Yvonne Fovargue MP: Air pollution is our silent crisis
Many constituents contact me about air quality. I share the concern that dangerous and illegal levels of air pollution are impacting the health of millions of people across the country, including those most vulnerable in our communities.
It is people living in the most deprived areas with the most toxic air who suffer disproportionately greater ill health.
As we emerge from the Lockdown, we will begin to see rising levels of pollutants as traffic takes to the road network.
I agree that it is simply the right thing to do to adopt into law enforceable targets as set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to bring air pollution down below harmful levels.
I have consistently supported efforts to include the WHO limits within the current Environment Bill.
At every stage, I have voted to amend the Bill to include a target to meet the WHO guidelines on fine particulate matter by 2030. Disappointingly, however, the Government voted the amendment down.
Air pollution is a silent crisis that has gone on for too long. I do not believe we are seeing the urgency from the Government that this public health emergency demands.
I support a Clean Air Act which would establish a legal right to breathe clean air by ensuring the law on air quality is at least as strict as the WHO guidelines.
In 2016, a report by the Royal College of Physicians found that 40,000 deaths are attributable to air pollution in the UK every year.
I believe inaction on this issue has allowed catastrophic levels of air pollution to build up across the country.
Furthermore, I am concerned that the new environmental watchdog proposed in the Environment Bill lacks independence and that its powers and scope are limited.
Given that the UK Government has been taken to court on multiple occasions for missing air quality targets, it is crucial that the regulator has teeth to make sure that targets are enforced.
We have been living through a period of historically low interest rates, yet an estimated quarter of a million ‘Mortgage Prisoners’ have been stuck on high standard variable rates (SVRs), with little or no ability to switch to the competitive mortgage rates available to others.
As a result, they are left paying thousands of pounds more a year than they otherwise would.
This makes a real difference to people’s finances and, as the UK Mortgage Prisoners campaign has highlighted, can have a significant impact on families and on individuals’ mental health.
I therefore believe the Government must do more to ensure that those who are stuck on high SVRs through no fault of their own can have access to more of the mortgage products available on the market that could make such a difference to their finances and to their lives.
As the Financial Services Bill passed through Parliament there were several attempts to amend it to address the plight of mortgage prisoners.
In January, for example, the House of Commons considered several amendments to the Bill that were tabled with cross-party support, including one new clause that would have capped SVRs charged to mortgage prisoners and another that would have required the consent of consumers before their mortgages could be transferred to a new lender.
The Government rejected these amendments and they were not included in the Bill.
In April, a further attempt to amend the Bill was passed by the House of Lords, and I supported this amendment when the Financial Services Bill returned to the House of Commons. Unfortunately, however, it was voted down by Tory MPs.
I am disappointed that the Financial Services Bill was not able to provide the meaningful progress on this issue that mortgage prisoners need.
I nevertheless believe the case for further action is overwhelming. I will continue to support calls for the Government to do what is needed to help those who through no fault of their own remain stuck on high SVRs.
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