Boris Johnson accused of ‘blatant lie’ during blistering attack on London mayor Sadiq Khan
London mayor Sadiq Khan has accused Boris Johnson of “lying to the House of Commons” after the PM claimed Khan bankrupted Transport for London before the COVID-19 crisis began.
At Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday, Johnson insisted there had been a “massive black hole” in TfL’s finances prior to the pandemic and refused to rule out a plan for a congestion charge expansion in the capital.
He said: “The current mayor of London had effectively bankrupted the TfL before coronavirus had even hit and left a massive black hole in its finances.
“Any need to make up that deficit is entirely down to him, it is entirely his responsibility.
“Any expansion of the congestion charge or any other measure taken to improve the finances of the TfL are entirely the responsibility of the bankrupt current Labour mayor of London.”
Khan replied via Twitter: “The PM has lied to the House of Commons.
“Before COVID I was fixing his mess at TfL- reducing the deficit by 71% since 2016.
“COVID-19 is the sole cause of TfL’s challenges. The PM wants to increase fares, the C-Charge & taxes – & end free travel for children and older Londoners.”
Labour MP Bill Esterson said the PM’s claims were a “blatant lie”.
He added: “The COVID-19 crisis meant people stopped travelling. Johnson told people to stop using public transport. This man is a disgrace.”
His colleague Stella Creasy tweeted: “Londoners did the right thing. They stayed at home meaning less money in fares for our transport system.
“Rather than stand against this virus and work with the Mayor to keep the tube running, Boris Johnson is trying to exploit this situation. We know a bully when we see one.”
Labour MP Wes Streeting added: “Under Sadiq Khan, TFL’s operating deficit had been reduced by 71% and its cash balance increased by 13% prior to the pandemic.
“The sole cause of the financial challenge facing TfL and all other operators is COVID-19. Fare income has fallen by c.90% as a result of lockdown.”
The government has threatened to seize control of TfL if the mayor fails to agree to a deal proposed by ministers, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.
The deal offers TfL a further £1bn bailout with demands that it raise fares and curb free travel entitlements for children and pensioners.
Conditions such as extending the congestion charge to the North and South Circular were also suggested by transport secretary Grant Shapps.
Khan told a meeting of TfL’s board on Wednesday that he intends to “stand firm and fight for a fair deal for Londoners”.
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “It’s extremely worrying that despite repeated requests, the government is offering only a papering-over-the-cracks funding package for Transport for London, with such punitive conditions.”