Oral Update on the Report of the Mayor (Supplementary) [1]

Session date: 
November 18, 2015
Question By: 
Joanne McCartney
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Joanne McCartney AM:  Mr Mayor, I want, if I can, to return to issues of policing, counterterrorism and security.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Sure.

Joanne McCartney AM:  The events in Paris bring home the importance of having an effective police and security service response.  Over the last couple of years, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has talked about the step-change in counterterrorism as a result of events in Syria in particular.  You have talked about perhaps the police needing to review and enhance tactics as a result of Paris, particularly with regards to the range of weaponry used and also the number of venues that were involved.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  That is exactly right.

Joanne McCartney AM:  That is quite right: a reassessment of what is needed and our capacity to respond is going to be vital.

The Commissioner [of Police of the Metropolis, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM] said again yesterday that having resilience of at least 32,000 police officers was vital and he also talked about the need to increase the number of firearms officers in the city.  You talked about that as well yesterday.  However, of course, in order to do that, we need to have the resources to do it.  We have traded ripostes in this Chamber about whether we have adequate police funding or not, but I think we are united in this: that the Government needs to rethink its planned cuts to the MPS’s police service.

In the last few days, have you had renewed talks with the Home Secretary [The Rt Hon Theresa May MP] and the Lord Chancellor [The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP]?  Are you confident that they will be reviewing and, hopefully, reassessing their plans on expected cuts?

Answer

Answer for Oral Update on the Report of the Mayor (Supplementary) [1]

Answer for Oral Update on the Report of the Mayor (Supplementary) [1]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  First of all, Joanne, I will just say how much I agree with your analysis of what is going on and the changes that are necessary.

What Bernard has said is very sensible about looking at the number of armed officers we have that we can deploy at any one moment.  As you know, there are only about 2,000 police in London who have firearms training and, of those, only 1,500 are deployable at any one time.  Contrast France, where they have many more police officers than us full stop, but virtually every single one of them carries a weapon and is fully trained to use it.

We want policing by consent in this country.  We do not want to be moving towards a situation in which every bobby on the beat is armed in the way that they are in France.  I do not want that in London and I am sure that most Members of the Assembly do not want that, either.  However, it is right to look at ways of making sure that when you have multiple attacks in multiple locations, the police can really respond in strength and in numbers.

On the funding, Members of the Assembly will have seen what has happened on the whole [police funding] formula review and ‑‑

Joanne McCartney AM:  It was a shambles.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Those are your words.  I am not going to say I could put it better myself, but that is certainly ... we have moved on a bit there.  That is good.

However, we need to make sure that we see in London the numbers kept high, not just because that is what Londoners want.  They want the reassurance of seeing police out there in boroughs and need to see police officers in their neighbourhoods, in town centres, in their wards; people want to have the reassurance of police on the beat.  I absolutely believe in it and I believe in it passionately.  It is one of the reasons we have been successful in fighting crime in a city that has huge challenges.  However, also, it is because the police are the eyes and ears of the counterterrorism operation.  They are there in the front line.  They know what is going on in some of these areas where people may be at risk of radicalisation.  We need proper funding for the police to keep that operation going.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley [QPM, Specialist Operations, MPS] and his team are doing an outstanding job.  As Len [Len Duvall AM] said earlier on, we are very, very lucky in the way that our police and our counterterrorism people have handled a great many threats and challenges to our safety.  We are lucky and we cannot necessarily always expect to be lucky.  It is vital to ensure that we have the protection that Londoners need.

Joanne McCartney AM:  Can I ask you again?  Have you had conversations and ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  On the conversations specifically, yes, of course I have.  I am seldom not engaged in conversations with the Government of one kind or another, particularly in this season coming up to the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) next week.  As you can imagine, the conversations have been going on the whole time.

All I can say to the Assembly is that I really do think that at the highest level of Government - the Prime Minister [The Rt Hon David Cameron MP] in Number 10, the Chancellor [The Rt Hon George Osbourne MP] in Number 11 - they really understand the importance of funding London police.

Joanne McCartney AM:  Good.  I hope we do have some better news than we were initially expecting next week.

However, you have hit on one of the major issues as well, Mr Mayor.  What we do not want to see necessarily - although it would be welcome - is extra money in this counterterrorism funding pot, but we need to see extra money in that normal policing funding grant because, as you have rightly said, the public’s trust and the community’s ability to be able to trust the police with information is going to be vital if we are going to actually stop terrorism.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Absolutely.  I think ‑‑

Joanne McCartney AM:  Can I just finish?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Sorry.

Joanne McCartney AM:  If I could quote Peter Clarke, the former head of the counterterrorism unit, he said:

“Neighbourhood police hold one end of the golden thread that can take us from Britain’s streets to wherever in the world terrorists are being trained.”

We have had discussions before about the importance of keeping Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and neighbourhood policing in our communities.  It is vital that when you make those representations, we do want extra funding in the counterterrorism pot but we also need that funding in local policing as well.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Yes, that is absolutely understood.  I would just say that I do not particularly care from which pot the money comes ‑‑

Joanne McCartney AM:  It is important because counterterrorism money cannot be used for local policing.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ provided it goes into policing in London.

Joanne McCartney AM:  Yes.