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Daniel Morgan Independent Panel Report

Volume 711: debated on Wednesday 23 March 2022

With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the publication of the report of Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services into the Metropolitan police’s counter-corruption arrangements.

In June last year, the Home Secretary came to the House to report on the findings of the Daniel Morgan independent panel. The panel’s report detailed a litany of historical failings by the Metropolitan police in respect of multiple investigations—failings that irreparably damaged the chances of a successful prosecution for Daniel Morgan’s brutal killing. My thoughts, and I am sure all Members’ thoughts, remain with Daniel’s family. I first met them over a decade ago.

As part of the Government’s response to that report, the Home Secretary commissioned the inspectorate to undertake an inspection of the Metropolitan police’s current approach to counter-corruption arrangements. I should note at the outset that the inspectorate did make some positive findings. The Metropolitan police remains an exemplar in investigating serious corruption and has good arrangements in place to support whistleblowers. It has also almost eliminated the backlog of officers awaiting security vetting, which was identified as a problem in a previous report. The inspectorate found no evidence that the force deliberately sought to frustrate the work of the Daniel Morgan independent panel, but the broad thrust and overarching conclusions of the report are troubling.

This inspection was commissioned to provide assurance for Daniel Morgan’s family and the wider public that the force had learned from failings in the past and had robust arrangements in place to prevent, identify and tackle corruption in its ranks. I am afraid that it is deeply disappointing that, in the light of the findings of this report, I cannot provide this assurance to the House. Indeed, the inspectorate felt that the Metropolitan police approach suggested

“a degree of indifference to the risk of corruption”.

This is alarming.

Corruption poses a significant threat wherever it rears its ugly head. If it is allowed to take root and wrap its tentacles around organisations and people, the potential impact is profound. This is especially true for policing—an institution that relies so heavily on public confidence and trust. The inspectorate’s report outlines a range of issues across all the systems that police forces employ to identify and manage corruption risks. This includes a failure to properly monitor recruits who could pose risks and to routinely share routine intelligence on officers.

The report paints a worrying picture of the Metropolitan police’s approach to exhibit and property management, creating opportunities for those tempted to abuse their position, and posing a risk to investigations.

The inspectorate found that there were more than 2,000 warrant cards unaccounted for. This is particularly concerning, coming as it does just over a year after a police officer abused his position to murder a young woman in a heinous crime that shocked our country to its core.

The report concludes that the Metropolitan police is not able to confirm whether officers working in the most sensitive areas of policing have the right levels of vetting. Furthermore, despite repeated recommendations and good progress made in this area in other forces across England and Wales, the force cannot proactively monitor its IT systems—a crucial tool in identifying corruption. In total, the report contains five causes of concern, two areas for improvement and 20 recommendations for change.

Yesterday, the Home Secretary wrote to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Mayor of London to set out her expectation that they respond to her with a clear action plan to remedy these failings. I welcome the deputy commissioner’s statement yesterday, recognising the need for comprehensive action. I put particular emphasis here on the responsibilities of the Mayor of London. Beyond the statutory responsibility on the Mayor to respond to the inspectorate’s report within 56 days, it is incumbent on City Hall to hold the Metropolitan police’s leadership to account for responding to past failings. This clearly has not happened here, and I urge the Mayor to work with the Home Office to ensure that a new commissioner can address these failings.

As she said in her statement to the House last year, the Home Secretary intends to update the House on the progress made in responding to the wide range of issues raised in the Daniel Morgan independent panel report. The Met Police published their response last Friday to the recommendations directed at them and, now that we have the inspectorate’s report, we expect to provide our overarching update soon.

Finally, I remind the House that the Home Secretary has also commissioned HMICFRS to undertake a wider inspection of vetting, counter-corruption and forces’ approach to identifying and tackling misogyny in their ranks. That is looking across England and Wales and will provide a crucial evidence base for part 2 of the Angiolini inquiry and inform any broader policy or legislative changes that might be required.

