May I start by expressing my condolences to the family of Zara Aleena? We were all shocked by her horrific killing in the past few days, and our thoughts and prayers are with her loved ones.
With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the Metropolitan Police Service, following the decision yesterday of Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services to place the service in the “engage” process, which has been described as a form of special measures.
The public put their trust in the police and have every right to expect the country’s largest force to protect them effectively and carry out their duties to the very highest professional standards. The public expect the police to get the basics right. Although very many Metropolitan police officers do exactly that, it is clear that the service is falling short of these expectations and that public confidence has been severely undermined.
The Government support the action that the inspectorate has taken to escalate the force into special measures and address where it is falling short. The public also elected a Mayor to bring governance and accountability in their name, and I now expect the Mayor of London, as the police and crime commissioner, to act swiftly to ensure that he and the force deliver improvements, win back public trust and make London’s streets safer. We expect him to provide an urgent update explaining how he plans to fix this as soon as possible.
Now is not the time for the Mayor to distance himself from the Met. He must lean in and share responsibility for a failure of governance and the work needed to put it right. Over the past three years, this Government have overseen the largest funding boost for policing in a decade, and we are well on the way to recruiting an extra 20,000 police officers nationally, with 2,599 already recruited by the Metropolitan police, giving them the highest ever number of officers.
By contrast, as many Londoners will attest, the Mayor has been asleep at the wheel and is letting the city down. Teenage homicides in London were the highest that they have ever been in the past year, and 23% of all knife crime takes place in London, despite its having only 15% of the UK population. The Mayor must acknowledge that he has profound questions to answer. He cannot be passive and continue as he has. He must get a grip.
There are many areas of remarkable expertise and performance in the Met, and, in many areas, the Met is understandably the best in the world. However, there have been persistent Met failures on child protection, and, earlier this year, following the catalogue of errors found by the independent panel, which looked at the investigations into the murder of Daniel Morgan, the inspectorate issued a damning report on the Met’s approach to tackling corruption. There have been exchanges of extremely offensive messages between officers, and, of course, we had the truly devastating murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer.
It is reported that the inspectorate has raised a number of further concerns in its recent letter to the Metropolitan police. It makes for sorry reading, I am afraid. The inspectorate reportedly finds that the force is falling short of national standards for the handling of emergency and non-emergency calls, and that there are too many instances of failure to assess vulnerability and repeated victimisation. An estimated 69,000 crimes go unrecorded each year, less than half of crimes are recorded within 24 hours and almost no crimes are recorded when victims report antisocial behaviour against them. The inspectorate has also found that victims are not getting enough information or support.
Other concerns are thought to include disjointed public protection governance arrangements; insufficient capacity to meet demand in several functions, including high-risk ones such as public protection; and a persistently large backlog of online child abuse referrals. The inspectorate also highlights an insufficient understanding of the force’s training requirements, and the list is not exhaustive. This has all undermined public confidence in the Metropolitan Police Service, and we have not heard enough from the Mayor about what he plans to do about it. Blaming everyone else will just not do this time. [Interruption.] I am glad that hon. Members find this amusing, but I am afraid this is not funny.
As I have already said, it is vital that policing gets the basics right and that there is proper accountability for those in charge. Every victim of crime deserves to be treated with dignity, and every investigation and prosecution must be conducted thoroughly and professionally, in line with the victims code. Recent reports of strip searches being used on children are deeply concerning and need to be addressed comprehensively. We have a cherished model of policing by consent. The police force is a service—a public service—and the public must have confidence in it. Plainly, things have to change.
The Government are working closely with the policing system as a whole to rewire police culture, integrity, and performance. Last October, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced an independent inquiry to investigate the issues raised by the conviction of Wayne Couzens for the murder of Sarah Everard. In the same month, the Metropolitan police commissioned Baroness Casey of Blackstock to lead an independent and far-reaching review into its culture and standards. We also welcome the College of Policing’s new national leadership standards, which are aimed at ensuring continuous professional development. Policing is a very difficult job and demands the highest possible training standards.
The process to recruit a new Metropolitan Police Commissioner is well under way and the Government have made it crystal clear that the successful candidate must deliver major and sustained improvements. The whole country, not just London, needs to know that our biggest police force is getting its act together. The Mayor of London, supported by his deputy mayor for policing and crime—a role that I once had the privilege to hold—is directly responsible for holding the commissioner and the Metropolitan police to account. Notwithstanding what Opposition Members think, the Mayor needs to raise his game. He has an awesome responsibility which he has hitherto neglected, in my view.
This is not an insurmountable problem, but it is extremely serious. Trust has not been shattered beyond repair, but it is badly broken and needs strong leadership to fix it. Through the police performance and oversight group, the Government look forward to seeing the Metropolitan police engage with the inspectorate and produce a comprehensive action plan to sort this out, and be held to account by City Hall.
