[Dr William McCrea in the Chair] — Metropolitan Police

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:35 am on 19th March 2014.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 10:35 am, 19th March 2014

I thank my hon. Friend for that observation. That issue will be included as part of the work being done.

My hon. Friend Mark Field, whose constituency is at the centre of so many high-profile cases concerning the Met, made an interesting and thoughtful contribution regarding this case and others, for which I thank him. The issues he and my other hon. Friends have outlined today only add to the list that the Met and its senior leadership team need to address.

The Metropolitan Police Service polices the country’s most populous and ethnically diverse area, as well as having a number of functions that extend across the UK, in particular the national lead for counter-terrorism policing. Although we all know the Met to be the biggest police force in the country, we may not realise quite how big it is. In fact, Met officers comprise almost one in four—23.5%—of the total number of police officers in the whole of England and Wales. What happens in the Met is relevant to the way our whole country is policed, both because of its size and because, in the course of their careers, many of our most senior police officers will spend one or more periods working in the Met.

At this point, I must recognise, along with Jack Dromey, that the overwhelming majority of Met officers do their jobs well, serving the people of London with dedication and professionalism. But, as the Home Secretary said on 6 March:

“In policing, as in other areas, the problems of the past have a danger of infecting the present and can lay traps for the future…Trust and confidence in the Metropolitan police and in policing more generally are vital and a public inquiry and the other work I have set out are part of the process of repairing the damage.”—[Hansard, 6 March 2014; Vol. 576, c. 1065.]

In 2012 the Government abolished the Metropolitan Police Authority, which was only partly and indirectly elected. For the first time, the Met is truly accountable to Londoners; the commissioner is accountable to the Mayor of London, who is elected by all Londoners, and the Mayor and his deputy for policing are scrutinised by the policing and crime committee of the London Assembly.

I have already mentioned that the Met is responsible for policing the most ethnically diverse area in the UK. While it is the most diverse force in the country, with 10.5% of officers from minority ethnic backgrounds, that proportion falls well short of the proportion of the population; the 2011 census figures show that just over 40% of Londoners are from non-white ethnic groups. As the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims said to Stella Creasy at Home Affairs questions last Monday,

“While the police work force is more representative in terms of gender and ethnicity than it has ever been, there is still much more to be done by forces.”

He also said:

“The Metropolitan police plan to recruit 5,000 new constables between now and 2015, and their aim is that 40% of them should be from a minority background, to reflect the population of London as a whole. This indeed is a serious issue, which the Metropolitan police are addressing.”—[Hansard, 10 March 2014; Vol. 577, c. 15.]

My hon. Friend the Member for Wells has set out the issues of race and diversity that are at the centre of her constituent’s claim against the Metropolitan police. I want to be very clear on this matter: treating anyone differently on the basis of the colour of their skin—whether they be black or white; police officer or member of the public—is always unacceptable.

As well as the work the Home Secretary has announced, the increased accountability of the Met through the Mayor and the increasingly representative ethnic mix of its officers are a good start in rebuilding the public’s trust in the Met. However, other issues have been identified that the Met needs to address.

There has been criticism of the culture of the Metropolitan police, in particular that it is an obstacle to changing how the Met works and how it deals with members of the public. That is one reason why, as the Home Secretary made clear in her statement on 6 March, we need to continue our work to reform the police and its culture.

From this autumn, all police forces will, for the first time, have the opportunity to bring in talented and experienced leaders from other walks of life to the ranks of inspector and superintendent. Those coming in will receive world-class training and bring fresh perspectives, opening up policing culture. A significant number of those officers will be joining the Met, and I know that they will have the support of the commissioner and his senior leadership team as they get to grips with the issues the Met faces. The Home Secretary was clear in her statement to the House on the significance of those changes, particularly of bringing high achievers from other fields into policing. The public need to know that policing is not a closed shop and that they can challenge the way in which things are done.

Where the police fall short of our expectations, the IPCC has a key role to play in ensuring that complaints and misconduct are dealt with as fairly and as transparently as possible. Hon. Members may have seen the publication on Monday of its “Review of the IPCC’s work in investigating deaths”, in which it recognises that it, too, needs to increase the diversity of its staff and to improve its engagement with families. The IPCC will ensure that, in future, families are involved in developing the terms of reference for investigations and are provided with meaningful and regular updates.

As the House will be aware, we are already moving £18 million this year into the IPCC to enable it to deal with all serious and sensitive cases, avoiding the issue of the police investigating themselves when things go seriously wrong. The IPCC will also receive £10 million of capital funding, so that it can establish further regional bases, enabling it to respond quickly to incidents wherever they occur. In conjunction with the Home Secretary’s announcement of a review of the misconduct system and of additional protection for whistleblowers, that will enable the IPCC to demonstrate clearly that it is truly the guardian of the police complaints system, and that the public can have trust in its ability to investigate allegations of police misconduct effectively.

However, police forces also need to play their part in stamping out inappropriate conduct. Misconduct and gross misconduct hearings, even where there has been an independent investigation, remain for forces to convene. Here, the Met has a good story to tell. Comparing 2012 with 2013, the total number of complaints decreased by 14%, from more than 16,500 to just more than 14,000. Meanwhile, the number of gross misconduct hearings rose from 49 in 2011-12 to 70 in 2012-13, and there have already been 70 hearings in the first nine months of this financial year. The number of police officers dismissed without notice has increased from 30 in 2011-12 to 47 in 2012-13.