Government Guilty of Indefensible use of Tax-payer Money in Air Pollution Battle

Publication Date: 24th October 2017

Subject: Public health

Following the news that the Government has spent £370,000 of taxpayers’ money unsuccessfully fighting court claims that its plans to tackle air pollution were illegally poor, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has joined voices calling their actions indefensible.

Client Earth, a group of environmental lawyers, successfully took the Government to court on two separate occasions arguing that their plans to reduce nitrogen oxide pollution were wholly inadequate and contravened EU regulation. Client Earth were successful in both cases.

Nitrogen dioxide pollution has been illegally high in most urban parts of Britain since 2010, with the UK now standing on the edge of a public health emergency in respect of air quality.

Despite this the Government’s response to date has fallen short, with vital issues remaining dangerously unresolved.

Factoring in Brexit, there are serious concerns about what standards the UK will operate to once it has left the European Union. The CIEH has said that any dilution of standards would be reckless and will have a detrimental impact on the public’s health.

Responding to the news, Tony Lewis, Head of Policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said:

"There is no doubt that air quality is a growing crisis that risks the health of people across the United Kingdom.

The Government’s actions are irresponsible and exasperating. They are fully aware that legal limits apply, they know they are duty bound to comply, but have decided to throw away tax-payer money reusing to acknowledge their responsibilities.

If all businesses and individuals took this line in respect of other areas of regulation and showed the same contempt for the law, we would quickly turn into a lawless society. 

We call on the Government to change course immediately, and to start treating this vital issue with the respect it deserves.”


Notes to editors 

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About the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH):   

The CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing more than 9,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved. 

Environmental health has an important and unique contribution to make to improving public health and reducing health inequalities. The CIEH campaigns to ensure that government policy addresses the needs of communities and business in achieving and maintaining improvements to health and health protection.  

For more information visit and follow the CIEH on Twitter @The_CIEH



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