Consider withholding funds from TfL over emission zone expansion, Tory MP says

A Conservative MP has encouraged the Government to consider withholding funding from Transport for London (TfL) unless plans to expand the city’s ultra-low emission zone are dropped.

Gareth Bacon, MP for Orpington, hit out at Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, calling the plan “appalling” and a “cash grab” during a question in the House of Commons.

He asked if ministers could be encouraged to withhold funds from TfL until the Labour mayor “decides to withdraw this insane plan”.

Speaking during a session of questions related to the business of the House, Mr Bacon said: “It’s something that would do nothing to improve air quality and will be economically disastrous for poorer people, both in outer London constituencies like my own of Orpington, but also in terms of people living outside Greater London.

“It’s simply a cash grab. The mayor has no mandate to do it and it’s overwhelmingly opposed by people in outer London.

“So could my right honourable friend encourage colleagues across Government to consider withholding funds from Transport for London until he decides to withdraw this insane plan?”

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt replied: “Whatever the merits or otherwise of setting up such a scheme, to do it at a time when businesses are recovering from a pandemic, and it’s not obviously just businesses in London, it’s also in surrounding areas, tradesmen and others that would be coming in for materials or to do jobs.

“I know it… has had a hugely detrimental impact on many firms and I will certainly… raise this with the Secretary of State.”

Mr Khan announced plans last year to extend London’s ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) to cover the whole of the capital from August 29 2023 in an effort to boost air quality.

TfL estimates that on an average day about 160,000 cars and 42,000 vans that use London’s roads would be liable for the £12.50 Ulez fee.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “Toxic air is a matter of life and death. Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year due to the toxic air in our city and the mayor makes no apology for making the tough decision to expand the ultra-low emission zone, which will bring cleaner air to five million more Londoners.

“85% of vehicles in outer London are already Ulez compliant and, for those that aren’t, the mayor has announced the biggest scrappage scheme yet – £110 million – to help the Londoners who need it most amid the cost-of-living crisis, including low-income and disabled Londoners.

“The aim of the Ulez is, and has always been, to reduce emissions from road transport in order to reduce the health impacts of air pollution and the related cost to the NHS and businesses.

“All of the net revenue is spent on improving public transport and active travel options in London. The Ulez is proven to be effective – reducing toxic air pollution by nearly half in central London.”