With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the Mark Ellison review. In addition, I would like to update the House on work to improve standards of integrity in the police.
In July 2012, I commissioned Mark Ellison QC to conduct a review examining allegations of corruption surrounding the initial, deeply flawed, investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. I also asked Mr Ellison to examine whether the Metropolitan police had evidence of corruption that it did not disclose to the Macpherson inquiry. In June last year, Peter Francis, a former special demonstration squad undercover officer, made a number of allegations about his previous role, including an allegation that he was deployed to gather evidence with which to “smear” the family of Stephen Lawrence. In response, I expanded the terms of reference of Mark Ellison’s review, encouraging him to go as far and wide as necessary to investigate the new claims.
The House will also be aware of Operation Herne, which was set up by the Metropolitan police in October 2011 to investigate allegations of misconduct by undercover police officers in its former special demonstration squad—the SDS. Operation Herne is led by Derbyshire’s chief constable, Mick Creedon, and particular elements are overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Mick Creedon’s investigation has worked closely with Mark Ellison and will publish its own report on the allegations made by Peter Francis later today.
I will now set out the key findings of the Ellison review. The full report has been published and is available in the Vote Office. The totality of what the report shows is deeply troubling, and I would like also to set out my response. I asked Mark Ellison to review and answer three key questions. First: was there evidence of corruption in the Metropolitan police during the Lawrence investigation? Secondly: was that evidence withheld from the Macpherson inquiry? And thirdly: was inappropriate undercover activity directed at the Lawrence family?
On corruption, Ellison finds that specific allegations of corruption were made against one of the officers who had worked on the investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s murder—Detective Sergeant John Davidson. The allegations were made by a police officer to his superiors but were not brought to the attention of Macpherson. Ellison finds that this lack of disclosure was a “significant failure” by the Metropolitan police. Ellison has looked at the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s 2006 report into these allegations, as well as the Metropolitan police’s own review in 2012. He finds that both investigations were inadequate.
Ellison also finds the Metropolitan Police Service’s record-keeping on its own investigations into police corruption a cause of real concern. Key evidence was the subject of mass shredding in 2003, and a hard drive containing some of the relevant data was discovered only in November 2013, after more than a year of the MPS searching for it. As a result of this, Ellison has serious concerns that further relevant material that would show corruption has not been revealed because it cannot be found or has been destroyed.
The other question that Mark Ellison set out to answer was whether inappropriate undercover activity had been directed at the Lawrence family. Ellison finds that SDS officers were deployed into activist groups that sought to influence the Lawrence family. On Peter Francis’s allegation that he was tasked with “smearing” the Lawrence family, Ellison has found no surviving record that supports the claim. However, given the lack of written records from the era, and since such tasking would have been more likely to have been in oral, rather than written, form, Ellison says that he is “unable to reject” the claims Mr Francis has made.
Aside from the specific claims made by Mr Francis, Ellison reports on a separate and “wholly inappropriate” use of an undercover officer during the Macpherson inquiry. Ellison finds that an officer, referred to as N81, had been deployed into one of the groups seeking to influence the Lawrence family campaign, while the Macpherson inquiry was ongoing. Ellison refers to N81 as
“an MPS spy in the Lawrence family camp during the course of judicial proceedings in which the family was the primary party in opposition to the MPS”.
As part of his deployment, N81 reported back to the SDS personal information about the Lawrence family, as well as what is described as “tactical intelligence” around the inquiry. In August 1998, the SDS arranged for N81 to meet Richard Walton, then a detective inspector involved in writing the Met’s submissions to the Macpherson inquiry. SDS files record that they had a “fascinating and valuable exchange”. Ellison finds that the opening of this channel of communication was “completely improper”. He finds no discernible public benefit to the meeting taking place, and says that had it been disclosed at the time of the inquiry
“it would have been seen as the MPS trying to achieve some secret advantage in the Inquiry from SDS undercover deployment.”
Ellison finds that if it had been made public in 1998,
“serious public disorder of the very kind so feared by the MPS might well have followed”.
In addition, Ellison has reported on the SDS more widely. He comments on the extraordinary level of secrecy observed about any disclosure that might risk exposing an undercover officer. That meant that the SDS operated as if exempt from the proper rules of disclosure in criminal cases, and that there is real potential for miscarriages of justices to have occurred. In particular, Ellison says that there is an inevitable potential for SDS officers to have been viewed by those they infiltrated as encouraging, and participating in, criminal behaviour. He refers to officers in criminal trials failing to reveal their true identities, meaning that crucial information that should have been disclosed was not given to the defence and the court; and he finds that undercover officers sometimes failed to correct evidence given in court which they knew was wrong. That means that there is a chance that people could have been convicted for offences when they should not have been. We must therefore establish if there have been miscarriages of justice.
