With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the resignations of Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates, the Metropolitan police investigation into phone-hacking, and allegations of police corruption. I apologise to the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), for the late receipt of the statement. As I am sure she will appreciate, events have been changing rather rapidly through the day.
As the House will know, last night Sir Paul Stephenson resigned as Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. As I told him last night, I am sorry that he took that decision. He has led the Met through difficult times, and, although current circumstances show there are still serious issues to be addressed, the Met is stronger operationally today than it was when he took over. I will turn to those difficult circumstances in a moment, but first I wish to update the House on today’s developments and on the next steps for the Metropolitan police.
I have already started work with the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan police to arrange an orderly transition and the appointment of a new commissioner. I have agreed that Sir Paul Stephenson will leave his post as swiftly as possible. In the meantime he will remain commissioner, in post at New Scotland Yard and in operational command. Sir Paul will be replaced by Tim Godwin, who will again become acting commissioner, a role that he filled very effectively during Sir Paul’s illness between December and April this year. With Tim Godwin as acting commissioner, the Mayor and I are clear that additional resilience is essential from outside the Metropolitan police. I am therefore pleased to announce that Bernard Hogan-Howe has agreed to take on the responsibilities of deputy commissioner on a temporary basis. We are seeking to expedite the process for selecting and appointing the next commissioner.
The House will know that within the last couple of hours Assistant Commissioner John Yates has also resigned. I want to put on record my gratitude to John Yates for the work that he has done, while I have been Home Secretary, to develop and improve counter-terrorism policing in London and, indeed, across the whole country. I can confirm to the House that Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick will take over his role.
I want hon. Members, Londoners and the whole country to know that the important work of the Met—its national responsibilities such as counter-terrorism operations as well as its policing of our capital city—must and will continue. That important work includes the related investigations Operation Weeting and Operation Elveden.
Operation Weeting, the investigation into phone hacking led by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, is now going through the thousands of pieces of evidence relating to the allegations. Unlike the original investigation into phone hacking, Operation Weeting is proceeding apace, with officers interrogating evidence that was neglected first time round, pursuing new leads, and—as we saw once again at the weekend—making arrests.
Operation Elveden, also led by Sue Akers, is investigating allegations that police officers have received payments from the press in return for information. This investigation has independent oversight by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. At this stage, it is a supervised investigation—which means that the IPCC sets the terms of reference and receives the investigation report—and as soon as individual suspected officers have been identified, IPCC investigators, overseen by an IPCC commissioner, will take over and lead a fully independent investigation of those officers.
In the future, both these matters will be considered by the Leveson inquiry established by the Prime Minister. In the meantime, I can tell the House that Elizabeth Filkin, the former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, has provisionally agreed to examine the ethical considerations that should in future underpin relationships between the Metropolitan police and the media, how to ensure maximum transparency and public confidence, and to provide advice. The management board of the Met has agreed a new set of guidelines relating to relationships with the media, including recording meetings and hospitality and publication of information on the internet.
These allegations are not, unfortunately, the only recent example of alleged corruption and nepotism in the police, so I can tell the House that I have asked Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to consider instances of undue influence, inappropriate contractual arrangements and other abuses of power in police relationships with the media and other parties. I have asked HMIC to make recommendations to me about what needs to be done to address that.
There is nothing more important than the public’s trust in the police to do their work without fear or favour, so at moments like this it is natural that people should ask who polices the police. I have already asked Jane Furniss, the chief executive of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, whether she has the power and the resources to get done the immediate work at hand. She has assured me that she does, but additional resources will be made available to the IPCC if they are needed.
I can also tell the House that I have commissioned work to consider whether the IPCC needs further powers, including whether it should be given the power to question civilian witnesses during the course of its investigations. Given that the IPCC can at present only investigate specific allegations against individual officers, I have also asked whether the commission needs to have a greater role in investigating allegations about institutional failings of a force or forces.
Finally, I want to say one last word about the future of the Metropolitan police. The Met is the largest police force in the country, and has important national responsibilities beyond its role policing our capital. The next Metropolitan Police Commissioner will lead thousands of fine police officers, community support officers and staff, the great majority of whom have spent their careers dedicated to protecting the public, often at risk to their own safety. Just three nights ago, hon. Members will know that in Croydon an unarmed Metropolitan police officer was shot as he tried to arrest a suspect. I know that the whole House will agree with me that it is for the sake of the many thousands of honourable police officers and staff, as well as of the public they serve, that we must get to the bottom of all these allegations. Only then will we be able to ensure the integrity of our police and public confidence in them to do their vital work. I commend the statement to the House.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement, and also for her apology; I understand the timing pressures she faced. May I also join her in paying tribute to the Metropolitan police officer who was harmed during the course of duty in Croydon?
The Home Secretary rightly paid tribute to the work of Sir Paul Stephenson. He has done excellent work in London, backing neighbourhood policing and taking action to cut crime in the capital. The Home Secretary also recognised the vital work of John Yates on counter-terrorism. She referred to Sir Paul Stephenson’s decision to resign. It was an honourable decision, to protect the ongoing operational work of the Met from the ongoing speculation, but his departure raises very serious questions for the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister.
