Baroness Jenny Jones (Green Party) ‘introduced’ the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill to the House of Lords on 5 July 2018 i.e. the 62nd anniversary of the first Clean Air Act receiving Royal Assent and the National Health Service’s 70th birthday. The full legal text was published online on 6 July 2018.
The ‘first reading’ is the first stage of a bill’s passage through the House of Lords – it is usually a formality and takes place without a debate. The ‘long title’ (indicating the content of the bill) is read out by the member of the Lords in charge of the bill.
The ‘long title’ (which was read in full in the House of Lords by Baroness Jones on 5 July 2018) is:
A Bill to establish the right to breathe clean air; to require the Secretary of State to achieve and maintain clean air in England and Wales; to involve Public Health England in setting and reviewing pollutants and their limits; to enhance the powers, duties and functions of the Environment Agency, the Committee on Climate Change, local authorities (including port authorities), the Civil Aviation Authority, Highways England, Historic England and Natural England in relation to air pollution; to establish the Citizens’ Commission for Clean Air with powers to institute or intervene in legal proceedings; to require the Secretary of State and the relevant national authorities to apply environmental principles in carrying out their duties under this Act and the clean air enactments; and for connected purposes.
The first reading of the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill was unusual because it ‘introduced’ 30 pages of proposed legislation that could be adopted in full immediately to address air pollution outdoors and indoors, local pollution and greenhouses gases and protect health and the envrionment. It has taken nearly a year to prepare. In other cases, the first reading ‘introduces’ only a short description of a bill or the bill itself is short with limited or specific aims.
This Bill would deliver the top ‘ask’ of the Super-Inquiry by four Select Committees titled ‘Improving air quality’. That report called for “A new Clean Air Act to improve existing legislation and enshrine the [human] right to clean air in UK law.”
It also sets a benchmark for other environmental legislation.
Full legal text of the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill i.e. 30 pages of legalisation in ‘ready to adopt’ form:
Section 18 of the Bill states:
“This Act may be cited as the Clean Air (Human Rights) Act 2018.”
Baroness Jones said:
“Local people and communities around the country would be able to take legal action to defend their right to clean air if the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill, introduced today, became law. This week’s air pollution episode throughout England and Wales illustrates how widespread the legal actions could become, as people seek to get corporations to change their behaviour and to force councils and government bodies to reduce pollution.
“A Citizens Commission would be set up as part of the Clean Air Bill to help parents and others take action. Yesterday, the BBC reported that a 9 year old girl’s fatal asthma attack has been linked to illegally high levels of air pollution. The Attorney General is looking at the case, as this is the first time that an individual death has been attributed to breathing bad air.
“Given the premature deaths from air pollution and the complacency of successive governments, I think that making clean air a human right is the quickest way of getting the problem sorted. I think that giving parents and communities the ability to take legal action would focus the minds of the car manufacturers, the civil servants and local authorities. We should all enjoy clean air even when we are working in a busy city or living under an airport flight path.
“This is detailed legislation that is ready to go, and I would be more than happy for the government to adopt the Bill wholesale.
“I want to thank Simon Birkett of Clean Air in London for his help with making this Bill a reality and also Kate Harrison, of Harrison Grant Solicitors, for helping to draft this legislation.”
Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, said:
“Clean Air in London (CAL) congratulates Baroness Jones on ‘introducing’ her Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill as a Private Members bill in the House of Lords on 62nd anniversary of the first Clean Air Act.
“Baroness Jones’ Bill would enshrine the right to clean air in UK law across all forms of air pollution: indoor and outdoor; health and the environment; and, for the first time, require joined up thinking on climate change and local air pollution. It proposes a ‘top-down’ approach that would be based on the highest global standards and the best available science.
“It was thrilling to sit as a visitor in the House of Lords Chamber while Baroness Jones ‘introduced’ her Bill. By introducing 30 pages of fully detailed legislation, the ‘long title’ summarising the Bill took longer to read aloud than most speeches allowed in the House of Lords. That got a wonderful reception as Peers realised the opportunity being enjoyed by Baroness Jones and laughed in admiration at the denouement “…and for connected purposes”!
“Baroness Jones’ Bill is entirely complementary to the excellent Clean Air Bill proposed by Geraint Davies MP, which is powerfully ‘bottom up’ by focussing on specific solutions to specific problems.
“Last but not least, the proposed ‘Clean Air (Human Rights) Act 2018’ offers a model for similar legislation in other countries, regions and the United Nations.”
Other links and resources
1. Parliament’s Bill and Legislation website with details of the Bill including timings
2. Baroness Jones’ media release
3. Clean Air Bill proposed also by Geraint Davies MP (Labour Party):
Previously introduced text:
4. Joint Select Committee Inquiry into ‘Improving air quality’
5. Formal stages in the progress of UK legislation:
6. Examples of other private members bills
Posted on this webpage before 5 July 2018:
‘Clean Air in London’ has worked closely with Baroness Jenny Jones (Green) and others to embed a ‘human right to clean air’ in a draft new Clean Air Bill 2018 that could be approved by Parliament now. Read it here:
- Clean air is a human right.
- The inclusion of air quality and greenhouse gases, outside and inside. So-called ‘One atmosphere’.
- The opportunity for devolved administrations to be involved or not
- Duties/responsibilities and powers/authority passed down from the Secretary of State (SoS) to the Environment Agency (EA), local authorities and others
- EA and Climate Change Committee to undertake reviews and advise on new standards to protect health and the environment.