The report comes at a time when the Metropolitan Police are under intense scrutiny. I have found myself at the Dispatch Box discussing the force’s culture and standards all too frequently in recent months. As someone who over the years has worked alongside the Met and seen at first hand the incredible things that they are capable of achieving, I know there are thousands of officers, staff and volunteers across the organisation who perform their duties with skill, professionalism and pride every day. However, when things go wrong, it is vital to acknowledge that fact and take every necessary step to ensure that the failings of the past are not repeated. I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement—three hours’ advance sight, which is very good.

Yesterday, some of us gathered on Westminster Bridge to remember the Westminster Bridge attack five years ago. We remembered how our police ran into danger to protect us, and we remembered PC Keith Palmer, who lost his life. It is with great sadness that we go from a day commemorating the very best of policing to discussing a report which, I am afraid, contains some very significant criticisms of the Metropolitan Police.

It is now 35 years since Daniel Morgan was murdered in a pub car park in south London—35 years for his family to wait for justice. I pay tribute to them, as the Minister has done. Daniel Morgan’s son lives in my constituency, and I know this report will be deeply upsetting for him and his family. The report lays bare issues of real concern. It is highly critical and tells a damning story of police corruption, of lessons not learned and of flawed procedures. The inspector noted with dismay that no one,

“had adopted the view that this must never happen again”.

The Met must accept all the recommendations included in the report and implement them in full with all possible speed.

As the Minister rightly noted, there was praise too in this report. For example, it was clear that the Met’s homicide investigation arrangements bear little resemblance to those of 35 years ago. The force solves the vast majority of homicides it investigates, as I can testify to in my own patch in Croydon.

Londoners need and deserve a police service they can not only trust, but be proud of. Whether on racism, homophobia, violence against women or corruption, we need to see the urgent reforms that will make that a reality. The outgoing commissioner must begin the process of implementation, but it must be a top priority for the new commissioner, who will carry forward the work.

However, the issues raised have national consequences. The Home Office must not stand back. Real leadership is needed. The Home Secretary and her Department must commit to engaging seriously with the issue of police reform, to avoid repeating such a scandal and to avoid a lifetime of pain and hurt for families like Daniel Morgan’s.

Labour has called for an overhaul of police standards, including reviews of vetting, training, misconduct proceedings and use of social media. It is vital that the Minister takes steps to identify whether the problems highlighted in the report are systemic in other forces across the country. The report shows that 50 people a year who had committed offences were recruited to the Met, including some who had connections to known criminals.

Given the seriousness of that finding, has the Minister asked all forces urgently to inform the Home Office of the number of new recruits every year who have committed offences? If he has, will he publish that data now? If he has not, why on earth has he not? We know that 2,000 warrant cards are unaccounted for. Has he asked all forces to inform the Home Office immediately how many of their warrant cards are unaccounted for? If he has, will he agree to publish that data?

In addition, the report notes that the Met does not know whether all those in sensitive posts have been cleared to the level needed. Is the Minister checking that nationally? The report also notes serious concerns about the storage and security of firearms in the Met. That is very worrying. Will the Minister commit to looking into that nationally?

We have a Home Office inquiry into culture and standards in the Met, which the Home Office has refused to put on a statutory footing. How can the Minister be sure that the Angiolini inquiry will not fall foul of the same stumbling blocks encountered by the Daniel Morgan inquiry and mentioned in this report?

The original Daniel Morgan inquiry recommended a statutory duty of candour for police officers, but the Government opposed Labour’s amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to achieve that. Given the challenges faced to get information during the inquiry that we see in the report, will the Government change their mind and back our proposal?

The Home Secretary has promised a review of vetting standards, but the terms of reference have only recently been published and we do not know when the review will report. What is the Home Office doing in the meantime to ensure that vetting across the country is being carried out to the highest and most rigorous standards?

The Minister highlighted the role of the Mayor of London. The report clearly states that the joint MPS and Crown Prosecution Service review of the Daniel Morgan case in 2011-12 identified opportunities for organisational learning, but it is clear that the MPS paid little, if any, attention to the joint report when it was published. Why did the previous Mayor of London totally fail to ensure that action was taken after that 2012 report?

