Penny Mordaunt has dismissed suggestions from the Tory back benches that Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is a “dictator”.
The Commons Leader disagreed with Tory MP Bob Blackman, who hit out at Mr Khan’s plans to extend the capital’s ultra-low emission zone (Ulez).
Ms Mordaunt insisted the Mayor could be voted out of office due to the “immense difficulties” attributed to the Ulez expansion.
Mr Khan announced in November last year that the Ulez will be expanded to cover the whole of the capital from August 29, 2023 to boost air quality.
Responding to Mr Blackman, the Commons Leader said: “With regard to the title that the honourable gentleman has given the Mayor of London, which is causing some disquiet across the chamber, I would say I disagree with the honourable gentleman.
“The Mayor of London is not a dictator.
“The Mayor of London can be voted out of office, and I would encourage people to do that, because I think some of the policies that he has put in place… are really causing immense difficulties, not just to residents, but also to businesses in London and outside.”
She added: “We have to enable people to make these transitions, and for those people that, particularly at this point when they really have little liquidity in their businesses and in their households, I think a more sensible and considered approach might be appropriate.”
Calls could be heard from the Labour benches for Mr Blackman to apologise, with some Labour MPs accusing him of laughing.
Harrow East Mr Blackman had earlier told the Commons: “Today is the deadline for outer London local authorities to sign up to dictator Khan’s unreasonable demands to put erect cameras and other signage in their boroughs for the ultra-low emission zone.”
He said the decision is going to affect “more or less the whole of the south east of England”, and asked for a debate in the Commons “so that we can take our view, and send a very strong message to dictator Khan that he shouldn’t be implementing this policy”.
Elsewhere in the debate, the Labour frontbench protested as Tory MP Elliot Colburn claimed that Mr Khan “may have lied to the London Assembly”.
The claim follows accusations from City Hall Tories that Mr Khan “manipulated” the final results of a consultation into the Ulez expansion by excluding some so-called “campaign responses”, which lowered the level of opposition in the final count from 62% to 59%.
The Conservatives also claimed Mr Khan and his deputy made “untrue and dishonest” comments in telling the London Assembly they had not been briefed in advance on the interim results of the consultation.
Following an event at City Hall, Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis suggested there should be a “softening” on the Ulez requirement to help people with rising living costs.
After he joined the Mayor to answer questions from an audience of Londoners about cost-of-living crisis, Mr Lewis told LBC: “We are here talking about the cost of living, and clearly it is always going to be difficult to introduce a new charge amidst a cost-of-living crisis.
“So it is my hope that there is some softening, and I use that word deliberately and politically, some softening of the Ulez requirement to help those people struggling with the cost of living.”
Responding to the Commons debate, a spokesperson for the Mayor of London, said: “When there are around 4,000 Londoners dying prematurely each year due to toxic air, the Mayor is extremely disappointed that some of the capital’s MPs do not support the ULEZ.
“This targeted measure will only impact less than one-in-five vehicles in outer London, but it will keep children out of hospital and save lives.
“The Mayor made the decision to expand the ULEZ after considering TfL’s full final report on the consultation responses, and he made a number of modifications to the scheme following feedback. This included addressing cost of living concerns with a £110m scrappage scheme for low-income Londoners and extending the exemptions for disabled Londoners.”