Leadsom commits to EU air quality limits

Secretary of State for the Environment Andrea Leadsom has confirmed the EU’s Air Quality Directive will be among the legislation transferred into UK law following Brexit.

Giving evidence before the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee yesterday (19 October), Mrs Leadsom said the UK would be “taking on” the existing regulations to limit emissions when it departs the EU.

Andrea Leadsom said EU air quality limits will be transferred into UK law

Andrea Leadsom said EU air quality limits will be transferred into UK law

But, the minister refused to go further by promising a new Clean Air Act for the country, arguing that primary legislation is not needed.

Mrs Leadsom made the commitment while giving evidence into Efra’s inquiry into the work of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs — which the minister has headed up since July.


Committee chair Neil Parish MP asked the minister if there was an opportunity for the UK to enact its own national strategy to deal with air quality now it was set to leave the EU.

He referred to the ‘urgent’ need to tackle air pollution and highlighted the fact that the government had this week been taken to court over its perceived failure to meet existing nitrogen dioxide limits (see story).

Mrs Leadsom said: “I would agree that there is more we want to do on air quality, there’s no question about that. But just to be very clear we will be nationalising all of the EU legislation so taking on all those rules and regulations, and you’re absolutely right we need to look at what more we need to legislate for.”

Clean Air Act

Pressed by committee member Jim Fitzpatrick MP if the Secretary of State said she thought it was time to reform the Clean Air Act 60 years after it was enshrined in legislation, added: “Sometimes primary legislation isn’t the answer and it’s something we’ll continue to look at, but nevertheless we think we are making some very significant strides for delivering better quality air for the people of this country.”

The Secretary of State was also sceptical of the role of diesel scrappage schemes. It was revealed this week that Defra had dropped the recommendation from the final version of its Air Quality Plan.

The first Clean Air Act was enacted in response to London's Great Smog of 1952

The first Clean Air Act was enacted in response to London’s Great Smog of 1952

Mrs Leadsom said she “totally symapthised” but added the “evidence isn’t there that they [scrappage schemes] deal with the air problem because you can’t [see the effects of] those cars being driven”.


Mr Fitzpatrick also asked whether Defra parliamentary secretary Therese Coffey would be taking a leading role to improve air quality as part of her brief.

He recommended designating the minister to “link up” with the Department of Health as part of a joint initiative to raise awareness of the problem and save the government money.

Mrs Leadsom replied: “Therese will be getting involved in some meetings but we work very closely on the issue of air quality.”


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