Greater London Low Emission Zone Charging (Amendment) Bill

– in the House of Commons at 11:20 am on 22 March 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Second Reading

Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford 11:49, 22 March 2024

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill would overturn the expansion of the ULEZ scheme, simply because it is a cruel, cruel form of taxation. It is particularly cruel to the poorest in society, hitting heavily those people who have old motor vehicles that they cannot afford to upgrade, with or without a scrappage scheme. It is also very unfair on business owners—especially those in outer London, who lose out on business that they would otherwise have secured from people travelling in from neighbouring counties to purchase their goods—and on people who live outside London, who have no say in who the London Mayor is.

The border between London and the home counties is not neat. People in my constituency live in Kent, but some of them have to go into London just to exit their road. The border straddles some roads. It is a border that cannot be avoided, and the Mayor of London knows that.

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Conservative, Bexleyheath and Crayford

My hon. Friend and parliamentary neighbour is making an impressive start. He and I share roads in Crayford and Dartford where people living on different sides of the road pay different taxes. Some people, such as gardeners and plumbers, travel regularly from Dartford to Bexleyheath and Crayford for work, and they cannot afford this. It is so unfair, especially as it was not in the Mayor’s manifesto when he was last elected.

Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford

That is an absolutely valid point, but I would go further. About 50% of police officers in the Metropolitan police area live outside London and commute in, and the percentage for all emergency workers is probably about the same. These are the people who Londoners rely on the most—they are vital to Londoners—but if their vehicles are not ULEZ-compliant, they are hit with £12.50 every single time they go to work. Even worse, those doing night shifts have to pay on the way in and on the way out again, because at 3 am there might be no public transport. For emergency workers to be hit with £25 just for doing a night shift is totally and utterly wrong.

Photo of Louie French Louie French Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

My hon. Friend is making a great speech. As he knows, he has my full support. Does he agree that today we will see whose side Labour Members are on? Are they going to talk the Bill out, or are they going to back those emergency service workers and others in Bexley who want to be rid of ULEZ?

Photo of Dr Caroline Johnson Dr Caroline Johnson Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that he has done in this respect. He is entirely right: we will see today whether Labour Members are in favour of the workers or in favour of Sadiq Khan.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

I am following the hon. Gentleman’s arguments with interest. In Bristol we have experienced the first year of a clean air zone, which was actually imposed on us as a requirement by the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Dr Coffey, because the Government had been taken to court by ClientEarth for being in breach of air pollution limits and therefore insisted that we should adopt the scheme in Bristol. If I have a chance to speak later, I will comment on how successful it was, but in any case that seems slightly at odds with the hon. Gentleman’s argument about local autonomy.

Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford

I am grateful for that intervention, because it gives me an opportunity to smash the myth that the expansion of the ULEZ scheme has anything whatsoever to do with air pollution. If it was about air pollution, the Mayor of London would ban motor vehicles from going into London, but he does not want to ban them; he wants to make money out of them. If those motorists give the Mayor £12.50, they can drive all day long in London. He does not give a damn. Take my constituency in Dartford, for example: many people who previously used the Blackwall tunnel with ULEZ non-compliant vehicles are now having to use the Dartford crossing to get across the Thames. It is adding to pollution in areas such as Dartford, not removing it.

Photo of Dean Russell Dean Russell Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

Does my hon. Friend remember the letter I wrote in 2021, which was signed by many Members present today, including himself? Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, wanted to put a charge—a border tax, as I called it—on people driving into London, which had nothing to do with the environment at that time. He failed to do so after pressure was put on; a little bit later—shock horror—he puts the same thing out but with an environmental tinge to it. It is greenwashing, and it is making people in places such as Watford who work so hard pay extra just to go to work.

Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I pay tribute to the work he has done on this issue for some time. The approach to the border tax, as he called it, highlights the fact that the Mayor of London was hellbent on bringing in a system whereby he could make money out of cars. Originally, he wanted to make money out of every car; when he was stopped from doing that, he decided to make money out of certain cars only. That was his plan B.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

My constituents are equally adversely affected, and would benefit from my hon. Friend’s Bill. Can he answer the question of why the Government themselves did not use the powers available to them to ban this extension of ULEZ?

Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for intervening. As the law stands at the moment, the Government do not have the power to overturn the ULEZ expansion. As a consequence, I have introduced this Bill, which would give the Government the power to overturn the expansion.

I am really grateful to the Minister for his work and efforts on this issue, and for the fact that the Government now support the Bill. I therefore hope that it will be successful. We have heard about the scrappage scheme, but if we actually look into it, we see that it is up to £2,000 per vehicle—good luck getting a vehicle that is ULEZ compliant for up to £2,000. We are also hearing that people are finding it very difficult to actually get their £2,000, or up to £2,000, from Transport for London; there have been a lot of delays. People have said, “Why don’t we expand the scrappage scheme right down to Dartford and beyond?” Well, where do we draw the line if we are going to increase the scrappage area? Should it go up to the midlands or down to the west country? It could cost the taxpayers of this country billions of pounds, simply because the Mayor of London is unable to organise his finances.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

I strongly support my hon. Friend’s Bill, because this is an unjust charge. Does he agree that some of the victims of the charge are local high street businesses in outer London, whose customers from beyond the London border are reluctant to come in because they may have to pay the charge?

Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend, who has been a real champion of this issue for her constituents in Barnet. She is absolutely right: people outside of London like to travel into London to use the dry cleaners, fish and chip shops, sweet shops and so on, but that no longer happens if their vehicle is not ULEZ compliant.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman very carefully. He keeps talking about money-making as if someone is making a profit, but that money goes to London’s services. He is a Dartford MP, from outside of London; how does he suggest that my constituents in London, who are writing to me in large numbers about the state of the potholes on our roads, can afford to pay for his constituents to drive through places such as my constituency on their way to the Blackwall tunnel? He is trying to deny Londoners the right to have decent roads.

Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford

I am rather surprised that the hon. Member is standing up in support of what the Mayor of London has done with the ULEZ scheme. I think that if he looked at his inbox carefully, he would see that most of his constituents—particularly the poorest in his constituency—do not like the fact that they are having to pay £12.50 just to use their motor vehicles. I do not feel that this is something on which his constituents support him.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I am a bit concerned that the hon. Gentleman has been looking into my emails—I think I will have a word with the parliamentary estate managers about that. Perhaps the reason I am standing up today is that not too many people have contacted me about ULEZ since it has been introduced; what they are contacting me about is the state of our roads. The potholes on our roads are symbolic of the Conservatives’ disastrous management of our public services over the past 14 years, and everyone is complaining about them.

Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford

Maybe the hon. Member has an oasis in south London, where everyone around the outside hates the ULEZ scheme but in Eltham they love it, but I would be very surprised. I gently remind him that most of the roads in Eltham are maintained by Greenwich’s Labour council, which should take its share of responsibility for the state of the roads.

My hon. Friend Dean Russell mentioned the “border charge”. The Mayor launched a consultation that showed that people rejected the expansion—it was absolutely clear they did not want it. There was a question mark over how that consultation was handled, but it was clear that the majority of people did not want the expansion, yet the Mayor still went ahead with it. When he stood to be Mayor, his manifesto did not mention the fact that he wanted to expand the ULEZ scheme right to the border, so he has no mandate from his manifesto. His transport plan had no mention of the expansion either, so the Mayor of London does not have a mandate for expanding the ULEZ scheme.

I have heard people say, “Well, this is interfering with devolution. It is undermining devolution.”—[Interruption.] I would say the opposite. It is the actions of the London Mayor that are undermining devolution. The whole point of devolution is to bequeath the power to make laws to Mayors, in this example, and for those elected Mayors to use the powers for the people they represent. It is not devolution when those powers have a profound impact on people who do not come from the area that Mayor represents. The Mayor of London’s actions have had a huge impact on the lives of people living in Dartford, who do not have the power to vote him in or out. It is taxation without representation, or any kind of accountability whatsoever. Frankly, it is devolution at its worst, which is why it is right that central Government intervene over this matter. Devolved powers are being taken way beyond intended and they are impacting people who are not able to vote in that area.

I predict that this is the beginning, not the end. If Sadiq Khan wins the election for London Mayor in May, as sure as night follows day he will change the criteria for vehicles to be ULEZ compliant until we get to the stage where every single petrol or diesel car is impacted by the expansion. People watching this debate at home—if they have nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon—may be sitting pretty, thinking, “This does not affect me because my car is ULEZ compliant; it has nothing to do with me.” I say they should be very aware of what happens at the mayoral elections. As sure as night follows day, the Mayor of London will change the goal posts and ensure that all motor vehicles will be hit by the ULEZ expansion.

Photo of Louie French Louie French Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

On that point, does my hon. Friend agree that it is clear that what the Mayor of London says and what he does are very different? He previously ruled out expanding ULEZ, and then he did it.

Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is typical of what has happened throughout the debate about ULEZ. In July last year, the leader of the Labour party said that ULEZ expansion was a wonderful thing. Come the by-election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, he said, “Oh no, we have got to think again over this one. I’m not quite sure if we got this one right.” Just this week, he said the ULEZ expansion was a great thing. We have had enormous dithering from the leader of the Labour party over this issue, and the Mayor of London is taking full advantage of that fact.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

On that point, will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford

I will not. We had a Westminster Hall debate, at which many colleagues were present. Unfortunately, not a single Labour Back Bencher turned up. It was pitiful and it highlights the Labour party’s mismanagement of the issue. We have the mayoral election coming up in May, and the Conservative candidate, Susan Hall, has pledged to overturn the ULEZ expansion on day one. The quickest and most effective way to overturn the ULEZ expansion is therefore to vote for Susan Hall. If we do that, or if my Bill is successful, we will end a cruel tax on many people who have no say on London’s Mayor. It is an attack on the poorest in society, and those who can least afford to pay are being hit the hardest. I cannot wait to see the back of it.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 12:05, 22 March 2024

I rise to speak in opposition to the Bill for three key reasons. First, it represents an attack on devolution. Secondly, it ignores the urgent and important need to tackle poor air quality, not just here in London but in towns and cities across our country. We would be forgiven for forgetting about this urgent public health issue, because Gareth Johnson barely mentioned it in his introduction, yet it goes to the very heart of having the ultra low emission zone. It is about trying to tackle something that is a significant problem here in London and in towns and cities across the country, and it is not just a problem in city centres. The heat map for my city shows that poor air quality is not restricted to the city centre, and that the ring road has particular issues. Poor air quality is an issue in outer London just as it is in inner London. Thirdly, the Bill uses a serious public health issue for purely party political point scoring.

I begin with devolution. [Interruption.] It would be nice if I could hear myself speak. It is worth remembering that the ultra low emission zone and, indeed, emission charging zones are Tory policy that was pushed on to local government by a Tory Government and first championed here in London by a Tory Mayor. We would not know that from listening to the interventions of Conservative Members.

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 have set the targets for air quality, and it is for democratically elected Mayors and local authorities to run their cities or counties in a way that works best for their area, which I know can be controversial.

My city is unique in this country in having a workplace parking levy. I would not say for one moment that it has not been controversial. It was incredibly controversial when it was first introduced more than 10 years ago when, under a previous Conservative-led Government, there was a huge problem with austerity. People were feeling the impact of that austerity, so the levy’s introduction was delayed by a year, but it was about both discouraging people from driving into the city and providing an income stream that could be used to improve alternatives to driving by investing in public transport. It has been incredibly successful. Nottingham is one of the cities that have not been forced to introduce a clean air zone, because its work to improve public transport, in part funded by the workplace parking levy, has led to that situation.

