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Sadiq Khan backs down over ban on sending 4x4s to Ukraine

Boris Johnson criticised his successor's initial ban on sending the vehicles to Ukraine
Boris Johnson criticised his successor's initial decision to block sending the vehicles to Ukraine - TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS

Sadiq Khan has backed down and said he supports a move to send to Ukraine 4x4s that would otherwise be scrapped under Ulez, in response to a Telegraph campaign.

The London Mayor had previously blocked cars that were Ulez non-compliant from being sent to the warzone, as he said the move would not benefit Londoners environmentally, economically and socially.

Now, in a victory for The Telegraph, Mr Khan has about-turned on his decision and appealed to Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, to make it “possible for Londoners, and others across the country, to donate suitable vehicles to Ukraine through scrappage schemes”.

In a joint letter written with Ben Wallace, the former defence secretary, it says: “This could be most-quickly done by altering the national regulations for the Certificate of Destruction, which is required as proof that a vehicle has been permanently scrapped, to instead enable the export of suitable vehicles to Ukraine via a registered charity or national scheme.”

The letter, sent on Friday, adds: “We are optimistic you will work with us to enable Londoners and others around the country to receive money for taking polluting vehicles off our cities’ streets while providing vital support towards the people of Ukraine.”

It comes after Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, who was also Mr Khan’s predecessor as mayor of London, said he believed Londoners would want to play their part in helping Ukraine fight Vladimir Putin’s regime by sending their cars to the front line.

He accused Mr Khan’s initial decision to block the move as “petty and ridiculous”.

“The Ukrainians are more than capable of solving the quality of air problems themselves, what they need is help now to defeat a threat that is infinitely more dangerous, and that is president Putin. Khan’s actions seem to be extraordinary,” he said.

In December, Mr Khan wrote to Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, saying he would not permit vehicles being prepared for the Ulez scrappage scheme to be sent to Ukraine.

Mr Johnson, who served as London mayor between 2008 and 2016, said his successor’s original argument under the Greater London Authority Act 1999 regarding the benefit to Londoners, was “small minded”.

“His legal reasons for doing so are very flimsy,” he said. “It obviously benefits Londoners, in a sense that Londoners deeply value and cherish the idea of Ukrainian freedom.

“London’s success depends on its freedom and democracy. It’s vital for London that we defend these principles everywhere.”

Vital support

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, numerous volunteer organisations have been driving donated 4x4s and larger vehicles for soldiers to use on Ukraine’s front line.

Once inside the country, the vehicles are painted with camouflage, fitted with machine-gun or rocket launchers, and used for everything from fighting to retrieving casualties.

Mr Johnson added that he was “in favour” of Michael Gove’s recent letter to Mr Khan, where the Communities Secretary set out that he would seek to overrule the mayor’s decision using the power granted to him in his role.

“Ukraine will confirm that the British people share a particular affinity for the Ukrainian cause and a particularly strong moral belief, as adamant as any population in the world, in [their defence],” Mr Johnson said, adding: “People in Britain want to see a free Ukraine and I’m sure they will want to send motor vehicles and anything they can to support Ukraine.”

However, Mr Johnson, who was prime minister when Putin invaded Ukraine in 2022 and who struck up a close relationship with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, said the vehicles were more of a “gesture”, compared to the air power the warzone really requires.

“We have to accept that this is a very small thing to do but it’s something we could do, and frankly we should be doing more,” Mr Johnson added.

“Although this is a good thing, it’s frankly trivial by compassion. We need to be giving Ukrainians air cover and de-mining capability and long-range artillery fire that they need to expel the Russians and Putin’s army from their country.”