states, so the UK really is at one end of that spectrum. Only three UK zones complied with the standard by 2010, the due date, and this has been in legislation since 1999. The Government applied for time extensions for 24 of the 43 UK zones and the Commission has raised objections to 12 of them.

Q8 Chair: I am aware of that, but what action would you like to see London boroughs and Defra take?

Simon Birkett: The two most important things are building public understanding of this public health crisis and acting to reduce very sharply the harmful emissions from diesel. The Euro engine emission standards have been successful at reducing oxides of nitrogen and they were never intended specifically to reduce nitrogen dioxide. The Government has encouraged the growth in diesel as a market share from about 10% to 50% and what we really need to do is act on all those diesel emissions, whether it is buses, taxis, cars. That is the most important single policy measure: reducing these emissions at source.

Q9 Chair: Thank you. Mr Pencharz, you referred to other European cities. Would you say that other European cities are performing better against pollution targets than London or the UK?

Matthew Pencharz: Having spent yesterday with a series of European regions that have similar problems to ourselves in addressing air pollution, I would say we are all sharing best practice and learning from each other what works and what does not work. We are using some of the quite innovative ideas from other cities, such as dust suppressants, which have recently come in for some, in our view, unreasonable political flack. They were used in cities such as Stockholm which, ironically, won Green Capital of the Year Award despite using the dust suppressants which allegedly give fraudulent readings. The Mayor of London and the GLA are doing everything we can reasonably do to address air quality, but there are four levels of government that need to engage in this. We are retrofitting our buses. Simon referred to diesel buses and he is right, buses are a problem, so TfL is retrofitting them and is bringing in new buses as quickly as we can reasonably afford to, to reduce emissions. The Mayor is working very hard to retrofit our building stock. We have a big programme in the public sector buildings of 400 buildings to be retrofitted, which (a) helps reduce our carbon, but it also reduces our NO2 emissions by fixing the boilers. We have a similar programme coming through with domestic houses. But there are bits that other levels of government can do. The Mayor feels that he is stepping up to the plate; there is obviously more that he can do and there is more that he will be doing, but equally the boroughs, the Government and the Commission should all be stepping in and doing their bits as well.

Q10 Chair: So we are not the dirtiest in Europe?

Matthew Pencharz: No. I understand that campaigners and politicians will always pick on the worst metric they can and one should not complain about that; it keeps us on our toes and makes us work harder. But on most of the other pollutants we have, London is doing quite well. We are now pretty much compliant on PM10. As to our PM2.5, which, according to the WHO, is one of the worst for human health, a recent report said we were fourth best in Europe. When it comes to other pollutants, such as sulphur dioxide-Elliot can probably list the rest of them-we are very much within compliance and London’s air is pretty good. Nitrogen dioxide remains a problem, clearly, and we understand that.

Q11 Chair: Coming on to transport, I just have one question. You have mentioned buses; how much of the road traffic aspect is in connection with the journey to and from airports? Is there going to be an impact, for example, if the athletes for the Olympic Games are coming in, I understand, possibly to Stansted? Are they being coached in? Is that going to impact even more on traffic emissions?

Matthew Pencharz: I cannot answer the specific question about the athletes flying into Stansted. As far as I understood, the Olympic airport is Heathrow. With the ORN, of which part of the M4 forms part-the former bus lane that is becoming an Olympic lane for the duration of the Games-TfL’s modelling should show a slight improvement in air quality across the capital. I am afraid I cannot comment about what will happen along the M11 from Stansted.

Q12 Neil Parish: To all three witnesses: road transport is the main contributor to concentrations of key airborne pollutants and we have been talking about the Mayor, so what impact has the Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy 2010 had on road transport up to date?

Matthew Pencharz: The Mayor has instituted a series of measures in his first term, some of which were, to be honest, quite politically painful for him, and they did come up when he was out on the campaign stump just two months ago. He brought in an age limit for taxis, which is the first time this has happened in London. Any taxi or private hire vehicle older than 15 years has to come off the road, and that means already I think over 1,000 of the, frankly, dirtiest taxis will disappear in the first year. He brought in LEZ Phase 3 at the beginning of this year, which brought in the Euro 3 standards for minibuses and LGVs, which means that everything apart from private cars is now subject to the Low Emission Zone. This has resulted in a substantial reduction in PM10, which I think has helped us reach mean compliance with the EU standards. We have also instituted a Clean Air Fund, with some money from the Department for Transport for which we are very grateful, and match funded with money from the Mayor, where we instituted a variety of schemes, some of which were, again, the dust suppressants and retrofitting the bus fleet. There was another with trying to do some behavioural change relating to car idling, the school run, with engagement through communities. Schools are quite a logical place because people are, understandably, concerned about their kids’ health. Through such measures on school-run car idling, taxi marshals to stop taxi idling, in a kind of Tesco "every little helps" attitude, we recognise that this is a difficult problem and are trying all sorts of different methods to address air quality.

Q13 Neil Parish: The Mayor has, naturally, a reasonable amount of control or tries to have control over buses and taxis and the like, but what about vehicles coming to deliver to all our shops and things in London? Is there anything he can do about those lorries and whether they can be cleaned up?

Matthew Pencharz: The lorries are already subject to the Low Emission Zone; they have been for quite a while. What he brought in, in January, widened that to LGVs, to whitevan man, effectively, who, I must say, was not very happy with the new position. So he has imposed quite a lot on that.

Elliot Treharne: In terms of emissions across London, whereas definitely for particulate matter, especially in the centre of London, the transport fleet is responsible for about 80% of the PM emissions, for NOx it is more of a 50/50 problem and transport accounts for about 50% of the NOx emissions, with non-transport sources for the other 50% and domestic gas, the use of boilers in the home, for about 30%. So this is part of the reason why retrofitting homes, energy efficiency measures and also programmes like REFIT are so important in reducing overall NOx emissions in London and why part of what is set out in the paper that was circulated in advance talked about the additional steps that could be taken to basically scrap the older boilers, especially in commercial properties, to bring about bigger reductions in NOx emissions, particularly in central London.

Simon Birkett: The London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory in December 2008 estimated that NOx emissions in tonnes would drop from 63,000 in 2004 to 54,000 in 2010 and the Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy shows things fairly on track for that. For the particles, I do not have a like-for-like figure but the central London picture was 152,000 tonnes in 2004 dropping to 112,000 in 2010. The Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy predicts 119,000 in 2011. I suspect that one of the reasons that that may have blipped up out of trend is possibly because of the deferral by 15 months of Phase 3 of the London Low Emission Zone, which Ken Livingstone had planned. Even now, the Low Emission Zone that we have-yes, it excludes cars, but even with vans-is still behind the Euro 4 in Berlin; it is a Euro 3 standard. That was introduced two and a half years ago, so we are two and a half years behind that German standard and I would emphasise that, as Elliot has said, road transport is responsible for something like 80% of the PM2.5, the very fine particles in London, and that diesel really is at the heart of it.

Q14 Neil Parish: Right. My next question is related. Does local government in London need more power to control traffic movement and to incentivise a reduction in the use of passengers and goods vehicles in London? A general question to all of you.

Matthew Pencharz: I would say that we can get London on a trajectory to compliance within a reasonable timeframe for human health, which I think is what all our residents, Londoners, would want. Some of it will be through vehicle replacement, some of it will be when the Euro 6 standards come in. I am not convinced that the Mayor needs huge more powers, particularly on road transport. What we need is different levels of government working together. The Mayor controls only a few roads and the boroughs are quite jealous of the roads the Mayor already controls. I think it would be a difficult path to go down to demand control of further roads in the boroughs, so we need the Mayor and the boroughs to work together, because there are things you can do. You can work together with boroughs with a variety of the "every little helps" idea to address air quality. So in a borough that has a road where the residents are upset because the air quality is not great-there are some examples-we can work with them with ideas such as changing the timing of the deliveries. So they can regulate this, saying, "We don’t want the deliveries coming at school run time", because then you have so much more traffic and the stop/start is what causes a lot of the emissions. They can work with their businesses along that street to retrofit their buildings, to replace their boilers.

There are all these little things that need to be done. The Mayor does not have all the policy levers; some of them also rest in central Government. Things like a boiler scrappage scheme would be very helpful in some of the big commercial buildings that have old boilers to incentivise them to change them quicker than they might otherwise have done to reduce emissions.

Simon Birkett: We are talking about the Mayor having powers over perhaps not enough roads. I think it would be good if the boroughs could insist on a 20 miles an hour zone on the red routes in their borough, if that is what they want. Berlin found that a 30 kilometres per hour zone reduced NO2 by some 10% to 15% when it was combined with traffic smoothing and tough enforcement.

Elliot Treharne: On that specific point, just out of interest to the Committee, Transport for London has been pursuing a policy of re-phasing the traffic lights and making other changes to the layout of roads to improve the flow of traffic to try to prevent some of those stop/start conditions. Something that the Committee might find of interest is in terms of road traffic orders, which boroughs have the power to put in place; I believe that there is an example with Greenwich, where they basically tested the principle of whether you could use environmental factors, predominately air quality, to place those road traffic orders. I believe that test case was successful, but the Committee would have to double check that for accuracy.

Q15 Neil Parish: Can I just bowl you a slightly odd ball, perhaps? We live in an age where a lot of supermarkets now are delivering. We go on the internet and then all these goods are delivered by vans, so has that not increased the amount of transport movement? I am not suggesting that we need controls to stop this happening, but if people went by public transport to shop in a more traditional manner perhaps that would reduce the amount of fuel and particulates. What is your view on that?

Simon Birkett: It is freight consolidation, in a sense, so it is a good thing if it is properly managed and encouraged. Places like the City of London as part of the Olympics and others have certainly encouraged businesses to consolidate deliveries, so, in a sense, one van going around, particularly if it is an electric or ultra-low emissions van, is better than 20 car journeys, I would argue.

