Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 840 - 859)

TUESDAY 15 JULY 2008

MR BORIS JOHNSON AND MR KIT MALTHOUSE

  Q840  Ms Buck: Have you delivered, to your knowledge, the allocation of all the youth service resource that was committed in the spring?

  Mr Johnson: You are talking about the £79 million youth offer. We are absolutely committed to delivering that.

  Q841  Ms Buck: Has is being delivered, for example, for this summer?

  Mr Johnson: Most of it is being spent through the boroughs and, yes, to the best of my knowledge it has been delivered.

  Q842  Ms Buck: One of the issues that has been coming up in talking to the police about problems for example in my area is the extent to which the kids and the crews are posting what they are doing and what they intend to do on Beebo and Facebook and Utube. I have found, although some of this is being monitored at a very local level, that the information is not being tracked at a senior and strategic level within the Met. In fact, in some instances I have had people saying to me that they cannot monitor Facebook and Beebo because they cannot get through the firewalls. Are you clear that at a strategic level we are monitoring what is being done? Although a lot of that is "wannabe" posturing, it can very easily flip over into much more serious challenges.

  Mr Johnson: That is very interesting. I did not know that the police were having difficulty getting through the firewalls of Beebo and Facebook, but I will certainly take it up with them and make sure that we do step up our intelligence on this.

  Mr Malthouse: I was aware of the problem. I know the police do look carefully at this.

  Q843  Ms Buck: Now a question on stop and search. The Youth Justice Board estimate that up to 150,000 young people carry knives in London and up to 20,000 young people regularly carry knives. Mr Winnick was pressing you on the stop and search figures; I think it is about 1.5% of stop and searches actually find someone carrying a knife. We all agree that stop and search is an important tool, so there is no question of saying that it is not, but is it not the case, as local experience is confirming, that an awful lot of people are stashing knives; they are not carrying them but know where they are so that they can go and find a knife when it comes to actually pursuing trouble? Is it necessary now to look at, for example, enhancing safer neighbourhood teams in areas of particular pressure and using intelligence as well as the stop and search process so that they find those knives?

  Mr Johnson: The short answer to your question is of course "yes".

  Q844  Tom Brake: On the subject of accountability, you stated the view that the Mayor of London should have a larger measure of democratic authority over the Metropolitan Commissioner. Could you explain in what way?

  Mr Johnson: Yes. The committee will of course be familiar with the argument about democratic accountability of the Commissioner for the Metropolis in London and the technical difficulties this poses. If you look at big city mayors in America, they tend to have some democratic authority over the police chief. That reflects the fact that the public hold the Mayor to account for the safety of their city, and it is therefore only reasonable in some way for the Mayor democratically to be able to hold the police chief to account. That is basically the essence of the point I wanted to make. It is difficult in London because, after all, the Commissioner is also responsible for counter-terrorism, which is a national concern; it is difficult to winnow out the counter-terrorism functions of the Met and therefore to have the Commissioner solely accountable to the Mayor. At the moment there is a system of joint accountably. The Home Secretary and I are joint shareholders in it. We are working very well together, I hope, and doing it that way.

  Q845  Tom Brake: Would you require a change in the legislation to give you the sort of democratic authority which you currently do not have, I would suggest?

  Mr Johnson: Let me put it this way. In four years' time I am going to be held to account for the safety of people in London and for the issues that we have all been talking about. It seems to me only reasonable therefore that there should be some measure of democratic accountability on the part of the Commissioner for the Metropolis. I do think, over time, we will see a reform in this respect.

  Q846  Chairman: If Sir Ian Blair wants another terms as Commissioner, will you be extending his term?

  Mr Johnson: I have absolutely no intention of discussing personnel issues today, thank you.

  Q847  David Davies: One of your priorities is to extend the powers of PCSOs. What specifically do you intend by this? May I make one suggestion, if I may, which is to look at giving PCSOs a warrant card since they currently do a lot more training than special constables who all carry a warrant card which would allow them to make an arrest if they saw an offence being carried out. It would not necessary detract from their primary role of making friends with people in the community.

