Urgent action on air pollution (Supplementary) [1]

Session date: 
May 18, 2011
Question By: 
Darren Johnson
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Let's try and unpick that. Firstly, the Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) at Marylebone Road shows that it has now reached 38 bad air days, where it has exceeded the European legal limit, so it has gone beyond the 35 limit. Secondly, the European Commission is not accepting your argument that pollution from Europe blowing into central London, missing outer London, is to blame, and the European Commission says you are wrong on that. Thirdly, in terms of the extension, a provisional extension was granted but says,

'Provided that the plan is adjusted to include short-term measures, effective for controlling and, where necessary, suspending activities.'


Answer for Urgent action on air pollution (Supplementary) [1]

Answer for Urgent action on air pollution (Supplementary) [1]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Indeed we have loads of short-term measures, which is why discussion with Brussels has been good. I am not aware, by the way, of their rejection of that argument about the 80% of the particulate matter coming from outside London, but I will certainly look at it.

Darren Johnson (AM): It is strange isn't it, that it manages to get to central London where we have real air pollution problems and misses outer London?!

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Do you want me to finish off the point? The things that we are doing include, as you know, dust suppressants on Marylebone Road, Euston Road, fitting diesel particulate filters on 25 Euro 4 busses on the 344 bus route, which is on Upper Thames Street, a particularly vulnerable area, 25 buses on Park Lane, 26 on the Marylebone Road. We have eco marshals trying to stop taxis idling in an unnecessary way at Kings Cross, St Pancras, Euston and other stations, and a series of other measures which are designed to deal with this hotspot problem. I think that the Commission is showing notable wisdom. Just about every city in Europe has problems of one kind or another. London is tackling them in a very, very vigorous way now after years of apathy on this subject.

Darren Johnson (AM): Instead of just concentrating on these small-scale measures at the edges, have you given serious consideration to the proposal for a very low emission zone in the congestion charging area? You say you are looking at it in your air quality strategy. When are we likely to see some progress from that?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We are looking at that, as I have said. I can see flaws in the idea, but I will be seeing something fairly shortly on that.

Darren Johnson (AM): Why have we had so much delay on this?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): These things take time to analyse. I am not immediately attracted to the idea of setting up another charging zone, or low emission zone within London. We have a low emission zone for the whole of Greater London. We are just about to institute stage three of the low emission zone. I think that the measures we are putting in are very effective. You can tell that the Commission is impressed by that because they have given us this extension.

Darren Johnson (AM): Does it not make sense to have stronger measures where the problem is most acute in central London? Does that not make common sense? That was the view that the Environment Commitment reached cross-party; Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens, all signed up to that approach. Rather than trying to all move at the one speed for the whole of London why not look at additional measures in the centre of London where the problem really is?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): That is exactly what we are doing, we are looking at additional measures in the centre of London that are extremely ambitious that go way beyond anything you encouraged in any previous administration and they go way beyond anything that was done before. We have all sorts of measures to clean up our vehicles and to improve air quality in London. I think it is a testimony to the courage and ambition of what we are doing that the Commission has relented and given us the extension. Londoners are not facing a £300 million fine thanks to the efforts that we are making.

Darren Johnson (AM): I called on the previous Mayor to introduce a low emission zone in the congestion charging zone back in 2001, so I have not just jumped on the bandwagon on this one, Mayor.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As far as I can remember you supported the previous incumbent religiously throughout and what kind of low emission zone did you get?

Darren Johnson (AM): I think if you look at some of the Mayor's Question Time exchanges with the previous Mayor you will find that is not quite true, certainly when it comes to slowing down on air quality measures.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): In that case I apologise.

Darren Johnson (AM): We note your dither and delay on this, as you have on all other air quality measures for the whole time of you mayoralty.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): With respect, what you should note is thanks to the dynamism and action that we have taken we have actually persuaded the European Commission to lift the threat of a £300 million fine. I think that is a very considerable achievement. I am amazed that you do not have the grace, that you are not big enough to stand up and say, 'Yes, these guys produced a plan. They came up with a whole series of initiatives, they went to Brussels, they sold it and they are doing a good job to improve air quality for the sake of all of us'.

Darren Johnson (AM): I want to see you solve the problem of air pollution in this capital, and you have given us no indication so far that you are serious about that as well.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think if you go to Brussels, you talk to the officials of the European Union (EU) they will tell you a very different story.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): There are two members who want to come in on this area of questioning, but I would like the Mayor to give the answer to question 1635/2011, Mr Cleverly's question, so that we can deal with the similar subject, and that is on EU extension on air quality.