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Sadiq Khan clashes with anti-Ulez hecklers at London debate, cites re-election as endorsement

Sadiq Khan faced off with anti-Ulez hecklers at the State of London Debate on Thursday, as he claimed Londoners had endorsed the clean air zone by re-electing him.

The mayor told Londoners at the annual event that his “record-breaking” win in last month’s mayoral election meant they had effectively voted to keep the expanded Ulez in place.

He also faced questions over whether he will introduce a ‘pay-per-mile’ road user charging system once Ulez revenues dry up – an option Mr Khan explicitly ruled out in his 2024 manifesto.

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After an audience member began shouting that the mayor was “destroying London” by charging non-compliant vehicles £12.50 per day, Mr Khan said: “In the election on May 2, [Ulez was] the number one issue the Conservative party stood on – and by the way, the Reform party – it was the number one issue and the only issue. They had leaflets delivered across the entire city.

“They wanted the election on May 2 to be a referendum on the Ulez. That was the issue, and let me tell you, Londoners gave me a record-breaking, history-making victory on May 2.

“Now you either believe in democracy, sir, or you don’t, and this great country of ours believes in democracy – I’m not sure about you.”

The Labour mayor beat his Tory challenger Susan Hall by 275,828 votes – the largest margin of victory in the mayoralty’s history.

Mr Khan expanded the Ulez to cover the whole of Greater London in August 2023. But 10 months on, and despite issuing denials, the mayor continues to face questions over whether he will create new road charges.

One woman at the debate asked him: “What are you going to do for the money when you finally drive out all the older cars and vulnerable drivers off the road?

“You promise no pay-per-mile, but you also promised no Ulez extension and look what happened there. Destroyed business, lives, especially the elderly and vulnerable. Can we believe anything you say when it comes to road transport?”

In 2021, Mr Khan had said he had “no plans” to expand the Ulez London-wide, before announcing such plans in 2022.

The mayor replied by saying 95 per cent of vehicles seen driving on an average day in London are now compliant, meaning they “don’t pay a penny, but see the benefits of cleaner air”.

He added that he has boosted the Ulez scrappage scheme by tens of millions of pounds, and said roadside emissions across Greater London had halved under his mayoralty.

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