  Mr Johnson: You may or may not remember that during the campaign I certainly thought it was pretty crazy that a PCSO could see someone shoplifting and not be able or have a powerful disincentive not to apprehend that person simply because in order to do so he would have to get a warranted officer to come from wherever he happened to be and take up a great deal of his time. I do think it would be a good thing if PCSOs did have greater powers. Unfortunately, it is not possible to give them powers of arrest without effectively removing the distinction between them and he warranted officers. What we have done is give them greater powers to issue fixed penalty notices for minor offences of one kind or another—nuisance parking and that kind of thing. That has moved a small step in the direction I would think. There is a genuine difficulty in that the more you beef up the PCSOs, the more you run the risk of eroding the distinction between them and the warranted officer. As you rightly allude to in your question, one of the advantages of the PCSOs is that they do command this special sense of trust amongst communities that know that there is not a risk of them arresting them.

  Q848  Margaret Moran: On the subject of your priorities, you have listed in your personal pledges to increase the number of rape crisis centres. Are you aware that domestic violence is much more prevalent and has a much hither attrition rate and rape crisis centres are things which I am sure we all support. Can you tell us why you appear not to have put a pledge on domestic violence and reduced the resource available to tackle domestic violence?

  Mr Johnson: Ms Moran, I am not certain that is my position. I am certain that it is not. We are determined to make sure that London is equipped not just with one rape crisis centre in Corydon but with at least four around the city. We are going to make sure those are funded over the next year.

  Q849  Margaret Moran: I was asking you about domestic violence. The Greater London Domestic Violence Project is renowned for the excellence of its work. I understand that you have reduced, downgraded, got rid of very many of the very important staff that are working there. Does that indicate the level of priority and why have you done that?

  Mr Johnson: As far as I know, it is not the case. Let me say that I think you are right to say that domestic violence should be a priority because if you tackle domestic violence effectively you will, I think, obviate a great number of more serious crimes and the people who could engage in domestic violence are much more likely to go on to more serious things.

  Mr Malthouse: We are looking at the domestic violence strategy that the GLA has that is the framework for that work. We are looking specifically to widen it possibly to a strategy of just violence against women, under which would come domestic violence but also rape crisis centres and other issues around honour-based killings and those kinds of broader issues. Our intention is quite the reverse, not to reduce the emphasis on violence, in particular domestic violence, but to enhance it.

  Q850  Mrs Cryer: Briefly to go back to Tom Brake's question, Mr Mayor, can you mention whether when you saw the Mayor of New York he talked about restorative justice and are they using restorative justice in New York as they are in Toronto, which has a measure of success against re-offending?

  Mr Johnson: Mayor Bloomberg did not actually mention restorative justice, no, but equally obviously the salient example from New York is the whole broken windows theory and zero tolerance, which we are to some extent pursuing in the sense that I do take very seriously so-called minor crime on buses and on the streets of London. One of the things we have done with PCSOs is to double the size of the safer transport teams so that by the end of the programme there will be more people in uniform on buses than at any time in the last 25 years. We really do want to make a difference here. We will be judged on this. I do want public transport to be more agreeable and to be safer.

  Q851  Patrick Mercer: There have been allegations recently, as you know, of racism at the top of the Metropolitan Police. What impact will that have on your recruiting?

  Mr Johnson: Mr Mercer, I hope very much that it will not have any adverse impact whatever. I think I am right in saying that over the last period the proportion of black and ethnic minority recruits has doubled. It has gone up very considerably. I intend to continue it on that trajectory. I want to increase our recruitment from black and ethnic minority communities because London has got to be policed by people who resemble the people of London and to whom the people of London respond and identify with. I am determined to do that. I do not think that the couple of cases or at least one case that is currently in play at the top of the Met will make any difference to that agenda.

  Q852  Chairman: But it must be a cause for concern. There was a report in the Telegraph last Sunday that up to 300 black and Asian officers are proposing to commence legal proceedings. Even though you obviously want to make sure you have an increase in recruitment of black and Asian people, the fact remains that this is happening. Does it not cause you concern, bearing in mind your very strong commitment to diversity and the appointments that you have made at the very highest levels of your administration?

