A Conservative minister was left squirming after a BBC presenter highlighted the Tories’ hypocrisy over London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
Transport secretary Mark Harper was skewered by John Kay on the day the controversial scheme is expanded across the whole of the capital.
The decision by Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, has been criticised by the Tories.
But on BBC Breakfast this morning, it was pointed out to Harper that ULEZ was originally the brainchild of Boris Johnson when he had Khan’s job in 2015.
Kay told him: “There are millions of people waking up this morning inside the ULEZ charging zone in London.
“I just want to read you a quote from the mayor of London: ‘The world’s first ULEZ zone is an essential measure to help improve air quality in our city and protect the health of Londoners’.
“That was former mayor of London, Conservative Boris Johnson. This was a Conservative policy originally, however critical you are of it now.”
Harper replied: “No, the expansion of the ULEZ zone to cover the whole of Greater London is a decision by the Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, supported by the Labour leader.
“If you look at the mayor’s own impact assessment, it will have a minor to negligible effect on air quality. So it’s very clear, despite what the mayor says, this isn;t about improving air quality in Greater London, it’s about raising from Londoners for him.”
Kay then went on to point out that expanding ULEZ from central London was backed during the pandemic by Harper’s predecessor as transport secretary, Grant Shapps.
He said: “It wasn’t just Boris Johnson though, was it? Former Conservative transport secretary Grant Shapps, your predecessor in your job, he wanted the congestion charge in London expanded three years ago.”
But Harper hit back: “No he didn’t, this has been put around by the Labour Party. This was about the expansion of the ULEZ to the north and south London circular area, which was something that was a manifesto commitment by the mayor.
“The government does not support the rollout of the ULEZ to the whole of Greater London - we’ve been very clear about that.”
Under ULEZ, drivers of polluting vehicles are charged £12.50 per day.
Khan has insisted that its expansion is necessary to improve air quality across the whole of London.
However, the move was blamed for Labour’s failure to win the recent Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, which prompted Keir Starmer to urge the mayor to re-think the policy.