Central London Low Emission Zone

MQT on 2010-05-19
Session date: 
May 19, 2010
Question By: 
Mike Tuffrey
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Will you give serious consideration to introducing a Clean Air Zone for central London, with measures to exclude old polluting diesel engines in particular, rather than the short-term, unpredictable road closures and traffic diversions proposed in your draft air quality strategy?


Answer for Central London Low Emission Zone

Answer for Central London Low Emission Zone

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Mike, you want a quick answer? The answer is no.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): I was hoping for a quick answer of yes. Let me explain the thinking behind the question. Your Strategy which you published is very welcome in many parts but there is a hole at the heart of it, literally. When you look at the maps of where the pollution is worst and therefore the health impacts are worst, it is Heathrow, as we have already discussed, and central London, and yet your policies to deal with that are, essentially, London-wide.

Are you aware that, certainly from our perspective and from the Assembly's scrutiny perspective, there is a gap in that respect? Certainly, from the Liberal Democrat point of view we want you to do is to have proper effective measures for central London in a way that what you are currently proposing, which is washing the roads and ad hoc closures on days when it is terribly bad, piecemeal ad hoc instead of a concerted plan.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): OK. I understand. You want a central London Low Emission Zone?

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Yes.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am in favour of improving the air quality and I understand your objective. We think that we can accomplish it with the current Air Quality Strategy and that the limit values for particulate matter (PM)10 will be met by next year. We want to go ahead with our current Strategy augmented by the radical measures that we are prepared to take and which are set out in the Strategy.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): I would say there is a real question whether you can meet the European Union (EU) limit values through the measures that are proposed, and they are not very effective measures, they are quite confusing with road closures and so forth. There are things in here, for example, saying that local councils should be encouraged or allowed to have their own local air quality zones, which would be total chaos driving from one borough to another borough and different rules. Your own Strategy says that the EU limit values are not good enough and we should seek to exceed them. One of the --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You mean do better than them.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): To do better than them. Yes, sorry: to have better health. Are you aware that removing the Western Extension cameras is going to cost £5 million? Instead of wasting that £5 million on removing cameras, why not turn those cameras over to keeping out of the central zone very polluting old diesel cars and have a scrappage scheme and a retro-fitting scheme to help people in inner London who have old polluting diesel cars --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Mike, it is an interesting idea. I just think the compliance costs of putting in a new Low Emission Zone in central London would be very great. I want to see what we can do with the current Greater London Low Emission Zone (LEZ). As I have said many times before to everybody, I think that has great potential and we will be proceeding. We postponed the third phase of the LEZ. We never said we were going to abandon it completely. We will be proceeding with the third phase of the LEZ because you do need to have cleaner vehicles in London. It is absolutely essential. I think that is the way to go. I think if you combine what we want to do with the LEZ, with our Air Quality Strategy and the emergency measures that we want to bring in, I think that is a better way forward than the costs of a --

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Of the third phase.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): -- new central London zone.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): The advantage of a central zone is, essentially, that you do not have to bring in the third phase of the LEZ in outer London. The projections show that you could actually, in outer London where the problem is not as acute, save the burden on all the small businesses, which you were eloquent about a few months ago. You might very well not have to do that in outer London if you concentrated your fire on inner London.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): What you are really suggesting is to move the third phase of the LEZ inwards into central London?

Mike Tuffrey (AM): It would have to do more because you would have to do private vehicles as well, which is the politically controversial stuff.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You mean you would have to do domestic cars?

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Ten year old diesel cars would have to be encouraged off the road. The prize I put to you, Mr Mayor, is that your predecessor, who is still here --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): This is about the most interesting discussion we have had all morning.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): There we are. You see. You wait; it comes along. Your predecessor --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): All of you who want to just criticise and complain, here it is; a very interesting idea. All you can do is barrack and complain.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Can I just get back to the point here? Your predecessor is arguably known, singly, for the Congestion Charge Zone. You could be known, if you think of your legacy, as the man who cleaned up air in central London, to the huge health benefits of London. Think of that prize that I am dangling before you.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You are a great man and I am grateful to you for dangling a prize. Obviously I think that our Air Quality Strategy is very bold, very ambitious and does --

Mike Tuffrey (AM): It just needs to go a little bit further.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): -- hold out the hope of really reducing pollution in central London in the way we all want to see. Your idea is extremely interesting. I can see several pitfalls in it but I will certainly make sure that we have a proper discussion about it in our ongoing Liberal Democrat Conservative deliberations.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Can I just tempt fate by drawing one thing to your attention?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Is it on your Blackberry?

Mike Tuffrey (AM): It is on my Blackberry.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Are you allowed to consult your Blackberry to ask questions?

Mike Tuffrey (AM): This morning I have heard that the new Conservative, alas, controlled council in Richmond is tearing up the differential parking charge scheme, which has the effect of encouraging people to have clean and green cars. It is a very retrograde reactionary step. In the new politics --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We cannot allow the coalition to break up now!

Dee Doocey (Chair): What is your question, Mr Tuffrey?

Mike Tuffrey (AM): The question is why did you drop from your Air Quality Strategy that you published, the public consultation one, the commitment that was in the Assembly consultation one, 'The Mayor will support boroughs that want to incentivise low emission vehicles through pricing mechanisms such as differential parking charges, both for CO2 and air quality pollutant emissions.' So the previous version of this, a few months ago, had your positive support for these innovative parking charge schemes that Kensington and Chelsea are bringing in. It got dropped.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Mike, the coalition is only about a week old --

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Why did it get dropped?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think it is a week to the day since the glorious dawn broke over this country and I think it is too soon for you to try to cause strife between us over this matter, which is a question for Richmond rather than me.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): It is the Strategy. I will pursue it elsewhere. Thank you. Thank you, Chair.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Hang on. Richmond has taken this decision.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): It was in your Strategy.