The national system for holding forces to account and monitoring force performance is working well. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and every public service must be held to account. I am grateful to the inspectorate for its work. It now falls to the Metropolitan police and to the Mayor of London to make things right. Given my admiration of so many who work in the Met, it is with some personal sadness that I commend this statement to the House.
May I add my condolences to the family of Zara Aleena after her horrific murder?
I am deeply disappointed with the Minister, who shared with us a statement that included none of the political attacks on the Mayor of London that we have just heard. The statement that we were sent was much shorter, and it contained not a single political attack on the Mayor of London. That is very bad form, as I am sure you would agree, Madam Deputy Speaker, and it is not how things should be done.
Order. I interrupt the hon. Lady to say that this is unusual. I also have a slightly different statement. It is expected that the Opposition have the statement that is actually given. I say this as a reminder for future reference.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Many of us will have heard this morning and last night the dignified and gracious interviews with Mina Smallman following the announcement that Her Majesty's inspectorate is moving the Metropolitan police into what is called an “engage” phase. The way that the disappearance and then the deaths of Mina’s daughters were investigated, and the fact that altered images of their bodies were shared widely by some officers, have come to epitomise the problems within the Met that we, the Mayor of London and London residents have been so concerned about for some time.
We know that tens of thousands of people work in the Met and, of course, we know that so many have that sense of public duty that reflects the incredibly important job that they do. They have been let down by poor leadership, lack of resources and an acceptance of poor behaviour. It is for them, as well as for victims and the wider public, that we seek to drive forward improvements.
The announcement yesterday comes after a long list of serious conduct failures from the Metropolitan police: the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer, the conduct of officers following the murder of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, the strip-searching of children such as Child Q, the conduct unveiled in the report of the Independent Office for Police Conduct into the Charing Cross police station and the
“seemingly incomprehensible failures to recognise and treat appropriately a series of suspicious deaths in the Stephen Port case”.
The list of failings from the inspectorate makes for grim reading and goes way beyond those more high-profile cases: it includes performance falling far short of national standards, a barely adequate standard of crime recording and the quality of basic supervision to officers. All that has undermined public trust, and we all have a role to play in building that trust back up. As the Mayor of London has said, a first and crucial step for the new commissioner will be to start rebuilding trust and credibility in our communities.
The Minister’s announcement about what needs to be done is incredibly weak. He talks about support for victims, but where is the victims’ law that the Government have been promising for years? We know there is a massive increase across the country in the number of cases collapsing because victims drop out—on his watch. He talks about reform to comprehensively address the strip searches on children, but he has totally failed to bring forward the new guidance on strip searches that we have been calling for for months. He talks about reforming culture, but he only refers to two long-term inquiries that may not provide answers, even though we know that action is needed now.
The Minister is right that the system for holding forces to account has worked in this case, but we need change to follow. We need a national overhaul of police training and standards. There is much to be done on leadership. We need a new vetting system. We need to overhaul misconduct cases, with time limits on cases. We need new rules on social media use. We need robust structures for internal reporting to be made and taken seriously, and we need new expected standards on support for victims, investigation of crimes, and internal culture and management. That is for the Home Office to lead.
The Met cut its police constable to sergeant supervision ratio after the Conservatives cut policing, and after the Olympics—when the Minister was deputy mayor—it was cut more than any other force. A police sergeant said this morning:
“I do not have a single officer that I supervise that has over 3 years’ service, so not a single officer that policed pre Covid.”
Does the Minister now accept that, no matter how much he promises in terms of new, young and inexperienced officers right now, the Met and forces across the country are still suffering from the loss of 20,000 experienced officers that his Government cut?
Policing should be an example to the rest of society, and supporting our police means holding officers and forces to the highest possible standards. The concerns today are about the Met, but we know there are problems in other forces, too. Can the Minister confirm how many other forces are in this “engage” phase, and which forces they are? Can he outline what the steps the Home Office is taking now to drive up standards in the police across the country?
The British style of policing depends on public trust. The public deserve a police service that they not only trust, but can be proud of. Victims need an efficient and effective force to get them justice. Our officers deserve to work in a climate without bullying, toxic cultures. We need to see urgent reforms. The Government can no longer leave our police facing a perfect storm of challenges and fail to lead that change.
Madam Deputy Speaker, it is the case that I made amendments to the statement, and I apologise that they were made at the last minute. The reason is that I held the job of deputy mayor for policing myself for four years and I feel very strongly about this issue. I apologise to you. I feel very strongly because, had I been in the position that the Mayor and the deputy mayor are in—I must tell Sarah Jones—I would have considered my position, after six years in control of the force.
