Politics and policing: Sir Paul Stephenson keeps digging

The row about politics and policing and about police accountability stumbles on.  Sir Paul  (SPS) has used his speech at the Police Superintendents’ Association conference today to set out his views on operational policing and the relationship between politics and policing.

Fair enough, that’s what all Metropolitan Police Commissioners do from time to time.

And what he said was eminently sensible (I certainly agree with it):

“I’ve been brought up in my policing career on the inviolate principle of police operational independence. … Mayor Johnson, and his people at City Hall, would be the first to accept that whilst wider views and opinions are helpful and to be encouraged, the decision of how to actually do it, who to target, where, when to act, what officers to use and how many were decisions for me and my officers, and ours alone.”

That, of course, has to be correct.  I do not want to be part of a society where a politician can instruct the police to arrest a particular individual.  Or for that matter NOT to arrest a particular individual (be it Lord Levy or Damien Green MP).

But SPS’s remarks were billed as a riposte to the interview Uber Vice Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse AM (the UVCDMKMAM), gave to the Guardian last month.

However, whilst the UVCDMKMAM did say that he and Mayor Boris Johnson (BoJo) had their “hands on the tiller of the Met”.

He also said:

“We cannot tell the commissioner what to do, we trust in his judgment. But at the same time we can say what we think the priorities are and the police authority can set the priorities.”

This was a perfectly accurate re-statement of the proper role of police authorities in setting the strategic direction for police services.  And it reaffirmed the Commissioner’s operational independence.

I commented on this at the time and on the rather intemperate remarks of an unnamed “insider”, quoted in the Evening Standard, as saying:

“Paul has been very robust with Mr Malthouse in recent months. It is ridiculous to say he has wrested control away from the police. He is a local politician thinking he is a national politician. He is very full of himself.”

Now the insider was not SPS – he was away at the time.

However, today we do have the authentic voice of the Commissioner.

According to Sean O’Neill in Crime Central at Times Online, SPS drew a careful distinction between the UVCDMKMAM and other politicians:

“Asserting his view that the operational independence of the police, Sir Paul said he was sure that Boris Johnson and Alan Johnson would wholeheartedly agree with him. “”In fact,” he added, “no sensible politician would think otherwise.”

Is he, perhaps, suggesting that the deputy mayor is not a sensible politician?

And if the message wasn’t clear, the Commissioner followed up in a Q&A session with what seemed a very well-rehearsed remark: “Tillers only come with small boats. Big ships come with bridges and captains – and I’m the captain.””

SPS needs to remember that he has to continue to work with the UVCDMKMAM.  He also ought to bear in mind Lord Denis Healey’s First Law of Holes: when in a hole, stop digging.

A London “Blue Light” Museum ought to opened in time for the 2012 Olympics

I have had a meeting with the consultants commissioned by the Greater London Authority to report on the feasibility of a “Blue Light” Museum for London.  The idea is that there ought to be a museum – accessible to the public – to display the historical collections owned by London’s three emergency services (the Metropolitan Police, the London Fire Brigade, and the London Ambulance Service).  At present, all three services have there own repositaries of archive and historical material, but much of this is not made readily available for Londoners and visitors to London to see.

I have long held the view that the so-called “Black Museum” in New Scotland Yard could be expanded to bring together the other material of historical interest that has been collected over the years by the different parts of the Metropolitan Police and that such a collection of exhibits could become a real draw for members of the public, if they were allowed to visit.

I am told that potentially there are at least 10,000 items that could be displayed, including examples of uniforms dating back to 1829, historic police vehicles and equipment, medals, and records (including a complete set of police orders from 1857).  Then, of course, there are items (some of them rather macabre) associated with notorious crimes and there is even a collection of (disarmed) explosive devices unearthed as part of counter-terrorist investigations.  Most of this material can only be seen by special arrangement, although some of it has on occasions been loaned out to other museums for public display.

The other emergency services have their own material – again dispersed and largely inaccessible to the public.  In the last year or so, the suggestion has been made that there ought to be a museum celebrating the work of all of London’s emergency services and this suggestion has been endorsed by the Mayor and members of all mainstream parties on the London Assembly.  The idea has been supported in principle by the Metropolitan Police Authority, by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, and by the Board of the London Ambulance Service.  And it is this consensus that has led to the commissioning of an initial feasibility study.

