John McDonnell MP
I want to speak briefly in support of amendments 2 and 25 and new clause 6, all of which seek to tackle the health crisis caused by the current levels of air pollution. For my constituents living in a permanent air pollution blizzard, surrounded by Heathrow airport, the M4, the M25, the Uxbridge Road and the A40, this is literally a matter of life and death, and we have the threat of a third runway making matters worse.
The air pollution levels in my area are among the worst in the country and consistently above levels that are considered safe. The result is, of course, high levels of respiratory disease. At one stage, this reached such epidemic levels that I recall special arrangements having to be introduced in one of our primary schools for pupils to hand in their inhalers as they arrived in class, and courses were introduced for teachers across our borough in how to deal with asthmatic attacks and respiratory problems in pupils. But we know so much more now in my community about the impact of air pollution. It is not just about respiratory problems; it is the cause of heart disease among many of us, as well as cancers and, tragically for our children, even the risk of impeding their physical development.
The modest amendments that we propose today simply enhance our ability to tackle the air pollution epidemic. They set realistic targets. They require Government Departments to work together and they ensure through regular reports to Parliament that we can monitor their implementation. They also inject a sense of urgency into a programme of action to overcome the mounting threat of air pollution. The air my constituents breathe every day is poisoned by air pollution. It is killing us. Knowing as we do the tragic health impacts of air pollution, we have a responsibility to legislate to protect not only my constituents but communities across the country. That is what these amendments can assist us in doing.
Failure to act decisively now will render the Government and Parliament culpable of an appalling dereliction of duty, and future generations will simply fail to comprehend why we did not take the necessary action in this legislation. I urge Ministers to work with us on this and to accept the amendments and the new clause. Let us tackle this ongoing, life-threatening hazard once and for all. We desperately need this legislation to be effective this time round. It has already been delayed. We cannot wait any longer. Too many people are suffering ill-health and risking their lives. The covid pandemic has made them even more vulnerable. That is why there has to be a sense of urgency about passing this legislation, but ensuring it is complete and comprehensive so that this opportunity is not wasted.