Matthew Pencharz: I would have thought that having one van deliver-

Q16 Neil Parish: But it is not one van, is it? It is a whole load of supermarkets going down the same road. You are not concentrating it into one van.

Matthew Pencharz: I think there is an interesting analysis to be made of what is better: having 20 individual families driving to their supermarket or one van stopping at 20 houses. I do not know the answer.

Q17 Neil Parish: If they went there on the Tube?

Matthew Pencharz: Well, that is not the way that most people tend to shop in large parts of inner London.

Q18 George Eustice: I am going to come on to the Olympics in a minute, Chair, but before that it seems to me from what you have said so far that there is basically a mismatch here with the EU regulations; that their engine emission standards have fallen short and that the limits set in the Ambient Air Quality Directive are therefore impossibly ambitious because the legal requirements on the engine emissions are not right. Would that be a fair summation? Also, why is it that they have targeted nitrogen oxide quite effectively, which I think you said, but failed so badly on nitrogen dioxide so far with the engine emission standards?

Simon Birkett: If I can comment, the Euro standards were set for oxides of nitrogen, not NO2. The nitrogen dioxide has increased as a percentage of oxides of nitrogen and that has been part of the problem, but that was never a standard set by Europe. Europe never promised to deliver an NO2 standard from the engine emission standards.

I suspect that the reason that NO2 is produced-because it is correlated with other combustion pollutants-is that it is probably linked to the particle traps. That is to do with burning off the very harmful particles and I think some manufacturers have had particle systems that have generated more NO2, which has been their choice as a manufacturer.

Q19 George Eustice: So trying to stop the PM10 is what has caused the rise of-

Simon Birkett: There is evidence, I believe, of some vehicle manufacturers where the NO2 has gone up higher than for others, yes.

Elliot Treharne: I agree very much with that assessment in terms of some of our analysis. Transport for London of course is the Mayor’s transport agency. We test in the London drive cycle, which is very different, so we get more accurate representations about how emissions function on London roads and, of course, the Euro standards are tested on a test cycle, which is basically in laboratory conditions where everything is so tightly calibrated and controlled that it is not a true representation of what happens when you get stop/start conditions, when you are operating at a lower temperature and so on and so forth. I agree with Simon that in the attempt to manage the particulate emissions from vehicles there has been an increase in the nitrogen dioxide emissions as a proportion. In some of our analysis as well though, we have not seen the level of overall NOx, oxides of nitrogen, reduction that we had expected, so it is a two-phase problem. It is the NOx as well as the NO2 component in terms of our test analysis.

Q20 George Eustice: Just finally, you mentioned going to the new-

Simon Birkett: Euro 6, yes.

George Eustice: Does that tackle the NO2 emissions?

Elliot Treharne: It is more effective in terms of the test conditions we have seen so far. The testing that we have done has been on our London drive cycle, our test cycle, so we are more confident this time that they will be of greater effect. However, there are still discussions ongoing with manufacturers at the European level about which test cycle they will use to make sure that is fit for purpose to avoid the issues we have had with Euro 4 and Euro 5.

Q21 Chair: Could I just ask what the lead-in time for a manufacturer is? Because I understand that part of the problem is more people are driving diesel cars now. Perhaps you are best placed to answer this, Mr Birkett. The fact that the Directive came in in 2008 presumably did not give the manufacturers a lot of time to look at the new model to test the emissions?

Simon Birkett: I think, Madam Chair, the nitrogen dioxide legal standards, like those for PM10, the particles, were put in legislation in 1999, so in fact everyone had a great deal of notice of the nitrogen dioxide standard.

Q22 George Eustice: On the Olympics, I know there have been some warnings about a summer smog being a danger. Are the current plans to ensure that the air quality is not going to have an adverse effect on both athletes and spectators sufficient?

Simon Birkett: If I kick off, I would separate it into two categories. The first is whether we have a summer smog like 2003 or 2006, because if that happens there is a very major issue to deal with on any scale. In terms of the modelling that has been seen and that I have seen, which assumes more normal weather, that shows that, on average, London should be slightly better in air quality terms, but at particular hotspots sometimes air quality will be worse. The way the legislation works, because we want to protect everyone in the city not just the average of the people in the city, is that those would be legal breaches. In terms of what Transport for London are doing, there are two ways of dealing with it: the big scare tactic, which is persuading people not to drive in-that is not my phrase; that is a standard phrase for managing people’s expectations-or an odd and even number plate ban like Beijing. The Mayor has opted for the big scare tactic backed up by 1,000 local restrictions on roads and also, more recently, a big development, which is advice to all drivers to avoid central London, the Olympic Route Network and the venues. So, in a sense, everyone is being advised to keep out of the area, so that big mitigation is affecting everyone. What Clean Air in London would have liked to have seen is, frankly, something like an inner Low Emission Zone, which would have guaranteed the 30% reduction in background traffic rather than having to suck it and see on the day hoping that all of these very elaborate plans actually do deliver.

Q23 George Eustice: Okay, so you think that the current approach probably is not sufficient or might not be sufficient?

Simon Birkett: I think we are going to have problems, because it is impossible to imagine the scale of these traffic movements in a city like London with the road system that we have. The question is how bad those problems will be. Hopefully, they will be small problems, but particularly if we have a summer smog like 2003 or 2006 this will be a really major issue.

Q24 George Eustice: Would anyone else like to comment? Why did you not do a Low Emission Zone-type scenario?

Matthew Pencharz: London has the largest Low Emission Zone in Europe. It covers 98% of London. It is, therefore, giving benefit to all London’s residents and it has quite a lot of overspill benefit to areas such as the greater South East, because clearly most businesses’ vehicles will need to comply with London’s Low Emission Zone in order to drive into greater London. If we had a further innerLondon Low Emission Zone, which I think is being argued for, for the benefit that would give there would be a huge implementation cost to be borne by the London tax and fare payer and there would also be a large business compliance cost. So it was our view that having the largest Low Emission Zone in Europe covering, as I have gone through, all vehicles apart from private cars delivers the best cost benefit ratio for the public health of Londoners.

When it comes to Olympic transport, if the weather is normal then, as Simon and I have both said, there should be a net improvement in air quality. If we have the weather conditions of the heatwaves of 2003 and 2006 combined with easterly winds blowing over pollution from Europe, it is quite clear that it will be very difficult for us to save our limits and we have to be honest about that. I have gone through the measures the Mayor has introduced. Air quality is always an issue during Olympic Games because they are always held in big cities. If you look at what happened four and eight years ago in Athens and Beijing, it was an issue there. Our air in general is better than both those cities, so we believe, unless an astonishing-it does not look very likely at the moment-heatwave hits us in the next six weeks, the public health for Londoners, the audience and also for the athletes should be okay.

Elliot Treharne: I will just add one point in terms of some of the modelling figures, which you might find of interest. To keep things in perspective, approximately 0.4 square kilometres that are currently above the limit value for nitrogen dioxide will fall to levels at or below the limit, whereas just 0.05 square kilometres will go from below to above the nitrogen dioxide limit, which I think is something like a nine to one improvement in terms of relative impact. In addition to that, we have secured £2.4 million from the ODA to fund mitigation in the run up to and during the Olympic Games, including retrofitting of buses, the application of further dust suppressants, energy efficient retrofit of 2,780 homes and 12 schools within the four Olympic boroughs. The thing to bear in mind is that, because of the relatively small scale of those negative impacts, those kinds of measures are more appropriate than an inner-London LEZ, which would have costs of between £500 million and £600 million to impose the Euro standards people have been talking about.

Simon Birkett: A couple of points, Madam Chair. First, there are two categories of pollution we worry about: particles and gases. Yes, of course, particle levels are much lower in London than in Beijing, and Matthew and Elliot have talked about how London is not as bad as some European cities on that. As to nitrogen dioxide, as well as being the worst in Europe, concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in London are comparable with those in Beijing before it took action before the 2008 Olympics.

I have to say that I welcome the Mayor’s team and the transparency; they do deserve great credit for some of the things they did in the previous term, but really there are no committed new measures or proposed new measures in the Mayor’s manifesto to tackle air quality. As Elliot said, this is exactly what Clean Air in London has identified. The point is that going from below these legal standards to above them is a legal breach, because these legal standards act as a lock step. Once you are below them you must keep below them to protect public health; you cannot just drift above them.

The final point I would make, which we must not forget, is the Highways Agency consultation on the suspension of the M4 bus lane, for example, showed that between 2010 and 2011 concentrations of nitrogen dioxide increased for-they call it "sensitive receptors"-a number of residents, basically, in Hounslow. I had an email at about six o’clock last night from the Highways Agency saying that they are now at the stage of looking at mitigation, for example, I guess, car sharing or something like that.

Q25 Barry Gardiner: The Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy had a number of targets: retrofitting 55,000 homes and 400 public buildings with energy efficiency measures, seven tonnes of NOx emissions. Perhaps, Mr Pencharz, you could update us. How are we on those 55,000 homes?

Elliot Treharne: I think around 65,000 homes have now been done.

Barry Gardiner: 65,000?

Elliot Treharne: Yes. 65,000 I think is the correct number.

Barry Gardiner: So you have exceeded the retrofitting target?

Elliot Treharne: Yes, that is my understanding.

Chair: Do you know what the cost was?

Elliot Treharne: I could find out the information and share that with you.

Q26 Barry Gardiner: Yes, if you could provide information to the Committee on that. Reducing emissions from new developments by using the London Plan. Can you tell us about the requirements for air quality neutrality?