I very much hope that the feasibility study is positive and that an ambitious vision is adopted.  In 2003, I visited the New York Police Department Museum in Manhattan which is housed in a vacated section house.  Its mission is instructive:

Incorporated in 1998, The New York City Police Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the New York City Police Department, the world’s largest and most famous police force. The Museum strives to be an accessible resource for all the communities of the city of New York. Through its exhibitions, collections and educational programming, the Museum illustrates how the policies and culture of the NYPD have evolved over time to meet the changing needs of the City. The Museum serves as an educational institution, living memorial, and bridge of understanding between the various communities of New York, the international community and the New York City Police Department.

There is really no reason why London could not have something similar, embracing all of the city’s emergency services.  If you look at the success of the Churchill War Rooms under the Cabinet Office – now very much part of the tourist itinery – or the way in which London’s Transport Museum has been revamped, you can begin to see what might be possible.  It could be revenue generating (certainly authentic merchandise would be profitable), a major educational resource for London schools, add another jewel in the crown of London’s tourist offer, a recruitment tool for the emergency services, and a means of celebrating the extraordinary and exceptional things that police officers, fire officers and ambulance crews do for the people of London every day of the year.

And I am sure with a bit of political determination it could be up and running in time for all those who will be visiting London for the Olympics in 2012 and may want some respite from the sport.

Who runs the Met? Malthouse rools OK!

Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse AM, Uber Vice Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, has provoked a predictable storm with his interview in today’s Guardian.  I rather suspect that he will be rather pleased with all this – although from his holiday retreat (on a boat somewhere? – see below) he has, of course, indicated that his views have been distorted in the article.

Was it distorted?  I have to say that in my view at least, it has the sound of the authentic voice of the Uber Vice Chairman.  The boating references (getting ready for his hols?): he and the Mayor (or should it be the Mayor and he?) have their “hands on the tiller” of the Metropolitan Police and “we do not want to be a passenger on the Met cruise.”

No doubt, what Kit Malthouse was trying to suggest was that somehow there has been a sea-change in direction (to continue the nautical metaphor – a firm shove of the tiller?), since the old days when, in his view, there was a Labour Mayor, conspiring with a Labour Home Secretary and a Labour-led Metropolitan Police Authority, to give the Metropolitan Police an easy ride.  Now this suggestion shouldn’t really come as a surprise after all he and the Mayor (or should it be the Mayor and he?) are Tories, elected just over a year ago, and want us to believe that their election has made a difference.

But has much changed in practice?  I certainly remember sitting in the room when the then (Labour) Home Secretary gave the then Metropolitan Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner a tremendous bollocking about street crime figures.  I also remember a Labour Mayor and a Labour-led MPA setting very clear parameters and priorities for (along with the necessary budget) the introduction of Police Community Support Officers and later Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

Yes, of course, in the last year there has been a tremendous focus on knife crime.  However, I would have been more surprised if this hadn’t happened, rather than that it did.  No sensible Metropolitan Police Commissioner would have failed to respond to public concern on the number of young people who were dying as a result of knife violence in London.  And no administration (Labour or Conservative – or even Liberal Democrat) would have ignored it either – all would have expected a substantial Police response.

It is the proper role of the MPA to set the strategic priorities and the budget for the Met.  To pretend that this does not impact on operational performance is ridiculous.  It is what having an accountable police service is all about.

So why the hysterical reaction from the Metropolitan Police?

My sources in New Scotland Yard tell me that the Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, had to be dissuaded from flying back from his holiday to “demonstrate that he was in charge.”

But who on Earth authorised the statements quoted in the Evening Standard?

‘One senior insider said: “This is nonsense. If you look at what the police have delivered in the past year that is all down to Sir Paul and nothing to do with politicians.

“Paul has been very robust with Mr Malthouse in recent months. It is ridiculous to say he has wrested control away from the police. He is a local politician thinking he is a national politician. He is very full of himself.”’

Saying things like that about the de facto Chair of the Police Authority does not make future good harmonious relationships all that easy – particularly as Kit Malthouse had gone out of his way to say how much he trusted the Commissioner’s judgement.

