Mayoral Appointments (Supplementary) [5]

Session date: 
May 21, 2008
Question By: 
John Biggs
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

John Biggs (AM): I am very happy to start with the supplementaries because we had a briefing earlier on from the Mayor on his appointments. The first one then is that in your manifesto you announced that you would launch an immediate review of City Hall and its finances within the first 100 days and I believe, but can you confirm, that that was through the creation of the panel headed by Patience Wheatcroft?

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for Mayoral Appointments (Supplementary) [5]

Answer for Mayoral Appointments (Supplementary) [5]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): That is right. The Forensic Audit Panel. The objective there is not to launch any kind of witch hunt, not to seek scapegoats, but simply to get to the bottom of Londoners' apprehension that a lot of public money was being wasted, particularly through the London Development Agency. I think we owe it to Londoners to make sure that we can present a clean bill of health.

John Biggs (AM): OK. I do appreciate that you pride yourself on flying by the seat of your pants but this is quite technically important stuff. I have asked the Chief Executive to clarify the terms of her appointment and her panel's appointment, and essentially they are not to be paid, they are not to be in any way contractually connected with the GLA, and yet, as you have told us, they are going to carry out a forensic audit. The question I have is how are they going to have access to the confidential information of the Authority with your authority without their being any formal appointment? Are you not at risk of immediately breaching the law about confidentiality and access to information?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No, because I have asked that people should cooperate in producing the information they are required to.

John Biggs (AM): So you are asking GLA officers or LDA officers to breach the law and leak confidential information to this panel in order for it to carry out its work? I am not trying to set you up here; it is simply that we need to have a proper process followed. I found it intensely frustrating that so much of the LDA's work is confidential but it turns out that it is for good reason; commercial reasons or whatever. So you are asking Patience Wheatcroft, without any letter of appointment, without any formal connection, and without any legal liability to ferret through GLA information to carry out her audit into the Authority?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think in doing that and in turning over as many flat rocks as she can find and seeing what crawls out from beneath them and getting on with the job she will have the overwhelming support of Londoners.

John Biggs (AM): I have no problem with that but you need to make sure that it is regular and that it is lawful and that it is acceptable for members of the public to delve into the confidential records of projects of the Authority.

Richard Barnbrook (AM): This is public money being used and abused--

John Biggs (AM): Absolutely. I agree with you. I would like a reply from you rather than your little helper there!

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): May I say non tali auxilio nec defensoribus istis ?

John Biggs (AM): Can you try and use English please?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Let me tell you, John, that I find your line of questioning slightly perplexing because I would have thought that, at this particular juncture, Londoners having voted overwhelmingly for clearing all this up, that you would be wanting to maximise openness and accountability and assist in every possible way in allowing someone who is not being paid, nor are the rest of her committee, who is doing this entirely for public spirited reasons, to get on with the job. You would not be introducing ever so slightly factitious notions of illegality into what is, after all, a simple attempt to get at the truth?

John Biggs (AM): Well I think you will find that I am correct. I would love to help you and I would like to suggest to you that you should seek advice urgently on how you can make this panel work, because I agree: Londoners voted for you, and you should work transparently, accountably. We are going to ask Ms Wheatcroft to appear in front of the Assembly's Budget Committee to explain her 100 days blow torch of change through the Authority and that will be delightful.

Can I ask you one further question on this, which is that when we looked at the composition of this panel it looked like the sort of great and good of the London Conservative Party; would you say that that is a panel which is properly equipped to carry out a full and independent audit of the finances of the GLA?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I want, and I think what Londoners want, is a panel of fine forensic minds with a deep understanding of local government finance, which they have, and an ability to get to the bottom of what has been going on, and a healthy appetite - shall we put it that way - to get at the truth.

John Biggs (AM): I am not a cynic at all, but a member of the public might look at this and say, 'Well would it not have been better served by having a degree of independence?'

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think you will find that when Patience and her team report that the facts will speak for themselves.