The Mayor of London expanded the ULEZ in August 2023 because toxic air pollution is a public health crisis. He is acting to tackle the crisis of poor air quality. I remind hon. Members that poor air quality is linked to around 4,000 premature deaths per year in London. It leads to children growing up with stunted lungs, and contributes to people developing serious health problems, including asthma, heart disease and dementia. I understand that the hon. Member for Dartford might not agree with the Mayor about the best way to tackle air pollution, but that is democracy.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

My hon. Friend is developing a powerful argument, and this is what the Conservatives have no answer to. What would they put in place to deal with the health aspects of poor air quality, such as damage to children’s development, and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory and coronary illnesses who are adversely affected by this issue? The Conservatives are desperate because they have nothing to offer the people of London they seek to scaremonger about this charge. There is no concern whatsoever for the health of Londoners, or those people in outer London who are suffering most from air pollution.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It was really telling when the hon. Member for Dartford began to talk about his mayoral candidate that he said nothing about her plans to tackle the serious issue of air pollution.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

My hon. Friend hits on a blunter truth about the Bill. In six weeks’ time, our constituents, whether they agree or not with the argument made by the hon. Member for Dartford or with arguments on the importance of tackling air pollution, will have the opportunity to express an opinion at the ballot box when choosing who the London Mayor overseeing this policy should be. Is the message of the Bill that Conservative MPs have no confidence in their mayoral candidate winning that argument, or indeed doing anything in support of their policies? They clearly feel the need to intervene and usurp devolution, so should nobody in London even bother with the Conservative campaign, because their candidate’s own colleagues think she is incompetent?

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

My hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head.

Progress is being achieved. The vast majority of cars —19 out of 20 in Greater London—are compliant with ULEZ. Labour Members are pleased that Transport for London and the Mayor of London have decided to expand the scrappage scheme to support those who are struggling as a result of the Tory cost of living crisis.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am listening with interest to the hon. Lady’s speech. The Government obviously support the Bill in the circumstances applied. Will she address the point that is fairly made about people outside a mayoral zone being affected and penalised by entering a mayoral zone, when they did not vote for that?

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

Unusual as it is for the Minister to intervene, I think the point was made by my hon. Friend Clive Efford. When people from outside London drive into London, the costs of that in terms of health, and wear and tear on the roads, is borne by constituents here in London. It is not unreasonable for them to expect that those who benefit from everything that London has to offer, who travel into the centre causing congestion and poor air quality, should abide by the well-established principle that the polluter pays.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

This goes back to what I was saying about the fact that the Government insisted that Bristol had a clean air zone. Obviously that will have a significant impact on people from Bath, for example, who drive down the A4 into my constituency, causing a huge amount of congestion and air pollution, but that is basically how politics works. I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend just said: the duty of politicians is to look after people in the patch they represent.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

My hon. Friend is exactly right. I will come on to address how we best tackle the issue of air pollution and, at the same time, protect those who are impacted by this charge.

From 21 August last year, every Londoner with a non-compliant vehicle became eligible for a £2,000 grant to assist them in replacing their vehicle. I understand why people have said that £2,000 is not enough, but that has been provided despite central Government giving no financial support to the Mayor of London for it. Of course, if the Government are concerned about the impact—[Interruption.] If they are concerned about the impact of their clean air charging zones, they could have provided additional assistance—

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

No, I am not giving way at the moment.

As I was saying, the Government could have provided additional financial support to the Mayor of London so that that grant could have been increased, but they chose not to so.

I am proud that Labour is the party of devolution. [Interruption.] It was Labour that created the mayoral model in London, and created the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly, as well as always having—

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The hon. Lady is trying to make a speech. We have a conversation going on between the two Front-Bench teams and rather a lot of shouting at the hon. Lady herself. We need to listen to her speech with respect.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

As I was saying, that devolution is as well as always having regional and local decision making and funding across England. I am pleased that the next Labour Government will build on that record. Indeed, Labour Mayors across England are already showing how it is done—whether that is in Manchester, Liverpool, South Yorkshire or West Yorkshire—taking back control of buses, supporting new homes, and reforming employment and skills. I am very much looking forward to seeing Claire Ward elected as the first Mayor of the East Midlands on 2 May. Sadly, while Labour is committed to more devolution, this Bill shows that the Tories are simply trying to roll it back.

I wish to say a little more about air pollution, which is at the heart of this Bill, and the strategies to tackle it. As I have already said, we know the problems that poor air causes. It affects our health and our environment; as many as 40,000 people die prematurely each year as a result of poor air quality. The elderly, the unwell and the economically deprived are those most likely to be affected. The Government’s own estimates say that poor air quality costs the UK economy billions of pounds each year. I think about my own constituency and the arguments that we had about the workplace parking levy. Lots of people in the city do not pay the levy, because they simply cannot afford to run a car at all; they are reliant on public transport.

We also know where the problem occurs. Key pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter —known as PM2.5—are found in many places, and too many air quality zones in the UK exceed legal limits. The World Health Organisation tells us that there is no safe level of exposure to fine particulate matter. We know what causes poor air quality. It comes from several sources—industry, agriculture, homes, businesses, and, yes, transport. Road transport is responsible for the vast majority of nitrogen oxide concentrations at places in the UK that exceed the legal limits, with diesel engines a significant contributor.

The number of cars and vans on our roads continues to rise and congestion has worsened, which increases pollution in itself. Transport also generates a significant proportion of particulate matter, which can come from both combustion and wear of tyres and brake pads. Cleaner vehicles help to solve the problem, and we have made some progress on that, but not enough.

There are examples from across the country of the action that can be taken to tackle emissions. Low emission zones are only one tool in the toolbox, and it could be said that they should be a last resort. As I have said, in my city, there has been considerable investment in public transport, paid for in part by proceeds from the workplace parking levy. We have had major extensions to our tram network. Nottingham’s municipal bus company introduced new biogas buses years ago, and I am really pleased to see that it has just started to roll out new electric vehicles. I do not deny that there has been support from central Government for some of that investment. For some years, the city council has had an anti-idling campaign. That multi-pronged approach mirrors similar action in towns and cities across the UK, with not one but multiple tools being used to tackle this serious public health issue.

The Department for Transport has supported the development of low emission buses and taxis. That is a good thing, because tackling poor air quality should be about central Government working with local councils and Mayors, rather than dictating to them, as the Bill does. Central Government should support and collaborate with them. In preparing for the debate, I went back to a 2018 report, produced by four cross-party Select Committees, that looked at improving air quality. One thing that the Committees came together to recommend was collaboration and partnership between central Government, local authorities and Mayors, because air pollution is a problem that cannot be fixed by central or local government alone; they need to work together.

Like the Mayor of London, local authorities are already responsible for meeting air quality targets, but they find it difficult to make changes, partly due to a lack of resources and partly because the changes needed are politically unpalatable; I guess that in part is what has caused the debate. It was a while ago, but that joint report from 2018 called for ambitious, co-ordinated cross-departmental action. I am sorry that in some respects the Government have failed on that, as they have prevaricated on removing the most polluting vehicles from our roads. At the time of the report, we called on them to have a more ambitious target for the removal of petrol and diesel cars; I think they were only committed to removing them by 2040. They did at first commit to a more ambitious target of ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars, but more recently, they have rowed back from that, which makes it more difficult for us to achieve the improvements that we know are needed.

There was also a decision to row back on the electrifi-cation of our railways, in favour of bi-mode trains, which have worrying implications for air quality, carbon emissions and noise. Every time I go to St Pancras station to catch my train home to Nottingham, I stand on the platform among diesel trains because the railway is not electrified all the way to Nottingham. Frankly, I am looking forward to seeing new trains on the midland main line next year, but they will be bi-mode trains, and while they will leave St Pancras under electric power, which will improve air quality in central London, by the time they get to Nottingham, they will be operating under diesel power, doing far less to improve air quality in our city. That is the result of a decade of broken promises from successive Tory Prime Ministers, who have paused and cancelled the electrification of the midland mainline. We now know that electric trains will not reach Nottingham until at least the early 2030s. I have sometimes joked that I will be retired by the time we get there, and I am afraid that might be the case.

There is a danger of the Government relying too heavily on new technologies to solve our air quality challenges, and placing too much emphasis on cleaning up road vehicles and not enough on reducing the number of vehicles on our roads. Improving public transport and encouraging active travel should lie at the heart of any clean air strategy. Getting freight off our roads and on to our railways would be welcome, taking many heavy goods vehicles, which are often the most polluting, off our roads.

Back in 2018, the four Select Committees concluded that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Transport should work closely with local authorities to ensure that councils introducing clean air zones received the support that they needed to implement complementary measures that encourage car drivers to switch to public transport and active travel, and increase the take-up of electric vehicles. I understand that not every journey can be made by public transport or bicycle, or on foot, but if we can change a proportion of those journeys, we can make a real difference. For a while, the Conservative party seemed really interested in walking and cycling —I see the Minister with responsibility for walking and cycling, Guy Opperman, sitting on the Front Bench, but he has not been terribly busy. Yesterday at transport questions, not a single Conservative MP asked a question about active travel. It is disappointing that they have scaled back their investment in that.

Investment in low-emission buses is great, but the value of that investment is magnified if local authorities also take steps to encourage motorists to opt for buses, rather than make journeys by car. I understand the argument made by the hon. Member for Dartford that people can continue to drive, but of course a charge is a disincentive; that is partly how the scheme operates. The pandemic had a huge impact on public transport usage, both in London and across the country. I pay tribute to the Government for their £2 bus fare, which has been a welcome initiative. In London, the Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan has also taken action, both to protect Londoners from the Tory cost of living crisis and to encourage more people to travel by public transport; he has introduced the hopper fare on buses, and has frozen fares in five out of eight years.

Without action or a modal shift, efforts to tackle congestion or improve air quality are less likely to succeed. Many of the policies needed to tackle urban congestion could also help to improve air quality. Tackling both issues could have a positive effect on both the local and the national economy. A significant increase in active travel could make a difference not just to air quality policies but to tackling obesity, improving mental health and building better communities.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

My hon. Friend is making an incredibly powerful case for why air quality should be a priority for us all. Ultimately, it is a social justice issue. However rich or poor we are, we all breathe the same air. I suggest to anyone who lives in London that they will see the need to tackle low air quality if they leave London for a couple of days and then blow their nose. They will realise what they have been breathing in. This issue affects everyone. She is right that we must tackle it nationally as well as locally. Does she agree that unless the Conservatives comes up with an alternative plan, they are condemning the poorest in our communities to the worst health outcomes?

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I would be surprised if many people decided that they wanted to go in the direction of having a Conservative Mayor in the absence of proper information about how a Conservative Mayor would tackle air pollution.

Finally, this Bill is about party political point scoring. The Government support clean air zones. Indeed, they provided cash for scrappage schemes in Bristol, Bath, Sheffield, Birmingham, Portsmouth and other areas of the country, but not London. I wonder why. In towns and cities across England—not just in London—our constituents have faced 14 years of Tory economic failure. They cannot afford another week, let alone more months or, heaven forbid, years of Tory Government. Families are sick with anxiety as they endure this cost of living crisis, while their local services are under immense pressure.

When times are tough due to the Conservatives’ economic failure, it is essential that we look at options for achieving clean air without disproportionately impacting people. We must secure our economy and make it stronger by getting growth back on course, as the last Labour Government did, whereas we have had an anaemic situation under 14 years of the Tories. [Interruption.] They do not want to hear it, do they? They do not want to hear that growth was faster under a Labour Government than under 14 years of the Tories. Fourteen years of Tory economic failure have left us in this position, where everything is worse and everything is broken. It is by growing our economy that we will provide sustainable, long-term funding for councils, and give local areas the tools and stability that they need for growth, as we push power, wealth and opportunity out from Westminster.

Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford

The hon. Lady has been speaking for nearly half an hour, and it is obvious that she and the Labour party wish to talk out my Bill to overturn the expansion of the ULEZ scheme. Can I ask what her message is to a lady I spoke to recently in my constituency? She said that she could not visit her sister in Bexley, just a few miles away. As she was a disabled person, she could not use public transport, could not afford to upgrade her car, and could not afford a taxi. That may not affect people in Nottingham South, but it does affect people in Dartford.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

I understand that people face a cost of living crisis. What the hon. Member should have explained to that lady is why she feels so much worse off after 14 years of Conservative Government. He should not try to pin it on a single issue; it is down to his Government’s failure, and he should take some responsibility for that.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I thank my hon. Friend for her excellent speech in support of clean air, which is what this debate is all about. What would she say to the many parents I meet in my constituency who introduce me to children who have asthma on a scale never seen before? Through ULEZ and other measures, they will see their children’s health improve.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

My hon. Friend makes an important point that could be lost in this debate, which is that the issue is about health—the health of children and older people. It is, as my hon. Friend Stella Creasy said, about the health of some of the poorest in society; they are most impacted by poor air quality. That is what we should be talking about.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

If, as the promoter of the Bill, Gareth Johnson, claims, the issue is not health, why are the Government supporting charge zones in other cities?

