Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
TUESDAY 11 MARCH 2008
Q80 Chairman: Mr Johnson, thank you
very much for coming today. As you know, the Select Committee
has begun an inquiry into policing in the 21st century and we
thought it would be helpful, in view of London's essential role
in policing, for you to come and give evidence today. Are you
satisfied that the London Police Service has the structures and
capacity for dealing with the challenges that will confront London
over the next few years?
Mr Johnson: Let me begin by saying
that, of course, I think the police do a fantastic job and I certainly
agree with much of what the Mayor has said about the decline in
some crimes in this city over the last few years, though I do
not think he necessarily reflects the reality as it is perceived
by many people in this city, and I certainly do not think that
in the case of violent crime his picture reflected what the Home
Secretary herself seemed to indicate when she said she was worried
about walking down the streets of Peckham
Q81 Chairman: I thought it was Hackney.
Mr Johnson: Hackney, forgive me.
I mean to cast no aspersions on either boroughand her colleague,
Emily Thornberry, who said there was not a child in her constituency
who had not been mugged for a mobile phone, or whatever it was.
I do think there are two interrelated problems that we need to
take more seriously, and they are gang violence and the general
climate of disorder on public transport. I think there are things
we could do with the structures of the Police Service at the moment
that would make a difference to those two particular problems,
and I have urged that we reallocate some of the Mayor's publicity
budget for next year, or some of the increment in the Mayor's
publicity budget for next year, so that we get more uniformed
personnel, PCSOs, on the buses giving people a sense of reassurance
and security, which they do not have at the moment. One of the
crimes that is going up, in spite of some of the statistics we
have just heard, is bus crime, violent crime on buses is up 3.4%,
and if you talk to Londoners this is something they care about
and something they want addressed.
Q82 Chairman: Do you personally feel
safe at night in London?
Mr Johnson: It depends where you
are, but by and large, yes, I would feel safe to walk down the
streets of any neighbourhood in London, but I have to say that
many people do not feel safe and I think the job of the Mayor
is to deal with people's real apprehension and their real sense
that the city is too violent and there are too many people who
pose a real threat to them. In particular, I think what the Mayor
said about a climate of disorder and instability as a result of
deep social changes in the 1980s, or whatever his analysis was,
is true in the sense I think we have the problem, I do not necessarily
agree with his analysis, but I think it s up to the Mayor to do
something about it, and that is why I want to see far more done
to sort out this order on buses and that is why I want to see
far more done to sort out gang culture.
Q83 Chairman: Mr Johnson, we have
taken evidence already from Sir Ronnie Flanagan about the whole
debate on additional police officers as opposed to the better
use of police officers. Where do you stand on this particular
issue? Do you think London needs more officers or do you think
it is a question of their better use?
Mr Johnson: I think it is a question
of getting more officers out on the street. I agree profoundly
with the analysis that the public wants officers out on the street.
We benefit as a city and as a society from having the reassurance
of police out there and we can do much better. They have a much
higher ratio in New York of police officers out on the beat than
we do in London, and we all know the arguments about getting rid
of some of the bureaucracy, we all know how we might do it, and
that is why I do want to take the opportunity of taking the Chair
of the MPA, working with Sir Ian, to get more of his officers
out on the street where we want them and I think there is a case
to be made for using more civilian power in the back room to deal
with processing of forms. I am a great fan of the PCSOs. I think
we should drop all the kind of
Chairman: We will be coming to them later.
A quick supplementary from Mr Clappison.
Q84 Mr Clappison: The point you made
about fear of crime in London: I have a 14 year old constituent,
the daughter of one of my constituents, who no longer feels safe
to travel on buses in London. My constituency is very near to
London, and her father came to see me from Potters Bar to complain
about his daughter being mugged on a bus in the afternoon in North
London. There seems to be a widespread perception amongst those
of us who have constituencies near to London that there is more
of a problem with violent crime affecting young people. Will you
give priority to crime against young people? There seems to be
an amount of feeling that it is of a lesser order. I do not think
that is wrong.
