All 1 Lord Desai contributions to the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill [HL] 2022-23

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Fri 8th Jul 2022

Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill [HL]

Lord Desai Excerpts
Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I join everyone else who has spoken in welcoming the Bill and congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, on introducing it. Since everything that is worth saying has been said, I shall point out only one or two things that I believe we could improve in Committee.

First, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, pointed out, declaring something to be a human right may not be sufficient in the current climate, because the Government frequently redefine what is and is not a human right or is justiciable by the European Court of Human Rights. So, at some stage, I would like to find out how we can strengthen the idea that this is a human right and cannot just be thrown away, neglected or revised by a future Government. That is very important.

Secondly, as an economist, I studied the Clean Air Act 1956 very carefully and wrote about it. One thing that is missing is the polluter paying; at least in cases where we can identify the polluter and attribute responsibility for the pollution to them, we ought to allow them to be fined, not just forgiven.

Lastly, there is a role for citizens to do something about pollution; this is very welcome. The Government are allowed too much power to appoint citizens’ commissioners; we ought to find ways of inviting voluntary workers in this important area, because pollution is a problem for all of us, and we all ought to be encouraged to be policemen for it and point out that these things are hurting us all. By the time a little girl dies due to air pollution, it is too late to seek compensation. We ought to be able to spot these things much earlier and do something about them.