Saturday 3 March 2018 / 12:04 PM air quality / Environment / Sue Hayman

The majority of older people across England are living in areas breaching air quality limits

New Labour analysis of figures obtained from the House of Commons Library reveals the numbers of older people living in areas with illegal levels of air pollution across England. The analysis reveals that:

  • Over 7 million older people aged 60 and over lived in areas which breached legal pollution limits in 2015, including:

o   3.7 million people aged 70 and over

o   1.45 million people aged 80 and over

o   257,000 people aged 90 and over

  • In total, 56 per cent of all people aged 60 and over in England lived in an area which breached air quality limits for nitrogen dioxide in 2015.
  • Outside of London; Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest percentage of people aged 60 and over living in areas breaching air quality standards (79 per cent) followed by the North East (72 per cent), North West (67 per cent) and the West Midlands (62 per cent)

These findings show the number of people aged over 60 living in areas breaching pollution limits in 2015. The findings follow previous Labour analysis which has shown that more than 38 million people across the UK in 2015 lived in areas where air quality breached legal limits [i] including over 8.3 million under 18s [ii].

As it stands there is no body which would enforce existing rules on air quality limits once the UK leaves the EU, a role currently filled by the European Commission. The Environment secretary has promised only to ‘consult’ on a new body.[iii]

The Government’s air quality plans were recently found to be unlawful for the third time in the domestic courts. This is fourth time that the Government has been defeated on matters relating to air quality in the UK courts.[iv]

Labour has promised to introduce a new Clean Air Act to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.

Sue Hayman MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, said:

“It cannot be right that the majority of older people live in areas with illegally poor and polluted air.

“Despite losing repeatedly in the courts on this issue, spending taxpayers’ money whilst doing so, the Government has completely failed to act on air pollution.

“Labour has promised a new Clear Air Act to get a grip on this escalating public health emergency.”

Ends

Notes to editors

Regional Analysis

  • Outside of London; Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest percentage of people aged 60 and over living in areas breaching air quality standards (79 per cent) followed by the North East (72 per cent), North West (67 per cent) and the West Midlands (62 per cent).
  • Outside of London the highest number of people aged 60 breaching air quality limits and over was in the North West (1.13 million), followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (996,000), the West Midlands (836,000) and the South East (817,000).
  • The East of England (26 per cent) had the lowest percentage of people aged 60 and over living in areas breaching limits a total of just under 395,000 people.
  • In London alone 1.35 million people aged 60 and over lived in areas breaching pollution limits including 691,000 aged 70 and over and 276,000 aged 80 and over.

Tory failure has left us with dirty air that continues to breach legal limits

  • The Tories promised to be the “greenest government ever”[v]. But despite their pledge they have failed to take sufficient action to tackle bad air. Air remains at illegal levels in 37 out of 43 monitoring zones across the United Kingdom.[vi]
  • The Tories have lost four times in domestic courts since 2015 over their failure to tackle illegal levels of pollution and have spent over £300,000 in the courts defending plans which were ruled unlawful [vii],[viii]. One of these defeats forced the Government to publish its plans after it tried to delay publication until after the General Election.[ix]
  • It was announced in November that Client Earth, the group which has took the Government to court and won previously, was to launch further action against the Government’s plans[x]arguments were heard in the High Court on 25January 2018.[xi] The Government’s plans were found to be unlawful on 21 February 2018.[xii]
  • During the General Election campaign the Tories attempted to use purdah as an excuse not to publish their air quality plan but this was defeated in the High Court with the judge ruling that “The continued failure of the government to comply with directives and regulations constitutes a significant threat to public health.”[xiii]
  • In recent votes in the House of Commons the Government voted against Labour amendments which would have seen existing EU environmental protections maintained. [xiv],[xv]
  • Air pollution is associated with 40,000 premature deaths each year and is estimated to cost the economy £20 billion each year [xvi]
  • Labour figures obtained from the House of Commons Library have previously shown that more than 38 million people live in areas where air quality breaches legal limits[xvii]including over 8.3 million under 18s[xviii].

[i] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/22/nearly-40-million-people-live-in-uk-areas-with-illegal-air-pollution

[ii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/26/millions-british-children-living-areas-illegal-harmful-air-quality/

[iii] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/environment-secretary-sets-out-plans-to-enhance-environmental-standards

[iv] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43141467

[v] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/may/14/cameron-wants-greenest-government-ever

[vi] https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/library/no2ten/

[vii] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-39737981

[viii] http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2017-06-26/1033/

[ix] https://www.ft.com/content/ed1cfb78-2b3b-11e7-bc4b-5528796fe35c

[x] https://www.clientearth.org/clientearth-launches-new-air-pollution-legal-action/

[xi] https://www.clientearth.org/uk-government-back-court-face-third-air-pollution-challenge-clientearth/

[xii] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43141467

[xiii] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/27/air-pollution-plan-election-campaign-bomb-court-government

[xiv] http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2017-  11-15&number=41

[xv] http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2017-   11-15&number=39

[xvi] https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution

[xvii] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/22/nearly-40-million-people-live-in-uk-areas-with-illegal-air-pollution

[xviii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/26/millions-british-children-living-areas-illegal-harmful-air-quality/