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

We will have to listen to the Minister’s answer on that. However, it was clear that the Government wanted clean air charging zones—in fact, they were a requirement on cities that had not succeeded in meeting air quality targets through other measures. I am not going to apologise for speaking in this debate because, as I say, I have long had an interest in air quality. The experience in my city means we have something to offer and share.

Finally, let me turn to the alternative, because the hon. Member for Dartford did not say much about alternatives. I want to talk about that because Labour does have a plan to support drivers. We will support them by focusing on the cost of living and on the infrastructure challenges, which are real priorities for households that have and use a car—that probably includes most of us some of the time, even if we walk, cycle or use a bus most of the time. Our plan includes working with the Competition and Markets Authority, the Financial Conduct Authority and industry on addressing the soaring costs of car insurance. We plan to bring railways back into public hands and to allow all local authorities to take back control of their bus services. London never had to put up with the deregulation of its bus services as the rest of the country did. Those things have the capability to relieve congestion by improving the state of our public transport network, and I imagine other local authorities might like to follow Nottingham’s lead by having a municipal bus company, which, once again, has been shown to provide one of the best bus services in the entire country. I would say that we have the best bus service, thanks to Nottingham City Transport.

A Labour Government would be committed to protecting our environment, helping to decarbonise the economy, and ensuring that we all have safe air to breathe. Labour would work with local authorities and mayoral combined authorities to support them to meet air quality targets in the ways that work best for their areas. We appreciate that emissions levels in different areas vary as a result of the kind of industry and economic activity in those areas, and we will work in partnership with local and regional governments, empowering them to protect and improve air quality, while fostering economic innovation and productivity.

Labour would make it clear that the Government have a direct responsibility to work with our local authorities to avoid the need for charging clean air zones through the adoption of alternative air quality improvement methods, such as those I have talked about: re-routing traffic, land management, speed limits, better public transport, and better options to get freight off our roads and on to our railways. That responsibility should also extend to helping to mitigate the impact of any proposals that clear the strong thresholds set by the Government for a clean air zone.

I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak in this debate, and I hope that hon. Members will focus on the issue of air pollution and the need to take action in a variety of ways to tackle it.

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Conservative, Bexleyheath and Crayford 12:38, 22 March 2024

Let me begin by congratulating my neighbour, my hon. Friend Gareth Johnson, on his Bill, which I was delighted to sponsor. I am delighted to participate in this debate and to congratulate him also on his excellent, informative and constructive speech.

I was rather disappointed in Lilian Greenwood, for whom I have a lot of respect, because she did not say much about ULEZ. She took us on a tour of Nottingham and told us about other parts of Labour party policy, but she showed a total misunderstanding of—or no understanding of—outer London. [Interruption.] She can barrack me all she likes, but she never had a view on outer London. She also made a statement that was fundamentally untrue, in saying that this Government had not bailed out the Mayor of London. Transport for London has been bailed out so many times in the past few years, but she did not say that. She glossed over the management of TfL. She also did not come up with any facts or figures to show that ULEZ has reduced the level of pollution in inner London. We are still seeing huge levels of pollution in inner London, even on the underground, which came to our attention last year—

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Conservative, Bexleyheath and Crayford

The hon. Lady would not give way to me, so I am certainly not going to give way to her. I have also not had the opportunity to start my speech. I know that Opposition Members just want to delay everybody and everything, but I want to speak for my borough of Bexley. We had a long tour about Nottingham, but ULEZ affects my borough and my constituency, not hers in Nottingham, so I think I should have a few minutes to speak. [Interruption.] Stella Creasy did not get up and ask to intervene, but the others did.

The expansion of ULEZ affects my area and the surrounding areas very badly. It blindly copies the approach taken in central and inner London without properly assessing the implications for outer London or the neighbouring areas. The expansion has caused a range of negative social, financial and economic impacts for those who can least afford it. Perhaps this is not the case for Clive Efford, for whom I have a lot of respect, but we are inundated with people in my borough, some of whom support his party, who think it is unfair for ULEZ to come to Bexley when Bexley has good air quality, as does Bromley. I am surprised at what he says; I have no doubt that it is correct, as he as a good friend of mine and an honourable man, but I do not believe that there have not been people in Eltham who have said that this is unfair to those who are less well off.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I want to clarify that I did not say that I have not had any people say that. What I said was that far more people write to me about the state of our roads, which the Government have caused by starving local authorities of investment.

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Conservative, Bexleyheath and Crayford

Of course, recently local authorities have been given more money by the Government. I would say to the hon. Member that that is the fault of Greenwich council, not the Government.

Photo of Louie French Louie French Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

My right hon. Friend rightly points out that the local council is responsible for the roads. What Clive Efford failed to point out is that the Royal Borough of Greenwich has been given over £7.8 million by the Government through the recent announcement of the potholes fund.

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Conservative, Bexleyheath and Crayford

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour.

The ULEZ extension is a disastrous policy and another example of the London Labour Mayor filling the black hole in his finances. This Mayor is no friend of motorists. We have already had 20 mph speed limits, 24/7 bus lanes and the congestion charge on people who need to use their car. My constituents are very angry about this.

My borough is one of the two in London without the tube, the docklands light railway or trams. The Mayor of London has never even looked at extending any of those. We only have Southeastern rail and buses as our public transport. It is all very well to say that we should go on the tube, but we do not have it. Like many people, we have to use a car to get about in our area. The lack of public transport—and the fact that a lot of what we have is unreliable—has major implications for my constituents and residents of the borough of Bexley.

We are heavily reliant on our cars for various purposes. We have one of the highest car ownership rates and the lowest sustainable modal share rate in London. Over the last decade, car and van registrations have outstripped population growth. These are not figures we want to have. We hear all these wonderful things that the Mayor of London is doing, but in our area he has done very little. I made the point in an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford that the Mayor had no mandate for this extension. It is all very well the hon. Member for Nottingham South talking about a mandate, but from his last manifesto he had no mandate for this policy. We could have debated it then. The hon. Lady was high on the mandates, but the manifesto did not mention it at all.

I believe that the consultation was rather a sham. Two thirds of people objected to the ULEZ, and they did so for many and various reasons. We have heard from businesses, and we have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford talk about his constituent who has to go and visit a relative in Bexley on a regular basis, and who now has to pay an extra £12.50 every time. The Labour party says that it cares about the less well-off and those who are disadvantaged, as I do passionately. I believe in social mobility and in giving people the chance to maximise their opportunities in life, and I have to say that the ULEZ is a tax on those who cannot afford to get around. In Bexley, we do not have the public transport services that other London boroughs have.

The congestion charge has tripled in the last few years, and the fine for non-payment has increased from £160 to £180—more than two days’ pay for minimum wage earners. It is reduced to £90 if paid within two weeks, but that is still more than a day’s pay. This is very unsatisfactory for the less well-off in the outer boroughs of London, as well as for businesses, key workers, pensioners and families. It is no good the Labour party always blaming somebody else, because the ULEZ was introduced by the Mayor of London. The poorest in my borough are the ones who do not have the ability to change their cars, and giving them £2,000 to do so is a bit of an insult. I am really disappointed.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. If he were to persuade the Government to provide additional support for scrappage, as they have done for other clean air zones in the country, to people in the outer boroughs of London, whom he and I represent, he would have my support, but does he understand my concern? Our constituents can have their say on this matter at the London mayoral elections in just six weeks’ time. Why is he seeking to usurp his own candidate and her ability to address this issue? Does he have such little confidence that he feels that national legislation is needed to undermine his own candidate, or is it really a sign that he thinks London recognises that the best option is Sadiq Khan?

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Conservative, Bexleyheath and Crayford

I have a lot of respect for the hon. Lady, and I know her constituency very well. I grew up in Woodford, so I know the area. [Interruption.] I know that is not in her constituency, but my wife and son were born in Walthamstow. The hon. Lady should let me finish before she interjects. I know that part of the world well, and I respect her tremendously for the work that she does locally. What I would say to her is that this is a conversation that should have been had before the Mayor implemented the policy. We could have then had meetings with the Government and Members representing outer London constituencies, and had a discussion about how we could go forward constructively.

The Mayor did not allow for that. He just had an artificial consultation and did not take any notice of what people thought, and we did not have a discussion. We should have had it beforehand. The hon. Lady says that these matters should be discussed with the Government and others, but we did not have that discussion. This Government have bailed out the Mayor of London so much, which the Opposition do not like to admit. I am a big supporter of Susan Hall, and I very much hope that she will win on 2 May.

It is important to note that a lot of care workers have been in touch with me. Some of them work in the constituency of the hon. Member for Eltham, and they are very cross that they have to pay £12.50. It is more difficult to get night staff, who have to pay £25. Surely that cannot be right. Surely it must be looked at again by the Mayor of London, because these are key workers in our area. They do a magnificent job, and I am always supportive of them.

I will come to a conclusion, because I do not want to take half an hour and not let other people participate in the debate. I am really disappointed that the Opposition Members who have spoken so far have tried to make this a general discussion about clean air zones across the country. We are looking at London. Unfortunately, we no longer have the debates we always used to—a debate on London issues on a Thursday. That is when we could discuss London issues, not Nottingham or national issues, however important they might be, and air quality is very important. If we are going to do that, as I said to the hon. Member for Nottingham South, let us have the figures for the improvements in inner London and the pollution that is still on the tube after years of the charge being in place in the centre of London.

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Conservative, Bexleyheath and Crayford

No, I am going to conclude because I want other people to have a chance. If people take half an hour, it is not fair on others who want to speak, whatever they want to say. I thank my hon. Friend the Minister who will respond to the debate, and I am particularly supportive of the Secretary of State for Transport, who is doing a brilliant job in the Department. He announced today that the Government will certainly be supporting this Bill.

In conclusion—because I want other people to have the chance to speak—the ULEZ extension was hurried in without proper discussion and consultation, and without thought of the consequences, and my constituents are suffering because of it.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero) 12:50, 22 March 2024

As a Bristol MP, I suppose I have to apologise for daring to take part in a debate that is primarily about our capital city, but millions of our constituents visit as tourists and come here to work, and as a nation we all want to see it as a healthy, safe and pleasant place for people to visit, and to live and work in, regardless of which constituency we represent.

I want to challenge Gareth Johnson, who brought in the Bill, for saying that this is not an air pollution issue. It is clearly not an air pollution issue from his point of view. We know why he has brought the Bill forward: because of the elections coming up on 2 May. It is a desperate last-ditch attempt to try to boost the Conservative vote—and I think we know how that will turn out. Perhaps some Conservative Members ought to be out and about, talking to voters on the doorstep, rather than taking up our time here today, if they really want to influence the result of that election.

The hon. Member, who has left the Chamber now, may not feel that ULEZ is an air pollution issue, but I very much feel that it is because low emissions are a public health issue. In my role as shadow Climate Change Minister, people often come and talk to me about air pollution as though it is primarily a net zero issue, and we have seen some depressing attempts to make net zero part of the anti-woke culture wars by saying that net zero comes at a cost. We saw the Secretary of State for Transport buy into the whole conspiracy theory about 15-minute cities at party conference, which is incredibly depressing. Reducing emissions from transport is obviously very much part of our ambition to meet net zero, but the immediate driver is the need to clean up our air.

We have heard mention of the switch to electric vehicles. It is obviously the long-term objective that we want to ensure that all the vehicles on our roads reach safe emission standards. It was therefore disappointing that the Government rowed back the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles. The signal that that sent to the market and consumers was entirely counterproductive. Although initially there was some resistance to a 2030 target—rather than a 2035 target—within the car manufacturing trade, the trade then got with the programme and was critical of the Government for that row-back, because it affected sales. It had made the switch and was producing EVs; it is still bound by zero emission vehicle mandate, so it is making the new electric vehicles.

