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Police: Metropolitan Police Commissioner

Volume 696: debated on Monday 26 November 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

When they expect to meet the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to discuss security policing procedures in London.

My Lords, my right honourable friends the Home Secretary and the Minister of State for Policing, Security and Counterterrorism meet the commissioner regularly to discuss the policing of London.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Despite the rather squalid vote in the Metropolitan Police Authority last week, does he not accept that this particular self-serving commissioner can no longer honourably stay in office? Is he not undermining an already demoralised, overstressed and hard-working Metropolitan Police force with this act of defiance? Does the Minister not agree that if a civilian, for example, had done to a police officer what the police tragically did to Jean Charles de Menezes, a long prison sentence could well have ensued? How can there be one law for the police and one law for the general public?

My Lords, the death of Jean Charles de Menezes was a profoundly shocking tragedy and I know that the de Menezes family have our deepest sympathy, but the commissioner and the Metropolitan Police remain in the forefront of the fight against crime and terrorism. They have my full confidence and that of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, and our thanks for and support in the very difficult job that they do. As the noble Lord said, the Metropolitan Police Authority passed a vote of confidence in the commissioner last Thursday.

My Lords, as we are discussing counterterrorism, does the noble Lord agree with the remarks quoted in today's paper of Peter Clark, the head of the Met’s counterterrorism unit, when he said:

“We are asking Parliament to legislate on a precautionary basis. But if you ask me, as Parliament has done, to say that there are cases where we have run out of time and subsequently had to revisit it—well, we haven't had that yet. We have managed to operate—just—within the timeframe available”?

Does the noble Lord agree with that—or did he agree with it some days ago?

My Lords, we have embarked on a period of ongoing consultation that I think is most unusual and quite extraordinary on the proposals for the Counter-Terrorism Bill. I have no doubt whatsoever, if we look at trend analysis, that there will be cases—there may well be cases in train at the moment—that may require more than 28 days. A lot of consultation is under way on exactly how to move forward, but our prime aim has to be the safety of the people of these islands. They have a human right, which is the right to live their lives fully without danger of being killed.

My Lords, does the Minister believe and accept that public servants, who have no method of replying, should be constantly told how dreadfully they have behaved? Is this not happening increasingly more than it should in this House?

As I said, my Lords, the Metropolitan Police Authority has looked at this issue. The authorities that are set up for this sort of thing are the ones that should look at public servants. I do get worried when one finds that there is a trial by media or a trial in some other way.

My Lords, there was no trial by media; there was a trial at the Old Bailey under health and safety legislation which the Metropolitan Police Commissioner chose to contest. The jury found the Metropolitan Police guilty as an organisation for which the commissioner is responsible. How can the Minister retain confidence in the commissioner in those circumstances?

My Lords, as I have already said, the Metropolitan Police Authority looked to see what the situation was, and it found the commissioner not culpable of any of those issues. I therefore believe that this should not be discussed outside the normal fora in which to do this.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the commissioner informed me that, on the last Sunday in October, all divisions of the Metropolitan Police are advised to increase their vigilance because of the increase in street crime due to the darker evenings? Therefore, will the Minister at least consider this factor when looking at police procedures in the metropolis?

My Lords, I am sure that the Metropolitan Police service looks at this issue in great detail. I understand that it has a large folder with which it works on this issue.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the main reason why public officials, whether civil servants or Ministers, resign when things go wrong is not necessarily because they are to blame but to give their successors greater authority to run the show well?

My Lords, I reiterate that the commissioner and the Metropolitan Police service, with our security services, are at the forefront of our fight against terrorism, and that he still has our full confidence.

My Lords, was it appropriate for the commissioner to resist the IPCC inquiry into the Stockwell incident?

My Lords, in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the answer is no. In response to a letter from Sir Ian Blair—I think it was dated 22 July, but I shall write to the noble Earl if that is the wrong date—the then Permanent Secretary, Sir John Gieve, made it clear that the relevant legal provisions of the Police Reform Act 2002 applied, meaning that the investigation could not be suspended and had to go ahead. That is what happened.