Oral Update on the Report of the Mayor

MQT on 2016-01-20
Session date: 
January 20, 2016
Question By: 
Jennette Arnold OBE
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor



Answer for Oral Update on the Report of the Mayor

Answer for Oral Update on the Report of the Mayor

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Since the last Mayor’s report, we have done a load of things including launching an app for volunteering.  Emma Thompson, who is the Tuberculosis (TB) Ambassador for London, launched a big awareness campaign because TB, as you may know, is more prevalent in this city than in many other comparable European cities.

One of the things that the Assembly has campaigned for we are making big progress towards achieving, which is to make sure that London accident and emergency departments (A&Es) share data with the police.  There has been a big expansion in that effort and 17 out of 29 A&Es now share data regularly with the police.  We think that that has helped 575 victims of serious youth violence and sexual exploitation.  We are continuing with our efforts to get the medical evidence to be properly shared with the police.

We had a very good conference in City Hall about getting more London businesses to take on ex-offenders.  Not enough do this.  Only 12% take on ex-offenders.  However, all those that do report that they are wonderful employees and they are highly productive.  Timpson, for instance, has taken on 300 ex-offenders and has had only seven who have gone back to a life of crime or committed a crime again.  I really urge London businesses to look at what firms such as Timpson, Greggs and many others are now doing.  Transport for London (TfL) does it as far as we can, although we want to expand it.  It is the right thing for society and indeed the right thing for the economy because it is massively expensive, as you all know, to put people in prison.

As you have said, Jennette, there is a consultation that we have concluded about private hire vehicles (PHVs).  The consultation had a huge number of responses.  There were 16,000 responses.  We will be putting various proposals now to the Board of TfL.  They include a formal English language requirement for drivers, guaranteed fare estimates for customers in advance of their journeys and various other provisions for private hire operators to ensure that customers can speak to someone in the event of a problem with their journey.  That is something that many passengers have called for, particularly groups that speak for vulnerable women in danger of sexual violence and so on.

There is, of course, a great concern in London about the expansion in the number of PHVs, which has gone up from about 59,000 in 2009/10 to more than 95,000 today.  Basically, one in ten vehicles now entering the Congestion Charge Zone is a PHV or a minicab.  It was probably about one in 100 a couple of years ago.

How do we address this?  There are two tools that we have at our disposal.  One is to try to cap the numbers and we would need primary legislation to do that.  The Government is adamant that it does not want legislation to cap the numbers of PHVs.  The alternative is, of course, to look at a congestion charge.  You will appreciate that that would be a controversial step, but we are nonetheless going to be putting that forward for public consultation and will see how that goes.  Obviously, it will be something that will be a matter of some controversy, but really I think, responsibly, we have to look at ways of reducing the congestion that is currently being caused by the volume of minicabs.

In addition, we have secured a commitment to progress separate legislation from the Government to regulate pedicabs and to help thereby to tackle the fare abuse that is common amongst some pedicab drivers.  Furthermore - subject, obviously, to approval by the TfL Board - we are going to be altering the structure of the licence fees for minicabs so as to reflect the size of the operations concerned.  Obviously, it does not make much sense for a small firm to be paying the same amount for their licence as a firm that has thousands of vehicles.

That is the broad thrust of the consultation on minicabs.  It contains a lot of good sense without, I hope, being too burdensome or too injurious for a very important sector of our economy.  We need the minicabs.  They do a great job.  However, we also need them to be properly regulated and to make sure that we tackle congestion.

I have been asked further by Caroline [Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM] to say something about a story about the Garden Bridge.  All I can say there really, Caroline, is that the Government will want to reflect upon whatever the National Audit Office review has said, but the Garden Bridge Trust should be congratulated on raising prodigious sums of private finance - £85 million - already.  The benefit-to-cost ratio of the Garden Bridge is estimated by TfL to be about 5.8:1.  It is a great project for London and I am delighted that it is currently proceeding.