Terror attacks

MQT on 2017-01-18
Session date: 
January 18, 2017
Question By: 
Peter Whittle
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


What did you mean by your recent statement that terror attacks are "part and parcel of living in a big city" and how did you come to this conclusion?


Answer for Terror attacks

Answer for Terror attacks

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for your question.  The statement you refer to is from my visit to New York in September last year.  While I was in New York the city suffered a terror attack which injured 29 people.  The day following the attack I met with the Mayor of New York and visited community groups and faith leaders and discussed the very serious threat of terror in big cities.  We must be under no illusion about the scale of the threat we face.  What I said - and I hope this fits into 140 characters - is, “Part and parcel of living in a great global city is you have to be prepared for these things.  You have to be vigilant.  You have to support the police doing an incredibly hard job”, end quote. 


As we have seen from atrocities around the world such as those in Berlin, Nice, Brussels, Paris and Istanbul, we cannot deny that major cities are a main target for terrorist attacks, as much as we would like it not to be the case.  It would be irresponsible not to prepare ourselves for such an attack.  The current UK threat level from international terrorism is severe, which means an attack is highly likely.  The Commissioner of the MPS himself has said a terrorist attack is a matter of when, not if.  In light of the significant levels of threats we face and my top priority being the safety of Londoners, two of my early actions as Mayor were to increase dedicated ward officers, who are the eyes and ears in our communities across London, and to commission Lord Toby Harris to review London’s preparedness to respond to a major terrorist incident.  The report was published towards the end of last year and work is under way to implement the recommendations.  Thanks to the extraordinary work of the police and our security services as well as help from the public, we have been able to stop terror attacks in the UK.  The counter-terrorism network and security services have successful foiled at least ten attacks in the last two years, with 294 convictions for terror-related offences.  This shows that we cannot be complacent and must take this kind of threat incredibly seriously.  To undermine and downplay the risk we face would be irresponsible of me as the Mayor of a global city. 


Peter Whittle AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor. My point really was about the language, saying something is “part and parcel” now of basically being a big city.  It felt rather fatalistic.  It struck me as being slightly fatalistic to say that.  As you are the Mayor, your words will be picked over.  Could I encourage you maybe to say next time words that have a little more urgency?  I do not mean in the sense of trying to frighten people, but saying something is “part and parcel” is almost like saying it is rather like bad weather.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It is part and parcel of our lives as Londoners not to be complacent.  It is part and parcel of our lives to be vigilant.  It is part and parcel of our lives to co-operate with the MPS.  It is part of parcel of our lives to recognise that the bad guys want to cause us damage.  It is not being fatalistic.  It is a reality.  It is not just my words.  The security threat is severe.  The Commissioner of the MPS has said similar.  When I speak to friends in Berlin, New York, Nice, Istanbul, Orlando, Brussels, Paris, Copenhagen, Sydney, Ottawa and Boston, it is not being fatalistic, Peter.  It is recognising we have to do our bit as citizens of this great city to keep us safe.


Peter Whittle AM:  No, I accept that.  You say that we should be more vigilant or we have to be vigilant.  How would you say Londoners should be vigilant?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  One of the reasons why we are keen to restore neighbourhood policing is these police officers look after us.  If you think anybody is behaving suspiciously or buying things they would not normally buy, speak to the police.  Make sure the police have that information.  If you have any intelligence, please provide it to the police.  Some of these convictions have been got because members of the public were vigilant, gave the information to the police, that was passed up, arrests were made, people were charged, people were convicted, and we have been kept safer as a result.  If you see something left in a Tube train, it might just be somebody being absentminded.  It could be an explosive device.  Report it to staff, who are trained to deal with that issue.  We can give other examples as well.


Unmesh Desai AM:  Mr Mayor, I agree with you and what you say.  I certainly would not describe your language as fatalistic and you are right to warn against complacency.  In fact, my colleague was just drawing my attention to a tweet that came through a few minutes ago about a possible terror bomb attack in Mali.


Given what you have just told us about the threat level that Londoners face in terms of a terrorist attack, would you join me in congratulating our police service and all our security services for the great job that they do every day in keeping us safe?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It is crucial.  There are lots of things I have learnt in this job, but I did not fully appreciate the hard work the security services and the police do day in, day out, and literally risk their lives to keep us safe.  They deserve our gratitude and our thanks.


Unmesh Desai AM:  Furthermore, can I just ask you about in terms of Europe another debate that is going on and we heard what the Prime Minister had to say yesterday about Brexit?  In November [2016] we decided to opt into a strengthened Europol.  How important is it in your view to maintain and strengthen our ties with Europe for the safety of our city?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Membership of Europol has been important to UK security and that is a view shared by the Government and so it decided to renew our membership at the end of last year.  The National Crime Agency and the National Police Chiefs’ Council I understand are currently exploring the arrangements that they would like to secure for the UK as part of the Article 50 negotiations.  The key thing - and the Prime Minister echoed this yesterday - is around security.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Thank you very much.


Unmesh Desai AM:  Thank you, Chair.