The Ellison review has also investigated the way in which Duwayne Brooks was treated by the Metropolitan police. The House will recall that Mr Brooks was a close friend of Stephen Lawrence and was with him when he was murdered. Mark Ellison finds that the MPS’s handling of a 1993 prosecution against Mr Brooks was unsatisfactory, but he finds no evidence that this was a deliberate attempt to smear Mr Brooks. Ellison also finds evidence of inappropriate reporting on Mr Brooks from an SDS officer. This included intelligence on Mr Brooks’s relationship with the Lawrence family and on the way in which Mr Brooks intended to approach various legal proceedings, including civil action against the Met. Ellison says that that line of reporting “should have been terminated”, but instead continued from 1999 to 2001. Finally, Mark Ellison finds that the covert recording of Mr Brooks and his solicitor in a meeting with the MPS in May 2000, while not unlawful, was neither necessary nor justified.
The findings I have outlined today are profoundly shocking. They will be of grave concern to everyone in the House and beyond, and I would like now to set out what I believe needs to happen in response. The Ellison review makes a number of findings in relation to the issue of corruption. Ellison finds that there remain some outstanding lines of inquiry which could be investigated both in relation to alleged corruption by a specific officer, and possibly by other officers. That is of the utmost seriousness, and I have asked the director general of the National Crime Agency to consider quickly how best an investigation can be taken forward into this aspect of Mr Ellison’s findings and to report back to me. Ellison also refers to possible links between an allegedly corrupt officer involved in the Stephen Lawrence case—DS Davidson—and the investigation into the murder of Daniel Morgan. Ellison finds that the Daniel Morgan panel may therefore uncover material relevant to the question of corruption, and so it is key that the Daniel Morgan panel continues its important work.
Operation Herne has previously found that the Home Office was instrumental in the establishment of the SDS in 1968, in the aftermath of violence at the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations in Grosvenor square. It has also previously found that the Home Office initially provided direct funding for the SDS. The Home Office was the police authority for the Metropolitan Police at that time, so the interests of transparency require that we all understand what role the Department played. My permanent secretary has therefore commissioned a forensic external review in order to establish the full extent of the Home Office’s knowledge of the SDS.
In identifying the possibility that SDS secrecy may have caused miscarriages of justice, Mark Ellison recommends a further review to identify the specific cases affected. I have accepted that recommendation and Mark Ellison will lead the work, working with the CPS and reporting to the Attorney-General. That will mean that proper consideration can be given to those cases and to any implications that may arise. In doing that work, Mark Ellison and the CPS will be provided with whatever access they judge necessary to relevant documentary evidence.
Operation Herne is a criminal investigation, and it is only through a criminal investigation that criminal or misconduct charges can be brought. It is vital that we allow Operation Herne to bring its current criminal investigations to a proper conclusion, which Chief Constable Creedon informs me should take around 12 months.
There are people inside and outside our country who seek to commit serious crimes and to harm our communities, our way of life, and our nation and who wish to harm our children. It is entirely right—and indeed it is a responsibility of Governments—to ensure that the police and other agencies have effective powers to tackle those threats, and to ensure that robust legal frameworks exist for the use of sometimes intrusive tactics.
Undercover officers, sometimes working in difficult and dangerous conditions, have helped bring criminals to justice. They have stopped bad things happening to our country. None the less, the Ellison review reveals very real and substantial failings. The picture that emerges about the SDS from this report, and from other material in the public domain, is of significant failings of judgment and of intrusive supervision and leadership over a sustained period. Mark Ellison has performed a commendable public duty in revealing these issues. His report lays bare issues of great seriousness in relation not only to Peter Francis, but to the SDS more widely.
When I asked Mark Ellison to consider the SDS within the scope of his review, I asked him to tell me in his report whether he felt that a public inquiry was needed to get to the full truth. Although Ellison does not go as far as recommending a public inquiry, he is clear that in respect of the SDS in general, and the Peter Francis allegations in particular, a public inquiry might be better placed to make definitive findings.
I do not say this lightly, but the greatest possible scrutiny is now needed into what has taken place. Given the gravity of what has now been uncovered, I have decided that a public inquiry, led by a judge, is necessary to investigate undercover policing and the operation of the SDS. Only a public inquiry will be able to get to the full truth behind the matters of huge concern contained in Mark Ellison's report.
