Gareth Johnson is the MP for Dartford.
Since the announcement that an Outer London Congestion Charge for London is being investigated by the London Mayor, I have been inundated with messages from Dartford residents opposed to the idea.
The proposed border tax, dubbed Labour’s Dartford car tax, would charge all vehicles registered outside of London, £3.50 every time they cross the boundary into any London borough.
This charge would be catastrophic for Dartfordians, as well as the hundreds of thousands of motorists who cross the border into London every day for work, leisure, or simply to go to the supermarket. It would have an impact on pubs, takeaways, shops, hairdressers, and many more of the same businesses hardest hit during the pandemic.
The Mayor of London’s financial stability plan, published in January, proposes a seven-days-a-week charge of £3.50 for all motorists using a vehicle registered outside Greater London, rising to £5.50 for the most polluting vehicles.
As many of us know, the border around London does not run along major routes. Instead, it straddles residential roads. In Dartford, for example, there are residential roads located in Kent where it isn’t possible to drive out of the road, without entering the London Borough of Bexley. With this seven-days-a week charge, hundreds of my constituents will pay over £1,200 a year just to be able to drive out of their road each day. It would create a financial wall around London and set Londoners against their neighbours.
The people who will pay this charge have no say over who the London Mayor is; it is a form of taxation without representation or accountability. It is for this reason that I have introduced a Bill in the House of Commons to stop this charge.
My Ten-Minute Rule Bill ‘Road User Charging (Outer London) Bill: A Bill to provide that the Mayor of London may not impose charges for driving in Outer London; and for connected purposes’ is unlikely to make it into law; these Bills rarely do. Yet it will help to highlight what is a form of blackmail by the London Mayor. He is showing how hard he can hit people outside of London unless the Government gives in to his demands for even more subsidies.
To date, more than 26,500 people have signed a petition opposed to this idea and I hope my Bill will send a strong message that the London Mayor cannot impose rules affecting people outside of the capital’s jurisdiction.
The London Mayor knows that the ring of seats around London, with the exception of Slough, are Conservative. He also knows that, generally speaking, outer London areas are more likely to vote Conservative than inner London seats. He knows who he is hitting with this idea. It is the most divisive issue ever conceived by a London Mayor and it needs to be stopped. It will have a profound impact, not just on the counties around London, but on the outer London boroughs. It is an abuse of power and it needs to end.
During a debate on the issue in Westminster Hall last month, Rachel Maclean, the Transport Minister, confirmed the proposal is not supported by the Government. She described it as “a border tax levied on people outside London by a Mayor they were not able to vote for or, indeed, vote out.”
I fully understand why Sadiq Khan wants to raise more finances. But even if you accept that transport in London is under-funded, there are other ways of raising money or spending less. With this proposal, he is saying to people outside of London, I will charge you to visit loved ones, to use the station, or even for just driving out of your road.
This proposed tax would be devastating for people living both outside and inside of London. It will create a barrier around London, and it needs to be stopped.