Yesterday, Home Office Ministers told the press that the Home Secretary would make a statement today on her concerns about the appointment of Neil Wallis. Today she has been completely silent on that issue in this House. The truth is that the Met commissioner and the head of counter-terrorism have now gone because of questions about this crisis and about the appointment of the former deputy editor of the News of the World, yet the Prime Minister is still refusing to answer questions or apologise for his appointment of the editor of the News of the World. The judgment of the Met has been called into serious question for appointing Neil Wallis, but so has the judgment of the Prime Minister for appointing Neil Wallis’s boss, Andy Coulson. People will look at this and think there is one rule for the police and one for the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister agreed with that this morning. He said this morning:
“The situation in the Metropolitan Police Service is really quite different to the situation in the Government, not least because the issues that the Metropolitan police are looking at, the issues around them, have had a direct bearing on public confidence in the police inquiry into the News of the World”.
But the Prime Minister runs the country. The issues that he is looking at and the judgments that he makes have a direct bearing on public confidence in the Government’s ability to sort this crisis out.
The Home Secretary is right to have had serious concerns about the appointment of Neil Wallis, but it would have been better if she had told us what they were today. She is also right that she should have been told about the potential conflict of interest in the Met. This does raise serious questions for the force, but the Met commissioner has said that he could not tell her or her boss because of the Prime Minister’s relationship with Andy Coulson. So how did it come to this? The most senior police officer in the country did not feel able to tell the Home Secretary about a potential conflict of interest for the force because of the Prime Minister’s compromised relationship with Andy Coulson—it was an ongoing relationship, as they met at Chequers in March, months after the new police investigation began. This morning, she refused to defend the appointment of Andy Coulson and today the London Mayor refused to defend the appointment of Andy Coulson. They all seem to have forgotten rather quickly what Andy Coulson used to say—they are “all in this together”.
The Home Secretary has been absent from this crisis, despite the serious allegations that have been made about phone hacking potentially affecting criminal investigations, the serious questions for policing and the growing cloud over the national and international reputation of British policing as a result of this crisis. She has said nothing and done nothing for two weeks. We welcome many of the announcements that she made today, but they are precisely the things that we called for last week.
I called last week for five things, three of which the Home Secretary has now done. First, I called for new standards for the Met to govern the relationship between officers and the press. Secondly, I called for a review by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary into the wider concerns about leaks of information, payments for the press and corruption in other forces too. Thirdly, I called for work to strengthen the Independent Police Complaints Commission and an independent complaints procedure to deal with failed investigations in future. We welcome those, just as we welcome her agreement to the judicial inquiry that we called for too, but she should have announced two further things that we also called for.
First, the Home Secretary needs to call for immediate openness and transparency across the Met in respect of all the dealings between senior officers and members of the press, including those at the News of the World—that needs to cover private as well as public meetings. Secondly, she needs to review her decision to go forward with elected police and crime commissioners. The nearest that Britain has to an elected police chief is the London Mayor, and that did not stop the problems at the Met—instead it made them worse. Boris Johnson described the phone-hacking allegations as “codswallop” and said that it
“looks like a politically motivated put-up job by the Labour party”.
What backing does the Home Secretary think Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates would have expected from the Mayor if they had decided to reopen an investigation that he had described as “politically motivated”?
Instead of their tackling this problem, we have had an AWOL Home Secretary, a “codswallop” Mayor and a compromised Prime Minister. There is a problem—it is one of leadership. The work of police officers across the country is too important to be tarnished by her failure to get a grip of the problems now. The Home Secretary will not answer all the questions, so I leave her with just one. She knows the importance of leadership to get the country through this crisis and she has criticised the misjudgment of the Met in taking on Neil Wallis, so will she now apologise to the House for the Prime Minister’s misjudgment in taking on Andy Coulson, so that the Government can now move forward, exercise some leadership untarnished and sort the crisis out now?
I say to the shadow Home Secretary that from the response she has just given one could have been forgiven for thinking that the Prime Minister had not been anywhere near the House of Commons in the past week, but he stood at this Dispatch Box last week, he answered questions in this House, he answered all the points that the shadow Home Secretary has made and he will be in this House again on Wednesday.
The right hon. Lady asked a long list of questions. She asked why I had not said anything about openness and transparency across the Met, as I had promised to. I made specific reference in my statement to the management board decisions taken by the Metropolitan police to publish details of meetings held by senior officers with members of the press, and they will be available on the internet.
The right hon. Lady asked about the difference between the Met and the Government. Of course there is a difference. The Metropolitan police were investigating allegations of wrongdoing at the News of the World, and it is absolutely right that there should be a line between the investigators and the investigated. The issue I raised with Sir Paul Stephenson—which she is aware of because it was made public last week—was the fact that I had concerns that he had not informed us about a conflict of interest. The police in this country should be able to act against crime and criminals without fear or favour, but when they think there is a conflict of interest that should be made transparent.