The most important thing we can do—this goes to the points about people not being able to afford cleaner vehicles that are compliant with the ULEZ—is to develop a second-hand electric vehicle market as quickly as possible. We do that by increasing new EV sales. The figure has gone down a bit, but it was the case that of new EV sales, 80-something per cent were fleet vehicles. We know that they then come on to the second-hand market pretty quickly. We have to bring down the cost of buying EVs—I can see Sir David Evennett nodding—and we do not do that by pushing the ban back to 2035; we need to bring it in now.

We also need action on EV charging infrastructure. I will say thank you to the Government for providing some new money for charging infrastructure in the west of England—I think that Bristol is the best place outside London in this regard—but what is lacking is a national strategy to put the infrastructure into places where the market will not meet the need because there is not the necessary footfall, or whatever the driving equivalent is, particularly in our rural areas that depend on tourism. Those travelling down to Devon and Cornwall can use Exeter services, but after that it is pretty difficult to find somewhere to charge a car.

As I have an EV and cannot charge it at home because I live in a block of flats, I welcome the public charging points in Bristol. I spend far too much time sitting in car parks doing Duolingo and practising my very bad Russian while charging my car. It is quite sad when constituents spot me doing that. Although we need more charging points in our cities, including London, this is national infrastructure and we must roll it out to other parts of the country.

As I have said, I believe that the immediate imperative is not reducing transport emissions with the aim of reaching net zero but dealing with air pollution, which we know has a significant impact on people’s health and on children’s health in particular. When I was at school there was just one girl in my class with asthma, but nowadays the majority of kids in any inner-city primary school probably have it. Children are more vulnerable in this regard because their airways are smaller and still developing, because they are closer to traffic fumes because they are small, and because they breathe more rapidly. They are also more likely to develop more serious lung conditions in later life—although of course asthma can be very serious.

Moreover, air pollution affects the lung development of foetuses in utero, and increases the chance of miscarriage. If a mother is exposed to a large volume of air pollution during pregnancy the baby is more likely to be born prematurely and with a lower birth weight, which is correlated with the development of certain health problems as a child grows up. I pay tribute to groups such as Asthma + Lung UK and Mums for Lungs, which has been doing some very good campaigning in my constituency, while St George Breathing Better has been pushing for school street schemes to restrict the entry of high-emitting vehicles, especially when children are going in and out of schools.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

I do not know whether my hon. Friend has found this in her constituency, but in mine there has certainly been a significant rise in the incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The response has not been particularly helpful in recent years, in terms of acknowledgment, proper diagnosis and speed of reaction to the problem; but that, too, relates to the air pollution issue.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

I think that is true, and it is also connected with poor housing conditions. We have talked in this place before about the need to ensure that homes are fit for human habitation. A young boy tragically died recently because of the mould in his home. All these things are connected.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Tech and Digital Economy)

In the last few weeks I have been diagnosed with adult-onset asthma, which is on the rise. We know that 30% of cases are triggered by allergies, and that much of this is linked with mould in people’s homes. What my hon. Friend is saying—and she is making a powerful speech—goes to the heart of why we need to tackle this issue for all our constituents, whether young or old.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

I suffer from hay fever virtually all the year round. I would have thought it would be worse in the countryside, but it is terrible when I am in London. I was in Paris in January and the hay fever took off suddenly because of the air pollution levels. Hay fever is not lethal in the way that asthma attacks can be, but it is a pretty grim condition to have to live with. It affects people’s ability to do their work and to study, for instance.

As I said earlier, the Government were forced to act on air pollution after being taken to court by ClientEarth, to which I pay tribute for its continuing efforts through the legal system to hold the Government to account in respect of their environmental targets. As a result of that court case, Bristol was asked to act. I have already made the point about the irony, perhaps, of demanding local autonomy in some cases and demanding not to be told what to do by the Mayor of London, but in Bristol the Secretary of State told us we had to do that.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Lady is making a fair point, but we have to recognise the issue of scale. In Bristol, the clean air zone is barely 2 square miles—it is about 1 mile by 2 miles—and specifically took into account individuals and businesses. The Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford does not seek to get rid of the congestion zone or the first ULEZ expansion, yet the second expansion of ULEZ, in contrast to Bristol’s 2 square miles, is approximately 600 square miles, at 50 miles by 50 miles. That is so monumentally bigger than anything contemplated in Bristol or other cities.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

London has the Greater London Assembly, a Mayor with devolved powers and Transport for London, so this issue is looked at on a London-wide basis. There is an issue in Bristol with people coming into the city centre from places like Bath, but the boroughs are not so interwoven that we cannot see the borders between them, and we do not have the interconnectivity that London has. In Bristol, we were told that we had to bring air pollution levels within legal limits as quickly as possible. We went to great lengths with the modelling to deal with concerns about the economic and social impact. As the Minister said, making the zone as small as possible was one of the factors in that.

It is relevant to talk about the Bristol scheme because it shows what can be achieved by similar measures in London. The scheme came into effect in November 2022, and in January this year we had the first annual report on its effectiveness. It was judged to have been highly successful. The headline figure was that air pollution across all measured sites had declined by 9.7%. The success of the CAZ is measured by whether it lowers nitrogen dioxide levels below the legal limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre. In November 2022, when the scheme was introduced, there were 18 sites across Bristol above the legal limit. Just 12 months later, that was down to just six zones. The scheme was particularly effective outside the Bristol Royal Infirmary and the Bristol Children’s Hospital, which are bang in the middle of the city centre. Air pollution was down by an incredible 26.9%. I defy anyone to tell me that such big improvements in air quality in areas where there are very sick and vulnerable people, including sick children, is a bad thing. It has been really successful.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

Does my hon. Friend share my concern that this is sometimes presented as a binary choice between motorists and everybody else, such as the children in the hospital, when these improvements are actually beneficial for everyone? One thing that came out of the 2018 report is that some of the worst air quality is inside vehicles, so motorists directly benefit from improvements in air quality.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

I was on the Environmental Audit Committee and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee at the time, both of which took part in that inquiry. It was difficult to bring those Committees together, but the inquiry produced a really good, significant report, which we should still pay heed to when we as House think about what to do on this issue going forward.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

There seems to be a focus on motorists, but there is now a multiplicity of electric vehicles. I have got one of them. I used to have an electric bike, but I now have an electric scooter—not a sit-down scooter. I find it particularly effective in my constituency, although to be frank my constituents do frown when I turn up as the MP because they think I should be delivering a pizza. There is a multiplicity of vehicle options that we can deploy to tackle some of these air pollution problems, but we need more incentives from central Government to develop that multiplicity.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct. I did have an e-bike; it was stolen from inside the Houses of Parliament. One would think that there would be nowhere more secure, but when the Queen was lying in state, whoever was acting as her security removed all the bikes and took off a £130 lock—presumably with an angle grinder or something—and my bike was not seen again. Try explaining to the insurance company that it was people from Buckingham Palace or from the Queen’s lying in state who took the lock off! That is another story, though.

My right hon. Friend is entirely right. I used to hold the shadow green transport brief, and e-bikes are hugely important in allowing people to do those longer journeys. I could not make it up the hills in Bristol without a bit of extra help from an e-bike, but when it comes to delivery vehicles, one of the issues is deliveries inside the areas covered by zones. If we can have hubs outside the city centres and electric vans or e-cargo bikes making those deliveries, that could have a huge impact. Obviously, everybody making food deliveries and similar things really ought to be using clean modes of transport.

I am conscious of time, so I will finish my point about the Bristol scheme. There were concerns that it would lead people to take diversions and increase pollution outside the clean air zone, but air pollution outside the zone has also been measured as down: it has reduced by 7.8%, because the CAZ has encouraged a modal shift among people. I appreciate that people cannot always afford to make that shift in vehicles, but it has happened.

Another concern raised by opponents was that the CAZ would harm the local economy and communities by discouraging people from coming into the city centre. In fact, the opposite happened: retail footfall across four major retail hotspots in central Bristol actually rose from the previous year. There was also an argument that people would become isolated and stuck at home because they could not afford to pay the £9 charge, but again, that was not the case: the number of journeys into or through the CAZ per month was higher at the end of the year than at the start of the scheme, and the percentage of compliant journeys rose every single month. That is what we want to achieve.

It is the same with the landfill tax, for example. That tax is not about raising money because lots of people are sending stuff to landfill. If a landfill tax is effective, the revenues go down and down, year on year. There is actually an issue with the fact that the tax is not keeping pace with inflation at the moment, but assuming it is effective, the revenues will dwindle—it is the behaviour change that we want to make happen. As I said, ideally we would not have introduced a clean air zone, but we have made it work. It is also worth noting that the Government take £2 from every £9 CAZ charge, which we would very much like to be able to spend in Bristol instead.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

It is quite difficult to assess the effectiveness of a clean air zone, because it is not about whether vehicle numbers go down, but about whether those numbers are higher or lower than they would have been if we had done nothing. When thinking about the effectiveness of ULEZ in central London, for example, we need to model what would have happened if we had not had ULEZ, rather than just look at whether the numbers have gone up or down.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

Exactly—there is very complicated modelling involved. Also, if we can use measures such as these to take some cars off the road, that increases the attractiveness of public transport, because the buses can get to where they are meant to be without being stuck in traffic.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Surely the hon. Lady is making an argument in support of the Bill—for having small congestion zones in the centre of cities, allowing the public transport to get to where it is meant to be, but not massive 600 square mile congestion zones such as the present expanded ULEZ?

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

I was thinking in the context of Sir David Evennett saying that he does not have a tube station in his part of Greater London, as though the only alternative to the tube is driving. London has a pretty decent bus system, but we need to make sure that people have that alternative.

Again, I am going to say something nice: we have had confirmation today that First Bus has received funding under the next wave of the zero-emission bus regional areas scheme to turn all of our buses into electric vehicles. We have been experimenting with biogas, but that funding will do an awful lot. We do have some clean biogas buses, and my right hon. and learned Friend the leader of the Labour party got to drive one on one of his previous visits to the city. He was like a little boy with a new toy, it has to be said—I think he greatly enjoyed it.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

Given that the evidence shows that ULEZ has cut pollution in central London by almost half, the challenge that the Minister is presenting slightly misreads how people travel around London. As an outer-London MP, I am acutely conscious that people also drive within the borough to work, as well as between outer London boroughs. The idea that we would have the same impact on reducing pollution just by focusing on the centre misses the challenge that we are all trying to address. Nobody is saying that this is easy or that it is not controversial. I have the north circular running through my constituency, and I see the pollution. I see children and adults struggling with the consequences, and I am sure the same is true in south London. We have to consider how people travel around London to understand the best way of tackling these issues. It cannot just be theoretical. It has to be a practical model, does it not?

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

My hon. Friend is right, and she brings me on to my final point. Her borough of Waltham Forest hosts the mini-Holland scheme, which I have cycled around on an e-bike. Each week, the council’s transport lead takes people on a tour so that they can learn from the scheme. These local schemes can transform neighbourhoods by designing out some of the traffic and making them pleasant places to live, by building things like sustainable urban drainage schemes and areas where people can sit and talk.

A liveable neighbourhood pilot is just about to start in my constituency. It is important to engage the local community, to explain how it will work for them and to listen when they say how it might cause problems in certain areas. Although there has been some opposition, groups such as St George Breathing Better—which was founded by a group of parents whose children are suffering because of the city’s air pollution—are very much behind the pilot.

I return to the Secretary of State’s disappointing remarks about 15-minute cities. As well as bigger measures, such as ULEZ to address Greater London’s transport problems, we need to consider local solutions such as liveable neighbourhoods and school street schemes to encourage people to walk to school and work, and to make it as easy as possible for people to get around without resorting to their car. This should be about giving elected politicians the right to implement such solutions in consultation with the people they represent.

