Counter-Terrorism

Meeting: 
MQT on 2014-09-17
Session date: 
September 17, 2014
Reference: 
2014/3198
Question By: 
Joanne McCartney
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor
Category: 

Question

Given your responsibilities for policing in London, do you think the Government is doing enough to protect Londoners from potential terrorism arising from the conflict in Syria and Iraq?

Answer

Answer for Counter-Terrorism

Answer for Counter-Terrorism

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes, the answer is that I do think that the MPS is doing a fantastic job.  Obviously the threat level, as you know, has been raised from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’.  

Joanne McCartney AM:  The question is whether you think the Government is doing enough; not the MPS but the Government. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You can never be complacent about this.  Obviously, when you speak of the Government and the Security Services, the MPS has a national dimension there as well.  I took your question really to mean what is being done by the authorities. 

Joanne McCartney AM:  No, my question is clear: is the Government doing enough to protect Londoners. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  If you mean whether I want to see more from the Government on, say, control order or Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs) or returnees from ISIS, then obviously I think that there are things that should be done.  I spelled out some of them.  I am obviously particularly concerned about the handling of the 500 or 600 who are likely to come back from the ISIL area.  I do think that we should be looking at a control order or TPIM system, whatever you want to call it, that involves relocation.  I am told by the Security Services that is what they value above all, the ability to make sure that they know where the individual concerned is.  There we need to make some progress.  I have heard what the Prime Minister and the Government have to say about handling the passports of those who are returning.  I am in support of that. 

My message would be that I think government at all levels is absolutely seized of the urgency of this.  They totally get it.  You can never be complacent about it. 

Joanne McCartney AM:  The reason I ask, Mr Mayor, is that back in December you said that TPIMs are inadequate and plain wrong.  We have only recently seen suggested changes which in effect revert the legislation back to control orders, with the relocation that you said is valuable. 

Since December, when you said they were plain wrong, have you had the sense that the Home Office has been listening to you or has there been resistance on actually making those changes until recently? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  The problem has been not from the Home Office.  It is a coalition problem.  Perhaps it is one of those few areas where the Liberal Democrats are not as cosmically irrelevant as they should be.  

It has been difficult to get the relocation element back in the control orders.  I am told that that is what is really valuable.  If you get somebody coming back who is of real concern to the authorities and yet you cannot charge them for any particular offence, and that is the type of people we are talking about, what you want to be able to do is to restrict their ability to fraternise, to plot and to engage in incitement with their friends and the people who share their opinions.  You want somehow to isolate them from the rest of the group.  That was the thinking behind the original control orders.  Lord Alex Carlile [former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation], who used to vet all this stuff for the Government, thinks we should go back to relocation.  It is certainly the view of Mark Rowley [Assistant Commissioner, Specialist Crime and Operations, MPS] and the MPS.  I would support that. 

Joanne McCartney AM:  One of the things you wrote recently, which was in support of the Commissioner’s view, actually, made the case of a rebuttal presumption of guilt for anyone travelling over to Syria or Iraq before ‑‑ 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  This had absolutely no support from anybody. 

Joanne McCartney AM:  ‑‑  the Prime Minister slapped you down. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I know. 

Joanne McCartney AM:  If I can quote the Prime Minister, he said: 

“It would be wrong to deal with the gap by fundamentally changing core principles of our criminal justice system.”

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Apparently I was overturning ‑ I did not realise I was overturning - the Magna Carta, I was told. 

Joanne McCartney AM:  Have you rethought that or is it still your view there should be a ‑‑ 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I will put it in simple language.  If somebody is out in the war zone in Syria or northern Iraq, if a British national goes from London to that war zone, then there is absolutely no reason why they should not let the authorities know that they are going and the purpose for which they are going.  This is a war zone. 

Joanne McCartney AM:  That is different from a presumption of guilt, though, Mr Mayor. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I understand the sort of legalistic point you are making.  I am just trying to argue for common sense.  If they go out there and they come back and they cannot give a good explanation of what they have been doing, then it would be legitimate for a cloud of suspicion to form.  We have 500 or 600 of those characters out there.  You have seen what some of them have been up to.  It is utterly despicable.  We need to be very, very careful that we do not too readily admit people who could have been up to very, very serious and despicable crimes. 

Joanne McCartney AM:  These returnees will be British citizens.  The police have asked for further funding from the Government and said they need further funding to do some of their intelligence work.  Are you making a strong case for that at the moment? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I have made a case for that.  That is one of the reasons why Sir Bernard [Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis] has drawn attention to the scale of the problem and the number of returnees.  Obviously, that, as you rightly say, Joanne, has a financial implication. 

Joanne McCartney AM:  Thank you.

Commitment