Mayor Boris Johnson has been accused of risking the London Fire Brigade’s (LFB) reputation by ordering it to provide consultancy services to the Qatari government.
Earlier this year the capital’s fire authority, which oversees the Brigade’s work, set up a commercial subsidiary to allow the LFB to carry out private work in order to generate revenue outside of its government and City Hall grants.
Members of all parties on the authority agreed a list of countries which the Brigade should not trade with, including Qatar which Human Rights Watch says has a “problematic” record on human rights, “particularly for the large and growing migrant worker population.”
Mr Johnson has now overruled authority members by ordering that London Fire Brigade Enterprises Limited “provide fire consultancy services to Qatar in relation to its proposed underground transport system”.
A document setting out the mayor’s decision says both the Met and Transport for London are already providing support for transport and police services and that “there should be a consistent approach across the GLA Group”.
The document adds: “There is not a clear cut argument to say that refusing to trade with a country with a questionable human rights record would result in an improvement to that record.”
In addition to overturning the ban on trading with Qatar, Johnson has ordered that the Brigade trades with any country approved by UKTI regardless of the views of authority members.
His decision has been criticised by Labour’s Fiona Twycross, a member of the London Assembly and member of the fire authority.
Dr Twycross said: “Boris Johnson must be the only person on the planet not to know that there are serious human rights and health and safety problems in Qatar
“The fact is that the Qatar’s record on construction projects is appalling. Thousands of workers have died on construction sites as part of Qatar’s World Cup preparations.
“The idea that we should be sending fire brigade staff into that environment is unbelievable. The Mayor’s eagerness to turn a quick profit is frankly tasteless and risks damaging the reputation of the London Fire Brigade.”