Mark Harper MP
Secretary of State for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
CC: Jeremy Hunt MP (South West Surrey)
CC: Cllr Penny Rivers (Surrey County Council)
CC: Cllr Steve Cosser (Waverley Borough Council)
CC: Cllr Steve Williams (Waverley Borough Council)
CC: Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London)
30 March 2023
Dear Mr Harper,
I write to you in your capacity as secretary of state for transport. On this occasion, the main focus of my ire is the extension of the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone to outer London, as proposed by Sadiq Khan, mayor of London. Above and beyond that, I am very angry at the extreme anti-car policies, which have been imposed on motorists by successive UK governments over more than 30 years, and which show no signs of being eased.
Only a week or so ago, GB News reported [] that last November Mr Khan said: “Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year because of long-term exposure to air pollution, with the greatest number of deaths in outer London boroughs.” I used to live in outer London, though I left there almost 40 years ago; so, I have an interest in this case. And to say that 4,000 individuals a year have died in London because of air pollution, is to assume causation, when even a correlation is not clear and proven.
I also have some relevant expertise in the subject matter. In 2017, when the ULEZ was first proposed, I made some social cost calculations on air pollution from cars in the UK. I published them on-line, together with a lot of background and back-story on the issue. You can find that paper here: []. My conclusion was: “There is no case, on social cost grounds, for such charges on Euro 5 diesels (2010 to 2014) or on any petrol cars. For all these cars, the excess of the social cost of the pollution they emit, compared to a new (Euro 6) car of the same type, is £25 a year or less. Two entry fees to the London ULEZ would cover the social cost of this pollution for a whole year. To levy such outrageous charges on drivers of these cars is unreasonable.” The back-story to the case, and in particular how COMEAP used a US study whose data was dubious to say the least, and invented a novel and debatable technique for assessing the error range of their estimates, is also quite damning.
I hope you will agree, Mr Harper, that to levy such outrageous charges on the people of outer London, and particularly those who live in boroughs such as Harrow, Hillingdon, Bromley and Bexley, where air pollution is quite low, is even more unreasonable. Gareth Bacon, MP for Orpington, wrote about this in the Telegraph last month: []. He was also present at the recent protest in Orpington over the issue, and spoke in no uncertain terms to the reporter: []. I commend Mr Bacon for doing what every MP should be doing, to wit, standing up strongly for the interests of his constituents when they are threatened by policies that are being made for vested interests and against the people.
I hope you will also agree, Mr Harper, that it would be a grave injustice against the people affected, if any such schemes were ever to be extended beyond Inner London and perhaps the very worst polluted areas of other large cities. I also hope that you are fully aware that very many people who live in rural areas, suburbs and towns, and some even in cities, need a car simply in order to live their daily lives. Yet many, indeed I would hazard most of us, cannot now afford either to replace our existing cars with electric cars, or to pay any more than the exorbitant charges that government already levies on motorists.
No democracy worth the name would ever treat its people in such ways. No MP worth the name would ever impose policies hostile to the interests of the people who elected him. And yet you Mr Harper, as MP for the Forest of Dean, a rural area, are allowing to go “full steam ahead” schemes that, if implemented in your own local area, would lead to life grinding to a halt for many of your constituents.
I very much hope that my MP Jeremy Hunt, to whom I have copied this letter, agrees with what I have said here to Mr Harper. I hope he is willing to defend the interests of the people of his South West Surrey constituency against agendas such as “sustainable development.” These agendas are in effect being imposed by unaccountable, non-democratic parties such as the United Nations, and are now being used as excuses to restrict, and to make more expensive, the mobility and independence which we all need. I also hope that he will be willing to use his influence to stop the imposition on local governments, by means of national level mandates, of policies which are inappropriate to the local area, and hostile to the people of the area. Particularly given that in more than three decades, we the people have had no chance at all to object, either at local or national level, to these policies.
