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Indian High Commission Protests

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 25th September 2019.

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Photo of Susan Hall Susan Hall Conservative

What assurances can you give to London’s Indian community that the events of 15th August, which saw people celebrating Indian Independence Day outside the High Commission heckled and threatened by protestors, are being thoroughly investigated?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you, Chair. Londoners of Indian origin and London’s Indian community make a huge contribution to this great city, from helping to power our economy through businesses both big and small to enhancing London’s vibrant arts and culture scene to being a valued part of our NHS workforce. Londoners of Indian origin have demonstrated time and time again that our diversity is one of our city’s greatest strengths. At a time when many are trying to divide us Londoners of Indian origin and London’s Indian community have demonstrated to the rest of the world that in London we celebrate and embrace our diversity and differences.

Whilst I support the right to protest when it is peaceful and lawful, I condemn in the strongest terms the violence and damage to property from a small minority of protestors that took place on 15 August [2019] and at subsequent protests outside the Indian High Commission. These acts are completely unacceptable and my team has been in touch with the Indian High Commission with which my office has a great working relationship. I want to be clear that anyone who is found to have acted unlawfully will be pursued by the MPS. I have personally raised this issue with the MPS and it is my understanding that four individuals were arrested for offences including public order and possession of an offensive weapon, investigations concerning two of those individuals are ongoing.

As the Assembly knows, as Mayor I do not have the power to ban marches and protests in London, these powers lie with the Home Secretary. They are an important part of our democracy though and I support protest as long as it is peaceful. The Assembly will also be aware that the policing response to protest is led as an operational matter by the MPS which was and are in touch with the Indian High Commission.

Photo of Susan Hall Susan Hall Conservative

Thank you, Mr Mayor. I am glad to hear you say you condemn this. However, when I was looking at your Twitter feed there is nothing about it on there. You congratulated people on their A-level results, which is appropriate of course. You obviously tweeted about fighting against Brexit because that is what you seem to do all the time. However, given this was such a serious event nothing, absolutely nothing.

I am sure you understand why people are feeling disappointed by your initial non-response. One email said, I am quoting:

The Mayor failed to condemn the attack, has maintained complete silence on this issue with no acknowledgement of the significant harm caused to the community, the Indian community.”

I am not surprised given some of the reports I have heard - burning of flags, throwing of eggs, aggression - and yet you feel you do not need to comment on it at the time when you can also comment about the fact that it is hot, we had five tweets about it being hot.

I am so sorry if you are bored looking everywhere. I am so sorry if you think these points I am making are inappropriate but I think it is totally inappropriate that we have a Mayor who will constantly mention Brexit and yet we have thousands of people on the street burning the Indian flag and throwing eggs and yet you say nothing. What is your defence for saying absolutely nothing on this issue, Mr Mayor?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Chair, some guidance, how much time do I have to respond to that?

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  I am happy to give you the same time that the question took.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Correct. Chair, I am really pleased that the Assembly Member, like more than a million Londoners, follows me on Twitter. It is really important to understand that on Twitter you can get across lots of points of view. Twitter is not the only way I communicate with Londoners and those around the globe. I also use Facebook and I also have other forms of communication such as press releases. I also speak to people, which is really important, and use the mainstream media as well.

In relation to the incident outside the Indian High Commission, it was disgraceful that some people appear to have broken the law. It is really important that people, of course, are allowed to protest peacefully and lawfully but they must obey the law. That is why I enjoy living in a democracy where the police are in charge of operational management when it comes to policing protests. I personally spoke to and was in touch with the Deputy Commission of the police service, Sir Steve House [Sir Stephen House QPM], to discuss my concerns about what happened outside the Indian High Commission.

I did tweet about this and I will share with the Assembly Member Susan Hall who clearly does not follow me as assiduously as she should in relation to my tweets. I will show her the tweet that I sent in relation to this particular issue. The Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, also tweeted about this matter.

Photo of Susan Hall Susan Hall Conservative

That was the third incident.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

What I am happy to do, Chair, is to take advice from Assembly Members about how better I can communicate with Londoners in relation to what we are doing in London. Any assistance in amplifying our social media messages is gratefully received.

Here is the important point; the important point is in relation to the power to ban protests and marches and that power does not lie with the Mayor of London, it lies with the Home Secretary. If it is the case that she ‑‑

Photo of Susan Hall Susan Hall Conservative

No, it is about your comments.

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  No, you will listen to the answer, Assembly Member Hall.

Photo of Susan Hall Susan Hall Conservative

He is filibustering but if you say so, Madam Chair.

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Yes, you will.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Chair, the rudeness of some Members is outrageous.

Photo of Susan Hall Susan Hall Conservative

We are reflecting you, Mr Mayor.

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Please, continue with your answer.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I just think what is sauce for the goose, Chair ‑‑

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  No, please continue with your answer.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The point, Chair, is if the Assembly Member is concerned about protests and marches being unlawful what she should be doing is lobbying the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary has powers to ban marches and ban protests. If she wants to lobby the Home Secretary in relation to those particular issues of course we will want to see what the grounds are and see if we will support those applications.

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  The Conservative Group is now out of time.