Matthew Pencharz: This is quite an exciting and innovative development. We believe that we are the first planning authority to impose this new term "air quality neutral" so that when you do a big redevelopment of-pick one at random-the Elephant and Castle in the London Borough of Southwark, a big redevelopment knocking down huge, I think, 1970s blocks of flats, what is going to replace it is a development that will result in better air quality for the local residents, for the people who live there. This is through a variety of measures: it could be offsetting or better standards in buildings, better standards in boilers.

Q27 Barry Gardiner: When you say "offsetting", how is that going to improve the quality of the local air?

Matthew Pencharz: You can have it through Section 106 agreements, through demanding some green infrastructure nearby; you can have better cycling and walking infrastructure. Measures like that all add together to improve air quality.

Q28 Barry Gardiner: Mr Birkett, you wanted to come in on this.

Simon Birkett: Yes, thank you, Mr Gardiner. I think one of the biggest successes of the Mayor’s first term was the London Plan, and I totally agree with Matthew about the importance of this air quality neutral point; it actually says development should be "at least air quality neutral", i.e. better. I welcome the fact not just that it has that protection but there are additional protections in the Plan that are stopping putting vulnerable people by pollution or putting more pollution by vulnerable people. That is something I am very impressed by.

Q29 Barry Gardiner: Good. Thank you very much. How is that translating into the local authorities’ implementation of planning guidance?

Matthew Pencharz: Local borough development plans have to be in broad conformity with the London Plan so that when a borough renews its development plan it does go to the Mayor for his approval. I believe that to be the case. Is that right, Elliot?

Elliot Treharne: Yes. So basically, in effect, the boroughs are under the same obligation because it is set out in the London Plan. There are some specific issues in terms of the implementation of air quality neutral and one of the things that we have undertaken to do to provide additional support to the boroughs in terms of this implementation is to provide written guidance about how it will be used. That is to be published. As you understand, the planning system is very heavily established in terms of the processes it must use and the need for consultation, which can be quite a long period of time. We were keen to consult at an earlier stage. However, because of the Mayoral election and the Olympics we have not had a clean 12-week window for consultation, so we have to wait until that window becomes available after the Olympics to consult on the detail.

Q30 Barry Gardiner: Okay, thanks. In terms of green infrastructure, your target was 5% increase in London’s tree cover. How are you progressing on that?

Matthew Pencharz: I think it was 5% over quite a few years.

Q31 Barry Gardiner: To 2025.

Matthew Pencharz: In the last term, the Mayor succeeded in delivering the 10,000 street trees that he promised.

Q32 Barry Gardiner: What does that relate to as a percentage of London’s tree cover?

Matthew Pencharz: 10,000 street trees is a relatively small percentage, but through third sector bodies such as Trees for Cities he has planted-I may have to get back to you on the exact number-in excess of 100,000 trees across the capital.

Q33 Barry Gardiner: What I would like, if you can give us the figures-and please do this in writing afterwards if you do not have them with you-is how we are progressing along that target of 5%. Numbers will not mean anything, percentages will, so if it is 0.7 of 1% then that is what we need to know.

Matthew Pencharz: We will get back to you, Mr Gardiner.

Q34 Barry Gardiner: Thanks very much. On money for air pollution monitoring sites, there have been complaints from councils that funding has been cut in this respect. How many air pollution monitoring sites were there before or at the time the Mayor came to office, and how many are there now?

Elliot Treharne: This is more of a technical answer. In terms of the number, it is fluctuating, so I would have to get back to you with the specific numbers in terms of the ones that have closed. It is recognised as a significant issue and it is something that Defra, ourselves and the boroughs have to work together on. The way that the majority of the London Air Quality Network was established was that there was recognition that boroughs have their own responsibilities under local air quality management to monitor local air quality, and I think the Mayor’s position remains that the boroughs have to fulfil those duties. TfL, for the monitoring of the Low Emission Zone, put in place some of its own monitoring stations. Defra, as part of its national reporting responsibilities, funds a number of monitoring stations and provides some of the equipment for those. So it is a team effort in terms of keeping the monitoring network in place.

Q35 Barry Gardiner: It sounds nice, but the fact is that the funding has gone down and local authorities are complaining that they cannot afford to keep the air monitoring stations in place.

Elliot Treharne: It is a question about priorities then, I suppose, and obviously the local authorities are, as we all are, under huge cost pressures in terms of delivering savings.

Q36 Barry Gardiner: But it is this specific funding that has been cut, isn’t it?

Elliot Treharne: But the funding that would have been provided would not have been from us; it would have been provided from within the budgets of the local authorities themselves.

Simon Birkett: As to monitoring, for example, the London Air Quality Network has about 100 monitoring sites. Some boroughs have dropped out of that scheme, which means you do not get an integrated picture, which is very concerning. But, to me, monitoring air quality in terms of warning people about smog alerts and reporting legal breaches is the absolute bedrock for everything that we do, and so I really would-and have done-encourage the Mayor and his team to ensure that that is one of the absolute top priorities. I think that is the sense that Elliot is giving as well.

Q37 Barry Gardiner: If that is the case, could we have two things? One is the numbers of monitoring sites that were in place at the beginning of the Mayor’s terms of office and what they are currently. Could we also have the Mayor’s funding proposals for getting the number of air pollution monitoring sites up to what you require to adequately assess the air quality in London? Could you also tell us of the assessment that the Mayor’s office has made of the health impact on Londoners of air pollution, and the cost to the London economy from that air pollution?

Simon Birkett: Let me start with the health aspect. The Mayor was the first politician to publish a report with an estimate of the number of attributable deaths, and I think the Defra submission to you refers to the 29,000 nationally; the equivalent number is 4,267 for London. That is a statistical number; it eliminates 40 other possible causes of death. Statistically, those attributable deaths were 11.5 years each. COMEAP speculated that, in practice, as a broad indication, everyone who has a heart attack or stroke is probably losing two years nationally because of fine particles, and that is about three years probably in London, because pollution is about 50% higher than the national average. But it is not just about those incidents. Traffic-related air pollution could be responsible for 15% to 30% of all new cases of asthma in children and COPD in people aged 65 and above.

Q38 Barry Gardiner: Have you any figures that quantify the cost to London’s economy?

Simon Birkett: The Mayor’s estimate in his Air Quality Strategy was £2 billion a year as the economic cost, I recollect.

Q39 Barry Gardiner: So what the Committee needs to do is assess that £2 billion against the costs in the first instance, as you would say, Mr Birkett, of restoring the number of monitoring stations to an adequate level.

Simon Birkett: And dealing with all the other problems. I totally agree, yes.

Q40 Chair: I think it was Blaby District Council who said on this planning issue that, on appeal to the Secretary of State or the Planning Inspectorate, there should be effective measures put in place on a new development to minimise any risk of pollution. Having pioneered what you have done with air quality neutral, is that something that you would agree with?

Matthew Pencharz: It would seem natural to me with planning regulations for new developments that there should not just be air quality measures. It should just be-talking to the Environment Advisor-environmental measures generally. They do generally go hand in hand, so we refer to our retrofitting programmes in our planning rules, or reducing the amount of carbon that is being used. So in a very big scheme you can have decentralised energy so you do not have to cable it in hundreds of miles from the power station or the wind turbines or whatever. But with a boiler system or a CHP plant that fits the topmost spec and does not release pollutants, it would seem to me a logical thing that the Government should think about. We have done it in London. London is the trickiest place, because of our older buildings and it is very built up, to do this. If we can do it, surely other less old bits of the country should also be able to do it.

Q41 Neil Parish: Can I again ask all three of you what national measures should the Government introduce to reduce concentration of pollutants in London and are they technical support programmes, financial incentives or regulatory measures that you would like to see?

Simon Birkett: Let me kick off. The Mayor included in his Air Quality Strategy a list of four things on which he asked for help from the Government, so I would start with that list. I think I would add to it reducing diesel emissions from trains coming into London-if you look at the air quality map, there is a plume of pollution across west London-and narrowing it down that line. It would be good, if we look underground, if the Government asked COMEAP, the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, to update their 2002 advice about the health impacts of air pollution in the London Underground. The health and wellbeing boards can be a tremendous driver of change from next year. I think what we really need, because the current Air Quality Strategy 2007 has shown itself not fit for purpose, is a new joined-up Air Quality Strategy that pulls together not just the traditional bits of government like DfT and DECC, but also the Treasury, so we get some consistent, powerful action on what is the biggest public health risk after smoking.

Q42 Neil Parish: Can I just pick you up on the trains coming into London? Could that be dealt with by current legislation or does it need other legislation?

Simon Birkett: I dont know the answer to that.

Elliot Treharne: My understanding is that it wouldn’t.

Q43 Neil Parish: That we could do it under current legislation-is that right or not?

Elliot Treharne: My understanding is that, but obviously the DfT are much better qualified to comment on that than I am.

Matthew Pencharz: Simon referred to the Mayor’s shopping list of measures we feel it would be nice for the Government also to help out on. We talked earlier about moving towards Euro 6 standards, a NOx certification and testing regime, which we were hoping the Government might be able to provide us with since it is a national problem, NO2. It is not just London, as we saw yesterday with Coventry and Liverpool.

I referred earlier to a boiler scrappage scheme; it is remarkable how retrofitting older commercial properties has a very large beneficial effect on both air quality and the amount of carbon that they use. There are also some grants the Government could help us out with for retrofitting some of the older vehicles.

The Government will look at VED. We were talking about dieselisation and the problem that has caused-environmental policy is not being joined up. We went for diesel with the laudable aim of reducing carbon without fully thinking through or without fully knowing or realising the effect that would have on air quality. We need, when we move towards even greener vehicles, be they hydrogen, electric or whatever, not to allow those sorts of tensions to happen again. We go hell down one particular path to address one problem. Does it have an unintended consequence? That is what has happened with dieselisation. My European colleagues I was speaking to yesterday were particularly upset with what had happened in their regions over a similar rush to diesel.