The House will understand that an inquiry cannot be set up immediately. It must wait for the conclusion of the criminal investigation and Ellison’s further work to identify possible miscarriages of justice. It is right and proper that those legal processes are allowed to conclude first. Ellison himself identifies his further review as a priority before any public inquiry can take place. That further work will also inform the inquiry’s precise terms of reference.
As I have said, the matters that I have announced today are deeply concerning. More broadly, it is imperative that public trust and confidence in the police is maintained. I do not believe corruption and misconduct to be endemic in the police, and it is clear that the majority of policemen and women conduct themselves honestly and with integrity.
In February last year, I announced to the House specific measures to address corruption and misconduct, to ensure greater transparency, to provide clearer rules on conduct, and to improve standards of professional behaviour. That work is on track. The College of Policing, which has a clear remit of enhancing police integrity, is delivering a package of measures that includes a new code of ethics. The code sets out clearly the high standards of behaviour expected from police officers.
In addition, the Independent Police Complaints Commission is being expanded and emboldened so that in future it will have responsibility for dealing with all serious and sensitive cases involving the police. I can tell the House that I am reflecting on whether further proposals are needed.
I also want to ensure that those who want to report corruption and misconduct are encouraged to do so. I therefore want to strengthen protections for whistleblowers in the police and I will bring proposals to the House in due course.
We must also ensure that police forces have all the capability they need to pursue corruption, so I have today asked the chief inspector of constabulary to look specifically at the anti-corruption capability of forces, including professional standards departments.
Arrangements for undercover officer deployments are very different today from those in the early 1990s. Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, all deployments must be authorised as both necessary and proportionate to the issue being investigated. This Government have introduced further safeguards. The independent Office of Surveillance Commissioners is now notified of all deployments and must approve those that last longer than 12 months. We have also increased the rank of the authorising officer so that all deployments must be authorised by an assistant chief constable, and those lasting longer than 12 months by a chief constable.
There also needs to be a change in culture and we need to continue the work we have already done to reform the police. From this autumn, the police will for the first time have the opportunity to bring in talented and experienced leaders from other walks of life to senior ranks. The College of Policing will provide those individuals with world-class training. Those coming in will bring a fresh perspective and approach and will open up policing culture. I believe that that is one of the most important reforms in shaping the police of the future.
I have committed to funding a cadre of new direct-entrant superintendents from this autumn until spring 2018, so I challenge all those forces that have not yet signed up to take that opportunity to do so. It is vital that the public know that policing is not a closed shop.
We are changing the culture of the police through direct entry, the code of ethics, greater transparency and professionalisation, and we are transforming the investigation of cases involving the police through reform of the IPCC, but I would like to do more. The current law on police corruption relies on the outdated common-law offence of misconduct in public office. It is untenable that we should be relying on such a legal basis to deal with serious issues of corruption in modern policing, so I shall table amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to introduce a new offence of police corruption, supplementing the existing offence of misconduct in public office and focusing clearly on those who hold police powers.
In policing, as in other areas, the problems of the past have a danger of infecting the present and can lay traps for the future. Policing stands damaged today. Trust and confidence in the Metropolitan police and in policing more generally are vital and a public inquiry and the other work I have set out are part of the process of repairing the damage.
Stephen Lawrence was murdered more than 20 years ago and it is deplorable that his family have had to wait so many years for the truth to emerge. Indeed, it is still emerging. Understandably, many of us thought that the Macpherson inquiry had answered all the questions surrounding the investigation into Stephen’s death, but the findings I have set out today are profoundly disturbing. For the sake of Doreen Lawrence, Neville Lawrence, their family and the British public we must act now to address these wrongs. I commend the statement to the House.
I welcome the statement that the Home Secretary has made and the work of Mark Ellison in drawing up this extremely important but serious and disturbing review. The findings of the Ellison review are extremely troubling and the Home Secretary’s statement today is serious.
Nearly 21 years ago, a young man of 18 was killed by racist murderers. Stephen Lawrence and his family were denied justice then and it is clear that they have been denied justice ever since. The findings of the Ellison review are all the more serious because, in the 21 years since, repeated attempts have been made to get to the truth and to deliver justice but, despite all those attempts, that still has not happened. We in this House should show our support today for the Lawrence family in their continued determination to get to the truth and to justice, but we also know that no family should have to keep fighting in this way for so many decades.