Mr Johnson: Yes, and I just do
not think we can be complacent about it. We cannot be complacent
about people's real experiences on buses. I think there are things
you can do. I applaud the Mayor. There is one act of theft that
I will defend before this committee, and that is the Mayor's determination
to steal my policies. I think his decision now, late in the day,
to say that he wants to try live CCTV on buses, if I understood
him, is a good idea, and I think we should do that: because very
often, if you talk to the police, the problem they have with cracking
down on young kids who create violence on buses and intimidate
other kids on buses is that the bus companies do not have any
obligation under statute to hand over the CCTV, and I think we
should change that. I think it would make a huge difference. I
am told by the police responsible for this in many London boroughs,
in the case of a reported crime, the relevant CCTV is only handed
over in 5% of cases and in the best London boroughs it is only
handed over in 30% of cases. We could do much better. I think
we should have a by-law to insist that the CCTV is handed over
by the bus companies in an effort to crack down on what I think
is a real problem and must not be under estimated.
Q85 Ms Buck: You talk in your introduction
in a lot of the coverage of crime about violent crime, yet your
specific proposal concerns bus crime. What is the evidence that
you have that suggests that this is Londoners' top priority for
your one specific and costly proposal? Can you give us an indication
of what has been happening in terms of staffing on the London
transport system over the last few years?
Mr Johnson: Of course what happened
was that there was a decision taken to remove conductors from
buses, which, of course, is impossible to revoke because it will
be financially extremely expensive, though I do think there is
scope. Again, I applaud the Mayor for coming late in the day to
the idea of putting more PCSOs, beefing up the transport teams,
on buses to give people back a sense of security. You cannot restore
conductors, but you can have more PCSOs on buses and I certainly
think we should do that. To get to the first part of your question,
I do think there is a relation between what goes on on the top
deck of a bus and what goes on on the street generally. There
is a relation between crime on buses and violent crime on buses
and crime on the street, because if a young tearaway thinks he
or, indeed, she can dominate people on the top deck of a bus and
get away with mayhem, that person is going to get off the bus
and think that he or she can dominate the street as well, and
so I do think it has a very corrosive effect. I also think, by
the way, that we should be much less tolerant of habitual theft
on buses in the form of fair evasion. I am sorry, Mr Clappison,
just let me finish this point. We are currently tolerating losses
of £46 million per year in lost fares, and if we cracked
down harder on that, we could, of course, spend a lot of that
revenue more sensibly on staffing buses with the kind of people
the public want to see.
Q86 Chairman: I was not trying to
interrupt you to stop you, except that we would like briefer answers
because a lot of the members wish to ask you questions.
Mr Johnson: Forgive me.
Chairman: Could you be as brief as possible.
Q87 Ms Buck: Just to pursue that
point, what actually has happened to the transport police staffing
and PCSOs on buses in recent years and what would be your proposal
in terms of the trend?
Mr Johnson: What I want to do
is to reallocate, as I say. The Mayor's Transport for London publicity
budget which is going up from 64 million to 84 million next year.
I think some of that money could be spent on getting another 440
transport PCSOs on some of the rowdier bus routes where there
are not enough transport PCSOs. I would also like an additional
50 transport police, because one of the big problems we have got
is suburban railway stations where people feel very threatened
after eight o'clock at night. We only have about 330 transport
police around London. I think we could do a lot better there and
give people an extra sense of security, and I would also like
to give the Revenue Protection Inspectors greater powers to interrogate
people about their names and addresses if they are caught evading
Q88 Ms Buck: Is it the case that
the 440 that you are proposing is only about a quarter of the
total increase that there has been since 2000? Why should it be
that that number is as transformatory as you claim when the number
that has actually changed over the last eight years has been so
Mr Johnson: I understand what
you are saying. I do not think anybody would claim that any single
measure is going to be transformatory, to use your word, but I
do think that something needs to be done, I do think we cannot
be complacent about this. We cannot just throw our hands up in
the air and say this is all the fault of Margaret Thatcher. We
do need to do specific things to tackle the problem of crime on
buses and people's sense of---. You asked me earlier on, I think,
what gave me the impression that Londoners cared about this?
Q89 Ms Buck: Much of the evidence.
