Car-loving Tories pass the buck
Clean air, Issue 1444
exhaust.jpg BRITAIN’s farcical response to legal obligations on clean air contradict Theresa May’s claim that her ruling Conservative party provides “strong and stable leadership”.

The government published its draft air quality “plan” on 9 May because the high court forced it to; it had tried to argue that election purdah prevented it from releasing the document before the general election. The “plan” confirms that Tory “leadership” on clean air simply involves passing the buck to local councils.

This is par for the course. In 2015 the lawyers’ group ClientEarth took the matter to the supreme court, which ordered “immediate action to address this issue”. The government’s response was so limp that ClientEarth took it for another mauling, this time by the high court, last year.

40,000 deaths
Air pollution causes about 40,000 UK deaths a year, according to the royal colleges of physicians and paediatrics. Cars cause much of the pollution but the Tories are so scared of being seen as “anti-car” that since 2010 the government has worked hard to increase traffic. By constantly refusing to raise fuel duty, even when fuel prices plummeted, the government declined the chance to collect billions of pounds in order to encourage greater car usage. It is also handing £15bn to Highways England, much of it to enlarge major roads, generating even more traffic.

In 2013 the government told councils to provide more town-centre parking and “ditch their anti-car dogma”. It won’t allow councils outside London to penalise drivers for stopping on box junctions, for example, which worsens congestion and thus pollution.

The growing congestion engineered by the Tories makes buses slower, which increases bus operating costs and depletes revenue (as services become less appealing). Bus passengers have a much weaker voice than motorists, so the government slashed fuel-duty rebate for buses by 20 percent in 2012. It also cut funding for councils subsidising buses. Since 2010, thousands of bus services have vanished, English bus fares have rocketed by three times the inflation rate and annual bus-passenger journeys in England have dropped by about 180m.

Less pollution
Modern buses emit less pollution than individual cars, despite the size difference. It wouldn’t be difficult to ensure all urban buses use low-emission technology, but the more the government encourages travel by car instead, the more the air quality benefits of improving bus travel would shrink.

The government published a cycling and walking investment strategy last month, but its aim to double cycling by 2025 and “reverse the decline in walking that we have seen over the last few years” clashes with its insistence that our roads need more traffic. Traffic deters many people from cycling and possibly from walking (because of the real or perceived dangers and the pollution); instead they use cars, making cycling even less attractive.

Even if some councils and mayors rise to the challenge where the government has failed, they’ll be hamstrung by the Tories’ determination to pile more traffic on to our roads.

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To ‘save’ £65m a year, Tory ex-health secretary Andrew Lansley did precisely the wrong thing when it came to safeguarding the security of NHS data.

Given his jobs after government, it’s no wonder former Lib Dem energy secretary Sir Ed Davey is arguing against proposed caps on energy bills.

How an Eye special report prompted Companies House to call for information on company accounts and ownership to be ‘as transparent as possible’.

Once saintly Aung San Suu Kyi has gone from deafening silence to total denial over ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

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27th June 2017
In This Issue private eye
Private Eye Infected by Gnomeware… King Charles the Third Rate – A Sylvie Krin Special… ‘Too Close to Call’ – Election Sets Snoresbury Alight… Vote For Mrs Me, Says Prime Minister Theresa May and My Team… Captain Corbyn of Titanic to Stay on ‘Whatever Happens’… Me and My Spoon, with Diane Abbott… Ocean’s 11 Pints and Tight Club – Brad Pitt’s Films in Full… Trump Sacks Himself… Liz Jones on Princess Diana, as told to Craig Brown

And also...

- Election round-up: Tory housing hogwash, Corbyn left in the lurch & more!
- Slipping Standards: Editor Osborne and the BlackRock effect
- PR battle: Is the British Army still fit to fight an actual war?

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Private Eye Issue 1443