Simon Birkett: Just one further point: I think we really need a national scheme for Low Emission Zones. There are 56 in Germany; we have one, which is at the M25. In fact, I would argue that it should be set at the same standard as Berlin, which is Euro 4 for diesel, and it should jump from Euro 4 to Euro 6 a period after that. I think that what people worry about if you set that Euro 4 standard nationally for Low Emission Zones is that it might make NO2 worse because of the point that Mr Eustice made. But in practice the evidence in Germany, in Berlin, is that that Euro 4 standard has reduced nitrogen dioxide by about 5% to 10%. That is despite the problems that we have talked about.

Q44 Neil Parish: That leads me neatly into the next question, which is what timescale would you envisage being feasible for a national nitrogen oxide certification and testing regime for vehicles, and what would its impact be on nitrogen oxide levels in London? A very simple question.

Matthew Pencharz: We think three to four years would be a reasonable timeframe.

Q45 Neil Parish: Three to four years. What effect would that have on London’s levels of nitrogen oxide? A national scheme, basically.

Elliot Treharne: Of course, a NOx certification and testing regime is about the retrofit equipment that is installed on various different types of vehicle. So what that enables you to do is put in place mechanisms to encourage or to acquire the use of that retrofit equipment basically to reduce the emissions from those vehicles. So the obvious application of a NOx certification and testing regime would be then to include a NOx component to a Low Emission Zone wherever that might be.

Simon Birkett: What I think would be a better use of national resources is having this German-type standard of Euro 4. The NOx certification is a very good idea for trucks and buses and so on, perhaps, but in fact the real effort in the country should be on getting in place something across scores of cities where these time extensions have been rejected. Having that sort of scheme, the Government’s own estimate was that a Low Emission Zone could reduce concentrations of NO2 by about 10% and that is certainly consistent with the Berlin experience. So I would go for Euro 4 diesel particles and then to Euro 6 and not try to do that, for example, for cars or something.

Q46 Dan Rogerson: My apologies for being late; I was attending the Statutory Instruments Committee. I have missed some of the earlier discussion and you may have covered this, but just coming on, Mr Birkett, to diesel, there has been a switch in the car fleets towards diesel, for obvious reasons, in many cases driven by policy on fuel efficiency and carbon emissions, I suppose. But looking at other jurisdictions, California has very much rejected diesel. As particulates are a particular problem that has been identified here do you think that there is a conflict that is hard to resolve or do you think, through these kinds of standards for diesel in the future, that that can be overcome?

Simon Birkett: Clean Air in London has the principle that we should accept a 1% disbenefit for something like CO2 if we can achieve a 10% reduction in air pollutants or vice versa, provided that legal standards are met, obviously. To give you a sense of the scale of this diesel problem and why it is a no-brainer to sharply reduce diesel vehicles in cities-and these are DfT numbers in response to a PQ from Karen Buck-diesel saloon cars, for example, produce 21 times the grams per mile of a petrol saloon car and about twice the NOx. So whatever we might argue about the fact that NO2 was not included in the Euro standards, the fact that we have gone from 10%, as you suggest, to 50% for diesel vehicles dwarfs any failure of the Euro standards. And that is not a new problem. Those numbers were equivalent numbers, updated in 2009, so this really has been governments, I suppose, failing to tackle this diesel problem and, in fact, positively encouraging diesel.

Chair: I am just going to try to speed things up, please, as we have another group of witnesses to come in and we have a vote as well.

Q47 Dan Rogerson: We were talking about national instruments, and you have touched on that. Do you think that the Government should revisit the Road Fund Licence?

Simon Birkett: Yes.

Dan Rogerson: I say that as a diesel driver; don’t bring it to London.

Q48 Mrs Glindon: From the perspective of the GLA, what impact would a statutory power to prevent engine idling have on key pollutants in London and how could it be enforced?

Matthew Pencharz: Though there is already a fine for idling if you are caught, it is only £20. That is worth bearing in mind when you think how draconian some parking tickets can be. It would seem sensible to us to have a similar level of fine for quite blatant engine idling. I personally find it amazing anybody will let their engine idle considering how expensive petrol is, but some people still do, to keep their air conditioning on or whatever. So the power is already there; it is just that it does need to be implemented, and we think a £20 fine that is never really charged is not going to put people off, but we might raise it and implement it more. That is something that the Clean Air Fund was doing; we did have taxi marshals going around. They were not fining taxi drivers, but they were asking them to turn their engines off. We should have some evidence in the autumn about how successful that was in creating behavioural change.

Elliot Treharne: If you are curious about the amount of idling that is taking place and the extent to which it is an issue, the estimates that we did for taxis in particular, focusing on onrank idling, were that around 12% of their time was spent idling. So it can be a significant issue which, if addressed successfully-which is why the taxi marshals were put in place-can deliver important reductions, particularly in particulates, which taxis are very high emitters of, and obviously they operate in central London, where the particulate problem is most acute.

Q49 Mrs Glindon: Is there a level of workable enforcement that would produce results that you could think of?

Matthew Pencharz: It would need to be a different level. Both the boroughs and the GLA would have to work together to deliver that. We are only in charge of, I think, 5% of London’s roads. These are roads on which people are not going to idle very often, to be honest, because they are red routes and are the main strategic roads that carry most of the traffic. So it would have to be largely the boroughs that would have to enforce it, but borough residents in some areas are very vocal about air quality and, if they are going to lean on their local authorities, it is a matter of prioritisation. It seems to us it would be a sensible thing to enforce more stringently.

Q50 Barry Gardiner: You talked about the importance of the monitoring stations as being the bedrock of any proper assessment. So, Mr Pencharz, do you consider the Mayor’s use of pollution suppressants around monitoring sites to be like putting a gas mask on the canary in the mine?

Matthew Pencharz: No, not at all. The dust suppressants were an innovative technology; we got the idea from Scandinavia and Stockholm, as I said, and also Austria. It covers 32 kilometres of road, which is 126 kilometres of lanes, and there is not a monitoring station every kilometre along these roads, although obviously you go past a few of them.

Q51 Barry Gardiner: Where you are using the pollution suppressants, do they incorporate the key hot spots?

Matthew Pencharz: They were areas where there was the most problem with PM10, so they are main arterial roads. It is Upper Thames Street, which following the Bishopsgate bomb is now the main east-west thoroughfare. It was Marylebone Road. It was the Blackwall Tunnel corridor and a few others.

Q52 Barry Gardiner: In the 32 kilometres that you say they cover-I have no doubt that they do cover that-how many times do they go past the key hotspots and how many times do they go past the rest of the road where there is no monitoring station?

Elliot Treharne: If the Chair does not mind, there is a handout which shows the map of where we-

Chair: We are really up against time here.

Q53 Barry Gardiner: What I would suggest you do is provide the Committee with that information in written or diagrammatic form, showing not just the routes but actually the number of times the vehicle transverses a particular stretch of the route. Because what is at issue here, as I am sure you well understand, is that this is being used to cover up, to artificially suppress, in the areas around the monitoring stations. If that is the case, it very much is putting a gas mask on the canary in the mine and it is a fraud on the public.

Simon Birkett: I think those are very fair points, Mr Gardiner, and reflect some of the things that Clean Air in London has said.

I would make just two points. The first is that we are not talking about inert house dust. We are talking about PM10, dangerous airborne particles some of which are toxic and carcinogenic. In the Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy it specifically talks about these pollution suppressants being used for legal compliance. Clean Air in London’s analysis through a Freedom of Information request of the use of these pollution suppressants showed that, if you looked at the number of sites that were breaching the legal limit last year and it showed they might breach this year, the only ones that were not having a suppressor truck going past-this was at the beginning of this year, the only evidence we have-were the monitoring stations that have been closed or are due to be closed this year. So I think these are very serious issues.

Elliot Treharne: I think it is important to clarify. First, to go back to Mr Gardiner’s key point, I think it is important that we clarify any kind of impression that the dust suppressant machines go back and forth and back and forth in front of a monitoring station. Every night along these 32 kilometres the dust suppressant is applied on one occasion, so the entire 32 kilometres of road network has the same amount of CMA applied to it on one occasion at night, at approximately three o’clock in the morning. Obviously, that is staggered through the night.

If you think about the development of the strategy, what it identified was that in the centre of London there were particular problems-this was all based on the monitoring-and that in those locations where we had the biggest PM10 problem it was appropriate to trial a package of measures, which was funded through the Clean Air Fund, including things like the taxi marshals, the green infrastructure, business engagement. Also, to innovate and to trial, it included the use of dust suppressants, and these have been applied. It just so happens that the way that the monitoring network has developed over time is that the worst locations, obviously, because you want to understand what is happening in terms of air quality, are where local authorities have funded the placing of monitoring stations. But that is not why it is being sprayed there. It is because the modelling work we did for the strategy was about-

Q54 Barry Gardiner: I absolutely accept that suppressant technology is a legitimate technology to try to deal with air pollution. What I do not accept is that, if it is being specifically targeted in a particular area, that does not mean that in neighbouring streets just a couple of blocks away the problem is not still there. It is not being recorded and that is the problem.

Q55 Matthew Pencharz: I just want to put on the record very clearly that we do not accept at all that there has been a so-called fraud on these monitoring stations. I think we need to make that extremely clear. It came up a lot in the election two and a half, three months ago and I must say the view of the Mayor-and I am expressing his opinion-is that it was a party political attack in an election campaign. We will write back to the Committee with the detail, but we absolutely reject, I want to put it clearly on the record, that it is a fraud.

Chair: I think that is clear. Could you give us an annotated version of the map with some comments on it?

Q56 Dan Rogerson: We have discussed briefly the responsibilities of the boroughs and the fact that clearly there are areas they will remain responsible for, but what mechanisms do you have for liaising with the boroughs on air quality improvement work?