Finally, the Minister has said he will provide an overarching update in response to both this report and the recommendations in the panel report. That is welcome, but can he give us a concrete timeline for it?

I end by saying that the role of the HMICFRS was not to reinvestigate the murder, but to consider the lessons to be learned from what has happened. The family of Daniel have not seen justice done for his murder, and it is with them that our thoughts must remain.

The various points that the hon. Lady raised in the first half of her remarks will be addressed by Her Majesty’s inspectorate as it looks at vetting procedures across the whole country. The purpose of the investigation commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was to show the leadership that she is looking for and to expose what we now know to be the systematic failings of the organisation and its failure to address the problems of the report over recent years. We will know more on the questions that the hon. Lady rightly asks about the worrying issues raised by this report when HMI concludes its national inspection, which I hope will be shortly.

On the hon. Lady’s point about the duty of candour, as I explained during the debate on the consideration of Lords amendments to the Policing Bill, we changed the regulations to make it a disciplinary offence, subject to dismissal, not to co-operate with an investigation, which we believe is a stronger sanction. The inspection report said that the Metropolitan Police had co-operated with the independent panel.

I am disappointed at the hon. Lady’s lack of attention to the oversight mechanism of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. Over the past five years, the Mayor of London has been in control of an entire organisation whose job it is to hold the Metropolitan Police to account and to drive standards up. Certainly, in the four years between 2008 and 2012, when I was Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, that was exactly what we tried to do. We initiated a race and faith inquiry that looked more widely at culture across the whole of the Met Police to try to drive improvement.

I would hope that the Mayor—[Interruption.] Madam Deputy Speaker, is there any chance you could ask the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) to stop barracking from a sedentary position? This is a very serious matter that must be addressed and taken seriously by all levels of Government, and that includes the Mayor of London. Given that that is the entire purpose of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, I am afraid I am not willing to ignore the fact that the holding of the organisation to account is primarily the function of City Hall.

We at the Home Office have our part to play in setting national standards, and we will absolutely do that, whether that is reviewing with the College of Policing the professional practice around vetting, as we are doing, or changing the regulations if we need to do so. In the immediate short term, however, the statutory obligation to respond lies with the Mayor of London and I hope he will fulfil his obligations within the 56 days set in law by this House.

As the son of a retired police officer, I know the incredible work that the majority of police do to fight crime and keep us safe. When officers breach the high standards expected of them, it fundamentally undermines the trust that their work relies on. Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning the behaviour revealed in this report, and send a clear message that this kind of behaviour cannot be tolerated in any police force anywhere in the country?

I applaud my hon. Friend’s sentiment. As someone who, like me, has an intimate knowledge of policing, I am sure he will acknowledge that there will be thousands of police officers up and down the land who are as disappointed and distressed by the revelations today as we are. They want to work in a profession—a vocation—of which they can be proud and which they know is trusted by the public. Making sure that this kind of corruption and behaviour is rooted out will be as much a part of their motivation as it is ours.

I was six years old when Daniel Morgan was murdered in my constituency just round the corner from where I lived. His brutal murder shocked our community, and it was made worse by the fact that no one was convicted and that last year’s inquiry cited institutional corruption in the Met. Daniel’s family have campaigned for justice for 35 years. No other family should ever have to go through this, yet yesterday’s damning report found that not nearly enough has been done to ensure that it does not happen again. Will the Minister personally ensure that the next Met commissioner cleans up this failing force?

I will certainly do my best to make sure that that is the case. As I say, the Home Secretary has written to the Mayor of London and the current commissioner asking for an assertive action plan to bring about these changes. I am sure the hon. Lady will have noted that HMI has put a limit of 12 months on the 20 improvements and changes that it needs to see, and it will require really assertive action by the Met police to get all that work done within that 12-month period. Many people in this House will have had involvement or contact with the Morgan family. I myself was privileged to meet his mother on a number of occasions when I was deputy Mayor for policing, and indeed, along with other Members across the House, I pressed for the original inquiry. Given our commitment to their campaign and the incredible dedication they have shown, we now have a duty to do exactly as the hon. Lady says and make sure it does not happen again.