I am disappointed in the hon. Member for Croydon Central. We have just heard a huge attempt at deflection, trying to move what is an incredibly serious issue for her constituents, as a London Member of Parliament, away from the local accountability structures that have obviously failed in these circumstances towards a national fog of issues that policing faces, in an attempt to absolve the Mayor of London of his share of responsibility for dealing with the issue.
I am not quite sure what the hon. Lady thinks the 145 members of staff in the Mayor’s office for policing and crime are for, if not for holding the Metropolitan Police to account and trying to identify these kinds of issues before they arise. It is disappointing that this decision seems to have come as a surprise to the Mayor’s office for policing and crime and, indeed, to the Mayor. I do not think the hon. Lady mentioned the Mayor once in her statement; I am sorry that she does not recognise that the primary accountability structure and primary responsibility for the integrity and trust that the people of London have in the Metropolitan Police is the Mayor of London.
Whatever one’s view, I do not think that there are many people in London—I speak not just as the Minister for Crime and Policing but as a part-time Londoner myself, given that I spend half my week in the capital—who do not believe that the Mayor of London has failed on crime in the capital and that he has been far too passive in his approach. I have done my best to step in to that void, and we have pushed the force hard on issues such as serious violence, murder and county lines, where we have offered significant funding. We have put more money into the Met so that, over the past three years, it has built the number of police officers up to the highest level the force has ever had in its history. The past three years have seen extremely good and generous financial settlements. There is no excuse beyond a profound failure of accountability.
Whatever one might think about the rights and wrongs—hon. Members can call it a political attack if they wish—the truth is that the Mayor must lean in. He is elected primarily to do that job; if he is unwilling to do it, that calls into question whether he should have the job at all.
The Government introduced the role of police and crime commissioners to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. PCCs are responsible for the totality of policing and should aim to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service within their force area. That is simply not happening in London. This is Sadiq Khan’s second term of office. He has said that he has long known of the problems with the Met, so what has he done about them? He has undertaken one tangible action: to bully the police commissioner into resigning. That left a vacuum of leadership and we are still without a commissioner in London. The decision to place the MPS in special measures is his responsibility and he has failed to protect the public. Will the Minister consider removing responsibility for policing from the Mayor of London and introducing an intervention team to deliver on the first role of elected representatives to keep the public safe?
My hon. Friend reflects in his remarks the seriousness of the situation. He is right to point to the failings of governance. I was the first deputy mayor for policing and effectively the first police and crime commissioner in London. The whole idea was that we should be the voice of those people who elect us and share accountability with the force we govern, and, as he said, that we should focus on cutting crime. Obviously, the removal of responsibility would need primary legislation, but I hope the Mayor will now focus on the task in hand, which is to produce an action plan to sort this situation out and step into his responsibilities in a way I feel he has failed to do thus far.
The catalogue of failings at the Met is rightly a serious concern for the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London. The Home Secretary has said that the Met is just not getting the basics right, but sadly the Home Office is not getting the basics right either. When acting commissioner Sir Stephen House gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee in April, he said it was not just a case of “a few bad apples”, but a systemic problem that the Met needed to deal with. As the Met accounts for 25% of policing and has not only responsibility for London, our capital city, but national responsibilities and even international responsibilities, for example around the investigation of war crimes, what consideration has the Minister given not only to issues of performance, leadership and culture, but to whether there should be a review of the responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police?
I am grateful to the Chair of the Select Committee for her question. As she will know, we are in the middle of an inquiry by Dame Elish Angiolini into the first stage of the employment of Wayne Couzens and then more widely into the culture of the Met. Once we have seen that and digested the urgent work required to correct the situations we see presented in this report, we will have to consider what if any further measures may need to be taken to ensure that, as the right hon. Lady says, not only national but international confidence in the Metropolitan Police as our lead force is maintained.
I pay tribute to the thousands of police officers who do a great job in providing service to Londoners, but they need robust and focused leadership, and I think it is clear that we are still in need of that. We are now on our third commissioner in six years, soon to be fourth, but we have had the same Mayor of London and the same deputy mayor for the past six years. Does my right hon. Friend think that there should be more political accountability and that perhaps one of those two characters should think about their role moving forward?
The creation of police and crime commissioners was designed to provide a focused point of accountability for the electorate. They replaced police authorities, which were opaque organisations in which no one person could be held responsible at the ballot box. As I said, if I had been in that job—I had the privilege of holding the post of deputy mayor for policing for four years—and I had had it for six years when this situation occurred, I would consider my position.