The right hon. Lady asked about the impact of elected police commissioners. I think everything that has happened shows not that we should be going slow on reform of the police but that we need to ensure that we reform the police.
We then have the extraordinary situation in that the shadow Home Secretary appears in one breath to be saying that I have been absent and doing absolutely nothing and in the other breath saying that I am doing everything she asked for. She cannot simultaneously claim that I am doing nothing and doing something—that is the have-your-cake-and-eat-it opportunism of Opposition politics to which I note that both she and the shadow Chancellor belong.
Finally, let me remind the shadow Home Secretary of a few things—[Interruption.]
Finally, let me remind the shadow Home Secretary of a few things. In 2002, the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport reported that the press were making illegal payments to police officers and called on the then Home Secretary to take steps to review, and overhaul if necessary, the guidance and measures aimed at preventing such behaviour by the police and media. Labour took no action. In May 2006, the Information Commissioner reported that the trade in confidential personal information was
“a pervasive and widespread ‘industry’”.
Labour took no action. Just two weeks ago, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) revealed that he had thought about getting Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to carry out an independent investigation into the Met’s handling of phone hacking, but Labour took no action. And, if the shadow Home Secretary wants to keep talking about Andy Coulson, she will have to expect to answer a lot of questions about the Labour party’s communications director, Tom Baldwin.
I, too, pay tribute to the officer shot in Croydon and to all officers who put their lives on the line to keep us safe.
Will the Home Secretary join me in urging the Metropolitan police to move urgently to rebuild their senior team to focus on next year’s Olympics and security concerns surrounding the games? Will she strengthen the proposed checks and balances that will apply to elected police and crime commissioners to ensure that neither elected police and crime commissioners nor chief constables can get embroiled in any scandals of any nature once those commissioners are elected?
My right hon. Friend talks about checks and balances. As he will know, we have strengthened the checks and balances that will be provided by the police and crime panels to the police and crime commissioners as the Bill has progressed through the House of Commons and House of Lords. We have made important improvements to those checks and balances.
As regards the senior leadership of the Met, it is entirely right that we move quickly to reinforce it. The additional resilience of bringing in somebody from outside in Bernard Hogan-Howe is important and the immediate step was to ensure that the counter-terrorism post is filled. I can assure the House that the work on the security and safety of the Olympics carries on under Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, in particular, and he has been doing an extremely good job.
If the allegations in relation to the hacking of the phones of victims of the 7/7 attack in London are true, the editor of the News of the World at the time was working in 10 Downing street, while his deputy, Neil Wallis, was working in New Scotland Yard, just at the time when the quest for the truth became more intense. I did not know, as Home Secretary, that Neil Wallis had been appointed. Did the Home Secretary know, did anyone at the Home Office know and did anyone in 10 Downing street know?
The first I knew of the appointment of Neil Wallis was when I heard from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police and from the Mayor last Thursday that this had been brought to the Mayor’s attention. It was at that time that I wrote to the commissioner and expressed my disquiet and concern that this issue had not been raised earlier, at a previous stage. I indicated last Thursday that that was a concern, and it remains a concern.
I have asked the IPCC to undertake a number of reports. It will report to me by the end of the summer on the report I asked it to undertake last week into allegations it has received about corruption in the police force previously and any lessons that need to be learned in relation to that. It will, of course, pursue investigations against any individual officers who have been named. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that it is right and important that that is done properly and fully. I understand the point he is making, but I am sure that none of us would want the results of those inquiries to be in any way jeopardised by a desire to do them speedily rather than fully and properly.
May I underline the comments that have been made about the reputation of Sir Paul Stephenson, who was a very fine chief constable of Lancashire police before he moved on to be deputy commissioner and then Commissioner of the Metropolitan police, which he pursued with similar very high standards? Will the Home Secretary explain the point about conflict of interest? Was it not entirely proper and consistent with Sir Paul’s level of integrity that, unusually, he decided that he could not disclose information to the Home Secretary because of what he perceived to be a conflict of interest at the heart of government? Why is she trying to shuffle off responsibility for this when it is at that point that the conflict exists?
As I said earlier, I believe that the police should be able to investigate every allegation and to chase evidence as far as it takes them without fear or favour. When a conflict of interest arises—if the Metropolitan police feel there is a conflict of interest—that should be made transparent and that is why I believe I should have been told earlier. However, I say to the right hon. Gentleman that the Metropolitan police did not make the appointment of Neil Wallis known to previous Home Secretaries—notably previous Labour Home Secretaries—either.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that some of the biggest questions during the whole of the phone-hacking saga relate to the failures on the part of the police to investigate, as well as to what has been going on in newsrooms, particularly why the police appeared never to interview a single journalist who was named as a client of Steve Whittamore in the Motorman case and why they did nothing to look at the enormous amounts of material seized from Glenn Mulcaire? Does she agree that it would be unsatisfactory if these matters could not be looked at until the beginning of the second part of the judicial review? Will she consider inviting the IPCC to begin examining these questions now?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. As he says, part of the inquiry that is led by Lord Justice Leveson will involve looking at the first investigation by the Metropolitan police. It is not impossible for it to start doing some work while the current investigation is going on, but that would have to be done carefully in order not to jeopardise the current investigation. I am sure that we all want to see a proper investigation and a proper inquiry with answers about what happened in that first police investigation and about why matters were not taken forward in a way that people now feel they should have been. We also want to ensure that the current investigation is not in any way prejudiced by that work because we want people who have been guilty of criminal offences to be brought to book.