Mr Johnson: Believe me, I travel
all around London boroughs talking to people, and it is the number
one issue for many people across London, and not just late at
night: people are feeling intimidated particularly at 3.30 in
the afternoon when school is out and there are too many kids on
the buses acting up. What I want to do is much more systematically
take away their right to free travel, and take it away permanently,
but then give them the right to earn it back if they want.
Q90 Ms Buck: You also make the general
point about looking at (your words) the 3.2 billion policing budget
for efficiency savings. What figure has been achieved, do you
know, in the Met in terms of efficiency savings and what is your
own personal target?
Mr Johnson: I am not in favour
of losing any money from the Metropolitan Police budget. It is
going to go up to 3.5 billion and I heartily applaud that. What
I want to do, by working with Sir Ian and using my role as Chairman
of the MPA, is to make sure we allocate those funds that London
needs more effectively, as I was saying earlier on, to get a proportion
of London's officers out on the beat where we want them.
Q91 Ms Buck: Do you have a target
Mr Johnson: Of course I do not
have a target figure, because I have not yet been able to go through
the budget in detail, but I can assure you that that will be a
Q92 Tom Brake: I think you accused
the Mayor of stealing your policies on getting PCSOs on buses.
When did you first call for extra PCSOs on buses?
Mr Johnson: Several months ago.
Q93 Tom Brake: Thank you.
Mr Johnson: He seems lately to
have espoused this. I think it was at the transport hustings two
weeks ago that he developed
Chairman: Mr Brake, your question!
Q94 Tom Brake: There are many PCSOs
travelling on buses already and there have been for a number of
months. You have also called for extra BTP officers. They are
not within your remit or responsibility as Mayor. How would you
go about securing those?
Mr Johnson: It is curious you
should say that, because as far as I can tell, having talked to
the BTP at length about this, they would be very grateful for
some Transport for London money to be allocated to them, as it
already is, by the way, to supply another 50 transport police.
Q95 Tom Brake: What is your financial
pledge then in terms of how much you are willing to put into that?
Mr Johnson: If you have studied
my manifesto in detail, as I am sure you have, Mr Brake, you will
discover that, again, simply by reallocating some of the increment
in Transport for London's non recruitment publicity budget for
next year, we can achieve our manifesto proposes to re-allocate
the increment in the MPS non recruitment publicity budget for
next year, not TfL.
Q96 Tom Brake: So the publicity budget
is paying for that as well.
Mr Johnson: I do think that when
Londoners are faced with the choice of more police officers or
more press officers in London, I know what they would go for.
Q97 Mrs Dean: Mr Johnson, neighbourhood
crime mapping is already undertaken by the police. What difference
would your proposal to publish this information make?
Mr Johnson: Of course the difference,
Mrs Dean, is that what I am proposing is that the public should
be able to see the information, and I know that this is controversial
because I know that people worry that it could blight neighbourhoods,
for instance, and I know that there are anxieties about whether
police information might be prejudiced in some way. I do not think
that either of those are sensible objections and I think the public
deserves to be treated as though it was grown up and as though
it deserved information about what is really going on in their
city. The police have crime maps. There is no reason at all why
crime mapping should not be made available to all us so we know
what is happening in London and we can use that information as
a tool to make our points to the police about what is really happening
in our neighbourhoods and we can, thereby, urge them to deal with
the problems in our neighbourhoods. Additionally, of course, what
I would like is to have proper monthly meetings between borough
commanders and council leaders as widely advertised as possible
so that everybody can go along with the information that is publicly
available about what is happening on their street and make their
Q98 Mrs Dean: Would this not make
it more difficult for the police to operate and retain discretion
but also to target crime where they need to target it, without
the public trying to get them to tackle it as they would wish,
rather than the police feeling that it would be better tackled
in a different way?
Mr Johnson: Mrs Dean, I do not
think it is wholly illogical or wrong to allow the public some
say in asking the police to tackle crime as they would wish, and
I think that might be beneficial for policing in London.
Q99 Mr Winnick: On the make-up of
the police force, Mr Johnson, some in your party over the years
have dismissed having more ethnic minority police officers, be
it in London and elsewhere, to use the phrase so often used, as
Mr Johnson: I do not agree with