Photo of Steve Tuckwell Steve Tuckwell Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip 1:12, 22 March 2024

I thank my hon. Friend Gareth Johnson for introducing this Bill, which it is my great pleasure to support.

Members across the House will agree that we want clean air for our residents today and for generations to come. Across London and in my constituency, in the outer suburbs of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, we all agree that nobody wants dirty or poor-quality air. However, the Labour Mayor of London’s expansion of ULEZ to outer London has nothing to do with air quality and everything to do with punishing hard-working families and businesses of all sizes. Several months after he totally ignored Londoners and pressed ahead with expanding the ULEZ tax across outer London, like fellow Conservative Members I continue to be contacted by people sharing examples of financial hardship, collapsed businesses and negative social consequences.

As it stands, I believe the Bill would go some way towards rectifying a blatant money grab, by calling for the Transport Secretary to consent to any expansion of ULEZ and the ULEZ boundaries, once they have been amended as per the Bill, which spells out a number of important qualifications. Among them is whether any proposed changes are in accordance with a Mayor’s manifesto commitments at the most recent mayoral election.

The Mayor of London made no mention of ULEZ expansion in his manifesto, and he certainly made no mention of it to the people of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, but that is not all. The ULEZ expansion’s democratic deficit does not stop there. Along with the lack of any mention of ULEZ in his manifesto, the Mayor of London embarked on a consultation that, due to a raft of allegations, including on the weighting given to particular consultation responses among other issues, has left multiple questions about its validity. I am glad to see that confronted in the Bill, which would require the Secretary of State to consider responses to any consultation conducted on proposed changes.

If the Mayor had put more time and effort into speaking to residents across outer London—and, indeed, in Uxbridge and South Ruislip—he would have understood that they were not far-right conspiracy theorists. These hard-working families and business owners were ignored, and continue to be ignored. Why did the Mayor of London not consider using funds to bring about a new fleet of green buses, electrify the taxi network, plant more trees or ensure that the tube runs on much cleaner energy? Let us not forget a properly funded scrappage scheme. Those alternatives would have produced real, binding changes in people’s lives: not just in how they travel around outer London, but in how they interact with their communities and their surroundings.

Rather than exploring sensible, common-sense alternatives, the Mayor of London chose to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on ULEZ enforcement cameras. Uxbridge and South Ruislip is heavily reliant on car usage due to the nature of its outer-London geography. The people I have the privilege of representing could opt to use public transport, but we see how the Mayor of London is decimating local bus services and continues to preside over the ongoing catastrophic failure of the Central line. Emails and social media comments flood in from constituents who are rightly angry about an unacceptable and unreliable public transport service. Why force ULEZ expansion on areas with minimal and long-term unreliable public transport without first rectifying those issues? Why not invest more in the public transport network so that people can rely on it and then decide to make the switch? Why did he push ahead with ULEZ expansion first? The answer is clear: to continue ignoring hard-working Londoners and punish them with a destructive money grab, thinly disguised as an environmental strategy, with little or no substance.

I know all too well about the anger and frustration felt by ordinary, hard-working people in Uxbridge and South Ruislip—and indeed those across outer London —about the Mayor’s cynical money grab. In my maiden speech, I stated:

“I stand here—no longer the local candidate, but the Member of Parliament—still determined to fight the Mayor of London’s money grab and reduce the burden placed on my residents and local businesses.”—[Official Report, 13 November 2023;
Vol. 740, c. 389.]

Those words still ring true.

Only this week, the Mayor of London made comments citing that

“the sky didn’t fall in” following the expansion of ULEZ. Well, it did for businesses who can no longer afford to trade and for households who have incurred financial hardships. Those flippant and arrogant comments cement the view that the Mayor of London is out of touch with hard-working Londoners.

The Bill has my full support as it looks to vary ULEZ boundaries and ensure that safeguards are in place for oversight and consultation. In addition to supporting the Bill, I want to place on record in the House my wholehearted support for the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, Susan Hall.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Shadow Minister (International Trade), Shadow Minister (Justice) 1:18, 22 March 2024

I rise to speak in opposition to the Bill. It is interesting to follow Steve Tuckwell. On the day that he was elected to this place, I remember campaigning and talking to residents, who said, “We are not going to vote Labour, as we have always done before, because we’ll have to pay £12.50 every day to drive on our local roads.” My colleague said, “How will it affect you? What car do you drive?” and the guy at this one house said, “Well, there it is—it’s a Toyota Prius.” On the day of that election, thousands of people were told, and some still believe, that every single person driving a vehicle in Greater London has to pay £12.50 a day. That is not true, and that myth is still going around.

I do not want to undermine the fact that about 5% of vehicles in London are non-compliant. I accept that the expansion forced people who drive non-compliant vehicles, for work or for personal use, to make decisions, as others had to when the original ULEZ boundary was introduced. I will come on to that aspect of the scrappage scheme later.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Lady will be aware that Transport for London’s impact assessment states that there is likely to be a disproportionate negative impact

“for people on low incomes who travel by a non-compliant private vehicle in outer London to access employment…or opportunities”.

It is those organisations and individuals who are being affected by the policy.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Shadow Minister (International Trade), Shadow Minister (Justice)

As I have said, I will come on to the detail of the scrappage scheme later. I can address that point, because my constituency is crossed by the north and south circulars, so we have already been there.

As we know, the Bill proposes to amend

“the boundaries of the Greater London Low Emission Zone and Ultra Low Emission Zone”,

and provides that Transport for London—in other words, the London Mayor

“may not make an order amending those boundaries without the consent of the Secretary of State”.

Under the Greater London Authority Act 1999, transport in London is a devolved matter and the responsibility of the Mayor and TfL. As such, Parliament granted the power to make decisions on London-wide road-charging schemes to the Mayor. The proposed changes pose a threat to the powers of the Mayor of London, the Greater London Authority, and devolved places around the country. I am disappointed that the Minister has announced that the Government will support this Bill, given their long-standing position that local road-charging powers are the responsibility of the Mayor and TfL. Any support for such a Bill is regressive and anti-devolution.

The previous Mayor of London, before becoming Conservative Prime Minister, introduced the ULEZ, which came into operation in April 2019. In October 2021, he ensured its extension to the north and south circular roads. The current Mayor of London, as we know, then extended it to all of Greater London in August 2023. The Bill seeks to revert us to having the boundary at the north and south circular roads. I cannot see the logic in that.

Devolution is one of the key issues here, along with tackling air pollution. The ULEZ stems from Government legislation, which local government is required to abide by, and which was first championed in London by a Conservative Mayor of London. Under the Greater London Authority Act 1999—

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

I served on the Bill Committee for that Act. At first, the Conservative party opposed the restoration of a Mayor for London and a Greater London Authority, but as we went through the legislation, an element of consensus built up, particularly in the local government community and among London MPs, about the sort of powers that the Mayor and the GLA should have, including around these sorts of issues. There was consensus that if we established these structures, they would need to be properly empowered, and then there was a debate about resourcing. The Bill before us flies in the face of the debate on that Act. As I say, I was on that Committee, and if I remember rightly, Glenda Jackson was the Minister.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Shadow Minister (International Trade), Shadow Minister (Justice)

I thank my right hon. Friend, who was a member of the Greater London Council, which was abolished by a Conservative Government who did not like what the Labour London government was doing —so much for respect for local politicians.

Under the Greater London Authority Act 1999, transport and air quality in London are devolved matters that are the responsibility of the Mayor and Transport for London. The Bill is an affront to the principle of devolution, and the principle of allowing local leaders to make the decisions needed to deliver local priorities and meet objectives set by national Government. Air pollution is a health crisis. There is a national air crisis. Targets to tackle that are rightly set by central Government. Across the country, the Government have required and encouraged the introduction of clean air zones. The Bill is plainly party political point scoring, given that the Government have required and encouraged many other clean air zones across the country.

The Bill seeks to:

“Amend the boundaries of the Greater London Low Emission Zone and Ultra Low Emission Zone;
to provide that Transport for London may not make an order amending those boundaries without the consent of the Secretary of State”.

The boundaries of the zone would be amended, so that the new boundary would be the edge of the inner zone —that is, the new boundary would be the boundary that was put in place in October 2021, before the zone was expanded up to, but not including, the north and south circulars. Given the concerns of drivers coming from Dartford and other places into London, what is the logic of removing ULEZ from outer London but not inner London? Surely Gareth Johnson represents residents and businesses who drive into central London. Either oppose ULEZ or support ULEZ; this Bill is neither one thing nor the other.

The Bill will prevent TfL from amending the boundaries without the express consent of the Secretary of State. It would restrict the ability of the Mayor of London and TfL to make amendments to the charging area by forcing the Greater London Authority to request permission from the Secretary of State first, and would place a duty on the Secretary of State to consider London election manifesto commitments. It is very bizarre. The Bill means that there will be contradictory decisions made in different parts of the country. The Bill strikes me as being part of a historical antipathy on the part of Conservative Governments to Labour leaders in Greater London.

As others have said eloquently, this Government could do so much more to address air pollution. They could support the Mayor of London’s making the scrappage scheme more generous, so that nobody has any reason not to get rid of their non-compliant vehicle. If the costs for non-polluting vehicles came down, there would be no non-compliant vehicles polluting London. That is important because of the impact that pollution has on our communities and the people of this country.

Air pollution is the No. 1 environmental threat to public health in the UK. It contributes to up to 43,000 premature deaths every year in England. In his 2022 annual report, chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty outlined that outdoor air pollution in England

“still poses significant health threats” to adults and children. An increasing body of evidence links air pollution to various cancers, lung and heart disease, dementia and stroke. It puts us all at greater risk of disease and shortens lives.

Furthermore, toxic air is holding back our public services and making it harder to treat other conditions. Public Health England estimates that air pollution will cost the NHS and the social care system £1.6 billion between 2017 and 2025. That rises to £5.56 billion when we include the impact of diseases for which the evidence of an association is less developed and still emerging. By 2035, that figure will reach almost £19 billion unless stronger action is taken. In addition, a report commissioned by the Clean Air Fund concluded that improving air quality could boost the UK economy by £1.6 billion each year, as a result of 3 million additional working days being worked, and a reduction in the rate of early retirement.

In 2019 in London, toxic air contributed to around 4,000 premature deaths. The greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution were in outer London boroughs, mainly due to the higher proportion in those areas of elderly people, who are more vulnerable to the impact of air pollution. I hardly see her now, but I worked with a wonderful tenant activist in Brentford when I was a councillor. She has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and was confined to bed about 15 years ago; she has not been able to leave her bedroom because of COPD. She has lived all her life in Brentford, which has always had very high air pollution from the coke works and the proximity to the A4 and the M4. She is just one example, but we all know people who suffer from COPD, emphysema and a whole range of other life-limiting and life-damaging conditions.

If no further action is taken to reduce air pollution, around 550,000 Londoners will develop diseases relating to poor air quality in the next 30 years. The cost of that for the NHS and social care system in London alone is estimated to be £10.4 billion by 2050. More than half a million Londoners suffer from asthma and are more vulnerable to the effects of toxic air, and more than half of those people live in outer London. Toxic air is a social justice issue. The poorest Londoners, and Londoners from ethnic minority backgrounds, who are least likely to own a car, are worst affected by toxic air. Only 5% of the lowest-income Londoners own a car, yet they are more likely to suffer from toxic air.

Half of all the children admitted to hospital due to asthma in London are from minority ethnic backgrounds. How can we ever forget the case of Ella Kissi-Debrah, the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as a cause of death on her death certificate? She was a child who grew up in a flat overlooking a busy road in south-east London. I have met Ella’s mother. I have also worked with campaign groups such as Mums for Lungs. Parents are campaigning for us to do the right thing. They support the ULEZ and they ask us—I have had two or three emails on this already this week—to oppose this Bill.

