Take a deep breath

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Ministers should overcome their terror of Mondeo man, and put the health of children first.

Ministers have reacted with commendable speed to The Independent on Sunday's asthma campaign. In just three weeks since it was launched, three ministers from separate departments have acted to fulfil the first three objectives of our action programme. But so far the Government deserves only two cheers.

Michael Meacher, the Environment minister, took our evidence that traffic fumes cause asthma to Brussels and persuaded the European Commission to review its anti-pollution measures. Yvette Cooper, the Public Health minister, decided to send out new guidelines to family doctors, increasing the priority they give to the disease. And, as we report today, Estelle Morris, the Education Secretary, is instructing every school in the country to adopt a clear policy on coping with asthma attacks.

But this is the easy stuff, and there is a great deal more to do. Ministers could also meet some of our other objectives without much difficulty – by initiating new research, consulting asthma sufferers about developments and policies that affect them, and providing tax relief for public transport cards provided by firms to employees. Other measures, though equally practicable, demand that the Government changes the direction in which it is taking transport policy.

We are not suggesting heavy restrictions on motoring. We only want ministers to practise what they preach. The Government came to power promising to reduce traffic, and is committed to making vehicles cleaner. Instead traffic is growing rapidly. We want ministers to overcome their terror of Mondeo man, and put the health of children first. Knowing the Government's capacity for procrastination, we have no illusions that this can be achieved quickly. But we will keep up the pressure all the same.