What pressure did the Prime Minister exert on the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London to bring about the resignations of both the commissioner and the assistant commissioner, which today, apparently, the Home Secretary regrets?
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Labour Government’s failure to do anything about the Information Commissioner’s report in 2006 was compounded by the fact that they backed down under the lobbying of the Society of Editors over clause 77 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, which means that a fine of £150 is the average fine for someone found guilty of stealing personal information? Will she review the section and see whether the offence should be made punishable by imprisonment?
My right hon. Friend makes an important point and reminds us that at stake are some very serious issues, not just about the operation of the police and of the press, but in relation to personal information. I will certainly look at the issue he raises. As I said, the trade in personal information was raised previously by the Information Commissioner as something that should be looked at, and we should take that forward.
Will the Home Secretary ask Elizabeth Filkin, as part of her investigation, to report to the House of Commons on how many occasions the Chief Commissioner of Police did not brief the Prime Minister or herself because of information relating to the Prime Minister’s relationship with Mr Coulson? Can she confirm that News International began to co-operate with the police inquiry only after Mr Coulson’s resignation from Downing street?
In relation to Elizabeth Filkin and how she will undertake the role that she will be performing for the Metropolitan police, it is up to her to decide what she wishes to look at and how she wishes to undertake that. I detected, when I announced her name, a certain murmuring in the House. The reputation that Elizabeth Filkin has for challenging the establishment, challenging practices and ensuring that practice is appropriate and proper, and what she did here in Parliament, are such that she is an excellent choice as a candidate for the role.
Does my right hon. Friend share my concern about the serious allegations concerning a royal protection officer selling personal and private details of members of the royal family, including our Head of State, Her Majesty the Queen? What conversations has the Home Secretary had with the director of the Security Service concerning this incident? Is it not the case that the Security Service should have known about this? If it did not know, why not, and if it did know, why did it not do something about it?
Matters relating to appropriate royal protection are dealt with by a committee chaired by Sir Richard Mottram, which sits in the Home Office. All those considerations are undertaken independently by Sir Richard Mottram and his committee in relation to how royal protection should be carried out. Obviously, the issue will be looked into to see the truth or otherwise of those allegations.
As the Home Secretary knows, both Sir Paul and Mr Yates are due to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee tomorrow, when Members will explore their resignations further. I welcome the appointment of Tim Godwin and Bernard Hogan-Howe, but will the right hon. Lady confirm that Mr Hogan-Howe was the only applicant for the post of head of the National Crime Agency? Will she now have to look for a new person to head that organisation? Will she answer the question that I put to the Prime Minister last week? This information is coming out because of Operation Weeting and the excellent work by Sue Akers. Could we please give her the resources she needs in order to go through the 12,870 names that are still on the books but have still not been contacted?
I will make an announcement on the appointment of the head of the national crime agency when appropriate. In relation to resources for Sue Akers, as has been made clear and as the Prime Minister has made clear at the Dispatch Box on a number of occasions, this is one of the largest investigations taking place in the country. I am sure that everyone would agree that Sue Akers is pursuing the investigation with the appropriate degree of vigour, and I am sure that the Metropolitan police are ensuring that she has the necessary resources.
The commissioner placed great emphasis on the word “integrity” in his resignation statement, and yet in the eyes of some of my constituents payments and hospitality to police officers are no different from the £12,000-worth of hospitality that Sir Paul received. Was the commissioner in breach of the Metropolitan police code of conduct, and if not, what steps can we take to restore the integrity of the Metropolitan police?
Of course, Sir Paul made reference to this issue in the statement he published yesterday. As I indicated in my earlier response and in my statement, the Metropolitan police have been looking at the code that should be followed by officers and strengthening it in relation to the information that should be made available and should be publicly available.
Since Sir Paul Stephenson said in his resignation statement that he could not speak to the Prime Minister about Neil Wallis because of the Prime Minister’s employment of Andy Coulson at No. 10 Downing street, and since the Prime Minister took Andy Coulson into his employment after Coulson had confessed to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that he had committed criminality—namely, making payments to the police—ought not the Prime Minister be considering his position?
No, I have made very clear the difference between the Metropolitan police and the Government in relation to these matters. The right hon. Gentleman premised his question with the fact that the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister had not been told about the conflict of interest within the Metropolitan police on Neil Wallis, but he will note, as I said earlier, that former Labour Home Secretaries were not told about the decision to appoint Neil Wallis either.
