British ministers tried to block cleaning up air quality

London, Sep 27 (IANS) The British government sought to block new European Union legislation that would force member states to carry out surprise checks on the emissions of cars, raising fresh questions over ministers’ attitude to air pollution.

A document has revealed that the department for environment, food and rural affairs has been advising British MPs to vote against legislation that would oblige countries to carry out “routine and non-routine” inspections on vehicles’ “real-world” emissions, The Guardian reported on Sunday.

The revelation has added to the growing concerns over the government’s commitment to tackling air pollution. It follows last week’s report where the transport department had ignored significant evidence of the fraudulent practices being employed by the car industry when this was sent to it a year ago.

About 29,000 deaths in Britain are caused by inhalation of minute particles of oily, unburnt soot emitted by all petrol engines and an estimated 23,500 by the invisible but toxic gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) discharged by diesel engines, Public Health England said.

The revelation comes in the wake of German car giant Volkswagen engulfed in a scandal where it emerged that some of its diesel cars had been fitted with devices that could detect when they were being tested, concealing the real level of pollutants being emitted by them when on the road.

The British government has been seeking to water down legislation in the directive which seeks to limit the emission of a series of pollutants other than NO2, including methane and ammonia.

Officials claimed that some of the measures proposed would unnecessarily increase the “administrative burden for industry and government”, according to the document.

London and several other British cities have failed to meet EU standards on NO2 levels since 2010.

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