Matthew Pencharz: Elliot at an officer level, and I at a more political level work very closely with the boroughs. Some boroughs are more engaged in this than others, obviously, and we are hoping very much to work with all boroughs who want to step up to the mark in the way that the Mayor already has done to work together. I explained earlier some of the package of measures that the borough needs to do itself. We can retrofit the buses and we will and we are doing so. We can re-phase some of the traffic lights in order to stop the stop/start of traffic. We can do that.

Q57 Dan Rogerson: There is informal contact, but are there formal mechanisms and processes in train that mean that that work is being brought together?

Matthew Pencharz: Yes, there are.

Q58 Dan Rogerson: What are they? What are the mechanisms?

Matthew Pencharz: Elliot will explain about officer level.

Elliot Treharne: At officer level, for example, there are a number of cluster groups across London. There are five cluster groups plus a co-ordinating group which basically coordinates the work of all those groups, which enables me as the representative of the GLA to work with colleagues in the Environment Agency and also from all the boroughs across London. So that is where you get the interaction at officer level. There are also statutory processes, and Defra will be able to run through this in more detail in terms of local air quality management and the reporting work that takes place there. The Mayor has delegated responsibility from the Secretary of State in terms of signing off various action plans and updating and screening assessments and so on, so there is a formal process but most progress is made informally.

Q59 Dan Rogerson: Is there any political structure?

Matthew Pencharz: Absolutely. You may have seen last week that three boroughs, the City of London, Westminster, and Camden, wrote to us saying they wanted 10-year taxi limits rather than 15-year taxi limits. These are boroughs who are clearly very-central London, they have the worst problem-interested in engaging with us and we will engage with them.

Q60 Dan Rogerson: They are talking to each other and they are talking to you at the political level.

Matthew Pencharz: And they are talking to us. Wandsworth is another one.

Chair: Mr Treharne, Mr Pencharz, Mr Birkett, thank you very much indeed for contributing. We are going to have to, very rapidly, I am afraid, move the next set of witnesses in, but thank you very much for contributing to our inquiry. It is most appreciated.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Dr Colin Powlesland, Health and Emerging Issues Manager, the Environment Agency, Daniel Instone, Head of Atmosphere and Local Government Programme, Defra, Dr Sarah Honour, Head of the Air Quality Evidence Team, Defra, and Steven Beard, Director of Operations, Blaby District Council, gave evidence.

Q61 Chair: I will just say the housekeeping bit first. There may well be a vote during the course of the evidence session, so I hope you will allow us to suspend the session and then return; we will try to do so within 15 minutes. First, thank you very much indeed for participating. Could I ask each of you, just for the record, to introduce yourselves, perhaps starting with Dr Powlesland?

Dr Powlesland: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Colin Powlesland from the Environment Agency. I am the Health and Emerging Issues Manager and, until very recently, was the Air Quality Manager for the Agency.

Steven Beard: Steven Beard. I am Director of Operations at Blaby District. I have been asked to give evidence on behalf of district and unitary councils with a duty with regards to air pollution.

Dr Honour: Sarah Honour from Defra. I head the Air Quality Evidence Team.

Daniel Instone: Daniel Instone. I head the Atmosphere and Local Environment Programme in Defra covering air quality, noise and related issues.

Q62 Chair: Thank you very much indeed. If I could address a couple of questions to Defra, you may like to update us on the decision this week. I would like to ask, does the Commission’s decision to reject the UK’s application for an extension to the NO2 deadlines for 12 zones mean that infraction proceedings are inevitable in those zones?

Daniel Instone: The straight answer to that question, Chair, is no. There is a separate issue about infraction. Questions about infraction are for the Commission. There is nothing in the statement that the Commission made this week about infraction. That was purely about what reaction they were going to take on our time extension applications.

Q63 Chair: So you are not expecting any fines or penalties at this stage for being in breach?

Daniel Instone: Not at this stage.

Q64 Chair: Could you just tell the Committee when you might expect them?

Daniel Instone: That is in the hands of the Commission, whether they take infraction proceedings or how quickly they do. We cannot speculate about that at this stage. It is very much up to the Commission what action they take.

Q65 Chair: Can you give us an assurance that we are not trying to water down existing European law to avoid infringement proceedings? Are you working towards being able to implement what we have signed up to?

Daniel Instone: Maybe I should say something a little bit more broadly and I will come back to that point.

Let me pick up more broadly on the issues and the way we are approaching air pollution generally. First, obviously we take the whole issue extremely seriously. For example, partly as a response to the recent recommendations by the Environmental Audit Committee, your sister Committee, we have included for the first time an explicit commitment in the Defra Business Plan published earlier this year on air pollution. I think we also accept-not accept, it is a very key point that this is very much a cross-Departmental set of issues here; we work very closely with other Departments, a very wide range: Transport, Communities and Local Government, Health, Treasury, and many more, DECC, for example, and so we spend a great deal of our time working on those links.

We have five key aims in looking at air pollution and I will pick up the point about the review of the Directive in that. First, we need to ensure, and we are ensuring, that the nature of the impact of air quality on health and the environment are properly understood as well as being addressed. So, for example, we work very closely with the Department of Health to ensure that air pollution is an explicit part of the priorities for directors of public health, as Andrew Lansley announced earlier this year.

Secondly, we are working very strongly with other Departments to ensure that policy measures are clearly identified and available for action by both central and local government. For example, we are doing a lot of current work, as was talked about in the earlier session, including through the funding of local studies to make it easier for local authorities to establish or enhance Low Emission Zones. As an example of another measure, which was not discussed earlier, we have agreed with DECC that there should be new incentives on achieving better air quality levels through the Renewable Heat Incentive and DECC is expected to consult on this in the next few weeks.

More broadly, particularly in transport, there are often, as I think was alluded to in the earlier session, pretty difficult choices for both central and local politicians about the choice of measures. There is a range of factors to take into account, including air quality benefits and costs for transport operators. But we are very clear that more action does need to be taken and that includes-this is only part of the package, and I do stress part-a greater role for voluntary measures, as part of their corporate social responsibility measures, by businesses. I have the sense that in recent years perhaps businesses have put less weight on air pollution as something they took credit for in environmental policies than they did, say, on climate change or other environmental measures. That is something where we would like to see the balance restored.

Also, we would like local government to concentrate-and be encouraged to concentrate-on action that is most relevant to improving public health as well as action to secure compliance with EU directives while reducing unnecessary burdens on them and requirements that do not add a great deal to that. That is why we are committed, as part of the Red Tape Challenge, to consult further on a more targeted set of requirements on them.

Thirdly, we are working to achieve full compliance with EU air quality directives. I will come back to this in a moment when I talk about the NO2 dimensions, but I would also add to that that we are actively engaged in the review of the EU air quality regime as part of the Commission’s started review of the new Air Quality Directive, which could obviously have a significant bearing. And just picking up your question, we are certainly not seeking to water down the new Directive. We are looking to have those sensible measures that are well targeted on health and environmental outcomes, and to ensure that.

I am happy to say a word more about the Commission’s announcement this week on NO2 if you want me to.

Q66 Chair: Can I just press you on one aspect? My understanding is that compliance was not anticipated for, say, London, by 2015, so are there any implications for London in the Commission’s decision this week?

Daniel Instone: No. There is basically a series of different categories of parts of the UK, and the Commission’s decision announced earlier this week approached these differently. The first important category is those where we are not seeking a time extension. It is pretty well as you said there. They did not comment on the cases where we said we would not be able to achieve compliance by 2015, which included London and a number of other conurbations. They did, of course, comment on a number of other aspects of our time extension, where we did ask for more time, and their decision made different points about different categories of zones.

Q67 Chair: You mentioned the public health aspects. Can you confirm that, if the UK meets the EU air quality standards, this will have a positive impact on health?

Daniel Instone: I think there is no doubt on that. The standards that we have are essentially health-driven. Clearly, different elements of it work in different ways. Perhaps I could ask my colleague, Sarah, who is our evidence expert, to comment on that aspect.

Dr Honour: I think it does depend very much on pollutant as well, particularly for something like PM2.5, where there is no known safe level, which is why we have also in the Directive an idea about having an exposure reduction, so that you can, over time, drive down the exposure of the population as a whole as well as trying to target hotspots for equity reasons as well. Particularly with PM2.5, there is clearly a need to continue to take action; even if one is below the legal standards for minimum protection, there would still be additional benefits, certainly. That is less clear for something like nitrogen dioxide.

Q68 Chair: Do you envisage that the UK will have achieved compliance with the PM10 standard in the period since June 2011, which I understand was the extended deadline for compliance?

Dr Honour: Again, we do not report compliance for last year, 2011, until September this year. That is because all the monitoring data needs to be assessed and verified and then we also carry out some subtraction for natural resources for particulate matter and also we carry out modelling activities. So the full assessment for last year’s data has not yet been met. We are hopeful that we will comply. On PM10, obviously we had a time extension for part of the year, which allowed us to comply only with the margin of tolerance for the limit value, but yes, it is impossible to say yet, but we are hopeful we will comply.

Q69 Chair: If on either of those, NOx2 or PM10, we were still in breach, do we know what the scale of fines would be?

Dr Honour: For NOx we will breach and we expect-

Chair: Do we know what the level of fines will be?

Daniel Instone: The formula for fines is based on a combination of the seriousness of the offence and the length of the offence. There is a huge range of alternatives and if it got to that stage the European Court of Justice would have a big say in the matter. There is such a big scale, and there are so many uncertainties, that it is almost impossible to give an accurate range at this stage.

Chair: Okay, that is fair enough.

Q70 Dan Rogerson: This is directed at colleagues here from Defra. Good afternoon everybody. How is Defra working with other Government Departments to get the most polluting vehicles off the road?