Time and time again the Metropolitan police have failed to deal successfully with sensitive issues ranging from cash for peerages all the way through to the phone-hacking scandal. Is it not perhaps time to split the Metropolitan police between the day-to-day duties of policing London and those of carrying out more complex and detailed investigations, such as those that the special operations directorate conducts every day?
I thank my hon. Friend for his innovative approach to these matters. I have to say that there is no intention to split the Metropolitan police. It has been able to take on their national responsibilities, and it has those responsibilities not simply because of the issues that it is responsible for across the country, such as counter-terrorism, but because, as the police force of the nation’s capital, it has of course national responsibilities that are greater than those of any other police force. I must say, as I said earlier, that the thousands of police officers and staff who day by day go about their duty protecting the public and fighting crime are doing a good job, and we should encourage them and ensure that they can continue to do so.
Is it not a fact that the fire-storm that the Prime Minister referred to a few days ago has turned into a raging inferno around the Government’s head? Murdoch’s people are resigning and people are being arrested all over the place, and yet only one area remains intact: millionaires’ row on the Government Front Bench. When is dodgy Dave going to do the decent thing and resign?
The Home Secretary referred to the interaction between the inquiries she has set up and the Leveson inquiry, and her references to the relationship between the police and the media are the right approach. Does she agree that, in the interests of clarity and accountability, to refer merely to the press in the Leveson inquiry would be unsatisfactory and that 17 Select Committee Chairmen, the chairman of the 1922 committee, the chairman of the parliamentary Labour party and the leaders of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have all said that the Leveson inquiry should be extended to the media as a whole?
The terms of reference for the Leveson inquiry which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced last week were agreed not only by the Government but in consultation with the Opposition and, as I understand it, with the Leader of the Opposition, and of course with Lord Justice Leveson himself.
In her statement, the Home Secretary said that she is asking the chief inspector of constabulary to look at some serious issues at the Met, namely “instances of undue influence, inappropriate contractual arrangements and other abuses of power in police relationships with the media and other parties.” That must involve a number of illegal actions and/or misconduct. Any chief officer who is aware of such things—illegal actions or misconduct—is legally obliged to refer the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Why is the Home Secretary not referring these matters there, where they can be properly investigated?
I think that the right hon. Gentleman might have slightly misunderstood the reference I made in my statement. I have asked HMIC to look widely across policing—not just at the Met—at issues of, as he says, “undue influence, inappropriate contractual arrangements and other abuses of power”. As he says, if any officer is aware of an individual officer who has undertaken something that is an abuse of power, a complaint should be made to the IPCC, which will investigate complaints against individual officers. It does not currently have the power to investigate complaints about wider issues in relation to forces as opposed to individual officers. As well as asking HMIC to look at these issues more widely, because there are other examples of this sort of concern in other constabularies, I am asking the IPCC whether it needs further powers and what we should be doing to ensure that it can investigate more widely across forces rather than just individual officers.
By any reasonable international comparison, the probity and integrity of our policemen and policewomen is unsurpassed, and the Home Secretary rightly paid tribute to them today. Does she agree that we should lose no opportunity to articulate our support for them since their morale and self-confidence are likely to be severely dented by this crisis?
Indeed. My hon. Friend makes a very important point. As I said at the police bravery awards a couple of weeks ago, we have the finest police officers in the world—I believe that—but it is our duty to all those honourable, hard-working police officers and staff across the country to ensure that we get to the bottom of these allegations and sort this all out.
The year 2012 was always going to be a very challenging one for the Metropolitan police, with the Olympic games, with convicted terrorists returning home from prison, and with relocated suspects being allowed to go back to their own homes. Given the events of the past 24 hours, will the Home Secretary now give urgent consideration to delaying the implementation of the new, weaker terrorism prevention measures in order to reduce risk and give the new commissioner time to prepare properly?
The right hon. Gentleman knows that the package that was agreed involves not just the TPIMs—terrorism prevention and investigation measures—but extra money, with tens of millions of pounds for the Security Service and the police to put in place extra surveillance so that they are able to mitigate any risk that has come about through the change in those orders. Yes, next year will be a challenging year. The Met police have themselves accepted and said publicly that it will be a very challenging time for them in having to ensure the security and safety of the Olympics. That has been worked on for several years—it is under the very competent leadership of Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison—and extremely good work has been done, but we continue, of course, to ensure that we are putting in place what is necessary to do what we all want to do, which is to ensure that everybody can enjoy a secure and successful games.
For decades, all across the country, the media have had the uncanny ability to show up at an arrest or another police incident. While I am sure that most of the police would never take part in this, can the Home Secretary assure me that we will be looking across the country, wherever this happens, and keeping an eye out for other such suspicious coincidences of a TV camera showing up just in time?
At this time of unprecedented chaos within the Metropolitan police, and given the Met’s national responsibilities for national security, are not the public right to feel concerned that it has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to protecting citizens against terrorism? What is the Home Secretary going to do to reassure people that the Met is on top of its game in terms of protecting the public against the threat of terrorism both here in the United Kingdom and from abroad?
