Lib Dems table legislation to tackle air pollution crisis

Air pollution is a big deal in Braunton, North Devon, where a traffic bottleneck (the only way to get to one of the country’s most beautiful beaches) causes terrible air quality problems. So I was pleased to see that today we are tabling legislation to tackle one aspect of air pollution.

Today is World Environment Day, a UN sponsored day where communities around the world are encouraged to #BeatAirPollution. The campaign is drawing attention to all types of air pollution, including household and industrial forms of pollution, air pollution as a result of agriculture practices and waste disposal, and transport pollution.

Wera Hobhouse MP, our Liberal Democrat Climate Change, is tabling a bill to give local authorities more powers to issue fines to idling vehicles. The Vehicle Emissions (Idling Penalties) Bill is a bill

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

Wera says,

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. Liberal Democrats demand better.

This is a major crisis, 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 I have tabled is 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.

It is true that far more must be done to tackle the climate emergency our world faces and the air pollution crisis. I welcome this legislation as one step towards our goal of clean air for all to breathe.

* Kirsten Johnson was the PPC for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election. She is a pianist and composer at

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  • Braunton, North Devon, where a traffic bottleneck (the only way to get to one of the country’s most beautiful beaches) causes terrible air quality problems.
    Whilst I appreciate there are problems with popular beaches, I suspect a major part of the problem is down to the local councils not properly managing access to the beach, perhaps they need to visit Cornwall and take a look at places like Lands End, Porthcurno and the Lizard.

    Also if the beach is that busy then it is probably time to put out a contract for a park-and-ride to operate in peak season.

    Perhaps also it is time to start installing air quality monitors and displays – along the lines of the displays intended to encourage drivers to slow down by showing their speed. Remember part of the problem with modern air pollution is that it is largely invisible, so we need to find ways of making it visible then more people will protest.

  • When walking from York Railway Station to Spring Conference I walked down Rougier Street (a major bus stop site). On the posts by the bus stops were signs saying that buses must not idle their engines – every single bus was ignoring it.
    Ideas like this are great but they must be enforced. The police don’t enforce the no smoking in cars with young people inside they are unlikely to enforce this either.
    We also have to accept that gas central heating is as big a culprit as vehicle emissions (for NOx at least – and probably particulates too) and many ‘balanced flue’ installations are at pavement height.
    Diesels are often picked on for particulates, but for almost 15 years (EURO IV), diesel vehicles have been fitted with diesel particulate filters (DPF) which remove all the soot particles. There is a underground trade of organisations who will remove DPFs from these vehicles. These, and the drivers who use them, should be prosecuted.

  • Nonconformistradical 6th Jun '19 - 9:10am

    “for almost 15 years (EURO IV), diesel vehicles have been fitted with diesel particulate filters (DPF) which remove all the soot particles.”

    They only became mandatory with the EURO V standards not EURO IV but it was around 2009.

    As I understand the current MOT test checks that the DPF has not been tampered with and removing the DPF from a vehicle which should have one is now an MOT failure point. Quite right too.

    However there can be problems, especially with earlier DPFs, if they are not kept clean. Older ones need passive regeneration -they need appropriate use involving driving at a reasonable speed on open roads. So such a DPF in a vehicle which spends most of its driven time at relatively low speeds in urban areas might not be cleaned properly. More modern DPFs need active regeneration which can be initiated by the engine control system but might not be completed on short journeys.

  • Michael Kilpatrick Michael Kilpatrick 7th Jun '19 - 11:17am

    Why the blazes isn’t there a link to the full text of the Bill so that we can see all the details? It’s infuriating being given only a vague summary of a Bill which appears to be a direct result of a Policy Motion debated at our Conference, especially to those who were contributing to the amendments which were also passed.

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