TOMORROW London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s detested Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expands from the area within the North and South Circular Roads to cover all boroughs of Greater London.
Drivers of non-compliant cars, vans and motorcycles (generally petrol vehicles registered before 2006 and diesel registered before 2015) will have to pay £12.50 a day to use their vehicles within the ULEZ.
However the Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper, has powers to intervene and stop the ULEZ expansion. Section 143 of the 1999 Greater London Authority Act states that if he considers that Khan’s transport strategy is inconsistent with national policies relating to transport and detrimental to any area outside Greater London, he can direct the Mayor to revise his transport strategy.
To consider that the policy/strategy is detrimental is a very low threshold. There is no burden of proof required, so while the minister may not act unreasonably, he does have a great deal of leeway. There cannot be any doubt that this is detrimental to counties outside Greater London, which is why Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire county councils are all refusing to put up Khan’s ULEZ signs, and detrimental to many people particularly the elderly, pensioners, the low paid, those with disabilities and mobility issues. When you take this in conjunction with the other parts of the Act, it is clear the Secretary of State must intervene.
Under section 141 (1), Khan ‘shall develop and implement policies for the promotion and encouragement of safe, integrated, efficient and economic transport facilities and services to, from and within Greater London’. Charging someone £12.50 a day to enter Greater London can hardly be described as efficient. This charge is a barrier to people travelling to, from and within Greater London.
It goes on to say under section 142 (2) that the transport strategy ‘shall contain the Mayor’s proposals for the provision of transport which is accessible to persons with mobility problems’.
So it is staring the Secretary of State in the face.
In the past Conservative Governments have intervened when it has been necessary to do so in the national interest. I can think of examples from the 1980s when loony left councils were increasing the rates to exorbitant levels. Mrs Thatcher didn’t hesitate to introduce rate-capping to protect those hit by these irresponsible councils. She also introduced the Unified Business Rates when those same Labour councils were using businesses as a cash cow. ULEZ is hitting hundreds of thousands of small businesses, and having an inflationary effect on the business van market, as well as on the second-hand market in compliant vehicles.
More recent Government interventions to protect people are the furlough scheme and energy price subsidies.
There are some in the Conservative Party who think that we shouldn’t do anything now because ULEZ will reflect badly on Khan in next May’s Mayoral election. I’m not convinced that knowing that the Government could intervene but hasn’t will endear voters to the Conservative Party. On the contrary, if the Government do stop ULEZ they will be thanked next year and Conservative Candidate Susan Hall should become the next Mayor of Greater London.
The time to protect people is now.