Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been told he cannot block overrule the expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ).
The PM had hoped to use little-known legal powers to block the controversial move, reports The Telegraph. But government lawyers are said to be concerned it would not stand up in the courts.
It was thought Sunak could use a legal power that means the Government can block a London mayor’s transport policy if it is “inconsistent with national policies”. However, formal legal advice sought by Number 10 concluded the move would fail if challenged.
Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ expansion will mean the worst-pollutin cars in the whole of Greater London will have to cough up £12.50 a day. It is due to take effect on August 29 despite widespread opposition from local residents, as well as Tory and Labour politicians.
There have now been concerns about the way scientific evidence has been used to justify the expansion. According to The Telegraph, Sadiq Khan’s deputy urged scientists to alter a Lancet Study that showed the London low emissions zone made “no difference” to children’s health.
It says Shirley Rodrigues asked whether Proffessor Chris Griffiths, of Queen Mary University of London, could “reword” the study’s conclusion that suggested there was “no evidence” that the ULEZ benefited children’s lungs. The paper also claims Rodrigues tried to discredit Imperial College scientists who found that the Ulez had little impact on pollution.
The Government is now being urged to intervene. A Downing Street source told the publication: “We have and continue to look at options, but they are limited. The people who could stop this tomorrow are the Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan and Sir Keir Starmer.”
Number 10 and the Department for Transport are understood to have investigated whether the Greater London Authority Act could be used to block the ULEZ expansion. It came after the ULEZ became a key sticking point for Labour after the Tories regained control of the Uxbridge constituency at a by-election.
The constituency is being brought into the ULEZ. And Labour’s said the party faced a backlash from residents about its expansion.
Under the terms of the Greater London Authority Act, a transport secretary can essentially block a London mayor’s policy if the “transport strategy (or any part of it) is inconsistent with national policies relating to transport” and if the “inconsistency is detrimental to any area outside Greater London”.
But The Telegraph says lawyers vetoed the idea as the Government itself is promoting measures to improve air quality up and down the country. Meaning the ULEZ would not be “inconsistent” with the national policy.
It is thought the Government has now ditched the move. Although, MPs are still urging Rishi Sunak to find a way to intervene.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative Party leader, said: “The Government should intervene and demand that before this can go ahead, there must be overriding evidence that this would make a major and significant difference to the environment.
“It’s a fundraiser, it’s nothing to do with the environment at all. It’s just a very simple attempt to get more money to be able to pay for the damage he’s inflicted on the capital since he took over.
“I’m up for anything the Government can do to stop this nightmare taking place.”