Heathrow and air quality (1) (Supplementary) [4]

Session date: 
May 19, 2010
Question By: 
Len Duvall OBE
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


We have got a problem here haven't we? You have got one of your strategies saying we need extra air transport capacity for south east London. The Government has come out and said no to Stansted, no to Gatwick and no to Heathrow.

I just want to go back to the issue of your powers. You really did fail to intervene on City Airport, didn't you? Was that a mistake or was that a deliberate issue; that you chose to allow a local authority to take a strategic decision that should have been taken in this building?

Supplementary To: 


Answer for Heathrow and air quality (1) (Supplementary) [4]

Answer for Heathrow and air quality (1) (Supplementary) [4]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

I am not aware that any Labour Member of this Assembly decided to protest against the decision of the London Borough of Newham to --

Len Duvall (AM): We have got an all party position here in the Assembly around this issue. We have raised the issue and we are asking questions. You had the information. I have been raising some issues locally. You had the power to do something about increased flights coming out of City Airport. Andrew Boff has reminded you of the words you told this Assembly and this Chamber. I do not want any of the public to go away and be misled. Somewhere, in the offices you hold, your staff, you, decided to let it go. You either let it go by mistake as you were not on top of the job, or you deliberately let it go because you are actually quite happy to have increased flights elsewhere at City Airport. You cocked a snook at that. You let it go because you knew Newham would take that decision because you will have talked to Newham. You were not aware there was all party support. A number of boroughs are affected by this, the lack of consultation. You ducked the issue. Was it a mistake or was it deliberate? Will you share all the powers then, and deliberations, around those instances, what you did with Newham over this issues and why you failed to use your powers to defend the interests of Londoners, and to promote the policy that you are telling us that you agree with, that you want to see less flights? Who do we believe?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): The answer is that the London Borough of Newham decided to give approval to an expansion of flights from London City. That is, last time I looked, a Labour led borough. It made a very strong argument in favour of an increase in employment that would result from this decision. I listened to that case very early on in my Mayoralty, as you rightly say, Len. Since then, I have certainly received strong representations from people who claim that they would be affected by that decision in other parts of London and I am considering what action I am going to take, as I said to Andrew Boff.

Len Duvall (AM): So you made a mistake.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): That is not what I said.

Len Duvall (AM): So you agreed with Newham and you thought it was right to do what it did. It is either one way or the other isn't it? You either made a mistake, fair cop, early in the administration - 'I had this issue, I would do it differently now'; I think most people would accept that - or you agreed with Newham's position and were not aware that Newham was taking that position without talking to anybody else and that this local issue, a strategic issue, was best dealt with at local level? You made a mistake or you agreed with Newham?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am not going to answer the question until he stops talking.

Len Duvall (AM): I have stopped talking. I am saying to you that the choice is simple. Just to clarify, Mr Mayor, did you agree with Newham or did you make a mistake and, with hindsight, you would not have taken that decision?

Dee Doocey (Chair): I think the question is now clear.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I say, the Labour Borough of Newham made a very strong case; the Labour led London Borough of Newham. I think that, as far as I can tell, the Leader of Newham has been returned overwhelmingly. My friend Sir Robin [Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham] seems still to be very much there. It does not seem to have affected his democratic chance. I note that point.

As I say, Len, I have received representations from people elsewhere in London since taking that decision, which was made on the basis of the employment impact for Newham. I have received representations from people who say it would have an adverse impact on other parts of London. As I said to Andrew [Andrew Boff AM], I am considering the implications of what they say and I am considering whether or not they are correct in their assertions.

Murad Qureshi (AM): Can I come back to Heathrow and air quality and firstly deal with the slur that Richard [Richard Barnes AM] made on John McDonnell. He just recently won the Hayes and Harlington seat at the General Election with a 10,000 majority.

Dee Doocey (Chair): Sorry, this is not what your question is about.

Murad Qureshi (AM): I am coming to my question. I think I can deal with it given he has made a direct attack on an elected Member, with a majority of 10,000, representing the villages of South Hillingdon, which he has failed to do in his lack of attendance at the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee in all the years that he was the London Assembly representative.

In your Air Quality Strategy, the one you released during purdah, you mention the Heathrow problem on air quality but do not actually offer much at all to the suffering residents of west London suburbs, in Ealing, Hillingdon and Hounslow. Mike [Mike Tuffrey AM] has suggested an area that we do need to look into, subsurface transport measures, but there is nothing actually that has come from you here or in your Strategy, and I wondered how that neglect reflects on you?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Can I say what complete tripe that is because, if you look at our Strategy and, indeed, if you think about what we have just been saying, we have successfully contested and now defeated a Labour proposal to inflict a third runway on Heathrow. It is hard to think of anything that could do more damage to air quality in west London. I think that we should all be very proud of that achievement and I think that is the single best thing that we are able to do for air quality in the boroughs that you mention.

Murad Qureshi (AM): Can I suggest, given that now Mike Brown [Managing Director, London Underground] has come back to London Underground, it is worth talking to him, as he was the Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport and he knows half a dozen things that BAA could do overnight, like reduce the price of Heathrow Connect to encourage more Londoners to go in that way. Those are the kinds of things we need and your Strategy does not have any of that at all.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You would like to reduce the price of Heathrow Connect?

Murad Qureshi (AM): BAA can do that sort of stuff overnight if it wanted to.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): And your proposal is that BAA should subsidise that?

Murad Qureshi (AM): Talk to Mike Brown. Mike Brown used to be at Heathrow Airport.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Murad, I do not want to sound dismissive. That is an interesting proposal. If BAA could be persuaded to subsidise Heathrow Connect in order to make it more attractive as a service, then certainly let us try it.

Victoria Borwick (AM): Just while we are talking about air pollution and air quality, can I draw your attention and ask you again about when you are going to reduce congestion and the pollution on Oxford Street caused by the up to 300 buses an hour running in both directions. We have had a cross-party report from the Assembly's Transport Committee and I urge you to bring it forward again because this has meant that Oxford Street, Marylebone and the surrounding area of course now have the highest areas of air pollution in London, particularly nitrous oxides and particulates. Please can I urge you, once again, to look at this. Perhaps we could have some sort of timetable as to how that is progressing?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am grateful to you, Victoria, for your work on this. We are removing 10% of the buses a year. That ought to be having a substantial impact. Of course, when we get in new cleaner greener buses the impact will be all the greater.