The Minister will be aware of the seriousness of the issues set out in the inspectorate’s report. He should also be aware that Londoners do not want to see us in this Chamber passing responsibility between ourselves like some grim game of pass the parcel. Nothing in the inspectorate’s report will come as a surprise to London MPs because, in one way or another, they have dealt with these types of issues, which have affected our constituents. The Minister can try to lay blame where he wishes, but he has not dealt, as all of us have dealt, with people whose lives have been ruined and whose children have been targeted. He has not dealt with those people; otherwise he could not be playing politics with this issue. There is no question but that the Met needs reform, and no doubt that this situation did not come about in a month or two. Will he confirm that the two short-listed candidates for commissioner are Nick Ephgrave and Mark Rowley, and does he accept that it is unlikely that the Met can be reformed by men who have spent almost their entire careers in it? Does he accept that many of us think that the selection process for the commissioner needs to be reopened?
Let me be clear: I am not playing politics; I am telling the truth, and every Londoner knows it. When the Prime Minister and I were at City Hall, we stepped forward and took responsibility for what was happening in London on our watch. We fought crime. We sat with the parents of murdered children and took blame and responsibility for it in a way that the current Mayor does not. Opposition Members can spend all the time they want attempting to deflect and make this a political matter, but that is the truth. Those Members who represent Londoners, on both sides of the House, know inside themselves what Londoners think about the Mayor’s performance on crime. The reason that this situation exercises me so much is that I have been there and dealt with it. Contrary to what the right hon. Lady says, over the past couple of years in this job I have spoken to and dealt with lots of victims of crime in London. In fact, only a few months ago I met four mothers of dead children brought to me by the Met who talked about the failures of dealing with knife crime and their willingness to step forward and help us to improve. So I ask the right hon. Lady, please, not to try to teach me any lessons about dealing with victims of crime. In terms of her wider question, I cannot confirm who is in the selection process, but we can only interview those people who apply.
Order. This is obviously an extremely important statement. We have the main business to move on to, so I remind colleagues that we need short questions, with only one question at a time.
One of the principal problems, bluntly, with the Metropolitan police is the quality of leadership at the very top, which determines the quality of leadership at street level. As the Minister seeks very diligently to find a new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, will he bear in mind the precedent from some time ago of finding a commissioner from outside the police forces, and bear in mind that within the military establishment there is a cohort of utterly brilliant generals and leaders who could bring those skills to bear on behalf of the Metropolitan police?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to recognise the importance of leadership. I am sure he will be encouraged by the significant investment that we have made in the College of Policing leadership programme, which was designed to produce the future policing leaders. I say from a personal point of view that whether outside people with different professions could run a constabulary is open to question. In the reverse case, I am not sure whether, for example, a police officer could command a battalion in the Army. Also, modern policing is a much more complex environment than it used to be. However, we hope that through the work we are doing on leadership we will develop leaders who can drive policing forward into the 21st century.
The accountability of the Met is complex because, among other things, the appointment of the commissioner rests with the Home Secretary, having regard to the Mayor but not as a joint appointment. Given that it is impossible to overstate the importance of getting the next leadership of the Met right, can the Minister confirm today that the Mayor of London and the Home Secretary will jointly make the appointment, and not just the Home Secretary having regard to the Mayor?
I have to confess that I am not entirely sure what the arrangements are between them, but I am sure that the Home Secretary and the Mayor will discuss the final choice of commissioner at some point.
May I place on the record my thanks to the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend Tom Pursglove, who, as victims Minister, recently met a constituent of mine regarding a historical rape case where no justice for my constituent has been secured? We may think that the police dramas of the ’80s are fictional, but for many, historical corruption and cover-up is a reality, leaving victims such as my constituent severely traumatised. Will the Minister reassure the House that lessons will be learned from the victims, who in the past have been so let down by the police, and that their voice will be central to reform of the Metropolitan police?
I am very sorry to hear about my hon. Friend’s constituent. One of the failings that is reportedly identified is the lack of support and information required to be given to victims. As I hope she knows, the victims Bill, which is in pre-legislative scrutiny, will bring into statute the support and information that victims should get, and I hope in future will get.
Rarely have I heard a more complacent and partisan statement by a Government Minister. He has been warned, as has the Home Secretary, countless times by Members on both sides of this House about the toxic culture of the Met. He did nothing and left it to the Mayor to change things by withdrawing his confidence in the now-departed commissioner. Was there not another example today of the completely perverse priorities of the Met in sending a posse of officers to hound the peaceful and non-threatening protester, Steve Bray, outside Parliament instead of tackling serious crime?
It is the inspectors sent in by the Home Secretary under an inspection regime influenced and designed by me who have revealed the failings that have resulted in the incident today. As to the dismissal of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, that happened just a few weeks after the Mayor was pushing for a three-year extension.
The Mayor of London, supported by his deputy mayor for policing and crime, is the police and crime commissioner for London. I, as a London MP, feel that it is an appalling indictment of the police and crime commissioner for London’s performance that the Met has been put into special measures. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the police and crime commissioner for London—that is, the Mayor of London—needs to get a grip? May I ask in this Chamber that the Mayor of London stops his appalling sale of Notting Hill police station in my constituency, which will mean that there is no police presence in the north of my borough after the end of this year?
