Keir Starmer told to ‘get off the fence’ and intervene in Sadiq Khan's ULEZ expansion after plans ruled lawful

29 July 2023, 00:43 | Updated: 29 July 2023, 22:53

Sir Keir is facing pressure on the Ulez expansion.
Sir Keir is facing pressure on the Ulez expansion. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

The Labour leader is facing pressure from Tory MPs to intervene with Sadiq Khan's ULEZ expansion plans after Friday's court ruling.

Sir Keir Starmer has faced calls from Tory MPs to “get off the fence” and intervene with Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone expansion.

Government ministers have said the power to intervene with the plans is now out of their hands.

It comes after a case brought to the High Court by five Tory councils, including four London boroughs, to challenge Mr Khan’s bid to expand Ulez was concluded on Friday.

Those opposing the plans argued it was not within the mayor of London’s powers to expand the clean air zone and was creating a “master charging scheme”.

But on Friday the High Court sided with the Labour mayor in the Ulez dispute as a judge ruled the plans lawful.

Since the ruling, ministers have urged Labour leader Sir Keir to challenge the Labour mayor - however, one source has warned ministers an intervention is unlikely.

A senior Starmer ally said while he is against the Ulez expansion the party “will have to take it on the chin” as it is a devolved matter, Sky News reported.

Under the expansion, drivers of cars, smaller vans and motorbikes that don't meet Ulez standards have to pay £12.50 a day to drive within the zone.

Lorries, buses, coaches and heavy vans that are non-compliant are charged £100 under the separate low emission zone scheme, which already covers most of London.

Read more: Sadiq Khan has seen off Ulez challenge at the High Court, but the real test now comes from within his own party

Read more: Sadiq Khan slams councils for wasting taxpayers' money on Ulez challenge which could have paid for free school meals

Read more: Everything you need to know about Ulez, as Sadiq Khan's plan to expand zone ruled lawful by the High Court

The Labour leader is facing calls to intervene with the Ulez plans.
The Labour leader is facing calls to intervene with the Ulez plans. Picture: Alamy
Ministers have urged Sir Keir to 'get off the fence'.
Ministers have urged Sir Keir to 'get off the fence'. Picture: Getty

Reacting to Friday’s ruling, Business Secretary Grant Shapps directly called on the Labour leader to intervene on Twitter.

He wrote: "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."

Transport Secretary Mark Harper also said: "Just because he has the right to doesn't mean he should clobber hard working Londoners."

"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.

Deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden said: “Keir Starmer should tell his Mayor to abandon this unnecessary and unfair expansion."

It comes after the Tories started to embrace the Ulez expansion as a party political issues after their unexpected win in Uxbridge in the by-election last week, a seat which was previously held by Boris Johnson.

The Tory win was put down to the division caused by the Ulez expansion, which has since seen a number of Tory MPs call on the government to hold back on net zero policies to win back voters.

The London mayor hailed the 'landmark' victory on Friday.
The London mayor hailed the 'landmark' victory on Friday. Picture: Getty

Shadow cabinet minister Wes Streeting said on Friday: “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,” he told Times Radio.

"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."

Speaking after the judgement was published, Mr Khan said: "This landmark decision is good news as it means we can proceed with cleaning up the air in outer London on 29 August.

"The decision to expand the Ulez was very difficult and not something I took lightly and I continue to do everything possible to address any concerns Londoners may have.

"The Ulez has already reduced toxic nitrogen dioxide air pollution by nearly half in central London and a fifth in inner London. The coming expansion will see five million more Londoners being able to breathe cleaner air.

"I've been listening to Londoners throughout the Ulez rollout, which is why from next week I am expanding the scrappage scheme to nearly a million families who receive child benefit and all small businesses with up to 50 employees.

"I will continue to look at new ideas to support Londoners."

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