Boris accuses MPs of 'talking tripe' over transport nightmare

'It is not within my competence to stop the biggest downfall of snow we have had over the skies of this city for 20 years'

The Mayor, who was being questioned by the Commons Transport Committee about the disruption, accused MPs of "unnecessary political bias" before attempting to walk out of the meeting. He was briefly coaxed back to his seat by the committee's Labour chairman, Louise Ellman, who described his behaviour as "unacceptable". After giving curt answers to two further questions, the Mayor left his seat, only returning to pick up his coat from an official.

Heated exchanges took place from the very start, when Ms Ellman suggested that Mr Johnson had allowed London's transport network to shut down in a way that did not happen elsewhere. All of London's bus network, parts of the Tube and some local train services were affected by the severe weather. Her comments provoked an angry response from Mr Johnson, who said that "huge effort and huge preparations" had been made to grit roads, but that more snow kept falling. "It is not within my competence to stop the biggest downfall of snow we have had over the skies of this city for 20 years," he said.

The Mayor's rapidly diminishing patience then gave way altogether when he described David Clelland, Labour MP for Tyne Bridge, as "pathetic" for accusing him of failing in his duties.

The exchange came after Valerie Shawcross, the Labour chairwoman of the London Assembly's transport committee, had told the MPs that the Mayor had been "entirely out of things" when the effects of the snow were at their worst in the early hours of 2 February.

Mr Johnson also faced criticism over his expenses yesterday after a City Hall audit revealed he had spent eight times more a day on taxis than his predecessor, Ken Livingstone.

Taxpayers picked up his cab bill of £1,501 between November and the end of January. Susan Kramer, the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, criticised the expenses claim. She said: "Any Londoner could have told him that it is often quicker to travel by Tube, like the rest of us."

A spokeswoman for Mr Johnson said: "The Mayor cycles every day – to and from work and to almost every one of his meetings. Many of those however are in remote parts of outer London – areas which often feel neglected by the previous mayoralty which he is determined to visit on a regular and persistent basis."

The spokeswoman added: "Though the Mayor invariably uses public transport when he cannot take his bike, there are times – regretfully – when his tight schedule makes it necessary to use a taxi."

London MPs criticised the Mayor earlier this year after the public picked up a £1,000 transport tab to take him and his team home after a meeting in Hillingdon, west London. A spokesman for the Mayor said that the meeting ran late into the night.

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