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Police (Corruption Allegations)

Volume 977: debated on Thursday 31 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied with present arrangements for investigating allegations of corruption against members of police forces; and if he will make a statement.

The Police Complaints Board is due to report to me by 1 June on its review of the working of the relevant part of the Police Act 1976. I intend to await that report before considering what changes, if any, are necessary in the arrangements for dealing with complaints against the police.

Does the Home Secretary agree that confidence in the present arrangements has hardly been helped by the extraordinary decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions to transfer the investigation of a serious allegation by Miss Vivienne Wilde, against a senior officer of Scotland Yard, away from the Operation Countryman investigation back to Scotland Yard? Does he agree that the day-to-day involvement of the Director of Public Prosecutions in investigations of this kind compromises the Director's position as an independent prosecuting authority? Do not the arrangements for the investigation of serious crime against the police—particularly given its deep and institutionalised nature—in parts of the Metropolitan force need to be reviewed urgently?

The hon. Member knows, in the first case, that the proceedings in Operation Countryman were set up by my predecessor. We must allow those investigations to continue and provide every possible support. I believe that the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and myself are providing that support. On the particular point made by the hon. Gentleman, I do not wish to comment—I do not think it would he proper for me to do so—on the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In view of press reports that there is interference with the progress of the Operation Countryman investigation, will the right hon. Gentleman state categorically that no interference and no impediment to that investigation will be tolerated in any quarter and that it will be pursued to the end?

I gladly add my voice to that of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis when he spoke in Glasgow recently and said just that. I support him fully in what he said.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that a form of corruption in the secret agencies would exist if only one warrant, authorised by the Secretary of State, was used for a multiplicity of telephone tapping? Will he assure the House that that is not the position? However, if it is the case, will he pursue the combating of this form of corruption rigorously and ensure that there is proper and full accountability to the Secretary of State and to the House?

The hon. Gentleman has referred back to another question. I shall take refuge—having given some full and candid answers—in saying that it would not be in the national interest for me to make any further comments.