As I have said, I profoundly hope that the Mayor will do his best to get a grip of this situation. [Interruption.] He has the authority and the mandate to do it, notwithstanding the shouting from the Opposition. I do not know how much more serious it can get for London’s police force. This is the first time in its history that it has been put into special measures. It is supposedly our premier—our biggest—police force, and the primary accountability is with the Mayor of London, as my hon. Friend says. He has to step forward and do his job.
We all knew that when PCCs were created, it was about putting clear blue water between accountability and our police forces. I hope that PCCs of all political hues across this country have listened to this outrageous statement by the Minister today, because I think they will be horrified. As the Minister will know, I have worked hard trying to find solutions to the county lines issues. I have worked hard with my local police force, under the leadership of Commander Richard Tucker. May I say to the Minister that all the solutions need us to have trust in our police forces at the very heart of our communities? What will the Minister be doing to ensure that this process reignites trust in our local forces?
The hon. Lady is quite right, and she has been working hard on county lines. As she will know, we put significant funding into the Met police and four other forces to do that fantastic work. I referred in my statement to some areas of the Met police that are world-beating and of astounding performance, and one is the work on county lines. We will do our best to make sure that the commissioner selected has the right idea about reform, but I will also take a close interest in the engagement process with the inspectorate and make sure that that works accordingly.
In 1829, the Metropolitan police was formed and London had a population of 1.8 million. Now it has a population of about 9.5 million. Is the Met police either too big to fail or too big to succeed, or has London become just too geographically large to police on the model that it has today?
My hon. Friend raises some interesting questions, but I believe that the Metropolitan police as currently constructed is capable of policing London appropriately and can and does show some astonishing performance in some particular areas of its activity. Certainly the work we have been doing, for example, on violence and knife crime, where we have been leaning in and providing significant extra resource, will I hope pay dividends over the years to come. We should all constantly pay attention to the structure and effectiveness of those police forces, and I am afraid that the report we have seen today tells us that there is room for improvement.
Policing confidence is at an all-time low under this Government. The Minister may say that the Mayor of London should consider his position, but perhaps the Government should consider theirs. As he says, this is the first time that the Metropolitan police has been under special measures, and that has been under the Government’s leadership. We on this side of the House have consistently called for reform and an overhaul of the vetting and training of officers, and the Government do not listen. At what point will they accept responsibility for their failures?
I am absolutely willing to accept responsibility for systemic failures across the whole of policing where they occur. I do not know whether the hon. Lady was in the House at the time, but she will have heard me apologise profoundly for the problems we have seen in rape investigation over the past decade, for example, and put a plan in place to sort that out. Happily, that plan is showing early signs of improvement.
What is really depressing about this exchange is the unwillingness of the Opposition to accept that even a shred of responsibility or accountability should attach to City Hall, notwithstanding the fact that in law and in truth the Mayor of London is the primary accountability mechanism.
Thousands of police officers in the Met put their lives on the line every day not knowing whether they will return home safely when they are trying to apprehend violent criminals and take them off our streets. Clearly there are some who are bad apples—we understand that—but in all this time, violent crime in London is up and the Mayor of London is totally silent. He is the one responsible to the people of London, and he must not abrogate his responsibilities. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that prior to Dame Cressida Dick being forced out by the Mayor of London, the Mayor was lobbying the Home Secretary to extend her contract for three years?
First, I am happy to hear my hon. Friend celebrate the work of the many thousands of men and women in the Metropolitan Police Service who are out there today keeping us safe. We should never forget them, and they will be as disappointed by the events of the past 24 hours as the rest of us. They will turn their shoulders and their efforts to improving things, alongside their colleagues, and I look forward to working with them in doing that. He is right that the Mayor was pressing for an extension.
This decision is long overdue, but I pay tribute to rank and file police officers and local police leaders in my own borough of Richmond upon Thames, who do a fantastic job week in, week out. However, Londoners’ confidence in the Met has plummeted to 49%. More than a third think the police cannot be relied on when needed. That level of public confidence is not just damning, but downright dangerous: without public confidence, the police cannot keep our streets safe and victims will not come forward. I am afraid that my constituents and Londoners across the city are seeing this partisan political point-scoring between Conservative Ministers and a Labour Mayor, which will do nothing to restore that confidence.
It is incumbent on all of us on all sides to work together with the Met police to start to restore public confidence. I have asked the Minister this question before, so I hope he will reconsider his answer. Will he break with precedent in the appointment of the new Met Police Commissioner and ensure that it is a cross-party appointment ratified by both the Home Affairs Committee and the London Assembly—not just a personal appointment by the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary or the Mayor of London?