I want to say a little about my constituency and why this issue matters there. From one end of my constituency to the other, we are affected by heavy traffic and, therefore, high air pollution. That can be seen from the maps. We have the A4, the M4 above, and the A316, which comes in from the M3. The north and south circular meet at their westerly point in my constituency. All those roads are all hugely congested and have very polluted air. The last ULEZ boundary went through the middle of my constituency, just inside the north and south circular. There, we have St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School and William Hogarth School next door to each other, alongside the A4 in Chiswick. The pollution at those schools is incredibly high. Parents there, led by one of the fathers, Andrea Carnevali, have campaigned for years to address the issue. Their campaign has meant that the issue of air pollution has got into the public domain locally.

Through their campaigning, those parents managed to get support from the Mayor of London for a green wall along the playground side of the wall to try to catch some of the pollution. They have also worked with paint manufacturers. Remarkably, air pollution levels inside a classroom can be reduced with a particular paint. The school was donated the paint to do measurements and assessments so that everybody could see its efficacy. Sadly, it is too expensive for schools to buy, because it is so specialist, but that is the sort of thing the Government should be supporting.

Until air pollution levels drop—they are starting to drop, and I will come on to that—children who go to St Mary’s, William Hogarth and other schools in my constituency and across London will be going into classrooms, playing in playgrounds, and walking and cycling to and from school in environments that are limiting their life expectancy.

I want to pick up on two letters I received from parents this week. This is from a mother who told me about her son. He used to attend a school situated just one block from the A4 as it goes into London through Chiswick and Hammersmith. She wrote that he

“used to suffer from asthma and he used to tell us how he could breathe so much better when we were away from London.”

He has died from cancer. His mother said:

“Although his primary tumour was in his left humerus, he died from the bone cancer which had spread to his lungs and we now suspect that it had been in his lungs for quite some time.”

That is why she has asked me to oppose the Bill today. She added another thing in her note:

“When I took my son to hospital once for something unrelated, I was on a ward with him with three other children who all had breathing difficulties. When I asked the nurse about this she said they consistently have children admitted for breathing problems.”

That reminded me of my visits to schools over the years, from when I was a councillor and subsequently as an MP. A growing number of schools have to have an asthma strategy and a growing bank of drawers full of asthma inhalers, just in case. Those inhalers are used. More and more children are using asthma inhalers day in, day out so that they are able to make the most of school.

The second email is in a way more general, but it still explains from a constituent’s point of view why I will oppose the Bill today. My constituent wrote:

“As the dad of two young boys who has to expose them to pollution every single day on the school run—particularly over Kew bridge”— over the river, but highly polluted—

“I support any and all efforts to clean up London’s air.”

The ULEZ is a strategy to protect public health. In lieu of alternative policies that could address this horrific health challenge, the ULEZ is the most effective strategy we have for London, and that is why the Mayor for London is using it. The ULEZ is highly targeted. It helps to take the most polluting vehicles off London’s roads. Vehicles that do not meet certain emissions standards and are not otherwise subject to a grace period, discount or exemption must pay the charge to travel within the city. The charge is set to disincentivise frequent trips in non-compliant vehicles that would otherwise contribute more to air pollution. It incentivises people to change their travel behaviour—for example, to use public transport more or to replace their vehicle—while allowing occasional visitors and infrequent drivers an alternative.

The London-wide expansion has already been highly effective in reducing the proportion and number of older, more polluting vehicles on London’s roads. Data from the London-wide ULEZ first month report shows a 10 percentage point increase in vehicle compliance in outer London, with 95% of vehicles seen driving in London on an average day now meeting ULEZ standards. That is up from 85% when the consultation was launched in May 2022, and means that compliance rates in outer London have nearly caught up with inner London. As has been said, any net revenue raised from ULEZ will be re-invested back into public transport, including the expansion of bus services in outer London. I am not aware of bus services that have been cut, but there is no doubt that we could always do with more bus services—more frequent services, and more night and weekend services—so that fewer people are forced to get their car out in order to get to work, visit friends and relatives, and so on.

The ULEZ has been hugely successful in central and inner London, and has led to significant benefits. Harmful NO2 concentrations alongside roads, such as the A4 and the A316 in my constituency, are estimated to be 46% lower in central London and 21% lower in inner London than they would have been without the ULEZ. The number of schools in areas exceeding legal limits for NO2 fell by an amazing 96%, from 455 in 2016 to just 20 in 2019.

Mums for Lungs is keen to remind us of those figures. It says that on an average day, there are 77,000 fewer unique non-compliant vehicles compared with June 2023, as well as an overall reduction of 48,000 fewer non-compliant vehicles per day within the ULEZ zone. The ULEZ has helped to reduce all harmful NOx by 46% in central London, and by 21% in inner London. Monitors in the capital showed that London enjoyed the cleanest air on record in 2023 as a result of ULEZ.

There is still a long way to go for London to meet World Health Organisation air quality guidelines, and forecasts show that all of London will continue to exceed those guidelines in 2025 and 2030 without further action. That goes back to what the Government are doing. Beyond London, it is the UK Government’s view that clean air and low-emission zones are the preferred option for improving air quality in the shortest possible time, but more must be done to incentivise the use of low and zero-emission vehicles than what the Government are doing.

We are already beginning to see the expected benefits of expanding the ULEZ, and it is estimated that 5 million more people, including the constituents of some Conservative Members, are expected to breathe cleaner air as a result of expanding ULEZ to outer London. Modelling suggests that the current ULEZ is expected to reduce PM2.5 exhaust emissions in outer London by nearly 16%, leading to a 1.5% overall reduction in PM2.5 emissions—those are the ones that cause severe lung disease. It will lead to a reduction of nearly 10% in nitrogen oxide emissions in outer London, and to 146,000 fewer car trips overall, which is an almost 2% reduction. As one of my colleagues said earlier, the worst place to be in terms of air pollution is inside a car, so if fewer car trips are made that should mean that fewer people are exposed to emissions inside a car as well as externally. The ULEZ is expected to save 27,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions in outer London, so this is about not just air pollution, but climate change.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

The issue we have focused on today is respiratory conditions, but, like me, my hon. Friend has been working on air pollution issues around our airport. I do not know whether she will remember this, but when we looked at the matter perhaps 15 years ago, the issue we raised was the incidence of cancer—she has mentioned cancer itself. We then discovered the Chicago airport study, which linked cancer to air pollution and highlighted the significance of that for airports and the surrounding areas. We should not underestimate the impact that ULEZ could have, not only on overcoming respiratory problems, but on reducing cancer incidence in areas such as ours. A number of our key campaigners in the area have suffered from cancer and we consider that it is linked to the air pollution around the airport.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Shadow Minister (International Trade), Shadow Minister (Justice)

I thank my right hon. Friend for that. I have worked with him for many years on issues relating to Heathrow. We cannot separate the issues of vehicle congestion and air pollution from the issues around Heathrow airport, which does not do enough to incentivise its staff and its passengers to come to the airport by means other than car.

I said that I would cover the issue of scrappage. Having continued to listen to the concerns of Londoners, the Mayor and TfL expanded the scrappage scheme to provide support for more Londoners. The Mayor is providing a £210 million funding pot for the scrappage scheme to support all Londoners with an eligible car or motorcycle, as well as charities, sole traders and small businesses. It is the most generous scrappage scheme ever seen in the UK. As part of the scheme, any London resident with an eligible non-compliant car can apply for a grant of up to £2,000 to scrap it. Neighbours of mine have a nice little runaround car that cost £2,000 and is compliant, so anyone who says that it is not possible to buy a compliant car for that kind of money has not tried to do it.

Other more extended benefits are available. For example, disabled people who need to scrap or retrofit a non-compliant wheelchair-accessible car can apply for grants of up to £10,000 to scrap or £6,000 to retrofit. Charities, sole traders and businesses with fewer than 50 employees that are registered in London can apply for a grant of £7,000 to scrap a van, £9,000 to scrap a minibus, or £6,000 to retrofit certain vans or minibuses. They can also apply to scrap and replace a van or minibus with a fully electric vehicle, for which the grants are £9,500 and £11,500 respectively. Eligible organisations can scrap or retrofit up to three vehicles. As of 15 March 2024, applicants to the ULEZ scrappage scheme can donate their non-ULEZ compliant vehicle to support humanitarian and medical needs in Ukraine, in return for the same level of grant payment that is available to those who choose to scrap their vehicle.

The Government have provided scrappage funding for other cities, including Birmingham, Bristol, Sheffield and Portsmouth, but they have not provided similar arrangements for specific ringfenced funding for London. That is yet another sectarian attack by the Conservative Government on a Labour Mayor.

Air pollution is a health crisis, and targets to tackle it are rightfully set by central Government. Across the country, the Government have required and encouraged the introduction of clean air zones. The Bill is plainly party political point scoring, given that the Government have required and encouraged many other clean air zones across the country. This Bill is a challenge to the powers of the Mayor of London to make decisions that improve the health of Londoners—all Londoners. If successful, the Bill has the potential to do significant damage, reinforce inequities in public health and undermine the office of the Mayor of London. The Bill is an attack on devolution. The Mayor has a right to introduce measures within his powers to meet statutory targets set by central Government, but they are dictating how a democratically elected Mayor of London should run the city and that is counter to the principles of devolution. Labour is a party of devolution: we created the mayoral model in London, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly, and promoted local and regional decision making and funding across England. This Bill is an attack not only on devolution, but on measures to improve our environment and the health of our children and our children’s children.

We have to have solutions to the air quality crisis and the cost of living crisis, both nationally and locally. Labour is clear that the Government have a direct responsibility to work with local authorities to enable clean air zones and alternatives to them, and there needs to be a range of alternative air quality improvement methods, including re-routing traffic, land management, speed limits, better public transport and making it easier to acquire non-polluting vehicles. That responsibility should extend to helping to mitigate the impacts of any proposal that clears the strong thresholds set by the Government for a clean air zone. I do not hear about any alternatives from those on the Government Benches, so whose side are the supporters of the Bill on—continuing pollution or finding a solution to stop our children dying? I want to read out the end of the email that I received from the father I mentioned earlier:

“Pollution is too high in London, it makes us sick and long-term exposure can reduce cognitive ability.”

I am proud that London has the world’s largest clean air zone. The ULEZ is a brave and important policy which will be a historic legacy for the London Mayor.

Photo of Louie French Louie French Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup 1:51, 22 March 2024

I will not speak for long, because I do not want to delay passage of this important Bill, which I have been happy to support my hon. Friend Gareth Johnson in bringing to this place.

Today we will see whose side Labour is really on: the Labour Mayor of London, who has introduced this regressive and greenwashed tax on outer London, or the hard-working people in Greater London who are struggling to pay Labour’s tax of £12.50 per day, or £4,500 per year, for going to work, medical appointments or the supermarket. This week, the Leader of the Opposition has finally got off his fence and disgracefully backed the Labour Mayor of London over the interests of hard-working Londoners. Today we have heard that the hon. Members for Eltham (Clive Efford), for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) and for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) also back the Labour Mayor of London over their constituents—but the Conservatives will continue to back drivers in Greater London and the home counties, and I am pleased that the Government support the Bill.

Photo of Dean Russell Dean Russell Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is less about clean air and more about taking my constituents in Watford and those elsewhere to the cleaners? The scheme taxes hard-working people who just want to get to work. When we say “hard-working people”, that includes those who work in hospitals and who want to work elsewhere in London to contribute to the local economy, including the night-time economy.

Bands that want to go and do gigs in London are now being priced out of being able to do so, and those who want to go and see them are being priced out too. It is absolutely wrong and needs to be stopped. Those who do not want to back the Bill really need to look in the mirror and consider why they are not helping hard-working people.

Photo of Louie French Louie French Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

I thank my hon. Friend, who is a real champion of his constituents. As he has just pointed out, people who come into London at night face the double charge of £12.50 to come in and then go out. That equally applies to the night-time industry. We have heard a lot about the scrappage scheme, but according to the ULEZ data from TfL, only one in three van drivers who have applied for support has received any. I completely agree with my hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford that this tax on hard-working people is hurting people in the likes of Bexley, which is inside the zone, and those just outside.