I have also copied this letter to Cllr Penny Rivers of Surrey County Council. I note with alarm that Surrey is a member of the “UK 100” network of councils. These councils have “pledged to lead a rapid transition to Net Zero with Clean Air in their communities ahead of the government’s legal target.” It is precisely this kind of agenda to which I am implacably opposed. With my degree in mathematics and considerable scientific knowledge, I consider “Net Zero” to be unnecessary and counter-productive. (Nor is it practical; but that is another matter). Worse, the policy has been driven by panic about a so-called “climate crisis,” for which there is no objective evidence in reality. Just recently, I have published an article on this subject: []. Long, but extremely relevant.
I have copied this letter to my two Waverley Borough councillors too. As both of them live within a few hundred yards of my home, I hope they will agree that to live in our area, over a mile from and 170 feet in altitude above Godalming town centre, and with only one, rather poor, bus service within half a mile and at anywhere near the same altitude, a car is all but an essential. And that they will be adamant that no further restrictive or confiscatory schemes to hinder car use must ever be imposed on people who live in such areas.
Last on my copy list is Mr Khan, the mayor of London. I expect he must be aware of the Imperial College report from 2021, which showed that any improvement the ULEZ might have achieved in air quality, even in central London, was only marginal: []. And that, as Sky News reported, the biggest pollution reductions all took place before the ULEZ came into effect in 2019. Knowing this, I find it hard to believe that his motivations were good and honest ones when he decided to go ahead with the proposed ULEZ expansion.
Mr Harper, I wrote to you by e-mail about six weeks ago about transport policies in general, and I feel a need to expand upon a most important point I made then. We all know that this government has persistently favoured policies hostile to the interests of car drivers. These include the ULEZ in London, traffic gates and 15-minute cities in Oxford, “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods” and “Clean Air Zones,” and schemes being planned by “C40” city councils and “UK 100” county and local councils. It is stunning that the wishes of the people, whom government exists to serve, have been totally ignored in these matters.
For example, a significant majority of those who responded to the consultation on the original ULEZ were against the scheme, yet it still went ahead. Based on a statement by the two Oxford councils here [], I calculated that between 68% and 89% of those who responded to the 15-minute city plan were against it. Yet that, too, is going ahead. As to the ULEZ expansion, one of the accusations in the court case against Mr Khan by Hillingdon and three other outer London councils – and, to be fair to them, Surrey County Council as well – is “Inadequate consultation and/or apparent predetermination arising from the conduct of the consultation.” [].
I should mention also the July 2021 “consultation” on “bringing forward the end to the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 to 2035, or earlier if a faster transition appears feasible.” I myself submitted a 58-page, detailed response. My response and the responses of others like me to that “consultation” were totally ignored. And the ban was moved forward to 2030, without any feasibility study being published. What a sham.
It would appear that UK transport policies are being driven, not by what the people want, as should be the case in a democracy, but by political agendas – such as “nett zero” and “clean air” – that originate with the United Nations and their “sustainable development goals,” and are being imposed on the people of the UK against our wills. The views of those who respond to consultations are being ignored, and schemes are going ahead without government making even an attempt at rigorous cost-benefit analysis. A recent report by consultancy Cebr, for example, has shown that, even using the UK government’s own methodology, the costs to the people of the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars outweigh any environmental benefits by a factor of at least 5 to 1 (and probably far more). Such pointless and damaging policies are not something that those, who are supposed to represent the people, ought ever to allow to be imposed on those people.
As secretary of state for transport, you have the power to correct this appalling situation that allows costly and destructive policies, favoured by globalist élites and crazy green activists, to be imposed against their wills on people who are just trying to go about their daily lives. Please use that power to intervene to stop all these bad and undemocratic schemes from going ahead, and to ensure that no arm of government, either at national or local level, ever again tries to stop the people of the UK from enjoying the affordable, convenient, private transport which we both need and deserve.
[] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twGjux08IMg (0:47 to 8:47)