Daniel Instone: We are working with a range of Departments. I suppose when it comes to polluting vehicles, the key Department is the Department for Transport. One important area we are doing is investigating the scope for a national framework of Low Emission Zones, which was discussed in the earlier evidence. We are very keen on looking at the feasibility of this. And so we have been working with the Department for Transport and a lot of local authorities to encourage them to investigate the feasibility of Low Emission Zones in their areas. We have funded studies in a range of local authorities. In addition, we have been working with the Department for Transport on the role of their own agencies in the Department in facilitating that process. There are questions on that that the combined Secretaries of State will make decisions on relatively soon. That is one area.

Clearly, we are also working with the Department for Transport closely when issues come up about future vehicle standards. For example, we have been working closely with them on the new regime for the Euro 6 standards, which are due to come into effect relatively shortly.

Those are just two examples. Another one would be that we have worked with the Treasury on tax incentives. Although the Treasury, as you obviously know, are basically responsible for tax measures, they have announced in the not very recent past-and, indeed, they made more recent announcements-on upgrading the Reduced Pollution Certificate for less polluting vehicles.

Those are just some examples-there are others-of where we have been working with other Departments. It is a very key part of what we do.

Q71 Dan Rogerson: What more could be done to reduce the incentives for moving to diesel vehicles? We talked about standards of vehicles, but as I was asking earlier, there is this issue around the priority for dealing with carbon emissions, and more fuel efficient vehicles such as diesels can be part of that. How do we strike that balance and is the tax incentive too great at the moment or what can be done?

Daniel Instone: As far as the carbon emissions air quality issue is concerned, Steven in his submission to the Committee brought out rather helpfully, I thought, the link with the publication we issued a couple of years ago called Air Pollution: Action in a Changing Climate, which discussed both the synergies and the tradeoffs between action to address CO2 and action to address air pollution. There are both. Clearly, if you reduce the amount of traffic, you increase the flow of traffic and you prevent stop/start, you reduce congestion. That tends to be win-win as well as it will get more traffic off the road. Clearly, also, the petrol/diesel issue is a tricky one because there are carbon benefits from more diesel, from greater fuel efficiency-or there have been to date-as against the air pollution disbenefits relative to petrol. So that is obviously a tricky issue to get the balance on. What we have said, and we said it in our Air Pollution: Action in a Changing Climate document, is that it is really important that the combined economic benefits of both are factored together so that where there are win-wins you get the maximum; you make sure you count both sets of benefits. But I would not deny that there are tricky tradeoffs on petrol versus diesel. It is not particularly around cars and light vans, where there is a genuine choice on which vehicle you go to. It is less apparent on heavier vehicles like heavy goods vehicles where there is not much of a practical choice for most vehicles other than with diesel. In that case, the main action and the main driver is improving the emissions from the diesel vehicles by driving up Euro standards or retrofitting. But I would not deny it is a tricky tradeoff, and it is one that we are very actively thinking about.

Q72 Dan Rogerson: Madam Chair is keen to move us, but very briefly, you talked about DfT and the Treasury there. With regard to CLG and the new Planning Framework, we are obviously looking to see an increase in housing numbers as long as the development is sustainable. That is what we are moving towards with the new system of planning. Is there more that could be done to look at the transport infrastructure with extensions to urban areas to overcome some of these issues around stop/start that we are seeing here? I am thinking of, for example, in the smaller towns, not the big city centres, but where there are urban extensions, looking at what the flow of traffic is through those. If traffic is at a standstill in the centre of a small town, could some new extension with other routes to get east-west, north-south or whatever help? Is that the kind of discussion you would be having at that level?

Daniel Instone: Steven may want to comment from a local perspective, but as far as the national perspective is concerned we worked very closely with CLG on what the National Planning Policy Framework published last spring said about air pollution. We worked with them so that the Framework included a statement to the effect that planning policies should sustain compliance with and contribute towards EU limit values or national objectives for pollution. We were very keen and, indeed, were successful in making sure that there was a very strong link between air pollution and the National Planning Policy Framework, but I don’t know, Steven might want to comment on how it feels at a local level.

Steven Beard: The problem we have as councils out in the rest of the country is that we take a steer very much from things like the National Planning Policy Framework. There is mention in there of the more toxic air pollution elements. That, I think, gets only two mentions whereas sustainability gets a big chunk. With sustainability, we are talking about future generations primarily, and there are massive tradeoffs. We operate a fleet of heavy goods vehicles. We have made inquiries about Euro 6. They will not be available until at least October 2013 and there are significant counterpoints as NO2 is reduced; so we are expecting a very heavy penalty in fuel consumption, so there will be a carbon impact from that. They will also cost about £10,000 an engine more. This is what we are hearing. So I think when you look at all these and the effects of policies nationally on traffic, what we are seeing is a bit of a contradiction at times, a bit of a perverseness where, quite rightly, possibly, we have seen a great emphasis on carbon reduction, on climate change, but it is having a negative effect on the pollutions that affect most of, I would suggest, the UK in terms of breaches, which are NO2 and particulates. At the moment, there is no alternative to that.

When it comes to planning, again the National Planning Policy Framework has not been particularly helpful in that. It relates to, in paragraph 124, taking account of developments within air quality management areas. Very few developments are actually within air quality management areas because they have to be very tightly drawn boundaries. What we are trying to mitigate are the wider effects and those cumulative effects and, in terms of planning, the amount of weight attached to the various considerations in granting a planning approval is very much determined by the tone and the tenor of a lot of the guidance. What I think we are seeing is, yes, there is a lot of talk about sustainability, but there is a huge presumption in favour. I think if you look at-

Q73 Chair: I am conscious that we have a lot of ground to cover. Is there anything you would like to-

Steven Beard: I was just going to say about Planning Policy Framework, if you look at the comment early in the document about traffic, it says that, for traffic to be a reason to turn down the development, the effects must be severe.

Q74 Neil Parish: Retrofitting is a fast-acting solution to minimise PM emissions from diesel exhausts and to make older vehicle engines meet current and future emission standards. So, to Defra, why is not more being done to apply technical solutions to vehicles? For example, retrofitting exhausts to tackle particular emissions.

Daniel Instone: In fact, we have been giving a lot of consideration to retrofitting. We have practical examples of this on the ground already that were talked about in the previous evidence session in relation to buses. The concept of particulate traps put on, in some cases, after the vehicle is already on the road is quite widely established. We have been having quite a number of discussions with the retrofitting equipment industry about the scope for retrofitting what is known as "selective catalytic reduction" equipment to address NO2 emissions. It is obviously the case that in order for that to become economically viable, you may need incentives in the form of either regulatory measures such as Low Emission Zones or other kinds of incentives, so there is obviously a strong link between local government policy on Low Emission Zones and the extent to which it becomes economically viable to encourage the use of retrofitted equipment.

Q75 Neil Parish: Can I just pause you there? Isn’t it in the taxation system-certainly on private cars, I am not sure what it is on lorries-that, if your vehicle is less polluting you pay less road fund tax? Is that not a great enough incentive or can we not do more there? Because it is all very well talking about these things but we need to do it.

Daniel Instone: As you say, apart from the incentive that Low Emission Zones will provide, there are in principle incentives that the taxation system would provide, and I have said that there is already in existence a Reduced Pollution Certificate which encourages cleaner vehicles. Clearly, the extent to which that should be changed or ought to be changed is a matter for the Chancellor, so that is something that we will, no doubt, be engaging in with the Treasury, but the callers of the shots on that will be Treasury Ministers.

Q76 Neil Parish: Thank you. We need to move on, so, to Mr Beard, should Defra be doing more to help councils develop technical fixes such as catalytic coatings to reduce nitric oxide?

Daniel Instone: Do you want to talk a bit about that? That is the issue about, I think, putting particular kinds of coat painting on walls, that kind of thing.

Dr Honour: I can do. I think generally it is up to the local authority to come up with the method they think is most appropriate for their local area. Certainly, not necessarily about this specific issue, we offer guidance and technical support on measures. However, it is down to the local level, I think, for most of these things.

Steven Beard: We are aware of these photocatalytic coatings that have been used apparently with success elsewhere. We understood that there were two studies being carried out by the Highways Agency, one on the Dartford Crossing and one on the M56, I believe. Unfortunately, over recent years the communications have deteriorated between central Government and local government on a lot of these things and we have not been able to get any feedback on the success or otherwise of those.

Q77 Neil Parish: Can you very quickly tell me how this works?

Steven Beard: I am not a technical expert on that. I understand it is a titanium dioxide, which can be applied in paint or embedded in concrete or tarmac or whatever. We have been urging our highways authority to try this in a few areas. It is a potential technical fix, I think, for areas, but there are lots of potential downsides. I think our Highways Agency are reluctant to go down that route because they do not see the proof being out there and it would be an additional cost. I would parallel this with the use of no fines tarmac to reduce noise. A few years ago, we saw big resistance to that. It is now widely accepted and has reduced noise levels. I think that is one way, but we are not the technical experts on that.

Dr Powlesland: Just to comment on that, yes, I believe you are right, it is a titanium dioxide finely divided powder. I think it is important with these additives to make sure that there are not wider environmental impacts. There have been one or two studies that have suggested that they may have impacts on wildlife because of the very small size of the particles that are used. So whilst in one or two places it may not be an issue, of course if they become very widespread, we may be creating a problem elsewhere.

Q78 Mrs Glindon: You have already mentioned working with other Departments about Low Emission Zones. What analysis has Defra done on the costs and risks of introducing a national scheme for Low Emission Zones?

