Fire attendance times

MQT on 2014-03-19
Session date: 
March 19, 2014
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Based on the modelling data used for LSP5, if Woolwich Fire Station had remained open, how long, on average, would they have taken to attend the fire that broke out on 23 February in a flat at Riverview Heights that sadly cost a life?


Answer for Fire attendance times

Answer for Fire attendance times

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Thank you, Fiona.  Obviously the sympathies of everybody are very much with the family of the victim concerned.  This incident is subject to an inquiry by the London Fire Brigade at the moment.  I am told it would not be appropriate for me to go into details, but what I am told I can say is that the analysis of what had happened shows that the closure of the Woolwich Fire Station, which you referred to, did not have any material bearing on the handling of the incident.  They plainly will want to keep people informed once the Fire Brigade has continued its inquiries.


It should be seen in the context of a continuing success by the Fire Brigade in reducing death by fire in London.  They are running about 100 a year in the 1990s and they are now down to about 50 a year.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you.  I think we can debate a bit further perhaps when that inquiry finishes exactly what the circumstances were, but I noted earlier in relation to the questioning on water cannon, you said that if things go wrong you would accept full blame and responsibility.  I just wanted to ask whether in relation to incidents relating to your fire cuts you would accept the same full blame and responsibility, should it be found, following the inquiry, that there was a link between the cuts and the incident.  I share your sympathy, obviously, with the family.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.  I think, to be fair, we had discussions about the implications of the programme of changes to the Fire Service.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Cuts.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  In which I said exactly that, I think, when we launched it.  I said that one of the reasons it was so difficult a decision to take and one of the reasons I thought about it so long and hard was because I did accept that when you take a decision like that, when you launch programmes like that, there must be some measure of responsibility.


Fiona Twycross AM:  With respect, we did not actually feel that you thought about the cuts long and hard, we thought you drove them through willy-nilly in complete disregard for what Londoners wanted, what the Assembly wanted and what the Fire Authority wanted.  In fact, if you have your way with MOPAC approach and then eventually abolish the Fire Authority, I think you can expect more questions like this about the impact of your cuts, rather than less.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is what comes with the job.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Yes, I am glad that you accept your responsibility in that respect.  What personal responsibility are you taking for monitoring the impact of the cuts?  Because that is what I cannot quite get to grips with, is what personal responsibility and what questions have you personally asked about this incident and what have you asked to have reported to you about this.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  What I said to Ron Dobson [Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning at the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority] and the Fire Brigade is, “Can you guarantee to me that as a result of what we are doing we will be able to continue to reduce deaths by fire and to reduce fires in London?”  That is what I have done and I received those assurances.


Fiona Twycross AM:  The problem is deaths are actually going up though.  Unfortunately deaths are going up, so statistically you are incorrect on that because deaths are currently going up.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is not the information I have.  The information I have is actually that --


Fiona Twycross AM:  Well last year they went up on the year before, so I think that you need to check your facts.  I think that in terms of what personal monitoring you are doing if all you are saying is that you are relying on expertise, that is what you said in relation to the Metropolitan Police Service, then I do not accept that you are accepting responsibility.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We can rerun the whole conversation that we had many, many times.


Fiona Twycross AM:  I am sure we will.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It turned on this: was I going to place my confidence in the expertise of people who devote their lives trying to reduce death by fire or was I going to listen exclusively to those who, in my view, sometimes try to make political capital out of this issue, and indeed to fan apprehensions where I think they are unnecessary.  That was the choice I had to make.  I accept that it is a difficult choice but I do think that we had a huge session, we had endless consultations with Londoners about this.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Which you did not listen to.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is not true, we did amend the plans.


Fiona Twycross AM:  You ignored it.  You might have listened to it but you did not then carry it through.  Moving on from this --


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You were not even paying attention yourself, “Let’s change the plan”.  You did not even notice.


Darren Johnson (Chair):  Let the Mayor respond to this and then come back with your other question very quickly.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I have a clear recollection that we did change the London Fire Safety Plan 5 to take account of the consultation.  If that is not listening I do not know what it is.


Fiona Twycross AM:  I do not think I have anything else to add.  I do not think he listens on fire and I think we will come back to every single incident that happens as a result of these cuts and we will come back and we will question you on these.  Thank you.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Of course you will try to blame me for everything that happens, that is what you will do because that is what the Labour Party always do.  That is your prerogative.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you, I have not got any more questions.


Darren Johnson (Chair):  Thank you.