Ulez

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 29th July 2019.

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Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

How successful has the ULEZ been at improving air quality?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you for your question. We are delivering real improvements in the air that Londoners breathe. We know that the health impacts of air pollution are unacceptable: thousands of premature deaths, stunted lungs in our children and increased risks of stroke and dementia in the elderly. These impacts fall unequally, with those living in deprived areas exposed to around a quarter more pollution.

I refuse to be the Mayor who ignores the crisis and so I am introducing an alert service to warn Londoners about pollution episodes, auditing the most polluted primary schools and delivering low-emission bus zones. Assembly Member Cooper will be particularly keen to know that in the Putney High Street low-emission bus zone, for example, hourly exceedances of nitrogen dioxide have been reduced by up to 99% and annual concentrates by nearly 50%.

The world’s first ULEZ was introduced in April [2019] in central London, in the face of opposition from all the Conservatives on the Assembly. The ULEZ has resulted in around three-quarters of vehicles meeting the required standard. After the first month, there were around 9,400 fewer older, more polluting, non-compliant vehicles seen in the zone on an average day. We have already seen over a 20% reduction in concentrations of NOx since February 2017 at various other locations in central London, when I announced my intention to first implement the ULEZ early. Air quality trends are generally assessed over a longer period and so I will be publishing a more detailed impact on the air quality later this year [2019].

In 2020 we will apply the ULEZ standards London-wide for buses, coaches and lorries. Starting from 2021, we will expand the ULEZ up to the North and South Circulars so that even more Londoners benefit from this ground-breaking scheme. Despite no support from Government, we delivered the ULEZ as planned to safeguard our children’s health.

Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

Thanks very much, Mr Mayor. I realise it is very early days because it is only just over three months since 8 April [2019] when it launched. You just mentioned the Government there and I am concerned that Government inaction in terms of diesel scrappage and action in terms of promoting Heathrow [airport] and allowing Heathrow [expansion] to go ahead is going to undermine your efforts in this area. Would you agree with me that that is the case?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I would. What is even more frustrating is the Government is using the air quality benefits that we are delivering in London through measures like ULEZ and bus improvements to enable the expansion to take place. That is wrong and that will impact the health of Londoners.

However, there is good news because the next Prime Minister is probably going to be Boris Johnson and Boris Johnson of course is against expansion of Heathrow and is in favour of air quality in London, we hope. I am hoping there will be some progress in this area once he becomes the Prime Minister.

Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

I am looking forward to seeing him lying down in front of the bulldozers, so long as he is not actually in Afghanistan when they start that work.

You mentioned the fact that it had come in on 8 April [2019] and some people opposed the implementation. As you know, as the [former] Chair of the Environment Committee, I was calling for it come in in early 2020. Thank you for bringing the ULEZ in earlier than was originally planned with 9,400 fewer vehicles per day, 75% compliance already.

That is great, but what do you think would have been the health impacts if we had delayed, as all the Conservatives here still argue for?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The question that will need to be answered - I am looking forward so much to the election campaign - is what would have happened had we listened to the representations made by those who said, “Do nothing until October 2020 at the very earliest or 2021”. The good news is that because we failed to listen to those making these representations, we have already seen a massive improvement in air quality in Putney High Street, for example. Next door to you in Brixton, there have been huge improvements; in Lewisham, huge improvements. Within the ULEZ area, as I said, there has been a 20% reduction in nitrogen dioxide, where there are air quality monitors from when I first announced it in February 2017.

The good news is we are getting pressure from Londoners to go even further even faster. That is good. That means Londoners are waking up to the dangers of air and that is because we have got air quality monitors around London, the most comprehensive air quality alert system and monitoring system of any city in the world. That is a good compare and contrast from when the previous Mayor buried away research into the consequences of air quality in our city. I am so looking forward to the next campaign. I cannot wait.

Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

Also, Mr Mayor, there has been opposition from the Conservatives to the idea of expanding the ULEZ. Given the success already in terms of compliance and therefore reducing fumes and toxic air on our roads in the central area, would you agree that the expansion is critical and are we learning lessons from the current central zone?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The lesson we have learnt from the ULEZ, the first phase that I have introduced, is just within two months a 20% improvement in relation to nitrogen dioxide, just the first two months. The question that needs to be answered is this: if central London is benefiting from the policies of the Mayor, why not the rest of London? That is why it is really important to make the case for the ULEZ to be expanded up to the North and South Circulars. It is really important to make the case and we need support from the Government. What we need is a national diesel scrappage scheme to help low-income families, to help small businesses, to help charities. We need resources from the Government but also the powers. What about the River Thames? What about construction? What about housing?

The good news is that the current Secretary of State for Environment [Michael Gove MP], who has been talking the talk, is now supporting [potential] Prime Minister Boris Johnson and so we would hope that [potential] Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have Michael Gove [MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] in his Cabinet because Michael Gove does appear to understand the challenges we face. I welcomed his speech this week at Kew. It was a really good speech and, as I said to you, it bodes well for the future. Let us wait and see.

Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

We can only hope that Government are able to follow. Thank you, Chair.