Government ministers giving evidence to a major inquiry on air pollution in Britain today put in a shambolic performance and did not appear to know the answers to straightforward questions about the cost of the country’s toxic air crisis.
Four ministers from Defra, the Treasury, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the DfT appeared before the joint ‘super’ inquiry on air quality, which includes MPs from four of the House of Commons’ Select Committees.
None of them could give a solid figure of how much the government had spent to tackle air pollution and there were similar blank faces when the committee asked how much air pollution cost the Exchequer.
ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: “This morning’s appearance from ministers before the inquiry shows what utter disarray the government is in over Britain’s toxic air. Nobody seemed to know who was responsible, how much things would cost or how long things would take.
“There is chaos in government over this issue, despite seven years of illegal air pollution and ministers twice being ordered by our courts to deal with our toxic air crisis. We need to get the dirtiest vehicles out of the most polluted areas of our towns and cities. We need a national network of clean air zones as the cornerstone of a comprehensive clean air strategy and for the government to stop passing the buck.
“Sadly, that was not in evidence today and another example of why we have been forced to take the government back to court.”
ClientEarth announced this month that it had applied to take the government back to court for a third time over the UK’s toxic air. A stunning 37 out of 43 ‘zones and agglomerations suffer illegal and harmful levels of air pollution.
ClientEarth has twice forced ministers to produce new plans to tackle the problem through legal actions, with rulings from the Supreme Court in 2015 and from the High Court in 2016.