Daniel Instone: I think it is important to note that there is a national and a local dimension to this. As far as a national scheme is concerned, what we are basically talking about is a mechanism which facilitates the ability of local authorities to take decisions on Low Emission Zones. So the kinds of questions we are asking now are: what are the costs of the equipment? What are the administrative costs to Department for Transport agencies like the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency? How far could they be remunerated for any additional fees for enforcement or testing? How easy would it be to pass data so as to have at least some level of enforcement regime; though we would obviously not want this to be over-heavy-handed, it needs to be fit for purpose. Those are the sorts of questions we are looking at at national level and we have, indeed, working very closely with the Department for Transport, assessed those kinds of questions.

Clearly, the other side of this is what would be the implications at the local level, how would they enforce it locally, what would be the economic costs for them? As I alluded to in my earlier remarks, we are funding a whole range of feasibility studies by a number of local authorities to look into the costs and benefits for them. The first studies are well underway; those were started last year. We announced very recently a further range of studies, which have just begun. We will be looking at the results of all those studies at the local level, discussing them in some detail with local authorities over the next few months as they emerge. There are two dimensions to that: making sure we have something that works at the national level which local authorities can use and then making sure that enough local authorities have thought about these, have looked at the pros and cons so that they can, if they wish to, apply such a scheme at local level. So we are actively engaged at both those levels is the answer.

Q79 Mrs Glindon: What would be, do you think, a reasonable timescale for introducing a national LEZ framework?

Daniel Instone: That is something that Ministers are looking at right now, so I cannot give you a definite answer. I would broadly say that we need to move reasonably quickly on this. However, the process of consultation about whether it would be a good idea to have a national framework, if that is what Ministers decide they wish to do-and I stress that is still something they are considering-and then assessing the responses to that would obviously take a bit of time. But in the meantime we hope we can reduce the timescales, as I say, by encouraging local authorities, as we are doing, to think about the implications for them in advance, and they have already started that. So I cannot give you a definite answer about how long it would take. I think it is something that Ministers are going to have to consider, but I obviously hope it will not be too long.

Q80 Barry Gardiner: Dr Honour, can you tell me why, in the Localism Act that was passed last year, the Government decided to give itself a reserve power to pass on the consequences of any European infraction proceedings to poor Mr Beard here, to local authorities? What is it that you are running so scared of?

Daniel Instone: Right, okay, I-

Q81 Barry Gardiner: No, I asked Dr Honour. Mr Instone, you have successfully answered every question and I am determined that somebody else will answer this one.

Daniel Instone: Fine. Who wants to answer it then?

Barry Gardiner: Dr Honour; she is here for the Government.

Dr Honour: I am here, but I am also here as the technical expert rather than someone who has been involved in this, so I would prefer to hand the question over.

Q82 Barry Gardiner: You would pass it over to Mr Instone, okay. Mr Instone?

Daniel Instone: To be fair to you, I am sure Mr Beard would want to comment.

Barry Gardiner: No, no, no, he cannot answer the question because he is the local authority. It is the Government that has to answer this one.

Daniel Instone: Okay, so I have been fingered and not fingered, but I will take up the challenge and give a partial answer to this.

The first point to make is, remember these of course were reserve powers that applied not just on air pollution; it was a much more generic power, but I am sure you are well aware of that. It applied to infraction fines generally, so it is not specifically related to air pollution, although that is part of the equation.

Q83 Barry Gardiner: But air pollution is the only infraction proceeding that we are currently at this advanced stage of getting towards, isn’t it?

Daniel Instone: Well, yes, but-

Barry Gardiner: So it is rather convenient that you passed it just last year.

Daniel Instone: Well, primary legislation does not come along that often on a particular topic. You obviously have to look, in primary legislation, a bit further ahead than the next infraction train coming around the corner, but of course air pollution was one of the things in frame.

In answer to the question why we considered it necessary to have such powers, the first point, as you have already stressed very much yourself, is that these are reserve powers. Secondly, as I have stressed very much, decision-making on air pollution, as, indeed, on many other environmental questions where there is an EU directive involved, is a shared responsibility between central Government and local government. Without that legislation you would have the situation that the only people who took responsibility would be central Government. It is not that central Government does not have responsibility-of course it does-but since it is a shared responsibility it seems reasonable to allow for the possibility of passing on fines when, and I say only when, there is some clear set of actions that local authorities could have decided on but decided not to do. So it is to provide that incentive.

I should just say, finally, we have a precedent in this in relation to the devolved Administrations. The UK is the body that faces Brussels, but clearly the devolved Administrations have a lot of responsibilities. At an administrative level we took very similar powers, but it did not need primary legislation in relation to devolved Administrations.

Q84 Barry Gardiner: But they have reserved powers of their own, so the situation is slightly different. I understand what you are saying about co-operation. Mr Beard?

Steven Beard: Well, obviously, what your point is about is what message that is sending out. I think it will serve to focus councils’ minds again on this issue, which is quite useful. Obviously, there is the local political element in everything councils do and we are under a lot of pressure to find reduced expenditure. I think one area that could suffer is air quality and I think that, in some ways, will help to strengthen the argument for retaining that monitoring and other activity around air quality. So I don’t see it as necessarily a bad thing, because it is a shared responsibility, but I do think in most of this the ability of local councils to effect something given the wider social planning and economic framework is very, very restrictive. So I would not want to see any fines passed down at this time to councils.

Q85 Barry Gardiner: Indeed. Mr Beard, let me ask you this and it may be something that you know from your wider experience than Blaby across local government; if not, perhaps you could provide us with details if you can. Do you know of the impact on monitoring stations across local authorities, what actions local authorities have been taking as a result of reduced funding from central Government in terms of reducing, if they have, the number of monitoring stations across the country?

Steven Beard: I am not aware that there has been any significant reduction in monitoring stations at this time. There are basically two levels of monitoring carried out. There is one with diffusion tubes, which is very cheap and cheerful and there is a much more scientific and exact one through a fully singing and dancing air quality monitoring station. Councils tend to have very few of those, but they move them around to where they think the problems are and I think the problem is not so much with using it; it is more when it comes to the end of its life. These are significant pieces of kit to invest in and I think at that stage we may see an impact.

Q86 Barry Gardiner: Right. What is the natural life of one of these pieces of kit?

Steven Beard: We have had ours about five years and we have had to upgrade them significantly, so I think you are looking at five to 10 years probably.

Q87 Barry Gardiner: Okay, so the impact may be slightly delayed.

Steven Beard: Yes, the impact will be delayed.

Q88 Barry Gardiner: Would it surprise you to hear that there is one London council that has seen a reduction in its air quality monitoring stations from six to three?

Steven Beard: No, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Q89 Dan Rogerson: We have now moved into a period where local authorities are taking responsibility for public health or that infrastructure has been moved within local authorities. Will those responsibilities that have come into the local authority area now help with issues of air quality?

Steven Beard: It is probably too early to say. I sincerely hope it will. The issues for directors of public health are very broad. When we look at this health effect, it is quite hidden. Looking at previous air quality problems, they were very acute episodes where it was very visible; there were instantaneous impacts on public health. With this, we are looking more at life expectancy and things like that, and there are local concerns about asthma levels and this sort of thing, but there is not that direct correlation. At all levels this is about political will and when it comes to making hard choices around where you put money-there is still a huge debate raging about climate change and whether it is a real thing-I think the air quality issues around NO2 are falling very much into that category. It is difficult to get that as a prime ambition on the political spectrum at the present time.

Q90 Dan Rogerson: So how will any improvements in health issues as a result of the improvement in air quality be monitored? What could be in place to look at those issues; where there has not been correlation before what will happen to make that assessment?

Steven Beard: That is a very major problem and it applies across a whole range of council services. We can often see that preventative measures will, further down the track in all sorts of other ways, reduce expenditure, but getting that and feeding the money in to pump prime the prevention work is extremely difficult. We can look at all sorts of areas. I am sure you can think of plenty of examples where that can be the case. I think that is a major challenge for the Government: to look at how it gets that money into the preventative side.

Q91 Dan Rogerson: One of the reasons for moving that kind of thing into the local authority was that you would tie those things up and that you would see a clearer correlation between the two so that there would be more of an incentive to do that sort of thing. Do you think the reforms are likely to lead to that kind of process?

Steven Beard: I think they may. Locally we have seen money moved from the primary care trusts into things like disabled adaptations and I think that is a very positive move if we can build on that. These are new relationships and the potential is there. I think a lot will depend on how things develop in those new relationships.

Q92 Chair: I will turn to our Defra witnesses. First, what is the basis on which the decision was made in the EU Directive on air quality, because if you look at the EU Nitrates Directive there was talk of blue babies and a very, very low bar was used. What was the medical evidence that formed the basis of the EU Air Quality Directive?

Dr Honour: Are you talking specifically about nitrogen dioxide or all of them?

Chair: All of them and, just broadly, nitrogen.

Dr Honour: It is not my particular area of expertise, but the WHO makes recommendations on guidelines for protection of human health and those guidelines have been used as the basis for the standards in the EU.

Q93 Chair: Okay, and do you think that they are achievable, that the medical evidence is accurate?

Daniel Instone: There is always an issue. If we take particulates for example, all the best health evidence says there is no safe level for particulate in terms of health. The problem the previous Directive wrestled with was if that is the case, if it is a spectrum in terms of the health impacts, where do you insert any cut-off point for limits? I think that is a question for the Directive because it becomes a difficult judgmental question where you set the cut-off point. I think that is something we are going to be looking at and scrutinising pretty hard when it comes to the new Directive, depending on what the Commission propose: how they judged where any limit values should be set.

Dr Honour: The other thing about achievability is how you assess. You might have a standard but whether you assess right on the side of a road or whether you assess it slightly further back where people are living makes things more or less achievable. So I think it is not just the standard, it is the whole assessment regime which makes something achievable or not.