Let me touch on some of the key findings that the Home Secretary has set out. First, she said that the Ellison review stated that there were reasonable grounds for suspecting that one of the officers involved in the Lawrence investigation acted corruptly, but that has never been fully investigated. This is extremely serious and a full investigation is needed of the outstanding lines of inquiry identified by the Ellison review. I welcome the Home Secretary’s confirmation that this will now be looked at by the National Crime Agency, and also her confirmation that links with the Daniel Morgan inquiry will be pursued. Will she ensure—I am sure she will—that the House and the Lawrence family are kept updated with the timetable and course of this investigation?
Secondly, the Ellison review found that the full information about corruption and internal corruption investigations was not given to the Macpherson inquiry, and also that the Macpherson inquiry may have come to different conclusions as a result. It found also that the Metropolitan Police Service’s record keeping was a “cause of real concern” and that key evidence was the subject of “mass shredding” in 2003. Will the Home Secretary ensure that the NCA looks at whether information was wilfully withheld from the Macpherson inquiry or whether it was wilfully destroyed, and also looks at the wider issue of record keeping within the Metropolitan police?
The Home Secretary will be aware that we have asked before for an updated Macpherson-style review of progress since the original inquiry, because clearly a lot of changes were made as a result of the Macpherson inquiry. Does she not think this would be timely and that it would be an opportunity to look again at the conclusions of the review and whether they would have been different in the light of this further information?
Thirdly, the review found that undercover operations were carried out against those around the Lawrence family, and that information from those operations was given to those within the Metropolitan police who were involved in the legal case brought by the Lawrence family. It states:
“The reality was that N81 was, at the time, an MPS spy in the Lawrence family camp during the course of judicial proceedings in which the family was the primary party in opposition to the MPS.”
The review also found that the SDS, as the Home Secretary mentioned, was inappropriately and unjustifiably reporting on Duwayne Brooks. These findings are deeply disturbing. The Ellison review describes these operations as completely improper and wholly inappropriate, but the whole House will be shocked and we should condemn it in the strongest terms.
The Home Secretary is right: these revelations may mean that there have been miscarriages of justice. So I welcome her decision to instigate a public inquiry into the activities of the SDS. She will know that we have called for an inquiry into undercover policing, and it is right that there should be one. The Home Secretary is right to say that intelligence is a vital part of policing and the Ellison review says so, but it needs to be within a clear legal framework with proper safeguards in place. It is clear that that did not happen in these investigations and operations by the SDS against the Lawrence family and those linked to them at the time. We do not know how wide these miscarriages may go, but we cannot have a branch of policing that operated in this way, against the very ethos of policing and justice that it was charged with protecting and that the vast majority of police officers across the country have signed up to. Will the right hon. Lady discuss further not just with the family but with others on the Opposition Benches what form that public inquiry should take? We would welcome further discussions on that.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s decision to keep pursuing the truth. The Macpherson review was set up to get to the truth in the first place. It is important, too, that we should also keep pursuing justice. Will she ensure that in pursuing all these lines of inquiry, consideration is given to any lines that could lead to prosecutions of the further suspects in Stephen Lawrence’s murder?
Finally, I urge the Home Secretary to consider going further in the reforms that she talked about towards the end of her remarks. There is a serious question about whether the IPCC was able to investigate in the way that the Ellison review has done when it carried out an inquiry in 2006. The IPCC is the independent body charged with such investigations and should be able to get to the truth, but it was not able to do so. It is bad for justice and for policing not to have a credible body able to get to the truth the first time round.
I agree with the Home Secretary about the importance of force-level professional standards. She will know that forces have raised concerns that resources are being transferred from force-level professional standards in corruption investigations to the IPCC. Clearly, both need to be able to do that important job.
I also ask the Home Secretary to go further on the oversight of undercover policing. Clearly that will be considered in the public inquiry, but I urge her to look, in parallel, at further safeguards. As she will know, we have previously suggested additional safeguards, including on pre-authorisation for longer-term operations, because the current oversight regime has clearly not been effective enough in preventing some of the problems that have arisen.
I also ask the Home Secretary to look at the implications for the Hillsborough inquiry. As she will know, when we had the discussion three weeks ago, we also raised concerns about whether there was inappropriate surveillance or intercept against the Hillsborough families. It is hugely important that we get to the full truth about that and that it comes out at the earliest possible opportunity.
Twenty-one years later, no one should underestimate the gravity of the institutional failure two decades ago or the seriousness of the continued institutional failure to get to the truth. The Home Secretary has rightly said that we need to get to the truth. Police officers do a vital job, helping to keep the public safe every day. They need public trust and confidence, and we all need truth and justice. Three weeks ago she made the statement about the failure of the criminal justice system to get to the truth and to get justice for the families of Hillsborough victims decades ago, and today we have heard about that failure over the murder of Stephen Lawrence decades ago.
