ULEZ: Investigation into deputy mayor Shirley Rodrigues not happening, despite cross-party motion

Shirley Rodrigues, deputy mayor for environment and energy. Credit: Omar Torres/AFP via Getty Images.
Shirley Rodrigues, deputy mayor for environment and energy. Credit: Omar Torres/AFP via Getty Images.

London’s deputy mayor for environment, Shirley Rodrigues, will not face an investigation into whether she attempted to interfere with research into the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) or Low Emission Zone (LEZ), City Hall has confirmed.

According to reports published in The Telegraph last month, Ms Rodrigues had contacted academics on several occasions in response to studies into the clean air schemes.

Among the paper’s claims, which were based on emails seen between Ms Rodrigues and others, the deputy mayor had asked Professor Chris Griffiths of Queen Mary University of London in 2018 if he could “reword” a study by the scientific paper the Lancet, which found there was no evidence of the LEZ benefiting children’s lungs.

Ms Rodrigues had written in an email to Professor Griffiths that the research made it sound like the zone had “no impact at all”, to which the Professor responded saying it was “difficult” to alter a particular sentence given the study’s findings.

Sadiq Khan’s deputy also twice emailed Professor Frank Kelly from Imperial College, whose team has received funding from City Hall, asking him to counter research questioning the benefits of ULEZ.

On one of those occasions, in November 2021, Ms Rodrigues asked Professor Kelly if he could help “put the record straight”, after fellow Imperial College academics found the central London ULEZ had had a limited positive impact on air pollution.

At a London Assembly meeting on September 7, Conservative Assembly Member (AM) Emma Best had proposed a motion calling for the expanded ULEZ to be scrapped following the Telegraph’s revelations. It failed, with only the Tory AMs voting in-favour.

However, at Mayor’s Question Time a week later (September 14), Ms Best put forward an amended motion, seconded by Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon, which called for an investigation into Ms Rodrigues rather than the canning of the clean-air scheme. It received further backing from the Green group, passing with 13 for and 10 against.

Ms Best said she is “concerned” by the allegations against the deputy mayor, adding: “If the mayor’s office has unduly attempted to interfere with independent scientific work, then this could undermine trust and confidence in the mayor and in the GLA as a whole.

"I’m grateful for the cross-party support on this motion. There now must be an urgent investigation into these serious allegations.”

City Hall has however now confirmed there are no plans to investigate Ms Rodrigues, and that what has been shown “is that world-leading scientists who work with the GLA are free to disagree on how information is presented, as they should as independent experts”.

A spokesperson for Mr Khan said: “The deputy mayor has helped to lead the work on cleaning up London’s toxic air - acting upon the expertise and advice of London’s world-leading scientists.

“It is standard practice across government to commission independent experts to carry out research to inform the work we do.”

The ULEZ was expanded on August 29 from the North and South Circular roads to cover the whole of greater London, meaning most drivers of non-compliant vehicles are now liable to pay a £12.50 daily charge. Mr Khan and TfL say the extension of the zone is in a bid to clean up the city’s air, though critics have questioned its timing in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.