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Government being ‘counterproductive' over Clean Air Bill, says MP

A cross-party group of parliamentarians including Caroline Lucas and Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah handed in a letter urging the Prime Minister to support the Clean Air Bill (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Danny Halpin, PA Environment Correspondent

The Government is being “counterproductive” by not passing a Bill that would compel ministers to maintain good air quality, a Green MP has said.

Caroline Lucas and Baroness Jenny Jones are pushing for the Clean Air Bill, also known as Ella's Law, to receive royal assent.

If passed, it would give the UK Health Security Agency enhanced powers to review pollutants and their limits and would establish a Citizens' Commission for Clean Air that could institute legal proceedings.

It has been called Ella's Law after Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who died aged nine from an asthma attack brought on by traffic fumes.

Since her daughter's death, Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah has campaigned for cleaner air in London and other cities.

She believes that passing Ella's Law would raise more awareness about the ill effects of air pollution and save more lives.

Speaking to the PA news agency outside Parliament, Ms Lucas said: “A cross-party group have signed a letter calling on Rishi Sunak to meet with us and crucially to meet with Rosamund to talk about the need for more ambitions when it comes to air pollution targets.

“This is the Bill that would make the right to clean air a human right. Sadly, the Government isn't giving it parliamentary time. So we're not going to reach it today.

“But in spite of that, I think our message is loud and clear that this is a massively urgent issue.

“More and more evidence is coming out by the day about the health impacts of air pollution. The public are deeply concerned and it's about time the Prime Minister was as well.”

Public Health England has estimated that up to 43,000 people a year are dying in the UK because of air pollution and that it could cost the country as much as £18.6 billion by 2035 unless action is taken.

The main pollutants of concern are particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and ground-level ozone, all of which come from vehicle exhaust pipes.

Government assessments also suggest that removing all fine particulate air pollution would have a bigger impact on life expectancy in England and Wales than eliminating passive smoking or road traffic accidents.

On the 10th anniversary of Ella's death last week, London mayor Sadiq Khan reaffirmed his intention to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone to encompass outer London.

Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said: “The challenge for me is for Rebecca Pow, as the air policy minister, to get hold of this Bill.

“She said to me I don't need to convince her about the health argument anymore. The evidence is overwhelming. So now she also needs to help me out.

“And also we need to educate the public. If you say to most people do you know about air pollution, they will say yes. Do you know about the impacts on health? I think most people will say no.

“So there is a lot of work and this is just delaying tactics. We will have to get there. All this means is more people are going to die unless we do something about it.”

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