Lord Deben highlights EU air quality collaboration

Former Environment Secretary questions calls for EU exit in light of ongoing efforts to tackle air pollution

A former Environment Secretary has claimed that the UK’s EU membership is important in ongoing work to improve air quality in the UK and on the continent.

Lord Deben

Lord Deben delivered a warning over the UK leaving the EU

Lord Deben, who served as secretary of state for the environment between 1993-1997, made the comments at an awards ceremony for the waste and recycling industry in London yesterday (19 May).

The Conservative peer told the audience that businesses could lose their voice in helping to shaping regulations if the UK opts to leave the EU.

And, the former minister added that much of the work to tackle air pollution is being done collaboratively amongst EU member states, and questioned whether the UK’s withdrawal would be ‘sensible’.

He commented: “I often remind people that half the air pollution we have in Britain blows over from them [Europe] and half the air pollution we produce we blow over to them. The idea that we could deal with air pollution without having common rules on our motor car engines is just not sensible.”


Lord Deben pointed out that the EU had helped to drive improvements in recycling in the UK, which previously had been known as ‘the dirty man of Europe’ due to its poor performance in the field in comparison to its neighbours.

He said: “It was the pressure of the European Union that brought us to the position we are today. We pressurised our colleagues to do other things which we are better at.

“We are better together and the idea to exist separately when we are so close and so many things are inter-related seems to me just barmy. Businesses are not tied to these isles. Businesses are Europe wide. The environment is a matter which can only be dealt with on a European basis.”

Lord Deben was delivering the keynote address at the Awards for Excellence in Recycling and Waste Management, which is hosted by’s sister publication


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