Attempt to overturn Ulez expansion in London blocked in the Commons

Labour MPs spoke at length against the Greater London Low Emission Zone Charging (Amendment) Bill.

An information sign in central London for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez)
An information sign in central London for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) (Yui Mok/PA)

A Government-backed bid to overturn the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) expansion in London has been blocked in the House of Commons.

The Ulez scheme was expanded last August to cover the entirety of Greater London, a controversial move overseen by London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan.

Gareth Johnson, Conservative MP for Dartford, tabled the Greater London Low Emission Zone Charging (Amendment) Bill in a bid to give the Government the power to reverse the expansion.

But Labour MPs spoke at length against the change to ensure the Bill failed to progress.

The second reading debate was still taking place at 2.30pm, which is the cut-off time for private members’ bills to be considered during a Friday sitting.

Mr Johnson asked for the debate to resume on April 19, but it is highly unlikely to be considered further in its current form.

Mr Khan’s team warned ministers risked “fundamentally undermining devolution” if they started “seizing powers from directly-elected mayors”.

People who drive in the zone in a vehicle that does not meet minimum emissions standards are required to pay a £12.50 daily fee or risk a £180 fine, reduced to £90 if paid within 14 days.

A multimillion-pound scheme to allow Londoners to scrap non-compliant cars was also set up.

Intervening during a 33-minute speech by Labour MP Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South), Mr Johnson said: “It’s obvious both she and the Labour Party wish to talk out my Bill to overturn the expansion of Ulez.”

Mr Johnson earlier said the expansion was “unfair” on people who lived outside London as they had “no say on who the London mayor is”, adding it was a “myth” to say the policy was to do with improving air quality.

He told the Commons: “If it was about air pollution, the mayor of London would ban these vehicles going into London.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“He doesn’t want to ban them, he wants to make money out of them. If those people driving those motor vehicles give the mayor of London £12.50, they can drive all day long in London – he does not give a damn, it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with air pollution.”

Ms Greenwood said a serious public health issue was being “used for purely party political point-scoring”.

She said: “The ultra-low emission zone and indeed emission charging zones are a Tory policy, they were pushed onto local government by a Tory government and first championed here in London by a Tory mayor.”

Ms Greenwood added: “The mayor of London has statutory obligations in relation to air quality across the Greater London area. He has a right, indeed a duty, to introduce measures to meet the national air quality targets set by central government.

“The whole purpose of devolution is for local people to determine the policies that are needed for their area. The Government has set the targets for air quality, it is for democratically elected mayors and local authorities to run their cities or their counties in the way that works best for their area.”

Labour MP Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) reminded MPs that the London mayoral election takes place on May 2, adding voters will “have an opportunity to express an opinion at the ballot box” in connection with Ulez expansion.

Transport minister Guy Opperman said: “The Government supports this particular Bill.”

A spokesperson for Mr Khan said in a statement: “The evidence shows that Ulez is working. 95% of vehicles seen driving on London’s roads are now compliant and don’t need to pay a penny.

“Thousands of drivers have now received money to scrap their dirty vehicles, helping clean up London’s air and protect Londoners’ health.

“The mayor is clear that it’s up to other towns and cities to decide what works best locally for them. Central Government shouldn’t be dictating which clean air schemes are introduced in local areas – whether in Bermondsey, Birmingham, or Bristol.

“Ministers risk fundamentally undermining devolution if they start seizing powers from directly-elected mayors – in London, the West Midlands or Tees Valley.”