Government must back bill to clean up our air

June 20, 2019 1:49 PM

Clean air dayToday, on Clean Air Day, the Liberal Democrats have secured a victory with the Government confirming they are looking at implementing Wera Hobhouse MP's bill, which would strengthen local authority powers on idling and help protect children going to and from schools in the City.

The bill would allow local authorities to increase the fines for stationary vehicle idling offences, as well as increasing fines for those who repeatedly offend. Parents who leave their car engines running near local schools are contributing to high levels of pollutants, as well as wasting fuel.

The Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey, was asked in the House of Commons if the Government would consider implementing the Vehicle Emissions (Idling Penalties) Bill that was presented to the Parliament last week. She said she hoped that the announcement will be made very soon

Cllr Griff Kane, who speaks for the Liberal Democrats in Newcastle on Climate Change, said:

"For far too long this Conservative Government has failed to take air pollution seriously. They have lost numerous court cases over their inability to tackle the toxic fumes that Britain breathes every day. I am delighted that the Government have woken up to the crisis and are looking at my Parliamentary colleague's proposal.

"This is a major emergency, with emissions from vehicles responsible for a myriad of health problems, many terminal. Research shows that 800,000 people die every year across Europe due to air pollution.

"The legislation that the Liberal Democrats tabled is a crucial step in tackling our air pollution crisis. It will allow local authorities to clamp down on idling without the need to apply to the Government first, and it will enable them to increase fines on repeat offenders.

"We've done the first step for them, all the Conservative Government needs to do is back my the bill and we can put an end to idling as soon as possible. It is time the Tories did much more to tackle both the climate emergency and the air pollution crisis."

The Government is threatening to impose clean air zones in Newcastle city centre as the Labour-run Council has failed to take action on air quality. Older vehicles will be charged up to £12.50 a day to enter the zone which would cover the City Centre and some of the Coast Road. An alternative would be to impose tolls on older vehicles crossing the Tyne Bridges.

"We have serious concerns about these proposals," said local Lib Dem campaigner Stephen Howse, "Charging is likely shift traffic from major routes into our residential streets, increasing parking pressures, congestion and local air pollution - which completely defeats the purpose. The Lib Dems have raised air quality with the Council many times over recent years, but the Labour administration took no action."

Newcastle Liberal Democrats have called on the Council to follow the Nottingham approach where the Council was able to avoid imposing charging by publishing radical plans to improve air quality. Engine idling, especially around schools, is increasingly being recognised as a major threat to children's health.

Ouseburn Lib Dems 2019Pictured here are Ouseburn Liberal Democrats Cllr Griff Kane, Steve Psallidas and Stephen Howse on the cycle path they got installed across City Stadium

The title of the Bill is the Vehicle Emissions (Idling Penalties) Bill

A Bill to increase penalties for stationary vehicle idling offences; to grant local authorities increased powers to issue such penalties; and for connected purposes.