As I said earlier, this is not partisan; it is the truth. The process for appointing the commissioner is, I am afraid, laid out in law.
The Met police has been strip-searching teenage girls and telling women worried about being attacked by police officers to flag down a bus. All the while, sexual violence and rape numbers have been going up. The Met police is failing women, so can the Minister please ensure that within the action plan is a plan to tackle systemic sexism? When we look at the new commissioner, we should make sure that tackling violence against women and girls is a priority.
My hon. Friend makes a strong point. Although, as I am sure she will accept, on occasion police officers need to strip-search young people of all genders, that must be done within the law and appropriately. She will know that an inquiry is ongoing under Dame Louise Casey, looking at the culture of the Met and particularly these issues, and the Home Secretary has commissioned an inspection of the investigation of policing and violence against women and girls across the whole of UK policing. The conclusion of those, plus part 2 of the Angiolini review, will inform our work in this area, and I look forward to keeping her posted on progress.
The Minister was deputy mayor for policing in London when the worst cuts were imposed by this Government, and I do not remember him raising his voice against those cuts once. People cannot take a wrecking ball to the Metropolitan police and not expect problems like this to come about, but the issues go back many, many years. Daniel Morgan was killed in 1987, and it was 2011 before the Met admitted it was corruption that bedevilled that investigation. There was the bungled investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. We could go on and on.
Those things show that there are systemic problems within the Metropolitan police, so will the Minister admit that if we are to resolve these problems, appointing a commissioner from within the Metropolitan police is just not going to cut it?
Obviously the decision on the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is for the Home Secretary, who will advise Her Majesty on making the appointment in consultation with the Mayor of London. Just on two of the hon. Gentleman’s substantive points, first, I fought hard for resources for the Metropolitan police when I was deputy mayor for policing. In fact, we managed to maintain police officer numbers, such that it is starting from a very high base with the uplift, meaning that the Met now has the highest number of officers it has ever had in its history. That is not true of all forces across the country, because of decisions made by the police and crime commissioners. If he looks back at the record, he will see that I was successful in winning resources.
As for the Daniel Morgan investigation, if the hon. Gentleman looks at the papers he will find that it was a letter from me to the then Home Secretary that stimulated the meeting that resulted in the inquiry.
This week, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan made a statement about the malaise that the Metropolitan police finds itself in. He blamed a number of people. He blamed the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the outgoing Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Dame Cressida Dick. The one person who was entirely absolved from blame was the person who has been the police and crime commissioner for London for the past six years, and that person is Sadiq Khan.
What is the point of Sadiq Khan, given that he is so utterly unable to influence affairs, and so utterly unresponsible for anything that has happened? Is it not now time to remove responsibility for the Metropolitan police from the Mayor of London’s orbit and return it fully to the Home Office?
My hon. Friend and I were London Assembly Members together, although he continued under the Labour Mayor and I never had that sad experience. He is right that a peculiarity of the Mayor’s term has been the seeming willingness to step away from the issues assailing the capital, rather than step into them. When we were elected to City Hall, we faced a similar spate of knife crime and teenage killings, and we stepped into that without reservation—some would say at enormous political risk. I hope that the current Mayor will take the political risk required to step in and sort out this issue for my hon. Friend’s constituents and those of many other hon. Members. As I said, following the work required to get the Met into shape over the next few months and years, we will have to consider what we should do further about the structure.
It is 50 years since the Confait case of 1972, when a transvestite was murdered and burned alive in a house in my constituency. That led to the bringing forward of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which put in place provisions to ensure that there is an appropriate adult at a police station when children are there. The Metropolitan police has been failing in that area, as have police forces across our country, where appropriate adults have not been in place when children were presented in custody—and on average, children are in custody for 13 hours. Will the Minister agree to look into that as part of the failings of the Met police, and with other police forces across the country?
The hon. Lady is right that a strip-search should not take place without the presence of an appropriate adult. I am sure she is aware that, notwithstanding the case of Child Q, the Met has now made other referrals to the IOPC. She raises a good point. I have asked questions internally in the Home Office about what more we can do to ensure that the rules are being adhered to.
A significant number of Metropolitan police officers live in my constituency and I pay tribute to their work and professionalism. Thousands more of my residents work across Greater London and deserve to feel safe and secure while in the capital. Is it not a damning indictment of Mayor Sadiq Khan that the Metropolitan police now finds itself in special measures, despite significant additional resources?
My hon. Friend makes a strong point about our shared responsibility to support not only the police officers who do a brilliant job every day, but those who they seek to protect, and I agree. As I said earlier, if Sadiq Khan is not primarily responsible, I am not sure why he stood for election or why crime even featured on his election literature—I ask myself whether it will at the next election. He is absolutely the primary point of responsibility and he must step forward to take that mantle.
