Oral Update to the Mayor's Report

MQT on 2019-09-12
Session date: 
September 12, 2019
Question By: 
Jennette Arnold OBE
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair): The Mayor will now give us an oral update of up to 5 minutes on matters occuring since the publication of the Mayor's report.


Oral Update to the Mayor's Report

Oral Update to the Mayor's Report

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Since the last Mayor’s Question Time, Brexit has been dominating the political landscape and much more.  The growing uncertainty caused by the failures of this government not only has continued to hold back London’s businesses but is causing enormous concern for European Union (EU) Londoners.  As Mayor, I have continued to stand up for all Londoners by putting pressure on the Government to do the right thing: to take no deal off the table, to revoke Article 50 and to let the British public have a final say through a public vote.


Chair, you will be aware - other newer colleagues may not be aware - that in the Greater London Authority (GLA) Act [1999] it states that the Mayor should promote - and I quote - “economic development and wealth creation in Greater London”.  Given that Brexit - particularly the prospect of a catastrophic no-deal Brexit, the consequences of which have been there for all to see in the [Operation] Yellowhammer documents published last night - is the single biggest issue in modern history that could negatively impact London’s economy, jobs and living standards for decades to come, I see it as my duty to speak up for what is in the best interests of our city.  I do not apologise for this.


I welcome the motion against a no-deal Brexit that the Assembly passed last week and I want to thank those Assembly Members who are refusing to stay silent on this vital issue and who are bravely putting London’s interests ahead of any political interest by making their voices heard.


Chair, I also want to highlight that today I have written to every head teacher in London to give my full support to lesbian gay bisexual trans queer plus (LGBTQ+) inclusive relationship education.  Our schools must be places where all children feel safe and included.  Young people should be able to learn about healthy relationships of all kinds and that includes LGBTQ+ relationships.


Since we last met I have also been working on a number of other initiatives to improve the lives of Londoners.  This includes continuing to help build more social and council homes, ensuring our transport system remains affordable for all, cleaning up our air and making London’s electric bus fleet the largest in Europe, and continuing to do everything possible to tackle violent crime, not only by cracking down on criminals but by tackling the root causes of violent crime.  I look forward to answering further questions during the course of this morning.


I have also, Chair, as you know, been asked to give three oral updates.  The first oral update is for Assembly Member Sian Berry in relation to facial recognition.


The use of facial recognition by the King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership in the King’s Cross development was raised with me last month.  I then wrote to the Chief Executive (CE) to express my concern.  I also asked that he engage with both my Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, Jules Pipe, as he develops the Public London Charter, and the Information Commissioner’s Office.


The CE replied, setting out the current situation: that a previous facial recognition system had been in place and in operation on the site, which has been replaced, but that the King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership now has no plans to introduce facial recognition on the estate.


At the same time, Assembly Member Berry received a written answer to a Mayor’s Question (MQ) about the exchange of images between private sector organisations and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) for use in facial recognition.  This was sent from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) to the MPS for a detailed reply and MOPAC was assured that no such exchange had taken place.


We now know that this information was wrong and the MPS has apologised for this.  A local agreement was in place, meaning that images were exchanged between 2016 and 2018.  A revised answer was provided to Assembly Member Berry on 4 September [2019].


Chair, I have asked the MPS to assure me that no other agreements of this type were or are in place.  I expect to receive the report of this work later this month.  The MPS has also written to all Basic Command Unit (BCU) Commanders making it clear that there should be no local agreements on the sharing of data or local use of live facial recognition.


I also, Chair, thank Assembly Member Hall for her request for an oral update on the problems on the Metropolitan line.  On 1 September [2019] a further section of new signalling was introduced between Finchley Road and Euston Square and Latimer Road and Euston Square.  This was a huge step forward in Transport for London’s (TfL) signalling overhaul on some of the oldest and busiest parts of the network.  Introducing a new system in a live environment is a huge change, which can take some time to settle.  Unfortunately, Metropolitan line customers experienced disruption as a result.


TfL has rightly apologised for this disruption.  Although all train operators were trained to operate the new signalling, as part of TfL’s commitment to safety, all train operators had to be accompanied through the new section by an instructor the first few times they went through the new area.  TfL expected delays to Metropolitan line services and rolled out a programme of communications in advance and ahead of Monday’s service to warn customers of the anticipated disruption.  Last Monday, a number of train operators were not able to complete familiarisation due to a defective train at Finchley Road preventing trains getting through the area.  This, as well as other unconnected incidents, had a knock-on impact on the availability of train operators and, consequently, the rate at which drivers could be familiarised was slower than anticipated.


TfL has been working to restore a good service with an increasing number of trains available each day.  Customers who have been delayed by more than 15 minutes and whose journeys have changed are being automatically refunded.  There is now a mostly good service on the whole of the line.  TfL is reviewing plans as future sections of the new signalling are introduced to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.  The upgrade is one of the most important in the history of the Tube.  With each phase of new signalling, customers will get a better service.


Chair, the final update - and I thank Assembly Member Pidgeon - is in relation to fatigue management of tram drivers.  Nearly three years on from the tragic accident at Sandilands, our thoughts remain with everyone affected.  Both TfL and I are committed to ensuring a tragedy like this never happens again.


Earlier this month, there was a media report that TfL removed comments from an audit of fatigue controls at Tram Operations Limited, the company that operates the London Tramlink service.  As my Deputy Mayor for Transport [Heidi Alexander] explained in detail at the Transport Committee yesterday, it is standard practice when carrying out audits to share and discuss findings with those being audited before finalising the report to ensure any factual inaccuracies are corrected.  The process resulted in some revisions and reordering of the draft for accuracy, but the evidence and recommendations were not changed.  In the draft report, which I shared with Assembly Member Pidgeon, the recommendations were listed as priority 1 and priority 2 issues.  In the final report they were listed - and I quote - as “opportunities for improvement”.


I have been informed that no evidence and no recommendations were deleted from the draft internal audit report.  Notwithstanding this, the Deputy Mayor for Transport agreed to discuss with the Chief Safety Health and Environment Officer reviewing the internal auditing process and also to include TfL’s General Counsel.  TfL is fully committed to supporting all those affected by the Sandilands tragedy in any way it can and has always co-operated fully with all of the investigating bodies following the tragedy.


Significant progress, Chair, has been made on the recommendations set out by the Rail Accident Investigation Board and TfL has already completed some of the most vital ones, including reducing speeds, enhanced signage, and a system that detects fatigue and distraction.  By the end of this year, a new automatic braking system will be in operation on the London network, which will be the first for trams in the United Kingdom (UK).


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  I have follow-up questions from Assembly Member Berry and Assembly Member Hall.  It is out of your Group time.