Earlier today the Assembly voted to investigate Boris Johnson’s handling of the £1bn deal to redevelop the Royal Albert Dock.
Last week I appeared in a Channel 4 report which raised serious questions about the deal with Chinese developer ABP. That report highlighted the close relationship between London and Partners, which is a virtually wholly owned subsidiary of the Mayor, and ABP, as well as concerns about ABP’s human rights record and the involvement of the wife of a minister who made sizable donations to the Tory party during the tendering process.
At this morning’s Mayors Question Time, the Mayor attempted to pre-empt any further criticism by waving around an internal audit report. The report, which the Mayor claimed cleared the GLA of any wrong-doing, was released minutes after the meeting began, effectively preventing Assembly Members from having a chance to read it. Not a very transparent move.
The audit report left many questions unanswered. By its own admission merely a “desk top review” that failed to interview many of the key players, the document did not address issues raised in the Channel 4 report and offered unsatisfactory conclusions on others.
It was clear that an independent investigation is necessary to restore faith in the process.
That’s why I spoke to a motion calling for the Mayor to appoint an independent investigation into the tendering process and relationship between the Greater London Authority and allied agencies, and ABP. It also called for three of the Assembly’s committees to hold meetings scrutinising the deal. The motion passed 14-3.
Channel 4 picked up the story again, which you can view here.
The relevant text of the motion reads:
“The London Assembly is deeply concerned at the Mayor’s failure to address fully concerns regarding the granting to Advanced Business Park (ABP) of the tender to develop the 35-acre site at the Royal Albert Dock, which includes 3.2 million square feet of office space, leisure facilities, and 845 residential flats.
“This Assembly is also troubled by the fact that, despite compelling evidence calling into question ABP’s human rights record in China, neither the Mayor’s Office nor London and Partners assessed ABP’s human rights record as part of the evaluation process in respect of the Royal Albert Dock development. In particular, this Assembly is disappointed by the Mayor’s recent admission that ABP’s human rights record in China “wasn’t relevant to the tendering process.
“This Assembly notes the comments of Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, who has publicly stated that the tendering process “has the smell of a semi corrupt arrangement…”
“Given the gravity of the concerns raised by Channel 4 News’ investigation into the Albert Docks Development, this Assembly calls on:
The Mayor to:
• Appoint an independent investigation into the tendering process and relationship between the Greater London Authority and allied agencies, and ABP, in the awarding of the Royal Albert Dock development.
The London Assembly Audit Panel (with authority delegated to the committee chair in consultation with group leads to agree the terms of reference) to:
• Launch a scrutiny session on the internal audit process undertaken by the Mayor in relation Royal Albert Dock development, and seek a commitment from the Mayor to appear before the Panel as part of the scrutiny.
The London Assembly Economy Committee and Planning Committee (with authority delegated to the committee chair(s) in consultation with group leads to agree the terms of reference) to:
• Launch a joint scrutiny session on the economic and planning aspects of Royal Albert Dock development, and seek a commitment from the Mayor to appear before the Committee as part of the scrutiny