Families should never have to wait decades to get to the truth. Everyone must recognise that, unless we get to the truth and get justice, these tragedies will continue to cast a long shadow over the vital work that our criminal justice system and the police need to do. We owe it to the families, but we also owe it to confidence in the justice system.
I entirely agree with the right hon. Lady’s comments on the significance of the review. Of course, as she said, it is not alone in identifying problems with how cases have been treated; the Daniel Morgan case and the results of the Hillsborough Independent Panel also revealed failings that had taken place. As she said, it is absolutely imperative, in order to ensure that there is trust and confidence in the police, which is vital for us all, that we deal with these failings appropriately and get to the truth.
As the right hon. Lady and I have said, the results of the Ellison review are truly shocking. I suspect that it will take hon. Members some time to examine all the aspects that Mark Ellison has brought out, but the extent to which the report shows that a deep failure occurred at the time of the incidents and behaviours he examined is obvious from the remarks I have made today. It is therefore necessary that we follow that up by a number of different routes.
With regard to the timetable for the further investigation I have referred to the director-general of the National Crime Agency, I will of course be happy to keep the House informed of the results and how it will be taken forward. I would expect the director-general to look at the various issues the right hon. Lady referred to when considering how the investigation should take place and what is necessary to ensure that prosecutions, if they are required, can take place.
I do not think that it will be possible for us to discuss the form of the public inquiry properly until we have seen more of the next stage of Mark Ellison’s work, which is considering the wider issue and the question of miscarriages of justice. However, I will of course want to ensure that the public inquiry has the right terms of reference and that it is able to conduct the job that we want it to do and that the Lawrence family will obviously be concerned that it does. At the right time, I think that it will be appropriate to have discussions about the form of the public inquiry and its terms of reference.
On the IPCC, as the right hon. Lady said and as I said, Mark Ellison finds that its inquiries and work were not adequate and that it did not find the corruption that is alleged to have taken place. I have already given the IPCC more resources, more power and more of a task. The right hon. Lady referred to transferring resources from professional standards departments. That is a reflection of the fact that we are transferring work to the IPCC. One concern that people have always had is about the police themselves investigating serious complaints against them. That is why we are transferring that responsibility to the IPCC and the resources to undertake it.
On the safeguards on undercover policing, we have recently made changes to enhance them so that although longer-term deployments—anything over 12 months—must be authorised by a chief constable, undercover deployments can be authorised by an assistant chief constable. The independent Office of Surveillance Commissioners must be notified of all deployments, so the oversight framework is already stronger.
The right hon. Lady rightly raised the concern of Hillsborough families that they may have been subject to inappropriate surveillance. I understand that a formal complaint has been made to the IPCC about that, and that it is considering how best to investigate the concerns that have been raised.
There is much still to be done. Change has taken place over the years but sadly, what we have seen today is that it is necessary to continue the inquiries and investigations to ensure that, for the sake of the family particularly and for all of us and our trust in the police, we get to the truth.
May I pay public tribute to the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) and John Walker for going to see the then Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), which led to the inquiry being set up, and to those who organised the meeting between the family and Nelson Mandela, which gave a profile and quiet dignity to reflect properly the way the family had reacted? I pay tribute to the family and those with them, including Baroness Howells, who managed to avoid any disturbance, and I add the name of John Philpott, the local Plumstead commander who, within 24 hours of the murderous attack on Stephen Lawrence and Duwayne Brooks, organised a community meeting at the town hall and said publicly that people knew that Stephen Lawrence was a good person, not a bad person. When the further inquiries take place, will my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary ask that consideration be given to using Clive Driscoll, the police officer who helped to have one person convicted, as an adviser, if not a member, so that what the police have known for years can be added in?
In both this case and another six years later in Brighton, when constituents of mine, Michael and Jay Abatan were attacked, the first failing was that the police did not arrest the people who were thought to be suspects and hold them separately, or have proper surveillance and gather the evidence that was available at the time. We are now sweeping up mistakes that were made later. I pay tribute to all the police who do their job properly and find the evidence straightaway so that justice can be pursued in court.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. He is absolutely right that we should never forget that there are police officers out there who do their job perfectly properly with honesty and integrity, and are bringing criminals to justice as a result of their work. We should not forget to pay tribute—he is right to do so—to those who have campaigned for many years alongside the family and in the House to ensure that those who were responsible are brought to justice and that we can get at the truth.
