Poor air quality is one of the biggest public health issues facing the UK, with the problem most severe in central London due to high levels of traffic. Particle pollution is responsible for more than 4,300 premature deaths a year in London at an annual cost of up to £2bn. This figure came from the mayor's London air quality strategy, but the Commons environmental audit committee also predicted that, across the UK, poor air quality was responsible for up 50,000 premature deaths.
But because air pollution is largely invisible, both Whitehall and the mayor have been able to dither and delay.
Since the European commission started legal proceedings against the UK some 18 months ago the number of new practical measures to tackle air pollution has been pitiful. In the meantime many children in London have faced stunted development of their lungs, and 690,000 Londoners continue to suffer from asthma.