  Mr Johnson: Yes, Mr Vaz, I do think it important that we get this right. I think the 300 figure to which you refer is a national figure not in the Met. It is vital that we have a police force, as I say, that is open, welcoming and that fully reflects Britain as it is today.

  Q853  Chairman: Mr Malthouse, now that you have just taken over this post, do you think that there is not a role for the Mayor's Office in trying to mediate between the various parties, so that the damage to the reputation of the Met is not continued?

  Mr Malthouse: We are obviously anxious that any employment tribunal on whatever basis resolves satisfactorily. I am not sure it is necessarily the place of elected or appointed politicians to get involved in personnel issues, notwithstanding the fact that the MPA obviously has a role in overseeing that, as I know that the MPA is a party to some of these proceedings and therefore that is the organisation through which the mediation should take place.

  Q854  Mrs Dean: Mr Mayor, you have set up an innovation exchange programme with New York. You mentioned the ideas that you have had from New York about tackling crime on public transport. What else can London learn from New York's successful crime reduction strategies and how have those influenced your plans?

  Mr Johnson: There is one thing that the Mayor of New York told me about that I think is a very good idea, and that is the use of a hot line number, not to go to the police, which would enable you, if you have a difficulty with a pothole or whatever it happens to be, or you want to know why some graffiti has not been cleaned up. You can go to a central number and then we will get on to the relevant borough and sort it out. That should help to relieve some of the pressure there is on the police. That is a useful idea that the Mayor of New York shared with us. The other thing they do in New York very successfully is that they look very systematically at the statistics with the whole CompStat system. They look at what is going on in individual neighbourhoods and they break it down very ruthlessly. One thing I think would be helpful in London would be if we had a bit more public understanding of what is going on in our neighbourhoods. There are privacy issues here, as you now, and there are difficulties with crime mapping house by house, but I do think that crime mapping, if done sensitively with regard to what is happening in the broad locality, can be very useful in informing people of what is really going on in their neighbourhood. Sometimes the news will be good in the sense that they may have an impression of criminality which is completely underserved. When there is bad news, it will give people a vital tool to enable them to go to the police and say, "We have this problem in our street. Nothing is being done about it. You sort it out".

  Q855  Mrs Dean: Could that not blight a neighbourhood rather than help it?

  Mr Johnson: It was Judge Learned Hand who said "sunlight is the best disinfectant". I think that is the advantage of crime mapping. Without going down to individual house-by-house details, I do think that you can give people a powerful tool to clean up their neighbourhoods.

  Q856  Ms Buck: Some very affluent neighbourhoods with relatively low crime figures employ private security patrols. Are you prepared to take some of the tough decisions that would say, "Actually those neighbourhoods do have low crime. I am going to switch resources away from those to the areas which on the statistics have the highest need"?

  Mr Johnson: As you know, Ms Buck, there already are formulas in place to reflect the difficulties faced by various neighbourhoods.

  Q857  Ms Buck: At a neighbourhood level?

  Mr Johnson: That would be very much a matter for borough commanders.

  Q858  Gwyn Prosser: Mayor, I want to ask you about the 2012 Olympics and safeguarding the games from terrorist attacks. What assurances can you give this committee that by the time the Games come you will have sufficient police resources and the number simply to keep the Games safe?

  Mr Johnson: Mr Prosser, this is a serious issue for concern and it was raised by David Ross, who is my appointment to LOCOG, as something where he feels that we need to be more alert and he is worried that they are getting behind. I do think that it is vital that we establish very soon what the security architecture is going to be for the Games; that is to say, we have to know if we are going to have police milling around; are we going to have lots of security arches; are we going to rely on intelligence? What is our approach to policing of the Games going to be because it will greatly affect the experience of the punters at the Games; it will already affect the way we lay on the Games. I am afraid that not enough work has been done on this so far. I have had good conversations with Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, about this. She agrees with me that the Olympic Board needs to be brought fully into the ministerial discussions about Olympic security as we go forward so that the people responsible for putting on the Olympics, LOCOG, the ODA, know exactly what is in the minds of ministers.

  Q859  Gwyn Prosser: When do you expect to have a fully costed budget for this policing process?Mr Johnson: There is a budget I think of £600 million with contingency of £238 million. Obviously we do not intend to exceed that budget.


 
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