When the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) set up the Macpherson inquiry and when its results were received, everyone assumed that it had been able to look at all the evidence and to get to the truth. Sadly, as we now know, that was not the case, and certain matters that should have been referred to it were not.
My hon. Friend refers to a particular officer and the need to ensure that in further investigations police experience and knowledge of the case is not lost. That matter has been drawn to my attention, and I am giving proper consideration to it.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement that there is to be an inquiry into the goings-on within the SDS. However, we should not be sidetracked from the core issue that initiated the Ellison investigation and review, which is that corruption was an influence over the investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence and that evidence and information were withheld from the Macpherson inquiry. I would like the Secretary of State to confirm that that will be addressed in part of the public inquiry where people have to come and give evidence under oath.
In July 2006, there was a programme on TV called “The Boys Who Killed Stephen Lawrence”. Deputy Commissioner John Yates went on that programme and said that Detective Sergeant John Davidson was a corrupt officer. I contacted the IPCC and the Metropolitan police and asked to know in what way his activities affected the inquiry. In a meeting with the Metropolitan police, I was told categorically that his corruption had nothing whatsoever to do with the investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. We now know from the Ellison inquiry that the evidence on that was destroyed, so on what basis did the Metropolitan police tell me that? I also asked the IPCC to investigate what other crimes Detective Sergeant Davidson had been involved in that may have been corrupted by his illegal activities, and answer got I none.
All this information needs to be investigated thoroughly in a full public inquiry. Will the Secretary of State guarantee that the public inquiry will not just focus on the SDS but take in those wider issues, because nothing short of that will be satisfactory to the public or the family of Stephen Lawrence?
I recognise the role that the hon. Gentleman has played in relation to this matter, the concern that he has expressed over the years, and the efforts that he has made, as he has just evidenced to us, to ensure that the truth will be found in relation to the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
On the public inquiry, as I indicated earlier, we will be looking at the terms of reference once it is clearer that Mark Ellison has been able to do his work in relation to the question of the SDS in general and miscarriages of justice. It is specifically in respect of the SDS and the Peter Francis allegations that Mark Ellison identifies that a public inquiry might be better placed to make definitive findings, and that is the background against which we will look at the inquiry’s terms of reference. In relation to some of the other aspects that he investigated, he has not highlighted the potential for a public inquiry to find further evidence and get to the truth behind certain allegations. As I said, the inquiry will look at undercover policing and the SDS, in particular, but we will set the terms of reference in due course when Mark Ellison has had an opportunity to conduct the further review that has been proposed in his report and that I have accepted as a recommendation.
I welcome the thoroughness of the Ellison inquiry and my right hon. Friend’s resolute response to it. Does she agree that undercover operations, although sometimes necessary, were wholly inappropriate and had no valid purpose when used against the Lawrence family and Duwayne Brooks, and that that underlines the need not only for effective accountability for such operations but an ethical framework within which they are conducted? Will she say any more about how she hopes to protect whistleblowers, whose lives and careers are often shattered when they serve the public and the vast majority of honest police officers by bringing corruption to public notice?
I thank my right hon. Friend. In fact, “wholly inappropriate” is precisely the wording that Mark Ellison uses in relation to the use of an undercover officer during the Macpherson inquiry. I think that many people will be absolutely shocked by the fact that there was an individual who was, in Mark Ellison’s words—I used the quote as did the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper)—
“an MPS spy in the Lawrence family camp”
at a time when the family were in opposition to the MPS in judicial proceedings. I am sure that everybody recognises that that was wholly inappropriate and that this is not the behaviour that we expect from the police.
On the question on whistleblowing, my right hon. Friend makes a very valid and important point. It is crucial. The issue of whistleblowing in various aspects of the public sector has been raised in recent times. It is very important that police officers feel that they are able to raise matters of concern and that those matters of concern will be properly considered and properly dealt with. I have not quite finalised my proposals in this area, so I ask my right hon. Friend to have some patience. I will inform the House in due course of how we intend to improve the ability of police officers to be whistleblowers and to feel that they are able to do that and what they feel is absolutely right and of benefit to the vast majority of offers, who operate with integrity.
May I first welcome the resolute determination the Home Secretary has shown in pursuing this issue and thank her for establishing the Ellison inquiry and for making this statement, which I have to say is one of the most shocking and serious statements I have heard by any Minister from any party over the whole of the 35 years I have been in this House?
