A minister has insisted that Heathrow’s third runway can be built without air quality getting worse in the capital.
Environment Minister Therese Coffey made the claim to MPs who lined up in the Commons to protest against London’s toxic air.
Twickenham Tory MP Tania Mathias said Heathrow expansion should be abandoned following the Government’s defeat in a court ruling this week, when judges ruled that current air quality improvement plans were not good enough.
How can the Government support more pollution that would come from a third runway at Heathrow? she demanded.
Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton & Wallington called for action now to improve the appalling air quality around Heathrow and said the third runway should be halted unless air pollution can be contained within the legal limits.
But Dr Coffey insisted a third runway could be built without it having an impact on the UK’s compliance with air quality limit values.
She went on: Policies at national, London and local level will help to ensure that the scheme can be delivered in line with our legal obligations in respect of air quality.”
MPs from all sides protested that Londoners were being subjected to dirty air that already breaches EU limits.
Enfield North MP Joan Ryan said: We have had nothing to stop the fact that we have kiddies in pushchairs sucking in this poisonous NOx.
She complained that so many dirty diesels chugged down her streets they felt like an extension of the M25 and lambasted the minister for failing to explain how air quality would be improved more quickly.
Tory Mark Field, MP for Cities of London & Westminster, said London’s pollution levels were a deplorable state of affairs and called for tax breaks to diesel drivers to be abolished.
My constituents have had enough of the current appalling state of air quality, he said. We need to ensure that the perverse incentives for diesel are stopped in their tracks.
Helen Hayes. Labour MP for Dulwich & West Norwood, urged a scrappage scheme to persuade drivers to trade in their diesel models for new cars.
Dr Coffey blamed the high levels of pollutants on the scandal of diesel vehicles whose emissions tests were rigged to make them seem cleaner in lab conditions than they really were on the streets.
“If we go back in history, fiscal incentives were introduced by a Labour government which encouraged people to move to diesel, she said.