With the Mayor of London taking millions of pounds each month from the pockets of drivers via fines and charges, while at the same time refusing to publish any meaningful evidence that proves that the ULEZ in outer London actually improves air quality, the public out there do not need me to tell them how much of a greenwashed con the ULEZ expansion really is.

Photo of Louie French Louie French Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

No, the hon. Gentleman has only just come in.

The public do not need me to tell them that London devolution is broken, with TfL requiring Government bail-out after Government bail-out, London now being the slowest city in the world to drive in, and the Metropolitan police and London Fire Brigade in special measures.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I credit my hon. Friend for the speech he is giving. Is not the key issue here the democratic deficit for those outside the mayoral zone? A decision was made by the Mayor, which we know was not backed by a manifesto, and it is now impacting the wider communities my hon. and right hon. Friends represent, from Harlow to Bexley and Crayford. Surely the issue is how we navigate the desire to comply with the legislation—that is why the Bill from my hon. Friend Gareth Johnson does not say that we are scrapping it entirely—and the ability of individuals to have their say on whether this is the appropriate measure.

Photo of Louie French Louie French Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

I thank the Roads Minister for his intervention. I agree completely; there is a huge democratic deficit at play here. As he correctly points out, the charge affects people outside the zone who need to come into London, and it is having a significant negative impact on the likes of Crayford and Bexley village in my constituency, which are hundreds of meters away from the so-called London boundary and whose businesses are losing customers every single day because of the expansion.

The people of Bexley, who quite clearly rejected this policy in the sham of a public consultation we had, have been completely ignored. That is why I have no doubt that in a few weeks’ time they will be voting, like I will, to sack Sadiq Khan after eight years of failure. The public out there do not need me to tell them that London and the surrounding counties cannot afford another four years of Sadiq Khan and Labour running London. The plans to toll the Blackwall tunnel and install cameras on small residential closes and roads shows that ULEZ is not the end of the Mayor’s desire to hammer motorists in Bexley and outer London—people can look up Project Detroit themselves.

On 2 May, Londoners will be able to vote for Susan Hall and vote for change, to make London better and safer for everybody. People in Greater London do not need me to tell them who is on their side; they will see it with their own eyes as the Labour party desperately tries to block this Bill.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland) 1:57, 22 March 2024

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on an issue that is of the utmost importance for my constituents. I draw all Members’ attention to Bill No. 12 on the Order Paper, which is my private Member’s Bill, the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (Amendment) Bill. It is about clean air, taking action on mould and giving private landlords more powers to take action—and ensuring that they have to take action. My Bill is connected to the Bill we are debating, because my constituents often suffer the double whammy of living in poorer, cheaper housing that is on a main road. They are very unlikely to have a car—the majority of my constituents do not—and are more likely to suffer from the effects of air pollution and to have mould in their homes. Many of my constituents talk to me about this issue, so if we get to my Bill, I hope all Members will support it.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be better for us to spend parliamentary time looking at a comprehensive strategy that tackles air pollution and respiratory conditions, rather than going down this rabbit hole today? The issue she raises with her legislation, which I hope the Government will support, could be a foundation stone for us to tackle the problems of housing and respiratory conditions.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. There are many better things we could be discussing here than trying to turn back the clock on a progressive and life-changing policy that has been brought in by the Mayor. We could be discussing the Renters (Reform) Bill or action on respiratory health—or a whole number of things that my constituents would like to see us discuss instead of this Bill.

I object to the principle of the Bill, as well as its substance. The Bill proposes to

“amend the boundaries of the Greater London Low Emission Zone and Ultra Low Emission Zone;
to provide that Transport for London may not make an order amending those boundaries without the consent of the Secretary of State”,

and legislates for connected purposes. In London, we voted to have a Mayor and voted for who that Mayor would be, and we support our Mayor in London making decisions about our roads. Parliament granted the power to make decisions on London-wide road charging schemes to the Mayor. This Bill is trying to take powers away from the Mayor—it is playing politics with our constitutional arrangements, and it is quite clear why.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Bill is particularly disingenuous, because a number of the air quality mandate changes are the results of European and national decisions? It is not just Sadiq Khan or other people unilaterally doing it; it is being done because the whole of Britain needs to improve its air quality, which is currently producing real and harmful effects for our constituents.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised that point. The Government have asked councils in Bristol and Birmingham, for example, to bring in clean air zones, and have asked for one to be brought in in London as well. I hope the Government will not be supporting the Bill today, because it would be against their policy of giving more people clean air across the country.

Any proposed changes to devolved powers would pose a threat to the existing powers of the Mayor and the London Assembly, and to those of devolved institutions across the country. It starts here—where will it go? We cannot just have the Government taking back powers willy-nilly and whenever they like because a mayoral election is due to take place in a few weeks’ time. The Mayor of London introduced the world’s first 24-hour ULEZ in central London in 2019 to bring in health benefits, and expanded it in 2021. That expansion brought the health benefits that were the result of the first ULEZ to 5 million more people and 87,000 more children. Rolling that back would mean worse air for those 5 million people and 87,000 children. I cannot believe that the Government would support this Bill.

The ULEZ is a highly targeted scheme that is set to disincentivise frequent trips in non-compliant vehicles. It certainly had that effect on me: I had a diesel car, which I bought back in the days when we were told that diesel was a better choice for the environment. I realised that it was not, and the fact that the ULEZ was coming speeded up my decision to not have a car. We do not have a car as a family—we have not had one for three years. I do not think we would have made that jump if it had not been for the ULEZ coming in. We thought we would see how it went, and it is going fine. We do not have a car; we do not need one, and I am not driving around in a car that is polluting the air in Putney.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

Is it not also the case that even if my hon. Friend were to have a car, the vast majority of cars—as she well knows and as has been mentioned in this debate, which I have been listening to—are ULEZ compliant? I have a 10-year-old petrol car. I do not drive it in London, because I am not a maniac, but if I did I would not be ULEZ charged, because it is a small, lightweight petrol car. The vast majority are perfectly fine.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I absolutely agree. A Member asked earlier for data on the ULEZ scheme and the effect it has had. Data from the first month’s report shows a 10 percentage point increase in vehicle compliance in outer London, with 95% of vehicles seen driving in London on an average day now meeting the ULEZ standards—up from 85% when the consultation was launched in May 2022. That means that vehicle compliance rates in outer London have nearly caught up with inner London, which is having a good effect.

The decision to expand the ULEZ was a difficult one for the Mayor, but it was felt necessary to save lives, protect Londoners’ health and tackle the climate crisis. I agree, because in 2019, toxic air contributed to around 4,000 premature deaths in London. Just because we cannot see the smog—as was the case back in the days of the great smog that led to the first clean air Act—does not mean that it is not all around us. We can see the impact in our hospitals. It is mainly parents and doctors who write to me in support of the legislation that the Mayor has introduced to clean up our air, because it is doctors who see the effects of air pollution: rising levels of asthma, cancer, heart disease, stroke and dementia in our hospitals. If no further action is taken to reduce air pollution, over the next 30 years around 550,000 Londoners will develop diseases related to poor air quality. That will cost the NHS and social care system in London £10.4 billion by 2050. Air pollution costs lives, but it also costs our public services. The first, inner-London ULEZ contributed to a 30% reduction in children being admitted to hospital with asthma. I think those results speak for themselves. How can we argue against that?

Taking action on the climate emergency and clean air was one of the reasons I became an MP. One of the first things I did when I became an MP was set up the Putney Environment Commission, a rather grand-sounding group of local people who want to take action locally, nationally and internationally. We had several open meetings to decide what we would do. One of the first things we did was run Putney’s first ever clean air fair. It was clean air that everyone wanted to take action on. Hundreds of people attended the fair. There were stalls from brilliant local organisations, including Friends of Wandsworth Park, Friends of Wimbledon Park, Little Ninja UK, Wandsworth Living Streets, the Roehampton Garden Society, Putney Community Gardens, the Putney Society, Friends of the Earth Wandsworth, the Putney Pollution Busters, Green the Grid and Cycle Buddies. Hon. Members can see how many local organisations we have that really care about clean air.

The number of residents who contributed to the event, and who came to check out the stalls on the day and ask what they could do or how they could push for more action, shows the huge concern in Putney, Roehampton, Southfields and Wandsworth town for cleaner air. We will be holding a second fair this year on 11 May, to which I invite all Members here today. Mr Deputy Speaker, if you would like to come to that event, it is at Wandsworth park. We would love to see you there. We will be talking about action that everyone can take on clean air, about saving our green spaces, about active travel and about green buses—all the ways in which, alongside the ULEZ, action can be taken.

On so many occasions while out canvassing I speak to parents who introduce me to their child who they say has asthma. It happens time after time. So many children in the schools I visit are now affected. I went to a school in Roehampton recently and asked the headteacher what the main issues were. I was expecting to talk about the curriculum and Ofsted—we did talk about that—or other issues, but she said that the main issues were mould and air quality, which were keeping children off school. She has had to introduce adaption strategies in the school to take action on that. It is horrifying that that is what she is saying in this day and age.

Photo of Kim Leadbeater Kim Leadbeater Opposition Whip (Commons)

My hon. Friend makes an important point about active travel. I am a massive fan of active travel, as I know colleagues present are too, but if we are to get more people walking, cycling, wheeling and running, we need decent air quality in every town and city across the country. That is why it is so important to have things that bring air quality back to an acceptable standard.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

Absolutely. We want more people cycling and walking, to take cars off the roads and make them less congested for those who have to drive. We want to see an impact on active travel, but one that supports the businesses on the roadside in our community. It is unfair on the majority of constituents who do not have a car and those who live on the main roads in less expensive housing to bear the burden of air pollution.

Photo of Louie French Louie French Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

The hon. Lady is making a fair point about the impact of air pollution on the main roads. Does she therefore agree that it is somewhat strange that the largest investment that the Labour Mayor of London will have made during his term as Mayor will be the £2.2 billion Silvertown road tunnel, which will encourage heavy goods vehicles to drive along the A2 and into central London? That is why the Green party and the Conservatives are opposed to it.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I would point to others, such as the Superloop—the new buses that will go around London—and the Elizabeth line. The Mayor will be able to invest more in public services because of the revenue from the ULEZ scheme, enabling people to travel on our public transport. That is the action we need to take to really clean up our air.

I have even taken to the streets for Clean Air Day to measure the clean air—or the polluted air—on Putney High Street. I used an ultra-fine particle counter, lent to me by the environmental research group at Imperial College London. It was amazing to take the counter out for the day and see the effects of air pollution. As I went down some of our main roads—Upper Richmond Road, Lower Richmond Road and Putney High Street—I saw a spike when buses and polluting cars came by. I thought there would be a constant level of dirty and polluted air, but it went up and down. I could see the impact of diesel buses and polluting cars. I thought of all the times that I had taken my children to primary school in Wandsworth over 15 years, walking along very polluted roads. All that time, it was damaging their lungs. This was worrying for me to see and for my constituents to know about.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

My hon. Friend is talking about damage to lungs, but will she also mention the damage that air pollution does to the brain? These microscopic particles and nanoparticles, such as PM2.5, can cross the blood-brain barrier and can cause long-term developmental problems for children that mean the brain never functions properly, even if the air is later cleaned up. That is why it is important to get it right now.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

Air pollution is like a ticking timebomb for our children. It has been shown that children who live on polluted roads in inner London have smaller lungs, and that their lungs will never fully grow. Pollution also has an impact on the brain, potentially including dementia in later life.

We owe it to our children to have this increased ULEZ zone to clean up our air. We have recently made progress on Putney High Street. Since I did the monitoring, we have a larger proportion of green buses—80%—which has made a significant difference. We need to get to 100%, and the Mayor has a plan. We need this robust action for the sake of our health and children.

Both in this Chamber and on the Environment Bill Committee, I have called many times for a new clean air Act. Mayors, including Sadiq Khan in London, need to introduce measures so that we are able to see an impact across the country. According to Asthma + Lung UK, more than 600,000 people in Greater London have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and nearly 60% of them live in outer London. Outer-London Members need to be concerned about their constituents and the impact on their health.

