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ULEZ: Sir Keir Starmer told to ‘get off the fence’ and challenge Sadiq Khan after court victory


Tory MPs have called for Sir Keir Starmer to “get off the fence” and tell Sadiq Khan to axe the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) after a court ruled the plans are lawful.

Government ministers stressed the matter was out of their hands as they turned their attention to the Labour leader’s position on the controversial policy.

But a senior Starmer ally appeared to rule out an intervention on Friday night, saying while Sir Keir is against the ULEZ expansion, it is a devolved matter so the party “will have to take it on the chin”.

On Friday, London’s Labour mayor Mr Khan hailed a “landmark” ruling after a judge said he had the power to expand ULEZ, the zone where polluting vehicles can be charged £12.50 a day.

Khan says 14 times he’s ‘listening’ on ULEZ – politics latest

But Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Just because he has the right to doesn’t mean he should clobber hard working Londoners.”

Mr Harper said the government opposes the scheme but because transport is a devolved matter there is nothing they can do to stop it.

“It’s a Labour London Mayor that’s made this decision. We’ve called on the leader of the Labour party to tell the London mayor not to roll out this scheme,” he said.

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

Business Secretary Grant Shapps also called out Sir Keir directly.

In a tweet he said: “Labour will take this as a win, but hardworking people will lose because Sadiq Khan doesn’t care about hitting drivers with unneeded costs.

“Lets see what kind of Leader @Keir_Starmer is. Time to get off the fence & tell your Mayor to do the right thing and stop the ULEZ expansion.”

Deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden said the High Court ruling was a “loss for hardworking people” in his constituency, which borders Greater London, adding: “Keir Starmer should tell his Mayor to abandon this unnecessary and unfair expansion.”

However, critics pointed out ULEZ was originally conceived by former Tory mayor and ex prime minister Boris Johnson.

The Tories are seeking to make ULEZ a party politically issue in light of their unexpected victory in the Uxbridge by-election last week.

Labour’s failure to win Boris Johnson’s old seat – which seemed ripe for the taking amid a double digit lead in the polls – was widely blamed on the issue.

Tory MPs are now eyeing an opportunity to draw a dividing line with Labour on environmental policies that impose a direct cost on consumers.

Mr Khan has a statuary duty to improve London’s air quality.

But Mr Harper claimed: “This is about raising money, that’s what people can see and it’s part of the reason for the result in the Uxbridge by-election.”

Read more:
What are the Conservatives’ green policies – and what could be scrapped?
ULEZ: Starmer ‘wobbling’ on ULEZ, says mother of girl who died due to pollution

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Sadiq Khan says ULEZ ‘landmark decision is good news for London’.

Labour ‘will have to take ULEZ on the chin’

Mr Khan was standing by his plan for ULEZ following Friday’s court challenge, which was brought by five Tory-led councils in outer London areas.

It poses a fresh headache for Sir Keir, who in recent days has declined to say if London’s charge on polluting vehicles should go ahead.

Senior party figures were quick to urge Mr Khan to reflect on the policy in the wake of the by-election and on Thursday, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said now is not the right time to “clobber” Londoners with the ULEZ charge.

However on Friday, shadow cabinet minister Wes Streeting went further and told Times Radio: “I think Keir has been very clear that he doesn’t want it to go ahead at this stage, as has [shadow Chancellor] Rachel Reeves. I would agree with them.

“But Sadiq is the Mayor of London. He doesn’t answer to us, he answers to Londoners.”

Mr Streeting said that “If you believe in devolution you believe in his right to do that”.

“We’re going to have to take it on the chin. And he’s going to take the criticism on the chin and we’ll see what happens.”

Mr Khan argues ULEZ will incentivise people to use cleaner transport alternatives and, as a result, help improve the city’s air quality.

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ULEZ expansion ruled legal

Speaking after the judgement he told Sky News: “The decision to expand ULEZ was a difficult one for me to take, it wasn’t taken lightly, but it’s essential we make more progress cleaning up the air in our city.”

Referencing the opposition to the scheme and the debate surrounding it, Mr Khan said: “I have been listening and I will carry on listening” but added that the High Court ruling was “quite clear”.

Later, he tweeted a reference to the climate emergency.

“Everything we hold dear depends on a world that we can live in. From the shores of the Mediterranean to the Canadian Rockies, the earth is burning. Our global leaders must keep to the promises they have made to secure the future of our planet against the climate crisis.”


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