The work that has been done by the Met, indeed led by Assistant Commissioner John Yates, on counter-terrorism policing has been important. Counter-terrorism policing has improved over the years and extra resources have been put in, which has been beneficial in keeping this country safe. The Metropolitan police have moved quickly to ensure that there is an immediate appointment to replace Assistant Commissioner John Yates in Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick. I am sure that she will take this work forward every bit as effectively as has been done previously. I assure people that the eye has not been taken off the ball; we are very conscious of the duty to protect the public, be it from criminals or terrorists.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and welcome her comments about strengthening the powers of the IPCC. However, given that the circumstances surrounding these resignations will have further undermined public confidence in the police, will she tell the House what steps the Met will be taking to put things right as we await the outcome of the public inquiry?
Indeed. When Tim Godwin takes over as acting commissioner, he will obviously want to consider the steps that the Met can take, as he already has been doing, such as being more transparent about relationships with the press. Crucially, Elizabeth Filkin is being brought in to advise the Met on such matters, so that it can show the public that it has changed the way it deals with these things and increase the public’s confidence. It is also important to have the additional resilience that is brought by somebody coming in from the outside, so Bernard Hogan-Howe will take on the responsibilities of a deputy commissioner to enhance that work.
The Guardian produced abundant evidence several months ago that in handling phone hacking at the News of the World, the police had cut short their original inquiry, suppressed evidence, misled the public and the press, concealed information and broken the law. Why did the Home Secretary not take action then, when it was already perfectly clear that something was going terribly wrong at Scotland Yard?
The initial Guardian story that required investigation actually came in July 2009 under the last Government. That was looked at to see whether there was fresh evidence and a decision was taken that there was not. In September 2010, a question was raised about stories that had appeared in the American press. Again, that was looked at to see whether there was fresh evidence. At the time—[Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher) asks what I did. I will tell him what I did. At that time, I came to this House and said that it was up to the police to investigate the matter and that it was not for politicians to tell police officers who or what to investigate. I said that the police should investigate any evidence, wherever it took them, and ensure that anybody who was guilty of criminal offences was properly brought to justice.
This scandal has run over two Governments and three Prime Ministers. Does the Home Secretary agree that the focus of every Member of this House should be on trying to get to the truth and to find a solution to this problem—we are on the front foot finally—rather than on playing the clapped-out political blame game so beloved by the Labour party?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. She reminds the House that our prime duty and responsibility is to restore confidence in the police so that people feel that the police are doing their job appropriately and properly. There are thousands of honourable policemen and women who are continuing to do their job and we should support and encourage them. We need to get to the bottom of these allegations so that the public truly can have full confidence in what the police are doing.
Given the Home Secretary’s fulsome praise for Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, should I assume that she will back his call for a delay in cuts to specialist posts, particularly public order posts, until after the Olympics?
Of course we have reviewed the requirements for Olympic security, and we did an audit of it when we came into government. In the run-up to the Olympics we will continue to ensure that the resources that are available and the measures that are taken will provide a secure and safe games.
Is the Home Secretary aware of the statement that Sir Paul made at the conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers in July 2009, which suggests that it was not John Yates who limited the review then to less than a day but the commissioner himself?
That is an important principle on which we must base what we do. That is why I try not to comment on things until I have seen the evidence on matters of concern. It is of course true that these investigations must be followed through properly and fully, so that those who are guilty can be brought to justice and any speculation about those who are innocent can be cleared up.
The allegations that payments were made improperly to the police were first made in 2003. The House needs to know what action was taken by the Home Office and by successive Ministers over the period since that date. Will the Home Secretary do a review and make a report to Parliament?
I simply say to the hon. Gentleman that the Metropolitan police’s current investigation has made it clear, as I understand it, that it is going through the names on lists. I caution him on his assumption that everybody whose name appears on a list has necessarily “had their phone hacked into”, in his terms, but that is being looked into by the current investigation. It is clear that it is alerting people when it finds evidence.
In May 2006, five-plus years ago, the Information Commissioner issued a report stating that the trade in confidential personal information was “pervasive and widespread”. In view of the rather self-righteous tone taken by the Opposition, is the Home Secretary surprised that the then Government did not order an inquiry into the matter?
Returning to the security of the Olympics, is it not time that a pause was taken, given the evidence presented to the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill Committee by Assistant Deputy Commander Osborne that it would take 12 months to get the resources in place to deal with the new TPIMs? Is it not time, now that we have lost the two most senior officers in counter-terrorism, to call a halt to those measures until after the Olympic and Paralympic games?
We have of course been discussing with the Metropolitan police and the Security Service the arrangements that will be in place as a result of the extra finances available for surveillance when the TPIMs come in. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we have discussed the matter with the Metropolitan police, and it is clear that measures will be in place for an appropriate transition from control orders to TPIMs.
I thank my right hon. Friend for paying tribute to PC Wayne Stevens, who was shot while on duty on the streets of Croydon on Friday night.
As a London MP, my concern is that the Met has sufficient resources to do the job of patrolling the streets of London, and that the two investigations are robustly pursued so that we find out exactly what happened and anyone guilty of a crime is brought to justice. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that, working with the Mayor, she will ensure that that is the case?
