Air Pollution

MQT on 2012-03-14
Session date: 
March 14, 2012
Question By: 
Murad Qureshi
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How many people died in London last year as a result of air pollution?

Supplementary Questions: 


Answer for Air Pollution

Answer for Air Pollution

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Thank you very much, Murad, and you have followed this a long time and you have said some highly critical things and it is true the number of deaths, our studies show the number of deaths that could, in theory, be attributed to poor air quality, are about 4,200. Those are the most recent figures we have available. That is why we have done all the things we have done over the last four years to try to improve air quality, including taking tough decisions on the emissions' zone, new taxes, the cleaner bus we have discussed at length and improving London's housing stock, investing in retro fitting in order to reduce NOx and other emissions. All I can say to you is I am grateful for the energy and effort you put in this but the work goes on.

Murad Qureshi (AM): Thank you, Mr Mayor, for getting the maths test right but that is actually about 12,000 premature deaths over the whole term if you take the average figure of just over 4,000 and what does that mean? That is life expectancy for those Londoners who have been affected, being lost of up to 11 years, it has exacerbated people's respiratory and heart conditions and it has also affected the lung development of many young Londoners. We have also had further reports from the House of Commons, the Environment Audit Committee, where they have suggested it is the second biggest public health risk after smoking and they linked one in five deaths in London to poor air quality. Given in your 2008 manifesto you stated that 1,000 deaths a year was caused by poor air quality and that you are passionately committed to improving London's air quality, have you not failed to deliver on your promise?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No, I do not think so because this is something we have taken deeply seriously and we have taken some tough decisions on. There was not, as far as I am aware, any age limit for taxes before we got in. We have a lot of negotiation with the taxi trade; we put that in. It has meant some older vehicles of taxi drivers, who were sole operators, hardworking people, have had to find new vehicles. That was a very tough thing to ask. As you know, we are going ahead with a very, very, clean new bus for London and as well, we are going ahead with all the things we get slightly ridiculed for by Jenny and others; suppressing dust at some of the hot spots, trying to improve the quality of the air in a very, very dedicated way and we are going to continue to do that. The vision is very simple. In our lifetimes, and I am absolutely certain, we will have, in our City, the overwhelming majority of vehicles will be zero tailpipe emissions and we will have wonderful air quality in London. That is what we are working for. That is why we keep going. You made a point last time about the electric vehicles but we are going to keep going with that programme so that yes, we do improve air quality all round. What you cannot do is click your fingers and magic into being tens of millions of electric vehicles on the streets of London overnight.

Murad Qureshi (AM): As I have said before, Mr Mayor, at the current rate, that is going to take many centuries but that is not what I wanted to emphasise. The truth is, during your present term, you began by cancelling the six-month inspections of black cabs and had to do a u-turn on that. You delayed the rollout of the low emission zone phase 3 and more recently, you concentrated on short-term measures like the dust suppressants and actually, people along the Mulligan Road have yet to see one. The idling engines was a publicity stunt because we have not seen any enforcement of that and yes, we welcomed green walls but I do not think one on the Edger Road Tube Station is going to be enough. Anyway, that is all aimed at avoiding being fined by the European Union.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): But that is not a bad idea.

Murad Qureshi (AM): At the same time, the problem has shifted to the suburbs and you have not touched Heathrow. Is it not clear that you do not actually take this really too seriously and you have wasted four years to make any real improvements Londoners need?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am interested there in what you say about we have not touched Heathrow.

Murad Qureshi (AM): There is a report, so you can see that.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): If you are saying it is your party's policy to close Heathrow down or to reduce what goes on at Heathrow, I would be interested to know that. There are many tens of thousands of jobs that depend on Heathrow. If that is the new Labour line, then we need to know that.

Murad Qureshi (AM): I am not suggesting that at all.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Is that the new policy?

Murad Qureshi (AM): No, it is not at all.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): So when say 'have not touched Heathrow', what would you need us to do at Heathrow?

Murad Qureshi (AM): Improve public service access to transport. I have been told to end it there.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You would like us to reduce traffic to Heathrow, to reduce Heathrow's capacity to operate without an alternative solution for London.

Murad Qureshi (AM): You are putting words in my mouth.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am not certain what the proposal is for Heathrow. What we are doing is introducing cleaner, greener vehicles wherever we can and, as you know, we collectively stopped the third runway from going ahead and I think that was the right thing for London, but what is certainly not envisaged is any further reduction at Heathrow, but if that is what you are suggesting, then I am interested to hear it.