Sadiq Khan could be doing more to tackle knife crime, says Boris Johnson as he urges Mayor to act

Boris Johnson has said "more could be done to fight knife crime" as he urged the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to do better to tackle the issue in the capital. 

While the pandemic curbed stabbings in London over the past 18 months, it remains an issue especially among younger people and drug-related gangs. 

Before lockdowns, London’s knife crime was at its highest rate in a decade, as was the number of murders in the capital. 

The Prime Minister said: "For me it’s about taking responsibility. If you remember in 2008 when I came in as mayor it was a grim scene. There was nobody taking responsibility for it.

"I think I would like to work with the London mayoralty to fight this problem. It can be fixed by being tough on gangs, tough on the kids carrying knife. I believe stop and search is a big part of that."

But outside of London, the number of knife crime offences is also at its highest recorded level in the past 10 years. 

In the year ending March 2020, there were around 46,000 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales.

PM would not ‘weep any hot tears’ over ‘chain gangs’

The Prime Minister said he would not "weep any hot tears" for people guilty of anti-social behaviour being made to join "chain gangs".

Offenders taking part in "community payback" schemes are already required to wear a hi-vis vest while carrying out the unpaid work, but Mr Johnson has called for wider use of the punishments.

Mr Johnson told LBC Radio: "What I want to see is those who are guilty of anti-social behaviour actually paying their debt to society.

"If that means that they are visibly part of some yellow fluorescent-jacketed chain gang then I am not going to weep any hot tears about that, I think that’s a good thing."

Mr Johnson also backed his Home Secretary Priti Patel in her row with the Police Federation over the pay freeze for all but the lowest-paid officers.

The Prime Minister said: "I have got absolutely every confidence in the Home Secretary."

He told LBC Radio: "No one would want to pay our fantastic police more than I would. We are just going through a tough time financially for the Government, I think most people do understand that.

"I just ask people to recognise that but also that the Government is doing what it can to expand police numbers as fast as we can, also to give them things that they need – more body-worn cameras, greater ability to use Tasers, more powers for instance over stop and search, and protections against unreasonable behaviour by members of the public, assaults that all too often they face."

The Prime Minister said police are an "indispensable" part of society, and said it was right they were being afforded a national memorial.

Speaking to LBC radio, the Prime Minister said: "You know that, obviously, at the Peel Centre in Hendon, the Met have a memorial.

"There’s another memorial in London, but so far there’s been no proper national memorial for police officers at the National Arboretum in the way that there are commemorations for so many other services, particularly the armed services, and I think it’s the right thing to do and so that’s why I’m there tomorrow (Wednesday)."

Asked how important it was that the police were getting a memorial in Staffordshire, Mr Johnson replied: "The police matter hugely to me, but also to our society.

"I think that they are indispensable as part of a society that can be fair and just and equal.

"Fighting crime is something that is, for me, the basic number one job, the hygiene of government. We’ve got to make sure that our streets are safe and getting safer and that depends on having a, supporting our police, loving them, showing that we’re looking after them."

Boris Johnson ‘disappointed’ at Wembley Euro 2020 final scenes

The Prime Minister said he was "disappointed" with scenes at Wembley during the Euro 2020 final earlier this month, when England lost in the final on penalties to Italy.

Ticketless fans stormed the ground before kick-off and there were reports of disorder within the ground during the match.

Speaking on LBC, Boris Johnson said: "I was disappointed with that.

"I think that the UK has a fantastic case to the world to host great football championships. I think we looked great (as a Euros host) in many ways but this was unquestionably letting the side down."

Asked whether the police had questions to answer, Mr Johnson replied: "I know there is a full review and inquiry going on into what went wrong.

"What I might say perhaps in way of mitigation is this was the first time they’d had to mount something like that in lockdown conditions, Covid conditions, where you had to have quite long queues for people to observe social distancing, get tested and so on.

"But I don’t want to make any excuses for it, we need to get to the bottom of what happened."

PM: Vaccines ‘going to be one of those things that help you not hinder you’

Boris Johnson rejected Cabinet minister Michael Gove’s claim that people who refuse to get a vaccine are "selfish".

Asked if they were "selfish", the Prime Minister told LBC Radio: "No, I think that I would put it the other way round and say that if you get one you are doing something massively positive for yourself, for your family."

Mr Johnson was challenged over his plan to require a vaccine certificate to visit nightclubs from the end of September.

"It’s a very positive thing to do to get a vaccine," he said.

The Prime Minister added: "People can obviously see, when you look at things like travel, like mass events, it’s going to be one of those things that will help you not hinder you."

Mr Johnson also said the UK would see a "steady" economic recovery but warned there would be "bumps on the road" following the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it expects UK economic output to grow by 7% this year, a major upgrade from the 5.3% growth that the body’s economists had predicted in April.

The Prime Minister told LBC Radio: "You are seeing the job numbers increasing and I think that the rest of this year – there will still be bumps on the road – but I think you will see a story of steady economic recovery."

Boris Johnson stressed the need for caution despite recent falls in the number of coronavirus cases.

The Prime Minister told LBC Radio: "We’ve seen some encouraging recent data, there’s no question about that, but it is far, far too early to draw any general conclusions."

He added: "The most important thing is for people to recognise that the current situation still calls for a lot of caution and for people just to remember that the virus is still out there, that a lot of people have got it, it still presents a significant risk."

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