Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mayor's Questions

Parts of yesterday's question time became quite heated and perhaps it is just as well that everyone will have the August break to cool off.

Abuse of Process

Five minutes before the meeting started I received the unwelcome news that the Lib/Lab/Green alliance had decided to suspend standing orders so that the usual proportional timings would not apply on the first question which was - predictably - about the Ian Clement episode. There was a heated exchange, which could have been avoided if they had actually discussed their proposal with my team rather than springing it on us at the last moment.

Under the new Chair - Darren Johnson - we see constant attempts to introduce devices to give the smaller parties a disproportionately large influence, which reflect the problem that bedevils the so called Progressive Alliance - Labour have the numbers (8 members), so they get the larger time allocation, but they lack the ability or inclination to work effectively. Liberals and Greens are better operators but they lack the numbers (3 and 2 members respectively) and therefore the time, to bring their skills to bear. Also any attempt to give more influence to the smaller parties could benefit the BNP. They waste time and effort on attempts to rearrange the deckchairs.

The justification in this case was that Boris refused to attend an Assembly committee to discuss the Clement matter, so the aim was to create a mini version of that meeting within the Question Time. As it was, the Lib/Lab/Greens failed to ask any questions they had not raised before so it is probably just as well that they didn't get the special committee they wanted.

Rape Protest

One thing that Darren does do well is dealing with protests. With Ken out of office - and propped up in the front row of the gallery like El Cid - the London Left are rediscovering the joys of disrupting meetings. It was Tube unions last time. This time feminists set off rape alarms during Richard Barnbrook's contribution. They were swiftly escorted from the building. I support their stand against rape and domestic violence and they made their point in a reasonably dignified way. However I was surprised by how quiet the rape alarms were, and I hope they would make a lot more noise in a real emergency - more like my smoke alarm which went off a few weeks ago and was impossible to ignore.


I took the opportunity to welcome members of the North East London and Essex Group of Advanced Motorists to the gallery - probably a first at City Hall.

I also raised several important local issues with the Mayor.

Gallows Corner - Boris assured me that the disruptive work on the Gallows Corner Flyover would be completed on time in August. We all look forward to traffic returning to normal here.

Gants Hill - Work is due to start at Gants Hill next week. Rumour has it that the foundations beneath the road are in poor condition and this means that the work will take longer and be more disruptive. Traffic on the A12 and A406 can expect long delays as a result. There are also plans to divert a number of bus routes that pass through the roundabout. Access to the Central Line station and pedestrian subways could be impeded too. It's all a bit of an unknown as TfL have omitted to brief me and Redbridge Council also have limited information. Boris promised me a swift update from TfL, so more about this later, no doubt...

Woolwich Ferry - One of the boats has been out of service recently, leading to delays. With the limited number of crossings downstream of Tower Bridge, the ferry remains an important facility, particularly for lorries that are too high to use the tunnels. The boat is now back in service and Boris promised me an update as things return to normal.


DarrenJ said...


Re "Under the new Chair - Darren Johnson - we see constant attempts to introduce devices to give the smaller parties a disproportionately large influence"

The initiative to alter the procedure for the first question at MQT yesterday did not come from me as Chair, it came from Lib-Dem Group Leader, Mike Tuffrey, who proposed the motion.

Personally, I agree with you that it would have been better for the proposers to discuss the motion with your group in advance. But it is a prerogative of the proposers to decide whether they want to do that, not the Chair. However, I will be more forceful in future in trying to persuade proposers of motions to be more open about their intentions. I am keen to ensure that any rows that do take place in the Chamber are on substantive political issues as far as possible, rather than on matters of procedure which must bore the watching public rigid.

Darren Johnson

Roger Evans said...

Darren, thank you for that clarification, we are on the same page, I think.