Q94 Chair: Okay. In the Defra memorandum to this inquiry you mention, at paragraph 15, that "substantial progress has been made in quantifying and understanding the health impacts of air pollution". You mentioned that for the year 2008 the burden of particulate air pollution in the UK was, in effect, equivalent to about 29,000 deaths. Do we know how those figures are reached? Would you like to just possibly comment on those?

Dr Honour: Yes. They come based on the work of the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants. They are not 29,000 deaths themselves. They are the equivalent of 29,000 deaths, and that is one way that the information can be put across. You can also express it in other ways: as a lost life expectancy from birth of six months. So the 29,000 is if all the impact of air pollution was put on the smallest number of people. Another way of expressing it could be that the entire population suffers a small amount from air pollution. We think it is unlikely that air pollution only affects 29,000 people or that it affects the entire population; some people are more susceptible than others.

Q95 Chair: It is a fairly stark figure; it could be quite worrying for people.

Dr Honour: Yes, and that is why we take this very seriously and Ministers take this very seriously, because clearly it does have a large impact on health.

Q96 Chair: You mentioned, Mr Instone, the work across Government. How is that work progressing and how joined up is the work between your Department, say, and other Departments?

Daniel Instone: I think it is very joined up. Some of this clearly does not go on in the public domain, which is one of the reasons why it is not always easy to get across. I mentioned earlier and I repeat that we have very strong interactions on a daily basis with a whole range of Departments: I mentioned the Department for Transport, for example, on Low Emission Zones and vehicle standards; the Department of Health on the public health outcomes framework. We are very keen to see directors of public health, taking it forward, more engaged in this agenda and we have been working with the Department of Health on that. I mentioned CLG on planning policy. I mentioned the Treasury on taxation. We have a very wide range of interactions and we also bring Departments together periodically so that we have more of a shared understanding of the strategic issues on air pollution.

Q97 Chair: When and where do the Ministers from these Departments meet?

Daniel Instone: They meet in different forums. Where relevant, they will obviously meet in collective Cabinet Committees. They will also meet bilaterally. We have had a lot of bilateral discussions between Defra Ministers and Ministers in other Departments, both at Caroline Spelman’s level and at Lord Taylor’s level on a lot of issues. So pretty well all the issues I have been describing will, at a number of points, have had ministerial involvement.

Q98 Chair: Has either your Department or these Departments collectively assessed whether the total costs of implementing policies to achieve EU air quality standards outweigh the cost of any fines for infringement? Have you done any work in that regard?

Daniel Instone: We have a lot of work on that and we have an economists’ network to help back this up called the Interdepartmental Group on Costs and Benefits. A key part of that Group’s role is to try to agree and, indeed, agree a shared basis for assessing the costs and benefits. That is obviously hugely important not just in assessing the impact of measures that are quite explicitly to achieve air pollution improvements, but also to make sure that when Departments propose measures, which in some cases they do, which might have a deteriorating effect on air pollution, those negative costs to air pollution can be weighed against any other benefits. So it is really important that we have a good shared basis for economic calculation of these costs and benefits. We have been doing a lot of work and working very strongly with other Departments on that.

Q99 Barry Gardiner: Picking up on that, Mr Instone, the Defra Air Quality Strategy in 2007 put those costs, I think, at £20 billion and they compared them with the health impact costs of physical inactivity, which they put at £10.7 billion. So air pollution is costing us almost twice as much. By comparison with inactivity and obesity, which we hear about all the time in the news and from Government, there has been very little by way of any sort of national campaign to alert the public to the dangers of air quality. Given that you yourselves have calculated it as a twice-as-costly problem, why is that?

Daniel Instone: Good question. In broad terms, the order of magnitude of the costs you have given is right. You quoted from the Air Quality Strategy; they have been slightly revised since but they are fundamentally the sort of order of magnitude you have talked about. I absolutely agree-it is particularly important that these high costs are given more weight. I have already said myself that a key part of that is making sure that people in the public health community understand these costs fully and sufficiently prioritise action on this. That is why, as I said earlier, we have been working very closely with the Department of Health to ensure that air pollution is clearly in the tasking framework of directors of public health. I believe there is more that can be done here to ensure that this is given a priority, and it requires action not just at the national level through the public health discussions which we are undertaking. There are at least two other levels, if not more. The second one is the local authority level, because directors of public health have been devolved to the local level, so it is most important, as many authorities are starting to ensure, that local authorities’ Environmental and Public Health Departments work very closely together. Thirdly, as I also alluded to earlier, I think it is most important that businesses put enough weight on understanding these costs, and I completely agree that it would be highly desirable if these costs were better understood by businesses. We have been working with a number of businesses to try to ensure that they understand these costs and give more weight to them.

Q100 Barry Gardiner: But are we going to have a national campaign of public awareness on this issue?

Daniel Instone: We have been discussing how we should approach this. We have to put this in the context of the approach Ministers collectively-obviously it goes well beyond Defra-take to national publicity campaigns. Ministers, you obviously do not need me to tell you, have put some limitations at a much broader level on the scope not just for public health campaigns but publicity campaigns generally.

Q101 Barry Gardiner: We had a quarter of a billion for emptying your dustbin every week. That does not seem like a constraint on the finances available for what was seen by that Department as a serious public health hazard. And yet something that is, by the Government’s own reckoning, costing £20 billion a year has no funding allocated to such a campaign.

Daniel Instone: It is not true to say that there is no funding. We have had a number of examples-

Q102 Barry Gardiner: I said no funding for a national campaign.

Daniel Instone: Yes. We have not got something that you would call a national publicity campaign. That reflects the amount of money available. The other point on this is, you have to be very clear; if you are having a national campaign you have to have some very clear asks. A good example of that is something like the ‘no idling’ campaign that the Mayor has introduced, where you have a very clear ask. So there are a number of factors here: you have to think about the money available, Ministers’ policy generally on national campaigns, how much scope there is for doing it locally. But I think very important is, have you got a clear ask that you are campaigning to aim people to achieve? Not an easy set of issues, I agree, but I am just giving you a flavour of some of the considerations.

Q103 Barry Gardiner: Indeed. Dr Powlesland, have you any views on this?

Dr Powlesland: It would not be for the Environment Agency to undertake such a campaign, but certainly we do work very closely with the local authorities when we are permitting sites and consulting the public on sites that have put in applications for variations or new sites to be built. So we try to engage the public in that decisionmaking, but that is very much at a local level around individual industrial areas.

Q104 Barry Gardiner: If I can just ask you one further question: as the national body responsible for monitoring air pollution do you believe that there are enough monitoring stations to do that job?

Dr Powlesland: I think, with respect, I probably just need to say that we are not responsible for monitoring air pollution; that would be a Defra activity. From time to time we might carry out monitoring around individual sites, but it is very much focused on particular industrial sites, not the wider air pollution monitoring.

Dr Honour: In terms of number of monitoring sites, yes, we are content we have the correct number. That is one of the things that are quite strictly controlled. The Directive sets out exactly how many monitoring sites we are required to have and we meet those requirements, so we feel we have enough monitoring sites to meet the requirements of the Directive. We also have additional monitoring sites for other reasons, for additional information that might help us further to understand air quality chemistry and those kinds of things.

Q105 Barry Gardiner: Could you provide that information explicitly to the Committee?

Dr Honour: Yes, that information is publicly available and we can share that, certainly.

Q106 George Eustice: I am sorry I had to be out for the first part of your evidence, but I think you were in the room earlier when I asked about the Olympics and some of the work that has been done by the London Mayor’s office on that. We heard that if you had bad weather or something or an easterly wind you could get bad air coming in from Europe, which no one can predict, but I wondered what you were doing in this area to basically advise the Olympic authorities if there was a predicted problem with air quality. There is this airTEXT system, for instance, that I have heard about, which you are funding.

Dr Honour: Yes. We are doing a lot of things. We already have a publicly available website which provides information on current concentrations of air pollution and also on forecast information. People can also sign up for email alerts about air quality forecasts. We have also recently introduced a Twitter feed, so again people can receive information on air pollution, current and, again, forecast straight to their phone and things like that. A number of local authorities have airTEXT services, again to alert people if there are air quality moderate or high levels, and again we have helped fund some of that work because we think it is quite an important thing to do.

More specifically, Defra already provide routine air quality forecasts, but for the Olympics period we are doing that on a much more regular basis, providing that to health protection agencies, so we can have the latest most up-to-date information. We have downscaled and made our model more accurate over the London area in particular to make sure we have the best, most up-to-date information we can on current and forecast air pollution.

Q107 George Eustice: How long range can you go? It is a month away; is it still too far away to make any-?

Dr Honour: Five days is probably the most to record it accurately, certainly.

Q108 George Eustice: Is there anything they can do? It is all very well being alerted, but once the Olympics is here you cannot say "let’s move it". What sort of responses can they make? Or is it really for the people who might have health problems?

Dr Honour: In terms of impacting on the air quality concentration itself there is very little we can do. What we do is, along with the information, we also provide health advice for the general population and for susceptible people.

Q109 Chair: I am tempted to ask one last question but we may be interrupted by a vote, in which case we might ask for a written answer, but how will simplifying air quality legislation assist the UK in meeting our EU air quality targets? I think you mentioned this earlier, and it is in your Memorandum.

Dr Honour: Currently we have a very complex system; for a pollutant like particulate matter, a large number of standards apply for different elements of it and it is very hard to communicate that to people. So I think one of the things we are trying to do is very clearly not reduce the level of health protection, but to simplify the regime itself so that we can be clear on what we are trying to achieve, have a smaller number of targets, which achieve the same benefits but are easier to communicate and are administratively less burdensome. That is the intention.

Chair: That brings us to a neat conclusion. There is one other thing we may write to you about, if we may, just to ask for a written answer and there were points raised by other colleagues, but may I take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for participating and being so generous with your time this afternoon?

Prepared 4th July 2012