As the Minister himself has said, the regularity with which he has had to come to the Dispatch Box to answer questions about the culture, standards and misjudgments of the Metropolitan police is alarming. Yesterday’s shocking report is just the latest in a long list of recent failings. Thousands of dedicated rank and file police officers work very hard and put themselves at risk every day to protect us. They, and millions of Londoners, deserve leadership in the Met that they can trust and have confidence in, not leaders who have “indifference” to the risks of corruption. Will the Minister confirm today that the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner appointment will not just be made by the Home Office and a Prime Minister who is himself under criminal investigation but will secure the approval of the Mayor of London and be subject to a cross-party vote of the Home Affairs Committee and the London Assembly’s police and crime committee?

The process and appointment of the Met commissioner are established in law, and we cannot obviate that, but we are all, I hope, committed to making sure that the person we appoint will bring about the changes that we are all seeking as well as continue the fight against crime in the capital. In the meantime, as the current commissioner exits, I believe that in the proposed acting commissioner and current deputy commissioner we have an individual of integrity and commitment who has already made very welcome public statements about driving forward change.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing convention to be waived so that I can speak from the Back Benches on this matter. Alastair Morgan, Daniel’s brother, has been campaigning for some justice for his brother for 35 years and I have stood alongside him for the past 17. The Minister referred to the “original report”. It was not the original report. There have been many, many inquiries. There have been inquiries into inquiries. This has been going on for years and years, with corruption layered upon corruption and nobody ever telling the truth. It is no wonder, in those circumstances, that Alastair has said that the Metropolitan police

“cared more about its own tatty reputation than solving my brother’s murder.”

Now what do we see? We see an official report that states that it has

“found no evidence that someone, somewhere, had adopted the view that this must never happen again.”

Nobody even cares if it happens again. What is the Minister going to do about that? What are we going to do about the Met?

I congratulate the right hon. Lady on her commitment to the family campaign as well. As I explained, we have written to the Mayor and the commissioner demanding a plan of action and that they respond, as they have to in law, to the inspectorate with exactly that—an assertive, committed plan for change. Certainly the public statements that I have seen from the deputy commissioner indicate his personal commitment. Pleasingly, he made a particular point of saying that the police have not given up on the investigation and their attempt to try to catch Daniel’s killers. I hope that we will see a conclusion to that investigation as soon as possible.

The Daniel Morgan case is one of those that I am most familiar with as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on miscarriages of justice. If it were not for a Welsh solicitor called Glyn Maddocks, who has tirelessly followed this and never given up on it, we would not be where we are today. I pay tribute to him, his work, and the support he has given to the miscarriages of justice group. This is a very important occasion. I am a little sad that the Minister has made it a bit party political in blaming the Mayor. The fact is that we are faced with a tremendous crisis in the Met and in any police force where the relationship between the police breaks down and becomes sloppy, and we see—I did the research on this and I was astonished by it—the close links between senior Met police and organised crime. Surely that was wrong and it has to be sorted out.

I also pay tribute, as the hon. Gentleman has, to the entire team that have supported the family. I met them when I was deputy Mayor for policing. I have to confess that when I heard the story I was open-mouthed at what was revealed, hence the strong support I gave to the then Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), for an inquiry. Admittedly, as the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) said, it is not the first, but hopefully it will bring us to some kind of conclusion on this matter. I was not seeking to make a party political point, merely to point out that there is a direct responsibility at City Hall—one that I took when I was doing the job—to drive forward the conclusion to this matter not only to reach some kind of closure for the family, but to ensure significant change in the organisation that will mean that this can never happen again.

We are back here again discussing the police. Some of the issues in this report about the vetting of police officers and the fact that some had links to known criminals will be quite shocking for a number of my constituents, who continue to be stopped and searched. Some of those constituents are on the gangs matrix, which had such a massive impact on their life in terms of finding jobs, access to benefits, and ability to rent. The Minister will know that in 2019 a freedom of information request revealed that a person as young as 13 was on the gangs matrix. How will he help to restore confidence in our communities who want to work with the police in addressing some of the issues, when we have known criminals involved, people not being vetted properly and some of my young people continuing to be on the gangs matrix?