Maybe to solve the Met’s budget problems next year they should sell tickets for those who want to be there when Sir Paul Stephenson and Kit Malthouse have their first private one-to-one after they are both back from their hols.  Sounds like a hot ticket.

Becoming a Peer 4: The Introduction

I have been posting about the experience of becoming a member of the House of Lords (see here, here and here).

A date was set for my Introduction.  This is a formal process where you are robed up (the one and only time that I have worn the robes) and led into the Chamber at the beginning of the day’s business.

You form part of a procession involving both Black Rod and Garter, together with two colleagues also in robes who “introduce” you (in my case, the two introducers were Lords Andrew McIntosh – the other Haringey – and Frank Judd, both of whom I had known since I was a teenager). Then you listen to your Letters Patent being read out, swear or affirm (I affirmed) an oath of allegiance to the Queen, sign the Roll, and bow.  This is the abbreviated ceremony that lasts about seven minutes – the old ceremony lasted about twice as long and involved much more bowing and the doffing of hats with feathers.

Fortunately, this – as far as I was concerned – took place in something of a pleasant haze.  It is customary to have a good lunch beforehand (which you pay for) with your two colleagues, along with your family and friends.  (With another feudal touch the three Peers are served first when the food arrives.)  I dimly remember being taken off to the Moses Room, putting on the robes and my two colleagues bursting into a chorus from Iolanthe, before a brief rehearsal, and into the Chamber.

Colleagues in the Chamber are keeping tally of those who swear and those who affirm, and mark out of ten the quality of the bow at the end – although (just as well) didn’t know anything of this at the time.  Finally, as you leave the Chamber, you shake hands with the Lord Chancellor (now the Lord Speaker), colleagues growl “Hear, hear” in approval (you hope), and the formal process is over.  Then, after a brief pause to take off the robes and have photographs taken (I was advised not to have any official photographs taken in my robes, as these would thereafter always be the ones used by the media whenever your name was mentioned), you go back into the Chamber in more normal clothes – and the rest of your life begins.

Becoming a Peer 3: North London meets the Feudal System

I have been posting about the experience of becoming a member of the House of Lords (see here and here).

Before you can take your seat, you have to have a series of meetings with a number of strange and wonderful feudal functionaries with mediaeval titles.  Like Black Rod – or to give him his proper title: The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, then General Sir Edward Jones  KCB CBE. Or jonese@parliament.uk to give him his e-mail address.

Then you have to see Mr Peter Gwynn-Jones LVO, who is the Garter Principal King of Arms, to “settle the question of your title”.  You don’t know who the Garter Principal King of Arms is?  That’s easy.  He’s the Chief Herald.  Still not clear?  Let me give you a clue: he’s the one who dresses up like a playing card in the State Opening of Parliament.

Now I had been warned about him.  I was told he might be difficult.  So I wrote to him in advance to ask him what the rules were regarding the choice of titles.  By return of post I got back a letter saying that Garter (as he likes to be known) has discretion under Rules (capital R) agreed by Her Majesty the Queen.  So that puts people like you and me in our place.

And then the letter went on for three or four paragraphs to summarise these rules.  But what it actually said was that you should call yourself after an area that was neither too small nor too large. Frankly, not too helpful.

Now I knew that I wanted to call myself after Haringey, the Borough I had been brought up in, live in and whose Council I had led for nearly twelve years.  But I was aware of one problem: Andrew McIntosh, then Deputy Chief Whip in the Lords, was already called Lord McIntosh of Haringey.  Could I use the same place name?

Anyway the appointed time came for my meeting with Garter at Garter House in the College of Arms (where else would you expect it to be?).  So I explained my concern.

“Oh, that’s not a problem” came the immediate reply.  “Who would mistake a Harris for a McIntosh?””

“Fine,” I said.  “Where do I sign?”

“Oh no, you can’t call yourself Harris of Haringey.  It’s against the Rules.  London Boroughs are now too important for mere life peers to be called after them.”

“But what about McIntosh of Haringey, or Turner of Camden, or Fisher of Lambeth, or for that matter Morris of Manchester.  There is even another Harris – this time of Greenwich.”

“Oh I think you’ll find that their titles were all created before the Rules were changed.”

