Metropolitan Police — Question

– in the House of Lords at 11:19 am on 27th March 2014.

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Photo of Lord Trefgarne Lord Trefgarne Conservative 11:19 am, 27th March 2014

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to restore the reputation of the Metropolitan Police, having regard to recent reports.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, the majority of police officers serving in London and elsewhere do their jobs well, serving their communities with dedication and professionalism. We must build on this. We have established the College of Policing, which has the remit to set standards and promote good practice. Ensuring that the police maintain the highest levels of integrity is a core function of the college and it will be shortly publishing the first ever code of ethics for the police.

Photo of Lord Trefgarne Lord Trefgarne Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. Is it not the case that undercover police operations play a vital part in the fight against terrorism and serious crime? Is it therefore not important that the unhappy and unfortunate events of past years should be put aside as soon as possible—having regard, of course, to due process—so that brave men and women are not discouraged from volunteering for this dangerous work?

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I do not quite take that position. We are facing a grave crisis of confidence and it is important that, whatever the value of these operations, we learn from the mistakes of the past. Certainly we need to investigate the criminal activity that may have led to them occurring. It also makes it more important that such operations are properly authorised and supervised. The Government have already put in place improved arrangements for the authorisation of undercover work, including a requirement to notify deployments to the independent surveillance commissioners. In addition, HMIC is reviewing all law enforcement undercover units and will report at the end of May.

Photo of Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon Labour

My Lords, I wish to declare my interest in the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, on the reputation of the Metropolitan Police. It was through my interest and my request to the Home Secretary to look into corruption within the Metropolitan Police surrounding the investigation of the murder of my son in 1993 that prompted the paper review by Mark Ellison QC. Does the Minister agree that the Metropolitan Police needs urgently to clear up those elements that brought it into disrepute in the first place in order that it can concentrate on fighting crime, upholding the law and regaining the trust of the British public, especially the black community?

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Those noble Lords who were here on 6 March to hear the repetition of the Statement that the Home Secretary had made to the House of Commons earlier that day will have attended a most poignant occasion. The noble Baroness was in her place to hear what had happened, which was indeed shocking. As my right honourable friend the Home Secretary said, policing stood damaged by the revelations in Mark Ellison’s review. She has made it clear that she is determined that all that can be done to find out what happened will be done. I know that that determination is shared by those currently in charge of the Metropolitan Police and by those conducting reviews and investigations. I hope that this reassures the noble Baroness of the sincerity of this Government in tackling what lay behind the tragic period leading up to and after her son’s death.

Photo of Baroness Howarth of Breckland Baroness Howarth of Breckland Crossbench

Does the Minister share my disappointment about the way the police have been dealing recently with domestic violence? After all the work that has been carried out, what can be done to bring those forces that are clearly not meeting the needs of women up to the level of excellence of those forces that are?

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

This is another area on which we have received a shocking report, and the Home Secretary commented on it this morning. Those noble Lords who listened to the “Today” programme will have heard a woman called Kimberley talk about her experience of the investigation made into her complaints. It is not good and the Home Secretary is determined to tackle this scourge. As she said this morning, she expects chief constables to respond to the report, and I would say that they owe it to the victims of these crimes to do so.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat

My Lords, many noble Lords will recall the high-profile visit made by the Metropolitan Police to the right honourable Damian Green MP before he became the Minister for Policing, but I do not suspect that many will recall the last high-profile visit made by the Minister for Policing to the Metropolitan Police in support of the excellent work done by the overwhelming majority of police officers every day to keep us safe in London. Perhaps the noble Lord could tell us when such a visit was last made and why we have not heard about it.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, as my noble friend will know, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and other senior officers meet the Home Secretary and the Minister for Policing on a regular basis. The last public engagement was the launch of the trial of body-worn video equipment that took place late last year and which was also attended by the Mayor of London. Contact between the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police is on an everyday basis because it is such an important link for us. I hope that my noble friend will be reassured by my earlier comments in answering this Question. We recognise the diligence with which the majority of police officers perform their duties on behalf of the public.

Photo of Lord Imbert Lord Imbert Crossbench

My Lords, perhaps I may preface my question with a reference to the Home Secretary’s Statement to Parliament made on 6 March on the Ellison report of the inept investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence and related matters such as the inappropriate use of undercover police officers. She said:

“Stephen Lawrence was murdered more than 20 years ago and it is deplorable that his family have had to wait so many years for the truth to emerge”.—[Hansard, Commons, 6/3/14; col. 1064.]

I agree entirely with the Home Secretary’s view on the intolerable delay following the first highly unsatisfactory investigation into the murder of that young man.

The Metropolitan Police and policing generally have indeed had their reputations severely damaged by this and other incidents and revelations, but without trying to defend the indefensible, I would like to ask the Minister whether he would acknowledge that the relatively new captain and vice-captain of the Metropolitan Police Service are men of experience, determination and integrity and that, together with the many honest, brave and commendable police officers, they must be given the opportunity to redress the wrongs that have been revealed. I say “brave” officers because two were killed on duty last year and no fewer than 4,890 officers, both male and female, were injured and needed medical attention.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, it might help the noble Lord if I just say that I have made it quite clear that we recognise the sense of duty with which our police officers undertake their tasks, and indeed our confidence in the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Basildon Baroness Smith of Basildon Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, I thank the Minister for the content and tone of his answers today. The further revelations published in the Independent newspaper today of a secret investigation into persistent corrupt networks within the Metropolitan Police are really beyond shocking. I am grateful to the Minister for his answers today, but can he tell us what action the Government will be taking in regard to these allegations as well?

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I think the noble Baroness is referring to Operation Zloty and the discovery that some of the material that we were hoping to be able to use to investigate further may have been destroyed. There is a determination among everyone who is currently engaged in this matter to get to the bottom of it and to get to the truth. I am confident that we will achieve that. It may take time and there may be obstacles in our path but we are determined that the truth should be known. Indeed, by finding the truth, we will also help the police themselves regain that confidence that they should surely have about the way that they protect us.