Geraint Davies, MP for Swansea West, challenged David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament today.
Geraint Davies said, “The air in our cities including London is toxic and illegal, with diesel fumes contributing to 800 deaths every week – that’s killing 40,000 a year. So why is the Prime Minister, with the Mayor of London, instead of removing the worst polluting vehicles from our streets, lobbying the EU in Brussels to weaken plans to clean up our air, and save lives?”
The Prime Minister answered, “I want a strong car industry in Britain… we are a major investor and builder of diesel engines.”
Speaking after the debate, Geraint Davies said, “Cameron’s answer was to put diesel car manufacturers before people’s lives. His response to this public health disaster is unacceptable. Instead of taking action to remove the worst polluting vehicles, he has instead lobbied Brussels to weaken our plans to clean up the UK’s air.
“In his answer to my question, Cameron made it clear that his priority is to protect big businesses like Volkswagen, who last year were found guilty of installing defeat devices, which means that more toxic pollutants were on our streets. His Government’s failure is costing 800 lives a week and 40,000 every year.”
Earlier this year, Geraint Davies published his Air Quality Bill, which was unopposed in the Commons and included provisions to properly test vehicles, ban the most polluting vehicles from city centres, and give local authorities greater powers to create pedestrian areas and low emissions zones, and promotes a fiscal strategy, such as old diesel scrappage and LPG taxi conversion schemes.
Geraint Davies said, “My Bill puts forward a range of provisions which would help to mediate this crisis. The Government’s failure to implement these suggestions have led to a legal challenge in the Supreme Court from climate charity Client Earth. The Government’s failure to act is illegal and allowing thousands to die every year. The Government must now act.”
This week, I spoke in the Commons in response to the budget and Iain Duncan Smith's resignation:
"What a shambles from the Wizard of Osborne, with the revelation that the tin man, the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has a heart. I do not really believe it myself—I believe that he [Ian Duncan Smith] is thinking of jobs after Brexit with the Mayor of London."
"Of course, we now have a new Secretary of State, the former Welsh Secretary, who has just done a U-turn on the Wales Bill and has now done a U-turn on disability payments. I never thought that crabs did anything other than move sideways, but there we are. He was cheering away at the Budget a few days ago, but apparently now he does not agree with it."
"As usual, the Wizard of Osborne has blamed Labour, but let us not forget that in the 10 years to 2008 the economy grew under Labour by 40%, some 4% a year, whereas that figure is now about 2%. We left debt as a share of GDP at 55% and it is now 83%. Why is that? Because of economic failure and slow productivity growth. Why is that? Because we have low investment in research and development and in infrastructure compared with the rest of the developed world. In particular, that is focused on London and the south-east and not in the north, in Wales or elsewhere."
"I welcome the reduction in the Severn bridge toll, but that could have been reduced to a quarter of the price to cover operational costs as opposed to half the price, as the Government will continue to make a large margin of profit by basically putting a tax on trade with Wales. I welcome the news that there might be a new city deal for Swansea and the fact that the Chancellor is still trying to support the EU."
"Finally, I should mention the other stealth tax from employers’ contributions on pensions, which is a back-door cut for the Welsh Government that I resist. In a nutshell, this is a sheriff of Nottingham Budget that I resist."
Today my Air Quality in Urban Centres Bill receives its Second Reading. The Bill has the support of MPs from all parties, the British Lung Foundation, the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Last week a report from the Royal Colleges revealed that there are 40,000 premature deaths caused annually by air pollution in the UK.
The Air Quality Bill will save thousands of lives and billions of pounds every year. Our cities are pumping out belches of diesel clouds which threaten the lives of families, in particular young children and unborn babies. The Bill gives local authorities the power to give residents a breath of fresh air by extending low emissions zones, tram systems, pedestrianisation and cycle-lanes, and even to ban the most polluting diesel vehicles from urban centres.
Motor manufacturers like Volkswagen, caught black-handed cheating emissions tests need to clean up their act as the Bill brings in tough new tests on diesel-burning cars.
The future is electric and hydrogen powered transport, and the Government needs to provide a national network to top up both electric and LPG vehicles.
My Bill means that the Environment Agency will be able to step in when a pollution cloud has hit an area, so that windows, doors and even roads can be closed, and if necessary local people evacuated until it is safe to return.
There are already too many children missing school because of asthma attacks, caused by big diesel cars lying idly at their gates. Every parent’s first duty is to their child, and my Bill will protect clean air to ensure healthy and happy families.
In his budget, George Osborne needs to ensure we invest in a greener, cleaner future in our cities, so that our children can have a happier healthier future. My Bill aims to take the ‘die’ and ‘ill’ out of dies-ill.
Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Air pollution causes tens of thousands of early deaths every year, increases the risk of lung cancer and impairs child lung development. Geraint Davies’ Bill further highlights these unacceptable dangers to the nation’s lung health. Immediate action must be taken by the government.”