The Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill will protect all UKcitizens from air pollution, writes Baroness Jenny Jones

The 32 page Bill is a detailed and comprehensive attempt to protect the public against air pollution, which is one of the biggest public health hazards of our time and is responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths in the UK.. It’s called Ella’s Law, named after Ella Adoo Kissi Debrah, the first person in England to have air pollution named as a cause of death by a coroner. It updates existing legislation in four major ways.


My Bill applies to indoor air quality, whether at work, in classrooms, or on the tube. The case of Awaab Ishak, the two-year-old who died from mould on the walls, shows the need for action on indoor air quality. While there are no set standards for indoor pollution, the WHO does recommend that “…dampness and mould-related problems be prevented. When they occur, they should be remediated because they increase the risk of hazardous exposure to microbes and chemicals.” As with outdoor air pollution being linked to areas of low rent housing (often located next to busy roads), the WHO correctly states that: “Dampness and mould may be particularly prevalent in poorly maintained housing for low-income people.”


Secondly, it links the issue of human health and the climate crisis by taking a joined up, zero emission approach to solving both. Many of the solutions to one problem are also an effective solution to the other. That makes the economic case for a zero emissions approach even stronger. One of the problems in the past has been a focus purely on a echno fix, when lifestyle changes are actually more likely to succeed. For example, electric vehicles are a significant step forwardbut a lot of particulate pollution comes from tyre and brake wear which can only be solved by less traffic. 


Third, this draft legislation brings the World Health Organization (WHO) standards to the heart of what our Government does. The Government will argue that air pollution has improved a lot in the past two decades and, despite their missing legal targets and constantly dragging their feet, there is some truth to that. However, the evidence of the negative impacts of air pollution on health has also grown, especially the threat posed by ultra-fine particles.


Last year, the Government passed the Environment Bill without including the target set by the WHO for dealing with these microscopic bits of pollution that can lodge in the brain and other organs. My Bill would bring such standards up-to-date with the science

Finally, the Clean Air Human Rights Bill sets up an enforcement mechanism that applies legal sanction to local and national government, along with corporations and other organisations.


Over the next few months, I will need support from MPs across the political spectrum to make sure Ella’s Law makes progress in the Commons. Caroline has put down an Early Day Motion that your MP could sign to show their support for clean air. I especially need to persuade the government to make time available to debate this legislation.


As Caroline said, when we handed in a cross party letter supporting the Bill, the Government is being counter productive, by not passing this Bill, or its own  version of it. The longer it takes to act, the more lives are put at risk and the more premature deaths people suffer.  More and more evidence is coming out by the day about the health impacts of air pollution. The public are deeply concerned and it’s about time the Prime Minister was as well. I hope MPs will take the first step by supporting Caroline’s Early Day Motion.