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Sadiq Khan accuses government of ‘weaponising air pollution’ahead of London ULEZ expansion | Politics News

Sadiq Khan has accused the government of “weaponising air pollution” ahead of the expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone next week.

The mayor said he was “disappointed” at the lack of government support for the policy and its accompanying scrappage scheme.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has urged Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to make his position on ULEZ “clear”, saying in a letter: “You have the power to stop it.”

Read more: Where the expanded Greater London ULEZ zone will cover

Mr Harper suggested “Labour plan to use air pollution to attempt to justify bringing in pay per mile charging for every car in London”.

This has been denied by City Hall and called “complete nonsense”.

Mr Khan said: “It was this government that gave financial support to cities like Bristol, Birmingham and Portsmouth towards their clean air zones. If clean air is right for them then why isn’t clean air right for London?

“Why has the government given no support to London? I am disappointed at the lack of support from the government.

“I am disappointed that they seem to be weaponising air pollution and climate change.”

The ULEZ expansion is set to take place on Tuesday, and will take the zone up to London’s borders with Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey.

A ULEZ sign in central London

Those who drive in the newly expanded zone in a vehicle that does not meet minimum emissions standards will need to pay £12.50 a day fee or risk a £180 fine, reduced to £90 if paid within 14 days.

A £160m scheme run by Transport for London has offered grants of up to £2,000 to all Londoners who wish to scrap any car or motorcycle that is non-compliant with the zone’s emissions standards.

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In response to Mr Khan, the government stressed that transport and air quality decisions are “devolved to London”.

A spokesperson added: “The government has provided TfL £6bn since 2020 to keep public transport moving and almost £102m for projects specifically targeted to help tackle air pollution.”

An illustration of the expanded ULEZ zone
An illustration of the expanded ULEZ zone

The expansion of ULEZ has been a controversial topic for months, with Labour blaming the scheme for its loss at the Uxbridge by-election in July.

‘I invite you to make your position clear’

This was mentioned by the transport secretary in his letter to Sir Keir. He said: “Your position on ULEZ has changed frequently. In January, you said the mayor was ‘right’ to extend ULEZ.

“Following the Uxbridge by-election you asked the mayor to ‘reflect’ on the issue, which he showed no sign of doing. Last week, you said the decision to expand ULEZ will ‘disproportionately’ hit people struggling with the cost of living.

“You have also let it be known that you would not favour the expansion of similar schemes in cities outside of London.

“And yet Labour’s mayor is still expanding ULEZ. I invite you to make your position clear.”

Mr Harper went on to tell Sir Keir that while he does not have the “legal power to prevent the ULEZ expansion being introduced, you do have the power to stop it”.

Sky News has contacted the Labour Party for a response.

London mayor stands by ULEZ expansion after Uxbridge by-election loss | Politics News

London mayor Sadiq Khan has stood by his decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the capital’s outer boroughs, despite it being touted as the reason Labour lost the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election.

Speaking to reporters, the Labour mayor said he was “disappointed” the party didn’t win the seat overnight.

But he insisted the ULEZ expansion, due to come in next month, was “the right one”, adding: “It was a difficult decision to take. But just like nobody will accept drinking dirty water, why accept dirty air?”.

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Many had predicted Labour would overturn the 7,000 majority in Boris Johnson’s old seat in west London after the former prime minister’s shock exit as an MP last month.

But throughout the campaign, it became clear the London mayor’s plan to expand ULEZ had angered people on the doorstep.

The Tories clung on to the seat with a majority just shy of 500 votes – which was albeit still a 6.7% swing towards Labour – and Rishi Sunak told reporters: “When there’s an actual choice on a matter of substance at stake, people vote Conservative.”

But Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner told Sky News the constituency was “not a Labour seat” and did not even turn red during the party’s landslide victory in 1997.

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The prime minister reacts to losing two by-elections

ULEZ was first proposed by Mr Johnson during his stint as London mayor as a way to cut air pollution in the capital.

When he announced it in 2015, he said it was “an essential measure to help improve air quality in our city, protect the health of Londoners, and lengthen our lead as the greatest city on earth”.

London's Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) is to be expanded in August
London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) is to be expanded in August

The policy in its current form – which sees drivers having to pay a £12.50 daily fee to drive in the zone if their car does not meet emissions standards – currently covers central London and the areas up to, but not including, the North and South Circular Roads.

But Mr Khan plans to expand the zone up to the capital’s borders with Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey from the end of August.