The solution to the problem of building trust between London’s various communities and the police is complex, but there are a variety of tools that we can deploy. First, we can make sure that the force better reflects the population of London. I am pleased that we are working closely with City Hall and the Met on their recruitment and diversity agenda, which is an important one that has been ongoing for some time. At the same time, we need to make sure that we are recruiting the right people, and this investigation has unearthed problems in our doing that. We need to make sure that the vetting net is as tight as possible so that we are getting in the right people with the right values who are able to deal with the hon. Lady’s constituents and others with integrity and respect to achieve the end we want to achieve, which is lower crime in the capital. That does require, as she says, that people know that when they meet a police officer in the street, or they are dealt with even under stop and search, they are dealing with somebody who has been through a rigorous process. Over the next 12 months we will monitor this closely and work with City Hall to make sure that that is exactly what it introduces.

We have to rely on an efficient and effective police service that has the trust of all its communities, and we know from recent reports that the Met in particular has taken an absolute battering. Over the past decade, we lost 20,000 police. In the past couple of years, there has been a rapid ramping up to get back those police numbers and to deal with the issue of natural wastage. This is an incredible pressure on recruitment and vetting. What assessment has the Minister made of the capacity—not only within the Met, but nationwide—to ensure that speed of recruitment is not leading to the inclusion of people who have no right to be on the streets of our capital, policing it?

The hon. Lady is right that the rapid recruitment has put strains on the system, but we have been monitoring it very closely to ensure that the system is able to cope, and I believe that it is. I know she is not suggesting that the vast majority of recruits are not right-thinking and correct in their values, and I hope and believe that is the case. One of the improvements that the inspectorate did note that the Metropolitan police has achieved over the past couple of years is an elimination almost of the vetting backlog, which just three or four years ago stood at something like 37,000, astonishingly.[Official Report, 29 March 2022, Vol. 711, c. 3MC.] That has now been almost eliminated. That is a silver lining to the cloud of this report. As far as vetting is concerned, we have debated that just recently in the House. There are improvements that need to be made, not least on the monitoring of social media, which has just started in the Metropolitan police. It is an area to which we need to pay constant attention if we are to build that trust with London’s communities.

This review today is rightly about what the Metropolitan police is doing now, but it has resulted from the Daniel Morgan report, and there are still outstanding issues arising from that report, as referred to by the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), who is no longer in her place. Indeed, my constituent, a former serving police officer, approached me for support because he had a complaint in relation to his treatment by the Metropolitan police while he was involved in the Morgan inquiry, and he has had no satisfactory outcome. He has now approached the IOPC. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how we can get some degree of finding for my constituent?

I am hesitant to intervene in an independent process. Given the hon. Lady’s experience in policing, she will know that. If she thinks a meeting with me and her constituent would be useful once the IOPC has concluded, I would be more than happy to do so.

It has been a torrid time for the Met, but I am not so concerned about the Met; I am concerned about constituents of mine and those of us all who worry about policing. We had the report just last week about child Q. People in my constituency and elsewhere, and particularly black parents, black pupils and parents of black pupils, are worried about what the impact is on them. I know that the response has to be done in 12 months, and I worry that that will divert the Met to dealing with corruption, which obviously has to be dealt with. Can the Minister give some comfort from the Dispatch Box today that the issues of racism and inappropriate action against child Q will be dealt with much quicker than waiting for an IOPC report? Action needs to happen quicker. Tackling corruption has to happen, but not just that.

As I said in the urgent question on child Q, I am hopeful that the IOPC will conclude its investigation on that matter shortly, and then we can quickly learn the lessons from that, exactly as the hon. Lady says, and hopefully ensure that that does not happen again. Just to be clear on the timeline, the Mayor has a statutory duty to respond to this inspection within 56 days with an action plan. The IOPC has put a 12-month time limit on implementing its 20 recommendations for change. Some may be done quicker than that, and some have already started. For example, my understanding is that inexplicably, the Met police is the only force in the country that does not have the software in place to monitor the inappropriate use of its systems. The work to implement that has started already, and I hope that will done before 12 months. Such is the importance of this issue, I am happy to commit to coming back to the House at some future point, when completion is in sight or done on all these 20 matters, and report that to the Members who are concerned.

