Counter Terrorism

MQT on 2017-10-12
Session date: 
October 12, 2017
Question By: 
Unmesh Desai
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


The Head of the National Police Chiefs' Council, Sara Thornton, has warned that the pressures on policing are 'not sustainable' within existing budgets. ( Given that the new level of terror threat appears to be a shift on police demands and not a spike, how are you working with the Metropolitan Police Service to manage these pressures?


Answer for Counter Terrorism

Answer for Counter Terrorism

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for your question, Assembly Member Desai.  Thank you for the recent Budget and Performance Committee report, Who’s paying the Bill? which looks at the financial challenge for the MPS.  My Deputy Mayor for Police and Crime is currently reviewing the report and we will respond to the findings once we have thoroughly considered the proposals set out.  It is essential that the Government provide the additional resources the police so badly need to keep Londoners safe.  Chief Constable Sara Thornton [CBE QPM], Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said last month the counter-terror funding for policing is being cut than more than 7% in the next three years.  This is on top of the funding crisis in the local policing budgets.  We know that policing terrorist events have cost implications for local policing.  Each one puts a huge strain on police and resources, mobilising specialist operations and pulling officers into extra shifts and away from daily duties. For every pound spent from the counter-terrorist budget in response to the Westminster attack, a further £2 was spent by local policing.

Supporting counter-terrorism funding is not sufficient if funding for local policing is falling.  Falling resilience of local neighbourhood policing will cut off the intelligence that is so crucial to preventing attacks.  Only this week I met with the New York Police Commissioner to discuss policing in two of the world’s greatest metropolises.  The number of police officers per head of population in London is over 20% smaller than that of New York and yet due to funding pressures we are likely to go below 30,000 police officers.  Clearly this is not good enough.  This dangerous under-funding simply cannot be allowed to continue.  When I met the Prime Minister earlier this week I made that point, that the Government must end the under-funding which is putting the safety of the British public at risk.


Unmesh Desai AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  I have three or four questions to ask you, so if I can ask you to be as brief as possible.  Amber Rudd [The Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, Home Secretary] said recently that it is too simplistic to blame police cuts when asked about anti-terrorist operations and of course I accept there are many factors at play here.  We know what [Chief Constable] Sara Thornton has had to say about this and I quote what she said, that resources have got to be part of the organisation.  It seems to me that there is a discrepancy here, certainly in in terms of emphasis on the funding situation.  Who is right?


In particular, again carrying on with the theme of resources, on Tuesday the Department for Transport updated guidance to local councils on terrorism.  The last time such guidance was issued was in 2003.  Local authorities have been asked to improve street lighting, sensitive blind spots, amongst many other things, all of which of course requires money.  Would you agree with me the Department of Transport cannot have it both ways, asking local authorities to do all these things, which are very important, such as street lighting, but not then telling them where the money is going to come from?  Would you liaise with London Councils and other relevant agencies to get this message across to the Department for Transport?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Firstly, the responsibility for terrorism lies with terrorists.  Let us be clear, they are to blame for the terrorism, but there are things we can do to try and minimise the chances of terrorists succeeding, to thwart terrorist attacks, but also, when they happen, to minimise the harm and the fatalities.  The police advice is that police be treated as a whole and resources is a factor.  However, you are right, we cannot put the responsibility on to councils to do further stuff but not give them the resources.  I will be lobbying the Government to provide the resources that we need.


Unmesh Desai AM:  I accept that answer.  Very quickly, because I am aware of the time that I have, it has been reported recently that a key ingredient used in the bombs in Parsons Green and in Manchester were hydrogen peroxide, which is commonly available.  Since March last year, the sale of this particular item has been restricted, but Chris Hunter [QGM], a former bomb disposal expert, tells us through The Times that the substance is still fairly easy to purchase and that some outlets will not conduct the necessary checks.  In particular what is worrying is sales through online sites.  How are you or how do you intend to work with the Home Office and other agencies to ensure that online and retailers are doing everything they can to stop these materials getting into the wrong hands?  We have the same situation with acid attacks and sulfuric acid.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Sure.  There are the industrial materials and then there are the consumer retail ones.  We need to tighten up on the industrial and the retail.  The counter-terror lead, [Assistant Commissioner] Mark Raleigh, is well aware of this and is in discussions with the Home Office in relation to this issue.


Unmesh Desai AM:  Finally, your response to the Harris review [London’s preparedness to respond to a major terrorist incident]; you told us at the Police and Crime Committee that it will be out some time in October.  We are very nearly halfway through October.  Have you got a date in mind?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The Harris review was published on 27 October last year.  Do not be surprised if our response is published on 27 October this year.


Unmesh Desai AM:  Thank you.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Assembly Member Dismore.


Andrew Dismore AM:  Can I ask about the detective shortage in the MPS, which has been a problem for some time, which clearly impacts on counter-terrorism as well.  In the summer, it was reported the MPS was recruiting an additional 80 trainee detective constables with full police powers who have never worked as uniformed officers.  Assistant Commissioner Gallan apparently wrote to every detective due to retire this year and asked them to stay on, as the force at that time was short of 748 detectives.  The employment agency, reported as having set up its own office in Scotland Yard, is charging the MPS hundreds of thousands of pounds to recruit 77 detectives who have just retired on full pension and the reports of stressed detectives being bombarded with 20 cases at once who are quitting the role and going back to uniform, which is all pretty serious.  Can you say how many detectives the MPS is currently short and what the barriers are, as you see them, to filling the vacancies and what progress is being made in recruiting detectives to fill those vacancies?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  There are a number of things we are doing to fill the vacancies of detectives.  It is a nationwide issue, as you know, across England and Wales.  You will be aware, and you referred to this in your question, Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey [QPM] wrote to retired detective constables in relation to them coming back to coach, coming back to be civilian detectives and other roles they could play.  That is one of the things that the Deputy Commissioner did.  Secondly, more coaching, more training of those who are police officers to train them up to be detectives.  I appreciate your concerns about response time, but thirdly you will be aware of one of the advantages of the BCU is getting detectives doing complex cases.  This is a national problem though and we are doing what we can.  There are still shortages in London and that is one of the reasons why one of the operational advantages of the BCUs is detectives being able to do complex cases because of the mergers. 


Andrew Dismore AM:  How many are we short at present?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  There is a figure which I can send to you. 


Andrew Dismore AM:  Thank you.