I am pleased with the Mayor’s action, including the increase to more than 1,400 zero-emission buses on London’s roads. He has also rapidly expanded London’s fleet of green buses, with the capital now boasting more green buses than any other city in western Europe. He has also delivered a 170% increase in the number of public electric vehicle charging points, with London now boasting more than 11,000—a third of the UK’s total.

Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Shadow Minister (Education)

My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does she agree that the Mayor of London has consistently demonstrated that he is doing everything in his power, under London’s devolution settlement, to improve air quality for Londoners? Does she share my concern that he is somewhat hamstrung by the policies of a Conservative Government who, for example, take the vehicle excise duty paid by London residents and spend it elsewhere in the country, and by the fact that London is the only city of its size and scale that has a public transport system that relies entirely on fares and charges for its income? The Mayor of London is showing leadership where he can, but he is entirely constrained by a Conservative Government who do not care about the lung health of Londoners.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I absolutely agree. My hon. Friend is right that a fair amount of the vehicle excise duty is not being spent in London. Despite being hamstrung in many ways, the Mayor of London has been world-leading—he is going around the world to talk about the action he is taking on clean air. What we really need is the Mayor of London being able to pull in the same direction as the Government. We need a national strategy that goes as far and as fast on clean air as the Mayor has done in London. That is why it would be good if there was not only a Labour Mayor, but a London Government, because they would be able to work hand in hand to achieve that. That would be good for all of us wherever we go, and not just in London, but across the country.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Lady criticised the funding in answer to her hon. Friend Helen Hayes, but surely she is aware that the Department for Transport has given £6.4 billion in funding to the Mayor of London. That is not insignificant by any stretch.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I thank the Minister for raising that, but that is not equivalent to the amount actually raised by Londoners and that goes to the rest of the country, which we understand, but that should be a factor when talking about how the ULEZ money, for example, is paid. Further to the Minister’s point, there are the concerns about those areas outside ULEZ that do not receive the same amount of funding. They are represented by their local representatives, who should have a strategy for responding to ULEZ being expanded to those areas of London as well.

The Putney Society in my constituency is a local amenity group of fantastic local people. They have chosen to concentrate on clean air because it is one of the issues of most concern. As a result of concern over the levels of atmospheric pollution in Putney, especially on the high street, the society has carried out a series of citizen science exercises over the past 10 years or so to measure the levels of nitrogen dioxide. Those have been one-off exercises measuring pollution for a month at a time. With the generous help and support of the local environmental health team, they have been able to mount a series of monthly tests, enabling them to see what the levels look like in the longer term. The highest level they found was—not surprisingly—at the northern end of Putney High Street, where it was 62.9 micrograms and 57.6 micrograms per cubic metre of air. In Putney Bridge Road, it was almost as high at 50.7 micrograms. Putney Cross and Upper Richmond Road were both in the mid-40s.

To put those results in context, we need to bear in mind that, although the agreed statutory maximum level is 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air, that is essentially an interim target level, whereas the agreed World Health Organisation safe level is 10 micrograms per cubic metre. Consequently, the levels that Putney Society recorded are still disturbingly high. I went into that detail because I do not think the high levels we have on our London roads are properly acknowledged in the Bill. Reining back the good results of ULEZ to a smaller area would mean leaving those larger areas outside the South Circular, which cuts through my constituency, and people in the whole of that area with those high levels of air pollution. That is simply not acceptable.

I support the implementation of ULEZ because we have a public health emergency. I am concerned about the impact on the health of children and vulnerable adults, so action is needed. I do not want to die earlier, and I do not want any of my constituents to die earlier, but that is what is happening. The existing ULEZ has been proven to change behaviour, and we need that change in behaviour to clean our air so that more Londoners will benefit. I welcome the extension of the scrappage scheme, which happened after consultation, for low-income and disabled Londoners and for charities to have their minibuses exempted. I welcome the additional time given to charities and small businesses to comply with ULEZ. I support and wish to see in the Bill no more bus route reductions, improvements in public transport and 100% green buses. I welcome investment in better public services as a result of the fines charged by ULEZ and the introduction of the Superloop. We also need to invest in more safe cycle routes, safe cycle storage and local cycle delivery bikes. We are proud in Putney to have an e-bike delivery scheme for our local businesses, which picks up waste and gets rid of it. We also have more local bus delivery routes available.

We need to make clear what is being funded by the ULEZ fund so that Londoners see the benefit of investment in local services and cycle provision as well as knowing that the air is healthier and that their lives will be healthier. I have been inspired by parents campaigning for change, including Mums for Lungs, which is based locally, and Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the mother of Ella Kissi-Debrah, who died of asthma 11 years ago. If I had a daughter die in such tragic circumstances, I do not know what I would have done, but she has been so brave, courageous and inspirational in finding out and exposing the reasons for Ella’s death—the high levels of pollution—and in taking so much action to counter that issue. I also thank the Putney Society, Putney Pollution Busters, the London Sustainability Exchange, King’s College London, Clean Air in London and the Healthy Air Coalition for all the work that they do exposing pollution and taking action together for local people.

This is a huge issue for people across my constituency and across London. We cannot start to meet clean air targets without ULEZ. People in outer London are disproportionately affected, as more older people live in outer London. Recent analysis by Asthma and Lung UK has shown that the UK has the worst death rate for lung conditions in western Europe. Surely that demands urgent action, not reining in our action.

Toxic air is also shortening lives. Every year, 36,000 people in the UK die a premature death as a result of toxic air, and 4,000 of them are in London. We can see that we need action in London, but we also need it across the country. Let us look at outer London. In Dartford, for example, the equivalent of 66 deaths a year are attributable to long-term exposure to particulate air pollution. This is not just an inner-London issue; we need ULEZ expansion to the outer London boroughs.

Air pollution is killing us, and children are particularly vulnerable, but poor communities and black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are the worst affected. Eleven Londoners a day die prematurely because of air pollution. In Wandsworth—my constituents’ borough —129 deaths every year are attributable to the effects of toxic air. Before the ULEZ expansion, which the Bill would undo, only a small part of my constituency was covered by the ultra low emission zone, because the south circular cuts through my constituency. My constituents faced a postcode lottery, with only those on one side of the road covered by the clean air zone. Why should only some of my constituents, who live on the right side of an arbitrary boundary, be able to breathe cleaner air? It is far better to have a larger area covered that is much more consistent with where the polluted air is. If we sit back and do nothing to reduce air pollution, about 550,000 Londoners will develop diseases.

I have talked about the impact on small businesses. It is an issue that I have raised with small businesses on Putney High Street, who have said that the dirty air is holding back their businesses. We want Hammersmith bridge reopened—I cannot resist saying that and will do so whenever I can—but we also need the continuation of the ULEZ.

A report commissioned by the Clean Air Fund concluded that improving air quality could bring an annual boost of £1.6 billion to the UK economy through 3 million additional working days and a reduction in early retirement. The evidence shows us that ULEZ works, and that it has been hugely successful, with 5 million more people expected to breathe clean air.

I end with the words of a constituent—a doctor—who wrote to me and said:

“This Bill will send the capital backwards and is counter to the devolutionary system of our politics. Just as we are beginning to see the benefits of ULEZ, I am dismayed…that this Private Member’s Bill will make already poor air quality worse, harming Londoners’ health—particularly that of children. To make matters worse, the Bill takes the important decision about the air we breathe away from us as Londoners, and undermines our democratically elected mayor—who is accountable to us and will shortly be tested in the May elections.”

That is where such a decision should be made. I urge all hon. Members to put our health first, to support Mayor Sadiq Khan’s action to clean up our air, and to oppose the Bill.

Photo of Dean Russell Dean Russell Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art 2:24, 22 March 2024

I am disappointed that the Opposition are using all the available time, to try to talk the Bill out, but I am not going to play that game. I will keep my speech short. I back the Bill on behalf of all the hard-working people of Watford who have to go into London to do their jobs: those who work at the hospital, and all the entertainers and musicians.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Tech and Digital Economy) 2:25, 22 March 2024

It has been good to be in the Chamber to discuss the Bill. I have listened intently to Members on both sides of the debate. I must begin by emphasising that Labour Front Benchers do not support the Bill—as must be obvious—and reject it in its entirety. There are a number of reasons for that, but I shall focus on the two main reasons.

First, the Bill represents nothing other than a poor attempt at political point-scoring from a Government who are running out of ideas and, ironically, running out of road. As for the second reason, you may be wondering, Mr Deputy Speaker, why a Welsh Member is speaking out on a Bill relating to Greater London. I am a proud Unionist—I believe in our Union—but I am also proud to represent a devolved nation. I believe wholeheartedly in devolution and the benefit that it brings to the United Kingdom, and that is why I have felt so compelled to speak out today. In my view, the most worrying aspect of the Bill is the fact that it represents yet another—

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee

Order. I just want to clarify that the hon. Lady is speaking not in an official capacity, but on behalf of her constituents.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Tech and Digital Economy)

Yes, absolutely. I am speaking on behalf of all the people in Pontypridd.

As I was saying, the Bill represents yet another devastating attack on devolution. This Government repeatedly attack devolution. The United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 rode roughshod over the devolved Governments, and the Bill seems to do the same. It also attacks the ability of the democratically elected Mayor of London to meet legally binding air pollution targets.

Let me explain my first point in more detail. The UK Government’s approach to clean air zones has been completely inconsistent. They clearly do not feel strongly about this issue. They view this as an opportunity to politicise a deeply important issue with life-threatening implications—an issue that should have cross-party support, and one about which the vast majority of the United Kingdom feels strongly. I am referring, of course, to our environment, our environmental commitments, and the health and safety of all our citizens. This is either an instance of the Government turning their back on those vital matters, or pure political point-scoring. Which is it? Perhaps it is both.

Let me highlight the hypocrisy of this Government, in case I have not been clear enough so far. They have required and indeed encouraged the introduction of many other clean air zones across the country. They have supported and continue to support those zones, and provided cash for scrappage in Bristol, Bath, Sheffield, Birmingham, Portsmouth and other areas. Given that they have encouraged and required the introduction of clean air zones across the country, why not in London? Why is London the outlier? Of course, Labour Members know exactly why. They also understand that improving and investing in other areas of transport might remove the need for clean air zones. For example, investing in our public transport and ensuring a better, more reliable and more affordable service would reduce the number of people on the roads.

There are other ways to help us reach our environmental goals, and Labour knows that the Bill is not the answer. Labour is completely committed to protecting our environment and tackling the climate crisis to give our children the future and opportunities that they deserve. A Labour Government would decarbonise the economy and ensure that we all had safe air to breathe. If the Government will not listen to the overwhelming evidence, and the environmental facts—if that is not enough for them to understand all this—they must at least attempt to empathise with the health case, because let us be clear: toxic air pollution is a public health crisis. Air pollution is linked to about 4,000 premature deaths a year in London, as we have heard repeatedly this afternoon. It leads to children growing up with stunted lungs, and is linked to the development of diseases, ranging from asthma to heart disease and dementia. Surely that alone is enough reason to support clean air zones. As for the practicalities, the vast majority of London cars—19 in every 20 cars seen driving in Greater London—are now ULEZ compliant.

If the public understand the importance of our environmental commitments and are willing to comply with the scheme, why are the Government trying to change it now? What possible motive could they have for doing so? Labour welcomes the decision of Transport for London and the Mayor of London to expand the scrappage scheme. Since 21 August 2023, every Londoner with a non-compliant vehicle has been eligible for a £2,000 grant to replace their vehicle, although central Government provide no financial support to the Mayor of London.

It is important that tackling air pollution does not place an undue burden on those already struggling with the Tory cost of living crisis. Families enduring that crisis are sick with anxiety, and their local services are under immense pressure. I see that in my community, and I hear directly from my constituents about the devastating hardships that the Tory cost of living crisis continues to place on them and their family, whether it is because of mortgage payments going up, the cost of food, fuel and energy prices continuing to rise, or being unable to afford that much-longed-for family holiday. All those things are pushing families to the brink. Let us be frank: we know where the blame firmly lies—

The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 11(2)).

Ordered, That the debate be resumed on Friday 19 April.