London Bridge attack

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 24th January 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Len Duvall Len Duvall Labour

What steps are you taking to make sure we defeat the hatred seen in the London Bridge attack by rejecting division and instead focusing on the values that bind us together?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you, Chair. I want to start, as we did at the beginning of this meeting, by remembering the two young people who were clearly remarkable people, Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who were killed in this horrific terrorist attack.

What happened that day demonstrated both the very best of humanity, as I have said, and the very worst. As I have said, on the one hand, we should be so proud of the brave men and women who rushed into danger to protect others, without a thought for their own lives. They truly are the best of us. On the other hand, we saw a man, previously convicted of terrorism but sickeningly unrepentant, attacking innocent people.

Terrorists like this target London because they hate the fact our diversity is a beacon of hope and inclusive values. That is why they commit these terrible acts: to attack the shared values that bind us together, and to try to sow fear, hatred and division in our city. They have tried this before in our city, but they have never succeeded and they never will. London will not be intimidated or cowed by terrorism, as it will always remain united and open.

I say this, though, Chair. We cannot be complacent. This means not just coming together to promote our shared values in the aftermath of tragedy but promoting them all the time. That is why at City Hall we are constantly promoting and celebrating our diversity and open values. That is why we are investing in programmes to encourage greater social integration and to bring Londoners together as much as possible, and it is why, though our Countering Violent Extremism projects, we are working to strengthen communities against extremism, encouraging people to stand up to extremists, safeguarding vulnerable Londoners from radicalisation, and stopping the spread of extremist ideologies.

Photo of Len Duvall Len Duvall Labour

Thank you very much, and I think around this table we would echo those sentiments in terms of the praise for those that were there in that immediate vicinity and the action they took, both emergency services and ordinary people.

Can I just say that there are a number of lessons to learn? Sometimes they are judgment calls. No one can actually minimise some of these attacks. We try to. We try to, but sometimes they will be successful for those who want to peddle their hatred, as it is pure hatred, and attack our values. Do you think there is more that we can do both at Government, regional and local government level to signpost about where people can give and provide information about their suspicions? We are now dealing with a number of terrorists, haters, ultras, call them what you like, across the spectrum, from right wing to those who want to attack the values of this country and promote a certain form of religion around those. Do you not think we just need to keep repeating and reminding people first to be vigilant about the issues that you say, but also saying, “If you’ve got information, this is where you can go to”? It is not just on these crimes. The whole issue we face on crime, whether it is organised crime or issues of slavery, is of people just constantly being reminded that there are places where they can go and report suspicion of illegal activity.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Firstly, thank you for what you said in your question. You will know this, but just to remind colleagues around the room and Londoners, in the 1980s when our way of life and our Government was under sustained attack from terrorists, the phrase used by the terrorists was - I am paraphrasing - “You have to be lucky all the time. We only have to be lucky once”. You are right to remind us in relation to the importance for us to be vigilant and never complacent.

One of the things that we did last year was survey Londoners about whether they were aware where to report people they were suspicious of, and the answer was, “Not really”. One of the things that Sophie Linden as my Deputy Mayor [for Policing and Crime] does is chair something called [London] CONTEST [Board], which is where she brings together key players from all different groups - the Counterterrorism Team, police and others - and they work together to address this issue, which is challenging and contesting those with dodgy views, but also the policing side of it as well.

The police have a counterterror hotline you can ring up anonymously. You can just Google what the counterterror hotline is. It is an 0800 number. There is a step below that, where somebody is not quite at the stage of committing an act of criminality but they clearly have views that are very, very extreme. That is the concern that the police have, because the police cannot really be dealing with that sort of stuff unless there are criminal acts. We were discussing with Assembly Member Kurten the fine line between the job the police have of nuances.

I think we have a role to play as politicians. Schools have a role to play. Councils have a role to play. Civil society has a role to play. That is why one of the things we are funding is giving communities the confidence to tackle extremists and also encouraging people to stand up to extremists. Not the police, members of the community. You will be aware from your long work in anti-racist groups that that applies across the piece. There is much more we can do at City Hall. We are doing a lot. There is much more the Government can do.

What I would say in the final point is, I think members of the public have a role to play as well in challenging hatred and challenging those who want to divide our communities.

Photo of Len Duvall Len Duvall Labour

Thank you. Lastly, Chair and Mr Mayor, would you praise some of the work post the incident? I think for the first time our victim support services were there, highly trained, skilled and providing some of that aftercare support for people who either witnessed or were potential victims to this crime. I think it was one of our ex-colleagues, a Conservative colleague, who led the scrutiny of what happens post incident with issues that we have been raising that we need to get better at. I think it is MOPAC money that supported that. I think we just need to highlight it and make people aware that it is a service that is available to victims in these outrageous attacks.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Could I echo that, Chair, and just say one final thing? The Government deserves credit for devolving to us the funding for these services, and I think this is a good example of where devolution works. You are right, there has been an improvement in the service provided post a terror attack, and that is because it was devolved to us by the Government. They trusted us, and I think we have shown we can improve the service.