All of this was beginning to take on even more of an Alice in Wonderland feel.  I began to understand why Garter dresses up as a playing card.  Every time I mentioned a name called after a London Borough, a dusty card index was produced.  A card would be pulled out, waved triumphantly, and I would be told “No that was in 1991 before the Rules were changed.”

“Are these rules actually written down.”

This was an insult:  “Of course they are” and a dusty paper was pulled from the bottom of a pile of papers and read out aloud.

“But that doesn’t say what you said the rules said.”

A pause.  Garter looks at the paper.  “Aah.  That’s because these are the 1963 rules.”

What was being proposed was that I should call myself after part of Haringey.  And I kept explaining that I couldn’t do that because I had spent the last ten years trying to hold the different parts of Haringey together.  I couldn’t show favouritism to one part at this stage.

Haringey could not be permitted.  If the Rule was bent for me, then everyone would want to be called after a London Borough.  And where would that end?

Eventually, to try to be helpful, I said, “What if I call myself Harris of Hornsey, Wood Green and Tottenham?” – thereby covering all the constituent parts.

There was a long pause while Garter digested this.

“Well, it’s not actually against the rules, Mr Harris, but ask yourself is it practicable?  People will shorten it.  The newspapers in particular.  Then there will be confusion.  There will be trouble.  People will complain.”  I had a vision of the massed ranks of Lords Harris marching on the College of Arms.

Finally, I said “Look we seem to have an impasse here.  I want to call myself Harris of Haringey.  You tell me that’s against the Rules – Rules you yourself have changed in the last few years.  The alternative is Harris of Hornsey, Wood Green and Tottenham that we both agree is a little unwieldy.  Would you like time to think it over?”

Now I don’t think that anyone had ever suggested that Garter should think something over before – certainly not a mere Life Peer.

We arranged to meet a week later.  “But there’s no point in coming back if you are not prepared to be more flexible,” he warned.

Anyway, a week later I returned – stubborn as ever – to be greeted by a beaming Garter.  “Mr Harris, you are in luck.  I have found a precedent.” Pause for effect.  “There is a Lord McIntosh of Haringey.

“I know, we talked about him last week.  I’ve known him for thirty years.”

It was though I hadn’t spoken.

“If my predecessor in his infinite wisdom, decreed that he could be called after Haringey, I don’t see how I can prevent you doing the same.”

Huge relief all round.  Where do I sign?

“There is one little thing you could do for me.”

Warning bells ringing.  “Yes?”

“I’ve been checking in the Domesday Book.”  (As one does.)  “Would you mind using the alternative spelling of Haringey – with two “R”s and an “A”?”

So I said: “Well, you do realise don’t you that in the local area Harringay spelt like that is either associated in people’s minds with a Sainsbury’s Superstore or with the old greyhound racing stadium.  I mean do you think it’s really fitting for a Life Peer to be called after a greyhound stadium?”

There was a very long pause.  “I think you’re going to win on this one, Mr Harris.”

So that’s how I became Lord Harris of Haringey.

But then we came to the really serious part of the meeting.

“Here in the College of Arms, we always feel very sorry for Life Peers.  They have nothing to hand on to their children.”

At this point a price list was slid across the table.  “A coat of arms at £4,035 costs less than a car and lasts forever.”  (I believe the price has risen since then.)

“What do people use them for,” I said.

Another question that hadn’t been asked before.  “Well, people used to put them on their shields when they rode into battle.”

However, I have to admit that I wasn’t convinced that it would come in useful in the hurly-burly of London politics.

So now – or at least once my Letters Patent had been Sealed – I was a Lord.  The final step was to take up my seat.

Becoming a Peer 2: The wait

A couple of days ago I posted about the telephone call that contained the offer to become a member of the House of Lords.  This is what happened next.

Having accepted the offer, I was still sworn to secrecy.  I filled in a form so my nomination could be vetted and then I heard nothing more.  I discovered subsequently that this was quite normal, but it certainly felt strange.  I was supposed to be reorganising my life, giving up full-time paid employment, creating an alternative income, but I had nothing in writing to say it was actually going to happen.

Despite the urgency with which I had been asked to make my decision (“We do need to know by the end of the week”), the rest of April 1998 and the whole of May passed without any announcement.  And, of course, I knew that the Labour Party was quite capable of changing its mind about such matters.