The Minister’s statement was unworthy of this House, and even of the Minister. The danger is that it takes the focus of the debate away from the failings of the Metropolitan police and puts it on to personal and political responsibility.
The Metropolitan police has been failing primarily in two areas. The first, as Laura Trott ably and rightly highlighted, is violence against women and girls, on which issue I have been working closely with my borough commander Sara Leach. Secondly, it has systematically failed on racism. I am fed up of people coming into my surgery because they are black and have been badly and violently treated or have had spurious prosecutions made against them by police officers. Mina Smallman’s two daughters were murdered in my constituency. It took two years for the Metropolitan police to get off its payroll the police officers who took photographs of them and circulated them to their colleagues and other people. That is a disgrace. I want to know not what anybody else is doing, but what the Minister will do to sort out racism and misogyny in the force.
Obviously, the murder of the Smallman sisters was an appalling act that shocked the entire nation. Although it took a couple of years for the officers to be punished, they were in the end. There have been problems over the years with the speed of the police disciplinary process. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that police officers are entitled to due process, as everyone else is, but I hope he will also recognise that we have put measures in place to ensure that IOPC inquiries happen as swiftly as possible.
On the hon. Gentleman’s point about racism, I hope he will have seen that the National Police Chiefs’ Council has published its national race action plan and we are supporting its prosecution of that change programme. I am sorry about his opening comments. My statement may not have met with his approval, but the reason is that I feel incredibly strongly, having done that job before. I represented parts of central London for a significant proportion of my adult life and I feel it personally that the failure of governance, as well as leadership in the Met, has to be called out as well.
In 2020, Greater Manchester police was put into special measures in part, certainly, due to a lack of accountability and scrutiny. Importantly, as has been highlighted, there was also a lack of care and services towards the victims of crime. Since, steps have been taken by the Minister and others to address that situation. What lessons can be learned to help and assist the Metropolitan police to get out of the appalling situation that it finds itself in under Sadiq Khan’s leadership?
My hon. Friend is right that, sadly, the issues that we saw in Greater Manchester police have been reflected again in London. In the end, as my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell said, the solution is leadership. I was pleased to be able to assist the Mayor’s office in Manchester to find a great leader for Greater Manchester police, who I know is driving forward a programme of change and progress that Mancunians will be feeling on a daily basis on the streets. We must now find a great leader for the Met who can reproduce that here in London.
As a proud south Londoner—I have lived in Brixton all my life—I know that if the Minister thinks that the issues in the Met police started under Sadiq Khan’s tenure, he is in cloud cuckoo land. From when I was a young girl, the issues with policing were at the forefront of the issues in my community, and they continue to be almost 40 years later. I do not want my young children to have to go through what men—my uncles and cousins—have gone through. That starts with our Met police taking seriously the community’s issues and realising that policing is by consent. The Mayor has clearly set out reforms, and I hope that the Minister will outline how he will support the Mayor to address those reforms, how he will welcome them and how he will work with the Mayor, instead of making the issue a political football.
I am sorry that the hon. Lady feels that way. Certainly, when I was at the Met police, we did a lot of work to examine the problems with the culture. In fact, I instituted a race and faith inquiry at the Metropolitan Police Authority to look at exactly the issues that I know trouble her, as they have many people over the years. With a large organisation such as the Metropolitan police, that area requires constant attention. My sadness about the exchanges today is that no Opposition Member has once yet recognised the responsibility of the Mayor of London. If he is not responsible for policing and crime in London, I am not sure what he is doing in the job.
I am grateful for the Minister’s statement on the worrying underperformance of the Metropolitan police and the Mayor of London. On the wider point of underperforming police, it was recently reported that the comedian Joe Lycett was investigated for telling a joke at one of his shows. It was also reported that over the last three years, not a single burglary has been resolved in nearly half the neighbourhoods across the country. Does the Minister think those two stories are connected?
I have seen both those stories; I cannot comment on the first one. On the second one, we are looking into those statistics carefully. Of course, now that we do not take into account when burglars stand up in court and say, “I plead guilty but I would like 120 other offences taken into account,” we are not necessarily sure whether we have caught the burglar in another area and have therefore solved the burglary. As my hon. Friend will know, last year we published the “Beating crime plan”, which has a chapter on “Excellence in the basics” and was specifically designed to drive forward the efficient and effective investigation of offences such as burglary.
We are doing significant work in all those areas.
Restoring trust in the police force can sometimes seem insurmountable, but does the Minister not agree that it must remembered that not all police are guilty? This report demands change, as it should, but it cannot be used as an excuse for abuse of the overwhelming majority of upstanding police officers who do their job to keep us all safe to the detriment of their own physical and mental health.
