A&E violence (Supplementary) [1]

Session date: 
November 18, 2009
Question By: 
Brian Coleman
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Mr Mayor, we recognise also in the reporting of tonight's Evening Standard the number of attacks on paramedics in London. Will you perhaps ask your officers and the MPA officers to liaise with the Fire Authority, where we have done a lot of work on attacks on firefighters and, indeed, where the number of attacks on London firefighters is, I am glad to say, compared to the national average, relatively low, and that involves investment in youth work and other community activities? Will you recognise there could be something to be learned across the GLA group in how to deal with attacks on people who are doing public service, often in uniforms?

Supplementary To: 


Answer for A&E violence (Supplementary) [1]

Answer for A&E violence (Supplementary) [1]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

I think that is very valuable, Brian. Obviously it would be good if the police had some indication of you in the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) having achieved that success. I cannot imagine why on earth anybody would attack a firefighter but I can imagine sometimes that they do --

Brian Coleman (AM): They do outside of London. Very much so.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): If you have some details of how you have had that success I am sure it will be a good thing to pass on to Kit.

Kit Malthouse (AM): I completely agree with you about the effect of alcohol and most of the incidents in A&E are, indeed, alcohol related and we are, obviously, pressing the police to do its bit to protect people working in hospitals and other premises.

At the same time, obviously, the licensing policy in this city plays a huge part in the prevention of those problems and I wondered what provision you are making, in the revision of the London Plan, to strengthen the hand of local authorities to push back the tide of late night licences in particular that have been introduced by the Labour Government in their misguided 24 hour drinking laws.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As we are all good localists here, are we not, I think that that is an appropriate matter for devolution to boroughs. It is an issue: too much crime and too much violence in this city. I am not censorious about alcohol, as I hope you know. I think it is a gift of the Gods; it is a great thing. However, I really think that it is out of control at the moment in this city. We do not have proper mechanisms to control underage drinking and excessive drinking in town centres.

I want to reward and congratulate those boroughs, by the way, which persecute supermarkets who sell too much booze to underage drinkers. I really congratulate Bexley and Croydon and others who have worked hard on that. Doubtless, Labour boroughs as well. I think this is a problem in our city now that, I think, requires leadership from this body. We are not getting it nationally. We are not seeing a serious programme to tackle the issue of excessive crime caused by alcohol and attacks caused by alcohol. I think it is time we made our views clear.

Kit Malthouse (AM): I completely agree with you that the lead on this should be local authorities but some local authorities report to me that their licensing decisions, in line with their own policies, are routinely overturned by magistrates on appeal by licensees and I would urge you to look at the London Plan to see what provisions you can make in the Plan that will assist local authorities in exercising their duty by strengthening some of the licensing provisions, or, indeed, strengthening the hand of local authorities in handing out licences in their own areas, because they are not completely in control of their own destiny. Unelected and unaccountable magistrates have as much influence as local authorities do.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Kit, it is probably a failure of my imagination but I cannot see a suitable amendment that we could put into the London Plan off the top of my head, but if you could devise such a clause then I would be very happy to look at it. As everybody knows, the London Plan is currently still under consultation so that is the kind of thing we could certainly look at.

Andrew Boff (AM): Taking in your comments, Mr Mayor, I am sure that you would welcome the important role that public houses play in setting examples of the responsible use of alcohol that they can set for young people. It is a coincidence, is it not, that the occurrences of attacks and alcohol abuse have increased exponentially with the further and further persecution of public houses by the Government's ill-thought out legislation which makes their job very hard indeed. I hope that you would stand up for those public houses that are the centre of their community and which provide an example of how you can responsibly enjoy that gift of the Gods that you pointed out.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think that is a typically thoughtful and interesting point actually because what you are arguing there is that the pub is a place where there will be the social pressure and there will be the environment in which people consume alcohol but not consume it to excess. Is that what you are saying?

Andrew Boff (AM): You will not learn how to drink responsibly in the stairwell of a block of flats from alcohol that you have bought from an off licence which has not checked the age. I would submit to you, sir, that actually one of the biggest contributions we could make towards improving this situation is to lower the age that young people are allowed into pubs so that they can actually see the example of how you can drink responsibly.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Hang on. This is a classic piece of Boffyian libertarianism. I am going to have to think about that, Andrew. I am going to have to think about that. I certainly think that your general point is good and well taken, which is you are saying that the pub provides a safe environment, an environment where the utensil of shame and public reproach can operate safely, and people will be discouraged from drinking excessively but they can enjoy drinking. That is what you are saying. Therefore we should be sticking up for our local pubs. I certainly agree with that.