Mayor Boris Johnson says he’s written to Home Secretary Theresa May for permission to buy three water cannon for the Met police.
Earlier this year Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe requested that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime buy three cannon from the German federal police.
That request was opposed by the London Assembly’s police and crime committee which said the force had failed to present compelling evidence that the vehicles were needed in the capital.
Last month a majority of Assembly Members – including four Conservative members – backed a non-binding motion calling on the Mayor “not to incur any expenditure on water cannon in 2014/15.”
However appearing before AMs at Wednesday’s Mayor’s Question Time, Mr Johnson said he’d decided to request that the Home Secretary approve their use on the mainland.
Subject to that approval, he’ll go ahead with the planned purchase.
Questioned by AMs, he admitted to not reading an Assembly report questioning the Met’s case for buying the cannon.
Labour AM Joanne McCartney said the Mayor had “failed” in his statutory duty to have regard for the Assembly’s views.
Mr Johnson repeatedly insisted that the Met would ask his permission before using the cannon, a claim previously contradicted by evidence given to AMs by senior officers and Deputy Mayor for policing, Stephen Greenhalgh.
Last month the Met’s Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley told AMs that the final say would be his.
Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon predicted the force would disregard his views when deciding when to deploy the cannon but leave him taking the blame for any errors and injuries.
Mr Johnson said the decision to go ahead was a tough but necessary one and would ensure the Met could protect Londoners in the event of future serious disorder.
The Mayor said he’d come to his decision after a City Hall poll showed that 52% of respondents said they’d “be more confident in the Met police’s ability to respond to serious disorder/rioting if they were able to use water cannons.”
The same poll showed widespread confusion about water cannon with 36% believing the force already have the vehicles.
60% of respondents said the Met had already shown itself capable of responding well to serious disorder in London, a finding some AMs said undermines the case for buying the cannon.
Ms McCartney accused the Mayor of “rushing” the decision and criticised him for announcing it on budget day,
She said: “I’m deeply concerned that the Mayor is rushing the purchase of water cannon without a proper public debate. There is still confusion over the reasons behind the purchase of water cannon and exactly how the process of their deployment will work.
“To announce this on Budget Day is typical of Boris’ slapdash approach to issues of crucial importance to Londoners. It is disgraceful that the Mayor has not even read the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee report on water cannon.”
Caroline Pidgeon said it was “shameful” that the Mayor had failed to read the Assembly’s report.
She added: “Having heard detailed evidence on this issue there are very good reasons why the majority of members of the Police and Crime Committee have firmly rejected its adoption in London.
“The Mayor is insulting both the London Assembly and Londoners by his ill informed decision to support the introduction of water cannon for policing in London.”
Green Party AM Baroness Jenny Jones said Mr Johnson had “ignored the members of the public who responded to the consultation, the views of the Assembly including Members of his own Party and team, and push ahead with his plans for this weapon.”
“His engagement also showed that a majority of Londoners feel the Met Police has shown itself capable of responding to serious disorder so why are we even talking about water cannon? I hope the Home Secretary sees sense and recognises that this is not how we do policing and water cannon has no place on our streets.”