Damian Hinds calls for action on air quality

MP calls for action on air quality

This article was written before the election.  References to 'MP' therefore predate the dissolution of Parliament and reflect Damian Hinds's role at that time.

·East Hampshire air quality is generally good, with quality objectives met 

·But air quality can be a problem nationwide, and is responsible for many premature deaths

·Damian Hinds says new legislation must be a “worthy successor to the 1956 Clean Air Act”  


East Hants MP Damian Hinds recently met the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to discuss their research on air pollution. Their findings show how harmful pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) can enter the bloodstream and cause damage to people’s hearts and circulatory system, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.  Estimates vary, but it is widely accepted that air pollution is responsible for thousands of premature deaths each year. 


BHF analysis shows that even in rural areas such as East Hampshire, there can be air quality issues.  Partly this is because it isn’t only the local area that affects our air – any area is affected by transient transport, the wider region and prevailing winds. 


The 2018 statutory Air Quality Annual Status Report shows that: “Air quality within the East Hampshire District is generally good … air quality objectives for all pollutants, but particularly those for nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and particulates (PM10), are likely to be achieved throughout East Hampshire district.”   


BHF’s rankings of parliamentary constituencies place East Hampshire 277th out of a total of 650 (where 1st is the worst).   According to the BHF figures, the average annual concentration of PM2.5 in East Hampshire was 9.01 micrograms/m3 in 2017; this is within World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. 


As Education Secretary, Damian highlighted the issue of engine idling outside school gates.  Stopping this would be, he says, “a small but good start”.  In response to a Parliamentary Question put down by Damian, the Department of Transport has this month confirmed that guidance on enforcement against idling engines is “currently being revised … and will be reissued to Local Authorities in the coming months.” 


More widely, accelerating take-up of electric vehicles would be a “game changer” says the MP.  Sales of electric cars are now increasing rapidly, but from a small base.  Other important initiatives include the focused programmes in key locations including Southampton; and, locally, East Hampshire District Council’s plans to plant 120,000 trees. 


Damian welcomed a recent private member’s bill on Clean Air and hails the emphasis on air quality in the Environment Bill, outlined in the Queen’s Speech. He was also pleased to take part in a Roundtable policy discussion with clinicians and experts, organised by the British Lung Foundation, at the recent party conference.

Damian said: “Nothing is more important than the air that we breathe, but it doesn’t always get the attention it warrants.  Although we locally are within both the EU requirements and the more stringent WHO guidelines, I think many would be surprised to hear that East Hampshire is mid-ranking – that highlights the role of wider effects beyond our immediate area.   


“The new legislation is a generational opportunity to fix this.  Parliament will have the opportunity to debate the policy options in detail.  This must be a worthy successor to the 1956 Clean Air Act that was passed in response to London's Great Smog. 


“But there are things that can be done locally, too.  I really welcome EHDC’s tree-planting initiative, and I’m pleased that there is more awareness now of the effects of engine idling, especially near schools.”