A Foreign Office minister has today insisted that the ban on new petrol cars which is due to come into effect in 2030 “will remain in place”.
Andrew Mitchell, minister of state for development, confirmed the ban on the sale of new petrol cars from 2030 is still in place after repeatedly being pressed on the question.
It comes amid speculation that the government could ditch more environmental commitments after the Conservative party surprised many by besting Labour in the Uxbridge by-election last week.
After the Uxbridge result was announced, new Conservative MP Steve Tuckwell claimed it was London mayor Sadiq Khan’s “damaging and costly ULEZ policy” that lost the contest for Labour.
Labour has since also blamed the loss on Mr Khan’s proposals to extend the ULEZ to the area.
The London mayor says the ULEZ policy (or the Ultra Low Emission Zone) is about cleaning up London’s air. But the Conservatives’ successful campaign in Uxbridge has amped up speculation the party could become more targeted in its messaging on environmental policy.
Levelling up secretary Michael Gove said over the weekend the government was “asking too much too quickly” on areas of environmental policy which require consumers to make changes.
In comments to The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Gove warned about “treating the cause of the environment as a religious crusade” as he called for “thoughtful environmentalism”.
Asked to comment this morning on the debate, Mr Mitchell said: ”I think it shows that the ULEZ scheme that the Labour mayor had put in place was the wrong scheme”.
“It was the wrong time and it was conducted in the wrong way.”
Then asked by the BBC this morning if the ban on the sale of new petrol cars from 2030 is still in place, Mr Mitchell said: “It absolutely is”.
Pressed on whether the ban will remain in place, Mr Mitchell continued: “Well, all I can tell you is it is in place”, but when challenged again, added: “Well, I’m afraid I can’t prophesise for the future.”
The MP ultimately denied the suggestion that he is unsure whether it will stay for the rest of the term of this government.
Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, has previously suggested delaying the car ban to 2035.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former business secretary, said the lesson from the Conservative win in Uxbridge and South Ruislip was that “what works is getting rid of unpopular, expensive green policies”.
“I think Uxbridge is really interesting and important because if we get rid of things like Ulez, which have popped up across the country, and we show we are on the side of the British voter”, Sir Jacob told GB News.
Zac Goldsmith, the former minister who quit the government over Rishi Sunak’s climate policies, said it would be “cynical and idiotic” to scrap climate and other environment measures on the back of a single by-election result.
Speaking to the Observer newspaper, Mr Goldsmith said it would be “politically suicidal” to ditch environmental policies given their “very deep and wide support”.
The row comes as the UK works to respond in the wake of devastating wildfires across the Greek islands with thousands of Brits fleeing Rhodes.
“The government has got the best reputation [and] has the most effective response to net zero of any G7 country”, Mr Mitchell said on this point.
“We are ahead of most of the targets that we set, but … the government’s really got to get the balance right between doing the right thing to tackle climate change — which as these horrific events show is absolutely real and live at the moment — but also to try and defend our constituents and people in the UK from rising prices.
“I think you can pursue net zero”, he added, “which is critical — but you can also protect people from rising prices”.