Andy Burnham slams Prime Minister for playing 'dishonest politics' over Clean Air Zone

  • Conservative Bury North MP James Daly, hits out at the original Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone plan

Andy Burnham has slammed Boris Johnson for playing "dishonest politics" after the Prime Minister branded Greater Manchester's Clean Air Zone plans "thoughtless".

The controversial plans to charge motorists to enter the 490 mile area - which would have been the largest in the country - was set to be launched in May.

But it was delayed in February after concerns meeting pollution targets too soon could put many local firms out of business.

Taxi drivers and small business owners say the additional charges created by the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) could destroy their businesses, and complained they were not being offered enough assistance to buy new lower-emission vehicles.

Charges would have included £60 for HGVs, buses and coaches, £10 for vans and £7.50 for taxis and private hire cars.

The proposed Clean Air Zone area would cover all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs. Credit: GM Clean Air Zone

Following the concerns and talks between Burnham and the government, it was agreed to move the deadline set for Greater Manchester to lower air pollution below legal limits by two years to 2026.

Greater Manchester leaders are now working with the government to design a 'substantially different' scheme.

And, speaking at prime minister's questions, Conservative Bury North MP James Daly, hit out at the original plan.

He said: "On July 28 last year, every Labour councillor in Bury voted in favour of Andy Burnham's plan to impose a 493 square mile clean air charging zone upon my constituents and the residents of Greater Manchester.

"The mayor's plan is an attack on jobs and opportunity and is based upon flawed data and should be scrapped, does he agree?"

Mr Johnson responded: "As somebody who once had to deal with a badly thought out emission zone, it is totally wrong to impose measures thoughtlessly that damage business and don't do very much to protect clean air.

"I think the Mayor of Manchester has done the wrong thing and I'm glad that we're delaying."

The Clean Air Zone was due to begin at the end of May, but has been delayed after concerns were raised about its impact on local traders.

In response to the slight Burnham said Mr Johnson was being 'dishonest'.

He said: "The Prime Minister has got to stop playing dishonest politics with the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone.

"Only three weeks ago, his Government imposed a new legal direction on our councils mandating action. Yet today he pretends in Parliament that those letters were never sent.

"We will not put up with this any longer. We can’t have Ministers saying things to us in private which are then flatly contradicted by the Prime Minister at the Despatch Box.

"Are the Government requiring Greater Manchester to have a Clean Air Zone or not? They must give a straight answer to that question and they must do it today."