Cities should look at other options for tackling air pollution instead of schemes like London’s ULEZ (ultra low emission zone), Sir Keir Starmer has suggested.
The Labour leader said no-one in the UK should be “breathing dirty air” but added that proposals for reducing air pollution should not have a disproportionate impact on people’s pockets during the cost-of-living crisis.
London’s ULEZ will be expanded to cover the entirety of Greater London from August 29, a move overseen by the city’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan, after it was backed by the High Court.
Sir Keir has asked Khan to reflect on the policy’s impact following last month’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election result.
Labour had hoped to win ex-prime minister Boris Johnson’s seat from the Conservatives, but said ULEZ was a dividing issue that saw the Tories retain the seat.
Conservative Steve Tuckwell won the seat with a narrow majority of 495, far slimmer than Johnson’s 2019 general election victory of 7,210.
Asked by broadcasters whether Labour’s policy on clean air zones had changed since his party lost the by-election, Sir Keir said: “Let me tell you what I want to change: I want clean air.
“I don’t think anybody in this country should be breathing dirty air, any more than I think they should be drinking dirty water.
“What I don’t want is schemes that disproportionately impact on people in the middle of the cost-of-living crisis, so we need to look at options for achieving what we all need to achieve, which is clean air.
“There are other ways of achieving this, so my driving principle is clean air, absolutely yes, but a proportionate way of getting there and looking at what the options are for other cities, other places doing it in different ways.”
Rishi Sunak has sought to portray himself as on the side of “motorists” and create a dividing line between the Conservatives and Labour ahead of the next general election.
The Prime Minister has ordered a review into low traffic neighbourhoods and other plans aimed at curbing traffic and pollution in city and town centres.
By David Lynch, PA Political Staff