Then in June a contact in the North East told me of a conversation about my putative candidature for the National Executive Committee of the Party.  One of the trade union regional officials there had asked Peter Mandelson (very much a power in the land in 1998, although not quite to the same galactic extent that he is now – still “Prince of Darkness”, not yet “pussycat”) what he thought about me standing for the NEC.   Apparently, Peter’s response was not entirely positive:  “Toby Harris is precisely the wrong sort of person to be a member of the NEC – the last thing we want is another middle-aged, white, overweight, bearded local government leader from London.”  So if that was the received wisdom about the NEC, what about the House of Lords?

At this point, I cracked and rang Downing Street:  “Oh yes, you’re still on the list.  It’s just that Tony’s been very busy with Northern Ireland and so on.”

Finally, at the end of the first week in July, a letter arrived saying my name had been forwarded to the Queen – and the formal announcement came seven days later.

If the wait had felt a strange and surreal experience, it was still no preparation for the process following the announcement up to the moment I was introduced and took my seat.

Becoming a Peer 1: The phone call

I am often asked – well sometimes asked – or to be more precise somebody asked me once:  “What is it like becoming a Peer?”  Therefore, as a public service, I thought that over the next week or so, I would share my story.

In March 1998, I took it into my head that I might run for the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party.  It would be the first year of the new system with constituency representatives being elected by a ballot of all Party members.  As the Chair of the Association of London Government (the body now called “London Councils”) and as the leading Labour local government figure in London and with a quarter of the Party’s national members being in London, I thought I might stand a reasonable chance.  Before going any further, I thought, however, I should find out whether I would be going against some master plan determined centrally.  So I tried to ring Sally Morgan, who is now a colleague in the Lords, but was then Political Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Over the space of two or three weeks, I called four times and left a message.  No return calls.  I was beginning to get a bit irritated, I had known Sally for at least ten years, and however pressing life was in Downing Street the very least I thought I was entitled to was getting my call answered.  Finally, on the fifth call I was put through.  Before I could even ask about the NEC, Sally cut me off:  “I’m sorry not to have come back to you before, but I knew your name was being discussed in another context and I thought I should wait until it was resolved before I spoke to you.  Anyway, Tony would like you to go into the House of Lords.  You don’t have to decide now, but we do need to know by the end of the week.”  This was the Tuesday before Easter, so the end of the week was effectively in 48 hours time.

At his point I needed to sit down and I pointed out that I was being asked to make a life-changing decision.  I was so busy over the next few days (at that time I worked full-time running the consumer body for the NHS, and in addition was a Council Leader, as well as chairing the ALG) that I said I couldn’t possibly make my mind up on that time-scale and was grudgingly given until the following week, “But you mustn’t say anything to anyone, although I suppose you can tell your wife, but that’s all.”.

The Easter weekend was surreal – we were away with our two teenage sons, the television was full of the negotiations in Belfast that culminated in the Good Friday agreement, and we kept having muttered conversations about whether I should accept the offer from the man on the television with the hand of history on his shoulder.  My sons soon realised something was going on.  Eventually over breakfast one said “Oh God, they’re not going to make you a bloody Lord are they?”.

In the end – as is obvious – I accepted.  I genuinely had not expected the offer, nor had I sought it.  The title was no attraction – a few months earlier I had rebuffed suggestions that my name should be put forward for a knighthood on the basis of my local government service – indeed, I was worried that it would be political death in the London Labour Party.  Fortunately, I had realised some years before that the life of a backbench member of the House of Commons could be a pretty miserable existence – as a council leader I had far more opportunity to make things happen for my local community than an MP – so the ending of any possibility of entering the Commons was not a big issue as far as I was concerned.  I finally convinced myself that the House of Lords would provide me with a platform in which I could argue about the issues that concerned me, campaign on the issues affecting London and at the same time play a part in getting the details of legislation right.  (Eleven years on, I am less sure, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

Damian Green claims a DNA victory, but the Tories should be careful what they wish for

Damian Green MP has successfully persuaded the Metropolitan Police to remove his details from the database of DNA profiles.   He calls this “a significant victory for freedom”.  Elsewhere, Shami Chakrabati, Director of Liberty, points out you shouldn’t need to be in “Who’s Who” to get your details cancelled.