As the Home Secretary and the police authority for London who established the Macpherson inquiry, I was struck, in the three months it took me to establish that inquiry and agree its terms of reference, by the reluctance of the Metropolitan Police Service to have any inquiry that focused forensically on the facts, as it had successfully resisted such calls for four years. I attributed that defensiveness to a bureaucratic unwillingness to accept scrutiny, but it is now clear that there was venality, probably at the highest level of the Metropolitan police, by which, against all rules, they refused to offer evidence, as they were required to do, to the full judicial inquiry of Sir William Macpherson. I have to say, given what the Home Secretary has now said, that had that evidence been offered, I think it is at least possible that Sir William Macpherson and his colleagues would have concluded not only, as they did, that there had been institutional racism, but that there had been institutional corruption as well.
I had a personal interest in the issue of the SDS and that organisation’s activities to go after subversives, because in 1974 the Security Service informed me of, and showed me, records that had been kept on my family and me from 1960 until 1971, when I finished as a student activist. When I went to the Home Office, I said that I did not want to see my file, but that I did want to know whether they were carrying on wasting money looking at subversives like myself, my family and successors. I was assured that that kind of activity was not going on, so I hope very much that this inquiry will get to the bottom of it.
May I also say—this is my last point—that I am very pleased that the permanent secretary is going to scrutinise what happened under the previous Government? I will give every possible co-operation to that inquiry, because, to my certain knowledge, I knew nothing whatever of these continuing activities, and had I done so, I would have stopped them immediately.
On the right hon. Gentleman’s last point, one of the things that comes through clearly in the Ellison review is that part of the ethos of the SDS was precisely that of secrecy, to the extent that very few people—this is one of the difficulties in establishing exactly who knew—within the Metropolitan police, let alone outside it, knew. This was kept very tight and close in terms of those who were even aware that the SDS was in existence, let alone of what it was doing.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the specific issue of corruption. Everybody will be appalled that there was an allegation of corruption by an individual police officer that was brought to the attention of superior officers in the Metropolitan police, yet it was not referred to the Macpherson inquiry.
One has to ask what the thinking was of somebody who thought that it was right not to refer the allegation to the Macpherson inquiry. I find it absolutely incredible that that further reference did not take place. As Mark Ellison says, it was a significant failure by the Metropolitan police.
I just want to comment on the issue of culture, which is part of this matter, and also goes back to the question about whistleblowing asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith). The culture of looking inward and protecting each other was rife at the time. One of the issues that can be looked at in the public inquiry is the whole question of Peter Francis’s allegations against that background and against what was actually going on in the SDS at the time.
Order. May I just say to the House that we have so far had four questions in 14 minutes? We have had questions from Members with very close personal experience of these matters either as constituency representatives or holders of ministerial office. I think that the House will agree that I have therefore very properly allowed latitude, because these matters need to be treated seriously, but we have a lot of other very pressing business. I am afraid that I must now insist on short questions and short answers so that we can proceed expeditiously. I know that I will be helped supremely in this matter by Nicola Blackwood.
The findings could not be more serious, and they cannot help but undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system. This is far from the first time that the competency of the Independent Police Complaints Commission has been put in question. I welcome the steps that have been taken to strengthen the IPCC and the oversight of undercover operations, but I urge the Home Secretary to go further with the reforms so that the public can have confidence in the oversight mechanisms, and so that those mechanisms are sufficiently robust and sufficiently funded to root out police failings wherever they may be found, not just to put right past wrongs, but to prevent future wrongs.
As I have said, I am considering whether any further steps are necessary in relation to the IPCC. The step I am taking, which goes to the heart of what my hon. Friend says, is asking Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to look at the current capability of police forces to identify and deal with corruption inside their forces. Today, we are talking about events that took place in the past, but people need to know that they can have every confidence that the police will identify and root out corruption in the future.
Since the brutal murder of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993—as we know, he was murdered for only one reason: the colour of his skin; that is why he was put to death—is not the very strong and justified impression that much more time was spent investigating the Lawrence family and Mr Brooks than in bringing those responsible to justice? May I simply say that a society based on the rule of law should feel thoroughly ashamed of what has been revealed in the Ellison review and of what the Home Secretary has said today? A thorough investigation into undercover policing is absolutely essential, and I welcome the public inquiry.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for welcoming the public inquiry, and I note his other comments. It is of course the case that the initial investigation into Stephen Lawrence’s murder was deeply flawed. As we know, it is only recently that the family has seen any level of justice in relation to the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It is imperative that the investigations continue, and that as we bring forward various other measures, we make sure and keep our focus on ensuring that we get to the truth about the murder of Stephen Lawrence and, obviously, the behaviour of officers in the Metropolitan police and the way in which the investigation and other matters were conducted.
