Thank you, Mr Stringer. I will quickly move on then, and just say that the Minister is absolutely right.
Like other colleagues, I have seen at first hand in my postbag the local, organic opposition to ULEZ continue to grow—not just from my own petition, which is continuing to grow by hundreds of signatures every week, but from the very real stories that we are receiving from constituents about how expansion of ultra low emission zone will impact them. In Carshalton and Wallington alone, it is estimated that 30% of all vehicles will be deemed non-compliant; that means that roughly 30,000 cars will not be deemed compliant if the expansion goes ahead. How many people will be impacted by that? How many families? How many small businesses? How many pensioners? How many charities? These are real concerns voiced by real people, yet how are they portrayed? How are they dealt with? The Mayor of London, seemingly deaf to these concerns, labels them wackos, nutjobs and conspiracy theorists—and that is when he is not too busy trying to sell his book or going around the world advertising marijuana farms.
Where do my constituents go for help? The Mayor is not helping them—the Conservatives are the only party opposing the expansion—so what about their local council? Behind all the smoke and mirrors is the inescapable fact that the Liberal Democrats have been consistently pro-ULEZ. That dates back all the way to 2020 when it was actually a Lib Dem Assembly member who berated the Mayor for not introducing a whole-London ultra low emission zone. Then, closer to home, a Lib Dem Assembly member has welcomed the expansion of ultra low emission zone as “right and necessary” and Sutton’s Lib Dem councillors have been voicing their support for the expansion of ULEZ to our roads for years. One went so far as to state boldly on social media that
“Yes we are in favour of ULEZ”
and voted down a motion moved by the Conservative group on Sutton Council to call on the Mayor to drop it. Even now, even when they are trying to claw back some kind of credibility, they can still only go as far as to say that they want a delay. Well, a delay is not good enough. The only acceptable thing to do with ULEZ is to scrap it. I am looking towards the Opposition Benches: it does not surprise me that it is not only the Labour party who are not here, but the Lib Dems, too.
It is incredibly heartening to see Conservative colleagues working together across London and outside of it, and I congratulate the five Conservative-run councils that have brought forward this proposal. However, having heard your warning about this matter being sub judice, Mr Stringer, I will not go any further than that.
We are not only dealing with constituents who are frustrated and worried—worried to their wits’ end. There are also other groups and sectors who I fear have been left out of this conversation. One is charities—for many charities, buying a new ULEZ-compliant vehicle would be tantamount to financial ruin. I believe that speaks volumes about the weaknesses identified in the heavy-handed approach to ULEZ that has been adopted. Tens of thousands of Londoners, including many people in Carshalton and Wallington, will receive no help from the Mayor of London’s scrappage scheme and, as we have already heard, the scheme is not nearly enough even for those who do qualify. Many Government Members have long argued for a broader and more holistic approach, rather than the current scheme.
That goes back to the crux of the issue. The Mayor of London seeks to punish people for being unable to afford to upgrade their vehicle instead of encouraging people to have a greener lifestyle. Instead of spending millions of pounds on ULEZ enforcement cameras, he could have invested that money elsewhere—for example, on expanding London’s green bus fleet; improving the connectivity of outer London boroughs; beefing up the scrappage scheme; fixing the massive failures in his solar panel roll-out; or bringing back the boiler scrappage scheme that the last Mayor had in place.
Take Carshalton and Wallington as an example. Like the borough of my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Gareth Bacon), we have a terrible public transport accessibility rating for a London borough: it is just 2. We do not have the tram, the London overground or the tube; we have bus networks and a limited number of national rail networks. As my hon. Friend said, those are often unreliable.
The expansion of the tram to Sutton was scrapped by this Mayor and yet he has the audacity to say that he will somehow improve the public transport network, which, in our case, is a super-loop bus that already exists and has a limited number of stops. How can my constituents get to work, visit friends and family, and go about their daily lives if they cannot afford the £12.50 daily charge and there is not a sufficient public transport network in place? The short answer is that they will not.
Rather than encouraging people to take action through proactive means, the Mayor has decided to go with the heavy-handed approach of slapping hardworking Londoners—the least well-off in our communities—with an arbitrary fee just to leave their driveways. That is not the way to do things, so I urge the Government to consider again the petitioners’ asks. We cannot allow this ULEZ expansion to go ahead.