At present, the law – passed by Parliament – says that those arrested by the police are required to give a sample of their DNA and that the profile thus obtained is normally retained whether or not the individual concerned is subsequently charged or convicted.  Damian Green was famously arrested in relation to police inquiries following the leaking of official documents from the Home Office.  He was not in the event charged when the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

Incidentally, I don’t remember the Conservatives kicking up much of a fuss when the legislation was originally passed – now, of course, they believe it to be an appalling affront to civil liberties.

Following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (an institution about which most Tories are normally distinctly luke-warm), the Government is now consulting about how long such profiles should be retained. 

The profiles are not, of course, the full DNA profile but simply a series of ten or twenty two-digit numbers giving sufficient data to identify an individual uniquely.

Many serious crimes – some of them quite old – have been solved using the information on the database.  If Damian Green’s DNA were now found at a crime scene (I hasten to emphasise that I am NOT suggesting that it will be), he would escape detection.  Likewise, if advances in DNA technology made it possible to extract his DNA from an historic murder or rape scene (repeat disclaimer), again he would escape detection.

And that is the dilemma: a large database is helping to catch serious criminals, but people are concerned that the data of people who have never been charged of a crime are being stored along with the data of the most heinous of offenders.  One way of resolving this would, of course, be to retain data on every individual resident in or visiting the country, the presence of data on the database would not then be discriminatory and it would be a substantial help in identifying criminals.  Those who do not commit crimes would have nothing to fear and those that do would be deterred knowing that the risk of detection would be higher.

More likely, however, is that the database will be restricted and that as a result crimes will rise as more criminals remain undetected.

It would be a delicious irony, although it is no doubt a very remote prospect, that in a few years time Damian Green will be a Home Office Minister (that is the remote bit) and will have to stand up in the House of Commons to defend the failures of the police to catch someone at long last convicted of a series of revolting and violent crimes, who would have been caught much earlier had the DNA taken, when he was arrested (but not charged) some years before for an unrelated issue, been retained.  No doubt, he will reiterate that the destruction of that individual’s DNA data was also  “a significant victory for freedom”.

A Chief of Staff is better than a Mayoral Cabinet – Mayor Boris Johnson agrees with Ex-Mayor Ken Livingstone’s former Chief of Staff

Simon Fletcher was Chief of Staff to Mayor Ken Livingstone from 2000 to 2008.  In his excellent new blog, he has today analysed Mayor Boris Johnson’s u-turn on running London through a powerful Cabinet.

Mayor Johnson has tried to make a virtue out of necessity by proclaiming the success of a Conservative efficiency gain in cutting the number of Deputy Mayors from six to three (skating over the embarrassing circumstances in which the number was reduced and omitting to mention that the Greater London Authority Act only provides for one Deputy Mayor which is what his predecessor made do with).

As Simon Fletcher points out, Ken Livingstone did initially create an Advisory Cabinet.  Indeed, I was a member of it, as Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority.  It didn’t work, although not because of confusion of responsibility, but because it was a mix of those with clear roles (like myself) and those with interesting opinions but without any other role in the administration.

A Cabinet could work, bringing those with functional responsibilities together, to deliver more effective cross-agency working.  Similarly, having several Deputy Mayors could work.  However, both models would require clarity about the status and powers of those involved.  That was what was lacking in Mayor Livingstone’s original Advisory Cabinet and certainly what was lacking in the hydra-like confusion of the first year under Mayor Johnson.

Threat of Anti-London bias on concessionary fares funding?

London Councils are warning that the three year settlement for the payment of special grant in support of concessionary fares is under review and that the third year of agreed funding may not now be paid to London Boroughs at the level that had previously been promised.

If this were to happen, it would be a breach of faith between central
government and Londoners.

I am sure that Department for Transport ministers realise how sensitive a topic this is, particularly when the Local Government Association has had to describe as “problematic” a recommendation in a research paper that they had commissioned that proposed means-testing concessionary fares, with the Daily Mail polling its readers on whether to introduce a means-test and with the matter certain to be an issue in the London Elections next year (and no doubt the General Election as well).

 So I trust Department for Transport ministers will kill this suggestion quickly.

The Labour Party in London has always had an excellent record on
concessionary fares and it would be unfortunate if that record appeared to
be tarnished by a redistribution of funds away from the Capital, as is
apparently being considered.