I can assure my hon. Friend that we do of course talk to the Metropolitan police about the resources that it has available and the way in which it chooses to police the streets of London. If I may say so, one thing that Sir Paul Stephenson did was significantly to increase the amount of time available for patrol by moving to single patrols, which has been a very important step in improving the time for which officers are actually out on the front line.
I again pay tribute to the police constable who was shot three nights ago. It is very easy for the House to forget the danger that police officers put themselves in day in and day out to keep the public safe, and we should thank them for it.
In the Home Secretary’s statement, she said that she was sorry that Sir Paul Stephenson had to resign. Does that mean that she thinks he should not have resigned and that he should have carried on, despite this cloud around his head? Could she explain what her thinking behind that is, or is it crocodile tears to cover the fact that she asked him to resign?
On the last point, can I assure the hon. Gentleman that I did not ask Sir Paul Stephenson to resign? As far as I am concerned, nobody asked him to resign: the decision was taken by Sir Paul Stephenson. I am sorry that he decided to resign—I have said that several times, and have made that clear. Under his leadership, the Met has done excellent work in protecting the public, and in cutting and fighting crime. He led the Met through some very difficult times. He took it over at a difficult time, and I think he has made the force operationally stronger.
In the light of the concerns raised by this issue, what action does the Home Secretary expect of police authorities outside London to root out inappropriate practices and to restore public confidence in the independence of their forces?
The whole House will remember when Damian McBride planned to smear the wives and families of Opposition Members. Does my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary agree that those who live in glass houses should be more careful about throwing stones?
In view of the remarks of the Mayor of London—he said that the phone hacking allegations were “politically motivated” and “codswallop”—does the Home Secretary believe that he is a fit and proper person to be involved in the appointment of the commissioner of the Metropolitan police?
Given that Sir Paul and Mr Yates resigned from the Metropolitan police, will my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary clarify whether they can take up any other policing position, including with ACPO or any other policing agencies?
May I first echo the words of my neighbour, the hon. Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell)? Obviously, our thoughts are with our police officer from Croydon and his family at this difficult time.
May I put it to the Home Secretary that many Londoners are confused about the respective roles of the Home Secretary, the Mayor and the Metropolitan Police Authority? Who in our democracy is ultimately responsible and accountable for the conduct and integrity of the Metropolitan police?
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that the legislation under which Londoners are confused was introduced by the Government in which he was a Minister. This Government are now clarifying the position under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. We will streamline the arrangements that exist in relation to appointments and the position of the police and crime commissioner in London. However, the appointment of the commissioner and deputy commissioners will remain, as it is today, a final decision of the Home Secretary.
As I understand it, Lord Justice Leveson’s terms of reference are restricted to phone hacking. I wonder whether it is possible for the inquiry to look also at hacking into e-mails and the illegal acquisition of information such as medical documents.
My hon. Friend is not the first to raise the issue of the remit of the Leveson inquiry. It will cover the culture, practices and ethics of the press, as well as the relationship of the press to the police and issues of regulation. So I would expect that it would indeed be able to look wider than just the issue of phone hacking.
I note that the Home Secretary did not answer the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) about whether the Prime Minister knew that Neil Wallis was working for the Met and/or whether Andy Coulson knew the same. Could she perhaps respond and let us know that answer to that question?
An experienced columnist from The Guardian said on the BBC yesterday that to the best of her knowledge she believed that the passage of information between journalists and the police was common and widespread. Does the Home Secretary agree that the police investigation should go wherever it leads and follow through all leads on that matter?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is important that, whatever the evidence shows, the police investigation is able to follow the leads to the rightful conclusion without fear or favour, and that they ensure that wherever it leads proper action is taken and people who have committed criminal offences are properly brought to justice.
The Mayor of London said this morning that Sir Paul had taken a very brave individual decision. Is the Home Secretary confident that that is the most accurate, appropriate and apposite description of the events leading up to that resignation?
I have made my position on Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation absolutely clear. In his time in office at the Metropolitan police he has strengthened the force operationally, and under his leadership it has been effective and done excellent work in cutting crime and protecting the public.
Given that the Mayor of London actively discouraged the reopening of the police inquiry by referring to the phone-hacking allegations as “codswallop” and a Labour plot, what inquiries will the Home Secretary make into what advice the Mayor took before making those views known and using his influence in that way?
I am not aware that there was a Guardian dossier. There was information that was generally available to the public, as I understand it. There is an issue here about the role of the Home Office that Opposition Members sometimes fail to grasp. It is not the job of politicians to tell the police who to investigate or arrest. It would be a very sorry day for our police and our democracy if we ever went down that road.
I have made clear the difference between the Metropolitan police and the Government. The Prime Minister has answered the point about Andy Coulson. He did that last week and he made it absolutely clear that he gave Andy Coulson a second chance. That did not work out and Andy Coulson resigned again.
The Home Secretary finally made us aware that she was not told if the Prime Minister knew about Neil Wallis’s employment. Can she confirm whether Andy Coulson knew about the employment of his former deputy by the Metropolitan police?
