Havering, ULEZ and Public Health

Government intervention in urban Public Health began in 1835 when councils were permitted to build pavements and charge them to ratepayers. 120 years later The Clean Air Act was passed by a Conservative government to stop thousands of preventable deaths from air pollution. The Great Smog, 1952, slaughtered Londoners adding to the normal annual toll.

The 1956 Act banned traditional open coal fires and turbocharged the switch to central heating.

 

Domestic coal delivery was a very hard and dirty job

The Clean Air Act was transformative, with housing changed forever. There were significant costs during the transition period. But! Tens of thousands of lives were saved and Londoners lived longer, happier, healthier lives.

ULEZ stands in this tradition. “The ULEZ is central to the Mayor of London’s plans to improve Londoners’ health. It will clean up the city’s toxic air, which leads to the early deaths of thousands of people every year.”2

The Great Smog of 1952 was a physical reality. Parts of London came to a halt with choking polluted air and very poor visibility.

 

The Great Smog of London killed thousands of Londoners

21st century air pollution is invisible, though deaths are unpleasantly real. Three people a week die in Havering from air pollution. Deaths are the gruesome tip of a toxic iceberg. Thousands of people suffer respiratory problems which ruin their everyday lives.

During the transition to EV vehicles, ULEZ is a small and important step. It stands in a long Public Health tradition stretching back to 1835.

Notes

1 Summer 2022. ULEZ is London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone. For the historical contest see Highway Act 1835 – Wikipedia and Clean Air Act 1956 – Wikipedia

2 The Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone for London | London City Hall There are about 9,500 air pollution deaths each year Twice as many deaths caused by air pollution in London – HealthyAir

Andrew Rosindell: Parliament, 14th December, 2021

Dr Luke Evans (Con) While masks are of course inconvenient, they are a relatively easy way of reducing the risk of not only covid, but other viruses such as flu. Let us not forget that the number of flu admissions places a huge amount of pressure on the NHS, so a reduction in both conditions—as evidenced—makes sense to me.”1 Hansard 14th December 2021

Andrew believes making mask wearing compulsory is an infringement of liberty. Let’s see if Andrew’s position is coherent.

Enoch Powell was a philosopher-politician and a true libertarian. In 1973 he argued against mandatory helmets for motor cyclists because suicide wasn’t illegal.2 Powell’s position was that reckless behaviour sometimes results in death but so what? That’s the price of reckless behaviour sometimes. Wearing masks during a pandemic isn’t being reckless with your own life, it’s being reckless with the lives of other people. In brief, it’s a Public Health issue.

Let’s imagine Andrew’s infected, unknowingly, with Covid-19’s new potent form, Omicron. A simple way of reducing his capacity to infect others is to wear a mask.3 He’s against this and refused to vote for mandatory mask wearing. He claims it’s an infringement of his ‘liberty’. The liberty to infect others.

Covid-19 effects people differently. The impact ranges from nothing to death. The Public Health response is to protect the population from known danger. Protective measures includes wearing masks.

Dr Evans said masks are “inconvenient” but “a relatively easy way of reducing…risk”. Not a magic bullet but important during a pandemic. Andrew is indulging in political posturing.

Responsible leadership demands that the public good triumphs over personal inclination. This is especially true for our MPs.

Notes

1 Parliamentary debate on Public Health with four votes on regulations for the current pandemic Public Health – Hansard – UK Parliament For the actual resolution on face masks see “That the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI, 2021, No. 1400), dated 9 December 2021.” There were 41 No votes including Andrew

2 MOTOR CYCLISTS (HELMETS) (Hansard, 5 April 1973) (millbanksystems.com)

3 Now mask wearing has been legislated for there’s no reason to believe he won’t obey the law.