London's Safety

MQT on 2016-09-14
Session date: 
September 14, 2016
Question By: 
Unmesh Desai
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe has said that a terrorist attack in London is a question of "when, not if". In light of his assessment, do you think the Government is doing enough to keep Londoners safe from the threat of terrorism in our city?


Answer for London's Safety

Answer for London's Safety

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Chairman.  I want to take some time addressing this as it is an important issue that is a huge source of concern to many Londoners.  Londoners’ safety is not simply an opportunity to make a 30-second peroration or speech but it is an issue worthy of proper discussion.


As Mayor, my absolute priority is to keep the people of London safe.  This is why one of my first acts as the Mayor of London was to ask Lord Harris [Baron Harris of Haringey] to conduct a thorough review into London’s preparedness to understand whether London is fully prepared for a terrorist attack.  The review is currently being completed and will be published this autumn.  It will tell us not only how key services across the board are working to keep us safe from terror but will also identify what we need to do to improve efforts.


I am confident that our police and our other agencies already do a great job, but while there is any threat to the city there will always be more we can do to link up and support our services.  I meet regularly with the Commissioner [Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis] and receive frequent briefings on counterterrorism efforts, emerging and changing threats and the work the police are doing to tackle extremism.  So far, this has provided me with confidence in the MPS’s ability to respond to this threat and I will continue to meet with senior officers on an ongoing basis to discuss how to keep Londoners safe.


On a national level, I know that this is a priority for the Government, but we must ensure that funding is proportionate to deal with this threat.  I met with the Home Secretary yesterday and, as I have said before, I will continue to lobby the Home Office to ensure that London gets its fair share of the policing budget.  My Deputy Mayor [for Policing and Crime] Sophie Linden and I have already set out to the Home Secretary what we think constitutes a fair deal.  This is particularly relevant when it comes to counterterrorism and the MPS’s responsibility for this on a national level as we need to ensure that the funding we receive reflects this.


I have agreed to an increase in the number of armed officers, which I believe will ensure that the MPS has the flexibility and capacity to respond to any potential terrorist threats.  I am pleased to see some of these officers already on our streets.  The Harris review will clarify what further resources may be needed and the Commissioner, the Deputy Mayor [for Policing and Crime] and I will be taking careful consideration of its recommendations.


Also, what is needed is a new push to tackle radicalisation and extremism and I am in discussions with the Government on how best to achieve this, including looking at the work that Louise Casey [Dame Louise Casey CB, Director General, Casey Review Team] is doing on social cohesion and integration.  As I have made clear in the past, my view is that social cohesion is at the very core of combatting radicalisation and extremism and this will be a core element of the Police and Crime Plan for London.


As the Commissioner stated, the threat level is at “severe”, meaning an attack is highly likely, but our security services and police do an exceptional job.  We must all remain vigilant but continue to enjoy the freedoms that we have in our great city.


Unmesh Desai AM:  Mr Mayor, political correctness on the part of the prison authorities is allowing extremism to flourish in our prisons.  That was a finding of the report by ex-prison governor Ian Acheson regarding radicalisation in prisons.


What do you have to say about this?  Particularly, what do you have to say about unsuitable literature that does not conform to certain fundamental values that we all hold as a society getting into prison and also - how can I say this - the wrong sorts of chaplains and imams getting access to our prisons, again, people who do not hold or conform to certain fundamental values that we all hold as a civil society?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I will just say to the Assembly Member that I have had a record - both before I got this job as the Shadow Justice Secretary and since I got this job - of expressing my concern about the lack of action taken in our prisons and young offenders institutions (YOIs) in relation to vulnerable young men who become radicalised and also not doing enough to de‑radicalise those men - and they tend to be men in men’s prisons - who have been radicalised and are not being de‑radicalised.  In 2010, the previous-previous Inspector of Prisons expressed concerns about this issue.  The previous Inspector expressed concerns about this issue.  It is an issue that has not been dealt with over the last six years.


I am pleased to say that Michael Gove as the Justice Secretary commissioned the Acheson Review.  I will be closely following the responses from the Government to the review and, where necessary, continue to make representations to the Government through the Home Secretary and the Justice Secretary to grapple with these issues.


In my view, in a prison or a YOI, you have a captive audience.  You can do stuff that you cannot otherwise do in society.  We should be using that captive audience and taking action.


Unmesh Desai AM:  What are your views on how prisoners who have been radicalised or are suspected of being radicalised in prisons, once they are released, should be handled?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It is really important to recognise that, putting aside radicalisation for a second, prisons are known historically as “universities of crime” because vulnerable young men going to prison often as first-time offenders or for their first time in prison become “groomed” by more serious criminals to become more serious criminals.  The same applies to radicalisation and extremism.  The Acheson Review provides an opportunity for the Government and for the Prison Service to grapple with this.


It means skilling up prison officers.  It means giving the governors the tools they need.  It means making sure that imams and prison chaplains have the confidence and support of those in positions of power and influence.  It means training them up as well.  It means looking at congregational prayer.  It means looking at association.  It means not being afraid to isolate people whom you worry are radicalising others.


If we cannot address this issue when there is a captive audience, it does not give me confidence that we will deal with this issue when those of us who are outside prison worry about this and what happens outside prison.


Unmesh Desai AM:  Thank you, Chairman.  I have further questions but I will write directly to the Mayor.