Before Wednesday’s debate, would the Home Secretary have the kindness to place in the Library details of all communications, in writing or by phone or e-mail, between Andy Coulson and her private office since she took up the post of Home Secretary?
The right hon. Gentleman, like a number of his colleagues, is seeming to focus purely on Andy Coulson. I say to him and Members of the House that we have a serious job to do—to ensure that we restore confidence in the Metropolitan police and the police generally and to deal with allegations over the operations of the police. We owe it to the public and to the honourable police officers in the Met and other forces in the country to do that seriously, to consider all the allegations and to ensure that they are followed through and dealt with.
Were there any meetings between Neil Wallis and Andy Coulson while the latter was working for the Prime Minister at No. 10 Downing street? If the Home Secretary cannot give us that information now, will she undertake to give it to us later?
No, I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that information. It is not the sort of information that is available to me. I would point out to him that for the first part—considerable part—of the period when Neil Wallis was in his advisory capacity to the Metropolitan police, the Labour party was in government.
May I make a statement of the obvious? The Home Secretary has been chasing this issue from day one. She got it wrong on phone hacking, she got it wrong on a judge-led inquiry and it has taken two high-profile resignations to place just a semblance of respectability on an affair that every dog on the street knows stinks. Is it right that Sir Paul Stephenson resigns for Neil Wallis, but the Prime Minister gets off scot-free for hiring not the monkey but the organ grinder, Andy Coulson?
I am not sure that there was actually a question in all that. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, as I said earlier, in 2002, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee reported that the press were making illegal payments to police officers and called on the then Home Secretary to review and, if necessary, overhaul the guidance and measures aimed at preventing such behaviour by the police and media. The Labour Government did absolutely nothing.
I am afraid that I welcome the two resignations today because I think that Assistant Commissioner Yates, by his own admission, misled Parliament; because the relationship between the News of the World and the Metropolitan police became so close as frankly to be collusive; and because we had this ludicrous situation in which Andy Hayman was leaving the employment of the Metropolitan police to work for News International and Neil Wallis was leaving News International to work for the Metropolitan police. That cannot be good for the Metropolitan police in the end. I know that the Home Secretary cannot tell anybody what investigations to undertake, but will she ensure that there is a proper investigation into the Surrey police and what happened between the police officers in charge of the investigation following Milly Dowler’s disappearance and death and News of the World and other journalists at the time? I do not think that the collusion was only in the Metropolitan police.
A number of concerns have been raised about issues in other forces relating to contractual arrangements, employment arrangements and other matters. That is why I am asking HMIC to look at these issues more closely across policing, including at issues of abuse of power.
The Home Secretary rightly said in her statement that confidence in the police—for both the public and serving police officers—must be of paramount concern in getting to the bottom of these allegations. She has just shared with the House information about other police forces, but has she had any contact with the Scottish Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, about how these types of inquiry can range across Scottish police forces as well as those for which she is directly responsible?
The right hon. Lady has sought to distinguish the probity of the appointments made by Sir Paul Stephenson and those made by the Prime Minister on the grounds that there is a proper distance between those being investigated and those doing the investigation. Does she agree that there should also be a proper distance between the law-makers in this country and those suspected of lawbreaking?
I say what I said earlier about the difference between the Government and the Metropolitan police. The Metropolitan police were in the process of investigating —or had been investigating—the News of the World for alleged wrongdoing. It is right, therefore, that we should look at drawing a line between the investigators and the investigated.
There seems to have been an exchange of staff between the Metropolitan police and News International. Last week, I asked the Minister of State, Cabinet Office whether former police officers were subject to the rules of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments. He has written to me saying that he does not know. Can the Home Secretary say what the current rules are and whether Mr Hayman followed them?
If Sir Paul Stephenson was right when he said that he made an error of judgment in his appointment of Neil Wallis at a time when he had not been implicated in phone hacking, what does that say about the Prime Minister’s judgment in appointing Andy Coulson at a time when he had already resigned once over the very same issue?
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman could have listened to the answer that I have already given—on a number of occasions now—about the difference between the Government and the Metropolitan police. Of course, the point is that the Metropolitan police are responsible for investigating allegations of potential wrongdoing at the News of the World.
The stench that arises from the rotting drains underneath this Chamber seems to be an apt background to a lot of the debate that we have had today. Over the weekend, we had the arrest of Rebekah Brooks, ahead of her giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday. I appreciate that the Home Secretary says that it is not up to her to say who is arrested or when, but is it not time that we clarified the role of police investigations and investigations conducted by Select Committees for those investigations being conducted in both places?
I think the hon. Lady will find that Select Committees are very clear about the role and the powers that they have. What is important is that police investigations that could lead to criminal charges and prosecution are not prejudiced in any way by other investigations that take place. That is why we are being very careful in relation to the inquiry that is being led by Lord Justice Leveson. The hon. Lady also refers to needing to clear out the drains. Obviously the drains have not been cleared out for a number of years, but this Government are doing it.