Well, bravo to the hon. Gentleman—bravo! That is exactly the right sentiment. There are thousands of police officers out there every day who, if something happened to any of us, would run towards us to assist us. They get up in the morning and do their job to the best of their ability with integrity and honesty, and we should recognise that that is the case.
May I also say a word for the leadership of the Metropolitan police, who I know will be battered and bruised by the report today? I was heartened by their dignified statement following the issuing of this report, and I know that they will bend every sinew to bring in the changes that are required. In particular, the acting commissioner, who I know is a man of honesty and integrity and who has had a fantastic career in policing—he has put many villains behind bars and kept millions, unknowingly, safe in their beds at night—deserves our support as he drives forward the undoubted changes needed at the Metropolitan police.
There are some moments when I feel ashamed of being an MP, and to be honest, the last 50 minutes has been one of those. I do not think Londoners really care about throwing blame here, there and everywhere; they just want to see something sorted. I would gently point out to the Minister that he knows that I think he has been a bit complacent about the Daniel Morgan situation, whatever he said earlier. He also knows that he was the person in charge when I had to sue the Metropolitan police, at enormous cost, to get justice for the victims of phone hacking at the News of the World, and there was massive corruption and a revolving door between Downing Street, the newspapers and the Metropolitan police. I think everybody just wants to hear answers on how we can make sure, for instance, that the situation that happened with Stephen Port and those murders, when homophobia clearly played a role in letting other young men die, will never happen again. So can he just give me one thing that he personally is going to do that will make sure that will not happen again?
I will give the hon. Gentleman one thing, but I understand, and this seems to be a tactic by Opposition Members, that their deflection comes with, “Oh, this is a disgrace!” I really wish that somebody had acknowledged the role of City Hall, with 145 staff and a Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. What on earth do they think they are for if it is not for this? In all honesty, if they represent Londoners and they think the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime has done its job in this case, then we are in a whole world of pain that we do not need. I realise that they are attempting all sorts of deflection, but I have to tell them that if I had been doing the job, I would not have allowed that deflection to take place, and I have to tell them that if it had been a Conservative in that job, I would have said exactly the same things.
On the hon. Gentleman asking for something concrete, I, for example, specifically changed the remit of the inspection regime away from pure process and efficiency towards crime fighting. It was the case that, until a couple of years ago, the police could get an astounding report from the inspectors while their crime performance was still poor. That is now not the case, and we are seeing these results coming through as the inspections start to land.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Minister for Crime and Policing told the House that he had only added the several paragraphs launching a political attack “at the last minute”. Those paragraphs were not included in the statement that either you or shadow Home Office Ministers were given. However, the list of questions circulated to Conservative Back Benchers, which I have here—it will have taken some time to prepare and to circulate, with input from the Home Office—repeats the same script that the Minister used in his attack. In fact, those questions include nothing on the actual failings in the Metropolitan police and nothing on the reforms that are needed to the Metropolitan police or to policing across the country, but only political attacks instead. It is not credible that these political paragraphs were only added “at the last minute”. Did the Minister give inaccurate information to the House?
I thank the right hon. Lady for her point of order. As I said previously, it is the usual courtesy for a Minister to give the Opposition an advance copy of a statement. The Minister has already apologised for adding material to the version given to the Opposition, but he may like to reflect on the point that the right hon. Lady has made—and I sense that he wishes to respond further.
Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is certainly the case that the statement was moving with some fluidity over the last hour or so. I am sorry if it did not make it through in its completed terms. I did add a number of items myself at the end. It should come as no surprise that the approach in the statement was being discussed between us and the special advisers. In future, if there are late changes, I undertake that I will issue a late version of the statement that includes all of my remarks.
Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. To provide reassurance to the House, will the Minister provide the email details and the internal records from his computer and from the computer on which the statement was drafted to show at what point this information was added to the statement, just so that we can be sure that the House has been given accurate information?
I think the right hon. Lady is now having an exchange with the Minister as opposed to Chair, but she has put her request on record. That is up to the Minister; it is not really a matter for me.
Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Would you have a word with Mr Speaker about this issue, because I believe that exactly the same process happened in another statement last week? The Transport Secretary added a whole load of stuff at the last minute, which was then regurgitated in lots of Back-Bench Conservative Members’ questions, so it was clearly intended long before the statement was made in the House, that a different statement would be made in the House from the one given to the Opposition and, for that matter, that was subsequently circulated around the House.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point of order. The Minister has just given an assurance that he will ensure that, in future, any last-minute changes are communicated to the Opposition. I hope that those on the Treasury Bench will notice what this Minister has said, because I know that Mr Speaker would wish other Ministers to follow that example. I hope that that will be communicated back to other Ministers, and I will ensure that the Speaker is aware of the exchange that has taken place. I think we should now move on.
I thank the Minister for his statement and subsequent comments.