Oral Update to the Mayor's Report

MQT on 2018-07-19
Session date: 
July 19, 2018
Question By: 
Tony Arbour
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  The Mayor will now provide an oral update of up to five minutes in length on matters occurring since the publication of his report.  Assembly Members have submitted two requests for topics for inclusion within the update. 


Answer for Oral Update to the Mayor's Report

Answer for Oral Update to the Mayor's Report

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Good morning.  This week the news has been dominated by Brexit yet again, an issue that could have profound consequences for the lives of millions of Londoners.  Since the day after the European Union (EU) referendum, I have been working to ensure that London’s voice is heard and to fight for a Brexit deal that is in the best interests of all Londoners, and that is what I will continue to do. 


Last week I wrote to the Prime Minister [the Rt. Hon Theresa May MP] to warn her that the Government’s White Paper completely fails to meet the needs of our leading service sectors, which represent 92% of our economy in London, a concern shared by many business leaders in London and across our country.  There is no doubt that the kind of hard Brexit the Government is now proposing would throw up new regulatory barriers that will damage the ability of our world-leading creative, tech and financial services to do business across the EU.  This would cause huge economic harm, with repercussions felt not just here in London but across the country.  Worse still, with the division and disarray within the Government and the Prime Minister capitulating once again to the hard Brexiteers in her party, it is clearer than ever before there is a grave risk that we could crash out of the EU with no deal at all.  This is the worst possible scenario, one that independent experts predict could lead to nearly 90,000 fewer jobs in our city.  That is why I have instructed officials here at City Hall to step up preparations for such a devastating no-deal situation.  I urge the Prime Minister to start putting the national interest ahead of her own interests, and her country ahead of her party.  We are now running out of time.  The Government needs to change course and quickly, and accept that staying within the single market and the customs union is the best way to protect jobs and growth across the United Kingdom (UK). 


Since we last met, I have also been working on a number of strategies and initiatives to improve the lives of Londoners.  This includes continuing to do everything possible to tackle violent crime, not only by cracking down on violent crime but the root causes of violent crime, too.  I have also continued to lobby Ministers for the extra resources we need to help keep our city safe. 


Chairman, I have been asked for two oral updates.  The first one is on the Brexit White Paper from Assembly Member [Andrew] Dismore.  I wrote to the Prime Minister last week warning that her White Paper completely fails to meet the needs of our leading service sectors, a concern shared by many London and UK business leaders.  This kind of hard Brexit will throw up new regulatory barriers which will damage the ability of our world-leading creative, tech, professional and financial services to do business across the EU, putting jobs at risk across the country.  92% of London’s economy is service-based, and the strength of these businesses is seen beyond the capital.  The financial and professional services industries alone employ over 2.2 million people across the country, only a third of whom are based in London.  Trading services accounts for roughly 40% of UK exports to the EU and includes our world-leading financial services, accountants and lawyers. 


It was my intention to respond more fully to the White Paper, taking on board the advice of my Brexit Advisory Panel.  However, given the Prime Minister’s capitulation to her hard Brexiteers, it is looking increasingly unclear whether there will be a White Paper to respond to.  It is already clear that the kind of Brexit that the Government is currently offering is untested, complex, expensive, and will take years to fully implement.  Even if the EU were to agree with the deal being proposed, due to the exclusion of services there is a very real risk that jobs and investment that could have been ours might go elsewhere in Europe.  Now, with the Prime Minister having accepted amendments to the Customs Bill proposed by hard-line Brexiteers, it is clearer than ever that we are at grave risk of crashing out of the EU with no deal, a situation that would cost nearly 90,000 jobs in London and nearly 500,000 across the UK according to independent analysis we commissioned from Cambridge Econometrics.  This is now a risk.  That is why in my letter to the Prime Minister last Friday I urged her, for the good of the economy and thousands of people’s jobs, to change course and seek a deal that keeps us in the Single Market and Customs Union. 


The second request, Chairman, for an urgent oral update was from Assembly Member [Caroline] Pidgeon MBE.  It is on Oxford Street.  I wrote to the Leader of Westminster [Council] on 3 July [2018] and stated my disappointment at Westminster’s unilateral decision to walk away from two years of joint work to transform Oxford Street and the surrounding district.  Westminster is the highway and planning authority for Oxford Street, and it is now incumbent on it to prepare an alternative plan that adequately addresses the known challenges to the area, including poor air quality, road safety, pedestrian crowding and a poor public realm.  Failure to address these issues comprehensively and holistically will undermine the future economic success of London’s West End offer.  The success of Oxford Street is important not only to the economic prosperity of London but also to the UK economy as a whole.  The Council has now set out its intention to bring forward some initial pedestrianisation and safety changes to be delivered later this year, followed by a wider piece of work on the Oxford Street district.  This timetable indicated Westminster will provide information on the safety scheme next month.  I expect it to stick to this timeline, and I have also requested an update on the       district-wide scheme by September [2018]. 


When I have seen these proposals and assessed how they address the challenges in the area, I will make a decision on Transport for London’s (TfL) and the GLA’s next steps for this project.  We are doing our part and have already reduced the number of buses that use Oxford Street by 40%, and we continue to do what we can to reduce this further.  Now it is up to the Council to step up and tell us how it proposes to make Oxford Street fit for a world-leading 21st-century city.  It is worth reminding Assembly Members that pedestrianised Oxford Street was a manifesto commitment also made by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. 


Thank you.  I look forward to answering questions during the course of this morning. 


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