[Dr William McCrea in the Chair] — Metropolitan Police

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:29 am on 19th March 2014.

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Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 10:29 am, 19th March 2014

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dr McCrea. I congratulate Tessa Munt on bringing these serious allegations to the attention of the House. I will not comment on the substantive allegations, but will focus on wider issues that arise from her powerful speech. I make one other preliminary point: like all hon. Members present, I have seen at first hand some of the outstanding work done by the Metropolitan police, often in the most difficult circumstances. My experience of the Metropolitan police is that overwhelmingly they are honest, decent men and women trying to do a good job for Londoners. Having said that, there are clearly profound problems that need to be dealt with properly.

Turning to some of the wider lessons in this case, first, it is of course right that we hold the police to account. They must be accountable politically, and in the event of wrongdoing, that wrongdoing must be investigated properly. Secondly, it is important that police officers enjoy fair treatment and due process, including full, proper and prompt disclosure of any evidence relating to allegations against them. Thirdly, with regard to its internal procedures, and the role of the DPS in particular, it is of the highest importance that the Met conducts itself in a way that engenders public confidence, handling allegations of misconduct properly and, where appropriate, initiating disciplinary procedures. Fourthly, as Mark Field said, if the police are to command public confidence, it is of the highest importance that there is effective, independent police complaints machinery that is able to get to the heart of things that go wrong.

Turning to the next stages of action, first, I support those hon. Members who have said that serious allegations have clearly been made that require proper investigation. I hope that the Home Office will play its role, as appropriate, in ensuring that that takes place. Secondly, what we have heard today is proof positive of the need for new and much more effective independent complaints machinery. It needs to have the powers necessary to investigate, to hold to account, and to prevent obstruction from the police at any stage in the effective investigation of wrongdoing.

Thirdly, the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster was absolutely right: what we have heard today, not just in relation to the allegations made by the hon. Members for Wells, and for Watford (Richard Harrington), but more generally, is a sorry litany that demands a fundamental culture change in the Metropolitan police. If we have heard profoundly disturbing allegations today, what has been revealed by the Ellison process is also profoundly disturbing, as are the subsequent revelations about the destruction of evidence. To be frank, although the Met has much to be proud of, it has a lot to answer for.

The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster was right to say that it is of the highest importance that there be confidence in the police. From the Peelian tradition onwards, in our country we have had a system of policing by consent. Confidence is key for co-operation, to divert people from crime and prevent it, and to identify wrongdoers when crimes are committed. That confidence is damaged at our peril. The case has been made powerfully today for changes in internal and external investigation, for the Met to reflect seriously on these issues, and for the Home Office to take whatever action is appropriate. Fundamental culture change is clearly necessary.