A corrupt network of police officers, including senior officers, and journalists, including their senior management, private investigators and senior management at News International were all involved in the cover-up here. It is one of the biggest instances of corruption and one of the most painful ones we have witnessed in many years. Is it not time that we introduced into statute law a new offence of misconduct in public office? It is a common-law offence that is difficult to prosecute and to lay out the parameters of. We should put it in statute so that those who commit it and those who incite others to do it can be sent to prison.

I cannot comment on the hon. Gentleman’s claims, not least because happily, as the deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner has confirmed, this is an ongoing investigation. They have not given up, and they should not give up. However, I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman is making in general. While a number of offences could be committed in a similar hypothetical situation, such as conspiracy, it may be the case that he has a point that we need to consider.

We have yet another report raising serious concerns about the Met, but also a number of questions that are applicable to all police forces in the country, as my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones) said. One issue that has been raised with me by a senior officer, and that applies nationally, is that officers who are found guilty of gross misconduct are often not only reinstated, but sometimes promoted. What is the Minister doing with the Met, police forces around the country and the complaints system to address this issue?

I am sure the hon. Lady understands that where the office of constable is concerned, matters of discipline, dismissal or other punishments are effectively an independent process. The punishment is decided by panels that have independent legally qualified chairs. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the various decisions she has talked about. Having said that, we constantly pay attention to how the disciplinary process is impacting on the integrity of UK policing. If adjustments are required, as they were two years ago, we make them.

Daniel Morgan was murdered 35 years ago, and this whole inquiry has been consistently bedevilled by police corruption. I do not think this report gets us to the bottom of the issue. We have to go much, much further. The report tells us that there has been a loose association with confidentiality and security for evidence, and that has been consistent over all these years that we have been trying to get to the bottom of this case. The Minister now has to accept that we have to have a root and branch inquiry. He has admitted himself that he has had to come to this Dispatch Box too many times to apologise for the Metropolitan police. This single investigation will not get to the bottom of it; we need something much more fundamental, such as an independent inquiry.

As I say, HMI is looking at these issues more widely across the whole of UK policing, and we will learn some lessons from that report. But we should not forget that the Commissioner of the Met herself has commissioned Dame Louise Casey to look at the internal culture of the Met, and that will give us some indications of where we should go next, if at all. Beyond that, similarly, stage 2 of the Angiolini review, which will look at this issue more widely, will be able to give us some information as to where we should go next, if at all.

This is a building picture. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this is a very distressing, alarming and scandalous story that has run for far too many years. We have a duty in this House to try to get to the bottom of what happened and to make changes to ensure that it does not happen again, but that will not be a silver-bullet revelation; it will be a building picture, and this report is part of that. The report informs our work for now, and we will look to the future to see where we go next.

I thank the Minister for his statement. While an apology is, I am sure, welcomed by the family, perhaps what would be more welcome is steps being taken to prevent this from happening again. Does he accept that there is a duty of care, and will he undertake to implement the necessary changes, which the report highlights in great detail, to ensure that the Met police continues to be a premium police service that is respected globally, as it has been for many years?

The hon. Gentleman asks his question very eloquently, and I completely agree with him. My primary concern in this affair is to get justice for the family of Daniel Morgan, who have campaigned for many years on this issue—a truly scandalous story that has involved many of us on both sides of the House. My second concern is to ensure that the Metropolitan police is fit to serve Londoners and that they can have trust in it. As somebody who, I must confess, has great affection for the Met, having worked for it in the past and seen the incredible things of which it is capable, I say to the officers of the Metropolitan police who want to know that they are working for exactly the organisation that the hon. Gentleman describes—one that is deeply respected across the world, not just for its ability to catch every murderer or to stop knife crime in London or to put more rapists behind bars, but for its internal conduct and culture of ethics and integrity—that that is what we have to be about.