Children and Young People

Meeting: 
MQT on 2008-11-12
Session date: 
November 12, 2008
Reference: 
2008/2551
Question By: 
Joanne McCartney
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Can you outline your Deputy Mayor for Policing's responsibilities with regard to children and young people?

Answer

Answer for Children and Young People

Answer for Children and Young People

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Joanne, you are asking the question about the Deputy Mayor for Policing, Kit Malthouse, and his responsibilities with regard to children and young people. All I would say there is of course that Kit is responsible for children and young people insofar as he is responsible for helping to promote youth opportunity across London.

Joanne McCartney (AM): So is the Deputy Mayor also leading on the 'Time for Action' plan, your youth strategy for London that you launched a short while ago?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): He certainly had a major hand in drawing it up and I am very grateful for the energy and commitment of himself and of course for all the GLA officials who worked on it as well. I think they have done a very, very good job.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Wonderful, because I would like to ask you some questions on the Time for Action and the role dealing with children and young people. Reading through the document I think there is a lot where we can see the outcomes that you want to achieve and that we want to achieve as well, but I think as an Assembly we have to question where some of the gaps are and where some things could be better. Can I ask you firstly, with regards to consultation, how closely did you consult London Councils when you put together this document?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I believe and I am assured that there was a great deal of consultation with London Councils. I think I know where you are going with this question. Are you perhaps apprehensive about the academies suggestion?

Joanne McCartney (AM): I was not actually going to mention that.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, as far as I know there has been a great deal of consultation with London Councils and I know that what we are trying to do is not reinvent the wheel. We cannot produce a whole new youth strategy ex nihilo. London Councils are already doing a fantastic amount. 95% of what happens in London on this front is being done by London Councils. It is our job to encourage and to support and to bring new ideas to the table. That is what we want to do.

Joanne McCartney (AM): You see, that is what I wanted to ask, because it seemed to me that a lot of what you were talking about in the plan was about providing leadership, but you have just said that 95% of what is happening is being done by the London Councils.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): In a very disjointed way. I mean, I think if you go to the practitioners' forums and you talk to people who are involved in this I think there is a real sense that it needs a London-wide grip and it needs leadership from London. I think that there is a wide measure of support within London Councils for that as well.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Are you not in danger of adding another layer of bureaucracy to this rather than working with the London Councils and pushing out something perhaps jointly with them?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do not want to add another layer of bureaucracy, but you have got a situation now in which the gap between rich kids and poor kids in London is growing the whole time. We have terrifying underachievement in London schools; huge numbers leaving without any qualifications at all. I really think it is our job when we have a mandate to deliver safer streets, when we have a mandate to create a more harmonious and equal society, to take a lead on this issue. I am not going to be pushed away from it. This is something that I believe Londoners elected me to do and to take a lead on.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I think at your launch one of the people that questioned you stated that there was a large gap in this strategy because although you have pointed that one of the critical moments is early years education, there is very little if anything in here on that and you have said you needed to go away and do that. Are you confirming that that is one of your major priorities, that you are going to be putting some money into that?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes. I mean, Joanne, one thing that I hope is clear from the document is that it is not intended - it is only I think a 12- or 20-page document - to be the complete bible and answer to every problem on a massive front. What we are determined to do is to look at the nought to three age group where so many of the problems begin and that is the critical moment for so many kids and I do think there are things we can do. There are schemes we can do with parenting, with mentoring that we should be encouraging and supporting. I have absolutely no inhibitions as Mayor in doing this. I think people feel that this is important and they want us to show a lead and I think we should.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I want to ask you just a couple of more things. One of which, can you just tell me what discussions you had with the Scouts that mistakenly led you to believe that they would be happy for you to force children to attend their sessions?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I would not dream of forcing anybody to become a Scout or a Girl Guide or a Cadet or anything. What I was saying was -- were you a scout, John [Biggs]? You probably were.

I am very much in favour of and it has been very striking how many people since the launch of that strategy from the uniformed cadet groups have come up and said how fantastic it was and how they are looking forward to our encouragement and support. That does not just go for the Armed Services Cadets, but also for the Scouts.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I think it is fine; I have a son that is a member of the Scouts and it is a wonderful organisation, but in the document you talk about trying to - and you use the word - 'compel'; you are going to use your powers to compel those on the fringes of criminality to take part in the Scout movement and other organisations. I am just wondering what powers you think you have that means that you can compel young people?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I certainly think - I mean I would like to see the exact phraseology there, Joanne - that millions of Londoners looking at this debate and people thinking about what they want to happen to kids across London will think, 'Actually why not? Wouldn't it be wonderful if more kids had the opportunity to get involved in something like scouting or the cadets?' Wouldn't it be something that gave them a sense of teamwork, that gave them an understanding of discipline? OK, I do no think anybody in their right mind would suggest that they had the powers to dragoon people into the Scouts or indeed the Dragoons.

Joanne McCartney (AM): The document says that.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I want to assert that I value these organisations. I want to encourage them and I believe that our youth opportunities programme should be looking to encourage the growth and expansion of these groups and I have absolutely no problem with that whatever.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I have got no problems in you highlighting the value of the Scouts and other organisations.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Joanne, I think your worry is that I am not powerful enough and you want to increase it and I agree with you.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Our worry is that some of the language in this document quite clearly shows that there are more questions than answers. The document does say that you have got to use your powers to compel. The spokesperson from the Scouts has stated that, 'Forcing them to join is not what we are about'.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): There is no way on earth that anybody can be compelled to join the Scouts. What we want to do is to encourage good organisations across London that are changing the lives of kids and I think there would be a wide measure of support for that in all communities and in all London boroughs.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I think you need to rewrite this document to take that bit out.

I have got one other point. Can I just ask out of this are you intending to take over any aspects of the Prison Service?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I have no plans to take over any aspects of the Prison Service nor, as I am sure you are about to point out, do I have any constitutional ability to do so. I do think that when you look at what happens to first-time prisoners and you look at the outcomes and the fact that 78% of them, having been incarcerated for the first time, go out and reoffend within 12 months - 80% going out after their first time in prison and re-offending - we are dealing with a problem of academies of crime.

I think when I have a duty to make London safer we should look at that problem and we should think of creative ways of separating out first-time prisoners from those who are veterans of the prison system and making sure that actually we give people instruction, we steer them away from the choices they might otherwise make. I do not believe that anybody with any commonsense would disagree with that objectively.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Can I just ask what happened to your boot camp or respect schools that you trialled for the first six months of your Mayoralty and that announced at Conservative Party conference? You were introducing respect academies. They do not appear in this document.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): That document is not a bible, it is an indication of the things that we think we should be doing - some of the things we think we should be doing. I certainly think that respect academies have a marvellous role to play in giving kids who are very hard to reach boundaries and discipline they might not otherwise get. I am determined to support them.

Joanne McCartney (AM): They are not in your documents which is your youth strategy, your 'Time for Action' document

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): They are comprised within our general objectives of expanding mentoring youth programmes of all kinds.