- Powers in a long list of ‘clean air enactments’ must be used.
- Government required to pass resources to the EA, local authorities and others to fulfil their duties.
- Establishment of the Citizens’ Commission for Clean Air with enforcement powers. Penalties (eg fines) for companies and polluters and court orders for the SoS and government entities etc.
- Updating the current Clean Air Act e.g. to make it easier to stop illegal wood burning in Smoke Control Areas.
- Confirms the environmental provisions of prevention, precaution, “polluter pays” and sustainable development
In a sense, the CAL proposal is ‘top down’ (clean air as a human right with requirements, principles and mechanisms defined and passed down) and Geraint Davies’ excellent draft Clean Air Bill is ‘bottom up’ e.g. clear actions on specific sources of pollution and specific solutions. The approaches are complementary, both address important issues, and lend themselves to being merged (or enacted separately).
Baroness Jenny Jones said:
“I’m very excited by the idea of the Clean Air Bill making the right to healthy air a human right. We should all enjoy clean air even when we are working in a busy city, or living under an airport flight path. I hope that people will add their ideas to this Bill and support my attempt to push the Government into action. There are big debates coming up this year as we need to replace the European environmental safeguards with tough UK laws and enforcement. I think this Bill contains some key proposals which could make us world leader for environmental regulation.”
Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, said:
“The City of London Corporation created the first Clean Air Act in 1954. It was followed by the first national Clean Air Act on 5 July 1956. These pieces of legislation made the UK a world leader in environmental action for more than 15 years.
“Much has changed since the 1950s. Instead of being worried about about respiratory effects for the elderly from short-term exposure to visible coal and wood burning during the Great Smog of December 1952, scientists are warning now that everyone is affected by short and long-term exposure to air pollution to some extent with these exposures causing a wide range of health effects. Climate change is also a humanity-threatening prospect.
“Many people are calling therefore for a new Clean Air Act that will update legislation for modern fuels and technologies and address the need to reduce harmful air emissions to zero to protect human health and the environment. In Parliament, Geraint Davies MP (Labour) has championed the idea of a new Clean Air Bill in Private Members bills on a number of occasions. He has also been highly successful in building cross-party political support for it.
“Clean Air in London (CAL) is pleased therefore to have worked with Baroness Jenny Jones (Green) and others to produce a complementary draft Clean Air Bill that would establish ‘clean air’ as a fundamental human right in law and propose wide ranging principles and detailed legislative provisions. This draft Clean Air Bill builds on Geraint Davies’ excellent work, is complementary to it and could be implemented in parallel or merged with it to produce new legislation now.
“CAL is also pleased to have been advised by Kate Harrison, of Harrison Grant, on the draft Bill. However, all content, errors or omissions are entirely the responsibility of Clean Air in London.
“It is a daunting task to try to address air quality (indoors and outside), climate change, health and the environment in the first draft of a Bill. So Baroness Jones is seeking comments on this draft Clean Air Bill 2018 with a view to presenting it, or something similar, as a Private Members Bill in early 2018. Please therefore email comments on the draft Clean Air Bill 2018 or support to Baroness Jones by 28 February 2018*. CAL hopes this draft Clean Air Bill 2018 will be supported by devolved administrations, the Mayor of London, the City of London Corporation and all political parties and improved by them.
“Most important, we need continuity and tightening of health, legal and environmental protections.”
*Please email comments on the draft Clean Air Bill 2018 or support to: [email protected].
1. Clean Air in London’s submission to Joint Select Committee inquiry into ‘Improving air quality’.
2. Geraint Davies’ Clean Air Bill
3. Joint inquiry on ‘Improving air quality’ and Mayor of London’s evidence
Mayor of London’s evidence to EFRACOM on 23 November 2017 (see Question 56)
2. Healthy Air Campaign call for a new Clean Air Act
3. Defra’s work on a new Clean Air Act since 2011
4. Previous CAL articles
Red Tape Challenge (21 September 2011)
What is the Clean Air Act? (2 February 2012)
Response to Call for evidence – Review of Clean Air Act (29 October 2013)
5. Manifesto commitments on clear air 2017
Conservatives 2017 (page 40)
Green Party 2017 (page 3)
Labour Party 2017 (page 93)
Liberal Democrats 2017
Scottish National Party 2017
6. Pollution levels e.g. nitrogen dioxide
7. Pollution sources e.g. wood burning and tube dust
8. Pollution health
9. NECD and Gothenburg Protocol
Defra media release on 21 May 2018:
Essentially, the European Commission’s ‘Year of Air’ concluded (December 2013) with its ‘Clean Air Package’ proposals to enforce AQ laws by 2020 (concentrations) and reduce emissions with an updated National Emissions Ceilings Directive. The latter followed more or less the existing Gothenburg limits for 2020 and set new limits for 2030. Some minor amendments from the NECD were then included back in the Gothenburg Protocol.
Here’s EEB’s analysis and another very good briefing:
…and original information here from the European Commission:
The UK is already signed up to the NECD (by EU law) and directly or indirectly to the Gothenburg limits. Hence, no change.
Table 9-1 on page 246 of Defra’s report (attached) shows it expects to breach the Gothenburg limits for ammonia (farming), NOx (traffic) and particles (wood burning) in 2020 and do worse in 2030