on the 50th anniversary of the Great London Smog.
Air quality minister Alun Michael said air quality today had
Adverse weather conditions and high levels of smoke from domestic
coal fires combined to form the lethal smog so thick it brought
London to a virtual standstill for four days, killing 4,000 people.
The devastating event led to the introduction of the Clean Air Act in
1956 - a landmark in British environmental history.
Alun Michael marked the anniversary by visiting one of the capital's
most sophisticated air pollution monitoring sites at Marylebone Road.
He said: 'Air quality is getting better, and the number of days of
poor air quality each year continues to fall. This is as a result of
changes in the way our power is generated, cleaner fuels and
vehicles, and the move away from coal in domestic heating.
'I remember the smogs Londoners suffered as I visited the capital
most autumns as a child. They were awful. Nowadays, partly as a
result of the Clean Air Act, we are lucky to enjoy much better air
'But we need to go further. We are determined to grapple with the
challenges ahead. Air quality is one of our top priorities and we are
committed to improving people's quality of life.
'We face some tough choices. Getting people to switch from coal to
gas was relatively easily because people could see it was in their
interests. But tackling today's problems is a lot more difficult.
'Technology will continue to play a huge role. We have set ourselves
challenging targets for ultra-clean vehicles and fuels. For example,
our Powering Future Vehicles strategy pledges that 10 per cent of new
cars are to be ultra-low carbon by 2012. This will be a major step
The government's Air Quality Strategy and the system of Local Air
Quality Management that we have in the UK is one of the most advanced
in Europe and ranks with any other in the world.