THE Government has "failed to get to grips" with cutting air pollution in UK cities, despite evidence it is shortening average life expectancy by seven to eight months and costing society up to £20 billion a year, MPs have claimed.

A report by Westminster’s Environmental Audit Com-mittee yesterday accused ministers of putting thousands of lives at risk by trying to dilute European air quality regulations instead of prioritising action.

Glasgow and Aberdeen are among a handful of cities expected to breach 2010 targets for bringing down the level of dangerous pollu-tants such as nitrogen dioxide and particulates, which were associated with 30,000 deaths in 2008, MPs found.

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Joan Walley, the committee’s chairwoman, said: “It is a national scandal that thousands of people are still dying from air pollution in the UK in 2011 – and the Government is taking no responsibility for this.

“It is often the poorest people in our cities who live near the busiest roads and breathe in diesel fumes, dangerous chemicals and bits of tyre every day.

“If you have heart disease, asthma or other respiratory illnesses then living near a congested road can literally take years off your life.”

The committee called on the UK Government to implement recommend-ations it made last year.

They included an awareness campaign and setting up a national framework of low-emission zones that would allow councils to impose charges on vehicles with high levels of emissions when they enter urban areas.