asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department from what dates the five Metropolitan Police officers holding the ranks of chief inspector, inspector or sergeant have been suspended from duty in connection with allegations of corruption arising from the pornographic trade in London's West End; and if he will make a statement.
The suspensions began from dates between December 1973 and May 1974. For reasons I have already explained to my hon. Friend, it would not be appropriate for me to make a statement.
Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that it is precisely because some senior officers in the Metropolitan Police force were allegedly so successful in covering up their activities allegedly involving the payment of £5,000, for example, in the opening of a pornography shop, that some hon. Members are concerned that a further cover-up attempt may now be tried? Will he consider whether it would not be in the best interests of both the police and the public that this matter should be handed over to an independent inquiry, so that at least the fears of a cover-up can be allayed?
This matter is being rigorously investigated. I think that if I were to make a statement at present it would be prejudicial both to the individuals involved and also to the progress of a rigorous inquiry, which I am sure both my hon. Friend and the House are anxious to see carried forward.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is grave disquiet among the general public that every time anything involving the police occurs, the inquiry is always conducted by the police themselves? For instance, some time ago, in Sheffield, the Labour movement wanted a public inquiry into a case about pickets in which the police were concerned. However, as usual, the people were fobbed off with the idea that there would be a police inquiry into their own conduct. Does my right hon. Friend consider that this is unsatisfactory and that in future there should be some other method of inquiry in cases where the general public is involved?
My hon. Friend has raised a number of issues which go considerably wider than the original Question. As regards complaints by the public, I have indicated, following the view taken by my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Carr), that I am in favour of the introduction of an independent element. I wish to see that done. Another Question on the Order Paper refers to this. However, as regards the investigation of certain allegations against police officers who have been suspended, I do not think that my hon. Friend is living in a real world if he thinks that the present Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is not extremely vigorous in pursuing, rooting out and disciplining such behaviour on the part of any officers.