Keir Starmer faced fresh calls last night to try to delay the extension of London’s clean air zone.
Senior Conservatives said he should “come off the fence” and force the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, to protect motorists who will pay the Ulez tax.
The High Court yesterday backed the extension of Ulez to the outskirts of London, a move that could lead to similar plans elsewhere in Britain.
Sir Keir has refused to say whether the zone should be expanded, saying it is not a “simple political decision”. He remained silent following yesterday’s court ruling.
Last night, Rishi Sunak led MPs and campaigners in calling on the Labor leader to make Khan postpone the £12.50 daily tax on older, polluting vehicles or abandon it altogether. The area will be expanded on August 29.
Keir Starmer (left) last night faced fresh calls to try to delay London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s expansion of Ulez (right).
Rishi Sunak (pictured) last night led MPs and campaigners in calling on the Labor leader to make Khan postpone the £12.50 daily tax on older, polluting vehicles or abandon it.
The Prime Minister said: ‘Mayor Sir Keir Starmer should think twice before deciding to go ahead with imposing this Ulez tax on working people.
It will mean ordinary people will have to pay £12.50 every time they take their children to school, go to the doctor or do their weekly food shop. And in a time of high inflation and cost of living, it would be an incredibly unnecessary burden on working families.’
Khan’s plans, which will see almost 700,000 cars across Greater London pay the daily rate, according to the RAC, have caused outrage among some families and traders who rely on their vehicles.
More than 1.5 million people living outside London could also be affected by the extension of the Ulez zone, data from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency revealed this year.
Responding to yesterday’s ruling, Mr Khan insisted that nine out of ten cars on the outskirts of London would not have to pay the fee, adding: “The decision to extend the Ulez was a very difficult one and is not something I made lightly and continue to do my best to address any concerns Londoners may have.
“This unequivocal decision today from the High Court allows us to continue with the difficult but vital task of cleaning London’s air and tackling the climate crisis.”
Senior Labor officials blamed Ulez for failing to win last week’s by-election in Uxbridge, Boris Johnson’s former seat in west London. Sir Keir said last weekend: “We are doing something very wrong if Labour’s proposed policies end up in every single Tory leaflet.” “We have to face that and learn the lesson.”
But on Wednesday, the Labor leader dodged a question about whether Ulez’s extension should continue, saying it was up to Khan to decide whether to continue the policy.
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said this week it was “not the right time” to expand Ulez in London. The party’s health spokesman Wes Streeting told Times Radio: ‘Keir has been very clear that he does not want this to go ahead at this time, as has Rachel Reeves.
‘I agree with them. But Sadiq is the mayor of London. He doesn’t answer to us, he answers to Londoners. If you believe in giving back, you believe in their right to do so. We’ll have to face it on the chin. And he will accept the criticism and we will see what happens.”
Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said the issue would show what kind of leader Sir Keir was: “It’s time to get off the fence and tell your mayor to do the right thing and stop Ulez’s expansion.”
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer added: “Sir Keir must do the right thing and tell the Labor mayor to abandon his Ulez expansion.” He will only punish hard-working Londoners.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said it was “not very clear that this met emissions targets at all… it’s about raising money – that’s what people can see and that’s what they’re opposed to.” “.
He added: “The extension of Ulez to the whole of Greater London makes no sense and we are not in favor of it.”
The High Court challenge, which was brought by the London boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon along with Surrey County Council, was rejected on the grounds that Mr Khan’s Ulez policy was an expansion.
Judge Swift said: “I am satisfied that the mayor’s decision to extend the Ulez area by amending the current road charging system, rather than creating an entirely new system…, was within his powers.” He said the consultation process provided enough information to produce informed responses.
Responding to the ruling in a joint press release, the five councils questioned whether Khan had a “moral right” to expand the plan.
Seven other areas have clean air zones that charge motorists in England: Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Portsmouth, Sheffield and Newcastle and Gateshead. Labor mayor Andy Burnham is considering one in Manchester. In Scotland there is already a fully operational low emissions zone in Glasgow, and similar plans will be launched in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen next year.
Chris Clarkson, Conservative MP for Heywood and Middleton in Greater Manchester, said the court ruling had serious implications for motorists across England, especially in his constituency.
Anti-ULEZ protesters demonstrate outside the Royal Courts of Justice ahead of the ruling on the extension of London’s clean air zone.
The AA urged Mr Khan to give drivers “more time to react” to the change or reduce the impact on them, while the RAC called on the mayor to provide additional support to key workers.
But climate charity Possible described the ruling as “fantastic”, arguing that Ulez’s expansion was “much needed to tackle our over-reliance on cars and improve air quality”.
Access to the Mayor’s £110 million scheme which provides grants to support the scrapping of non-Ulez compliant vehicles in London will be expanded from Monday.
It will now include all families receiving child benefits and all small businesses.