Tories will scrap ULEZ in ‘backing drivers bill’ | Politics News

The Conservatives have pledged to scrap the controversial expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London if they stay in power after the general election.

In its latest campaign announcement, the party said reversing the policy of London mayor Sadiq Khan would form part of a new “backing drivers bill” that would stop the “war” their rivals had “launched” on motorists.

The legislation would also order local referendums before any new road schemes were brought in across the country and allow residents to challenge existing “aggressive and punitive traffic-inducing measures” – like Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and 20mph zones.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the move showed the Tories were “on the side of drivers” and wanted to give them “the freedom they need to build a secure future for themselves and their children”.

But a spokesperson for Mr Khan said: “‘This is desperate stuff from the Tories – a party completely devoid of ideas.”

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The ULEZ scheme – first proposed by then Tory mayor Boris Johnson in 2015 and extended by Mr Khan last year – sees heavier polluting vehicles charged a fee of £12.50 a day for driving on the city’s roads in an attempt to improve air quality.

But when Mr Khan expanded ULEZ across the whole of Greater London in 2023, it caused a rift within his own party, and saw the Conservatives seize on the political opportunity.

Its opposition to the scheme helped them narrowly keep hold of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in a by-election after Mr Johnson quit parliament.

However, despite it being their London mayoral candidate’s central policy in the May local elections, Susan Hall still lost the race to Mr Khan.

According to figures from the mayor’s office in October, 95% of vehicles on the capital’s roads are “compliant with clean air standards” – up from 39% in 2017 – meaning they do not have to pay any charge.

Sadiq Khan speaks to the media during a visit to the Francis Crick Institute.
Pic: PA
Sadiq Khan won a third term as London mayor in May. Pic: PA

The introduction of more 20mph zones have also been controversial – especially in Wales, where the Labour government brought it in as a national speed limit, citing evidence that showed it would lead to “fewer accidents and fewer lives being lost”.

The Tories said the zones could help improve road safety in residential areas and outside schools, but claimed their “misuse undermines public trust and risks congestion and pollution”.

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Within the bill, the Conservatives will also pledge to stop so-called “pay-per-mile road taxes”, which they have consistently claimed are part of Mr Khan’s plan for London’s roads.

But while the mayor has said the government, TfL and transport officials around the country have been looking at the idea to simplify existing road charges, he ruled out ever introducing them while he was in office.

A Labour Party spokesperson added: “This is desperate stuff from a government that has run out of road.

“The Conservatives’ abysmal record on drivers is there for everyone to see. Britain has 100 times more potholes than craters on the moon and car insurance costs are out-of-control.

“Labour is on the side of drivers. We will tackle rip-off car insurance costs and break down planning barriers to ensure transport infrastructure is delivered and delivered on time.

“And we will leave decisions on safe school streets and local traffic measures to local communities – not politicians in Westminster.”

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Meanwhile, Labour will spend Saturday touting their plans for small businesses, promising to “pull up the shutters for British entrepreneurs”.

Reiterating a number of existing pledges, the party will promise to guarantee access to banking services on the high street, replace business rates with a new system to “level the playing field” with larger firms, and stop late payments of invoices to small companies.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: “With our first steps for government, the Labour Party will focus on what matters to small businesses to deliver change.

“There’s a clear choice at this election for small business owners: more chaos with the Tories, or stability with Labour. More decline and division, or hope and unity with a changed Labour Party.”

The Liberal Democrats will use the weekend to announce plans to create at least three new national parks, with proposals including the Chilterns, Surrey Hills, and the North Downs.

The party will also pledged to put an extra £50m of funding into existing parks and plant 60 million trees a year.


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