The allegations are extremely serious, indeed. Notwithstanding what the Home Secretary has said about the general nature of policing, they show that there is a great need to change the culture of policing in this country. She has put a lot of faith in bringing in outside talent, but does she really think that that is enough?
Bringing in outside talent is a very important part of this process. It will bring different cultures, attitudes and experiences into the police, which will be a significant part of changing the culture. I also think that other steps we are taking—such as the code of ethics by the College of Policing, and the transfer of investigations of serious complaints against the police to the IPCC so that the police do not investigate themselves—are all part of the picture. I believe that opening up senior ranks to people from outside is an important part of bringing in a more diverse culture, experience and approach, which can only be of benefit.
May I thank the Home Secretary both for the content of her statement and for the tone of what she has said? She mentioned the fact that allegations were made to officers in the Metropolitan police about corruption during the initial investigation. Will she confirm that none of the officers to whom those allegations were made is still employed by the Metropolitan police?
The review discloses breathtaking and monumental corruption, and it will take a monumental effort to begin to repair the damage that has been caused. Among other things, the report discloses that officers in criminal trials failed to reveal their true identities, and that they failed to correct evidence that they knew to be wrong. As a result, there will doubtless have been miscarriages of justice in other cases, which it will be extremely complicated and difficult to root out, but does the Home Secretary agree that that must happen? Does she also agree that the culture of policing needs to change considerably not just in relation to this matter, but generally? Will she look at the report of the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into undercover policing, which has already taken place? Finally, may I suggest that what she said about adding an offence of police corruption is extremely important, because the current offence of misconduct in a public office is clearly insufficient?
I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming the new offence, which I, too, think is important. He is absolutely right on the issue of miscarriages of justice: it is imperative to look into it, and I am grateful to Mark Ellison for undertaking that work. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has made it clear that every effort will be made to ensure that this work can be completed properly and fully. We obviously do not yet know quite what the extent of that work will be, but with his experience of the work that he has already done, Mark Ellison is absolutely the right person to take it forward. As I have said, he will work with the CPS and report to the Attorney-General. If necessary, cases will of course be put to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Does the Home Secretary recall that when she began her programme of comprehensive police reform—it was then led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), who was in the Chamber for her statement—many people questioned the need for it? I do not think that anyone will say that today, but does she agree that we owe it to the vast majority of police officers who carry out their duties with honesty and integrity to state that we know that police corruption is limited to a few immoral individuals?
I pay tribute to the work on police reform done by my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), and which is being continued by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims. I hope that everybody sees that it was important to embark on police reform and, as I have said, we are obviously taking forward further measures, which is important not just for public confidence in the police, but because, as my hon. Friend says, we owe it to the majority of police officers who work with honesty and integrity—day in, day out—to prevent crime, catch criminals and keep us safe.
My constituency has a majority BME—black and minority ethnic—population. Policing is by consent, and it is obviously crucial that the whole community has confidence in the chain of command, the policies enacted and operational decisions made on the ground. With that in mind, does my right hon. Friend agree with me about the misuse and abuse of stop-and-search powers, which are often targeted at a particular section of the community and seem to be unfairly used?
My hon. Friend is right that certain communities are subject to stop and search disproportionately. The Government, the Prime Minister and I are clear that we need changes to stop and search to ensure that people have confidence in it. It is an important tool, but people must have confidence in its use.
I was an undercover military officer in 1978. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is absolutely right and proper that undercover operations are continued by the police, and that the men and women who are involved in those operations, who act with integrity and sometimes with great courage, should be applauded?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Undercover policing is an important tool. It is important that the police can use it. Many undercover police officers act very bravely and put themselves at great risk in the work that they do. Such work is important in catching criminals and in protecting the public. We need to ensure that all undercover officers operate with full honesty and integrity, and that there is a clear and appropriate legal and supervisory framework so that the boundaries of that activity are known. Sadly, it is clear from the Ellison review that, in relation to the SDS, there were rather fewer boundaries in that activity than there should have been.
I commend the Home Secretary for her work to root out corruption in the police. Does she agree that we must not only restore public confidence in the police force, but boost the morale of the very good officers who make up the vast majority of the police and ensure that they are seen to be doing a good job?
Absolutely. I hope that the majority of police officers, who operate with honesty and integrity day by day, will welcome our commitment to rooting out any corruption or misbehaviour within the police. We owe it to them to ensure that they see that happening and know that we value the work that they do. We want to ensure that all officers operate with honesty and integrity.