Mr Speaker, with permission I would like to make a statement on the resignations of Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates, the Metropolitan Police investigation into phone hacking and allegations of police corruption.
Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates
As the House will know, last night Sir Paul Stephenson resigned as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. As I told him last night, I am sorry that he took that decision. He has led the Met through difficult times and, although current circumstances show there are still serious issues to be addressed, the Met is stronger operationally today than it was when he took over. I will turn to those difficult circumstances in a moment, but first I would like to update the House on today’s developments, and the next steps for the Metropolitan Police.
I have already started work with the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police to arrange an orderly transition and the appointment of a new Commissioner.
I have agreed that Sir Paul Stephenson will leave his post as swiftly as possible. In the meantime he will remain Commissioner, in post at New Scotland Yard and in operational command. Sir Paul will be replaced by Tim Godwin, who will again become Acting Commissioner, a role he filled very effectively during Sir Paul’s illness between December and April this year.
With Tim Godwin as Acting Commissioner, the Mayor and I are clear that additional resilience is essential from outside the Metropolitan Police. I am therefore pleased to announce that Bernard Hogan-Howe has agreed to take on the responsibilities of Deputy Commissioner on a temporary basis. We are looking to expedite the process for selecting and appointing the next Commissioner.
The House will know that within the last hour or so, Assistant Commissioner John Yates has also resigned. I want to put on the record my gratitude to John Yates for the work he has done, while I’ve been Home Secretary, to develop and improve counterterrorism policing in London and indeed across the whole country. I can confirm to the House that Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick will take over his role.
I want Hon Members, Londoners and the whole country to know that the important work of the Met - its national responsibilities like counter-terrorism operations as well as policing our capital city - must and will continue.
The Metropolitan Police investigation into phone hacking
That important work includes the related investigations, Operation Weeting and Operation Elvedon.
Operation Weeting - the investigation into phone hacking led by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers - is now going through the thousands of pieces of evidence relating to the allegations. Unlike the original investigation into phone hacking, Operation Weeting is proceeding apace, with officers interrogating evidence that was neglected first time round, pursuing new leads, and as we saw once again at the weekend, making arrests.
Operation Elveden - also led by Sue Akers - is investigating allegations that police officers have received payments from the press in return for information. This investigation has independent oversight by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. At this stage, this is a supervised investigation - meaning that the IPCC sets the terms of reference and receives the investigation report - and as soon as individual suspected officers have been identified, IPCC investigators, overseen by an IPCC commissioner, will take over and lead a fully independent investigation of those officers.
In the future, both of these matters will be considered by the Leveson Inquiry established by the Prime Minister. In the meantime, I can tell the House that Elizabeth Filkin, the former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, has provisionally agreed to examine the ethical considerations that should, in future, underpin the relationships between the Metropolitan Police and the media, how to ensure maximum transparency and public confidence, and provide advice. The management board of the Met has agreed a new set of guidelines relating to relationships with the media, including recording meetings and hospitality and publication on the internet.
Further allegations of police corruption
These allegations are not, unfortunately, the only recent example of alleged corruption and nepotism in the police. So I can tell the House that I have asked Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to consider instances of undue influence, inappropriate contractual arrangements and other abuses of power in police relationships with the media and other parties. I have asked HMIC to make recommendations to me about what needs to be done to address it.
The role of the IPCC
Mr Speaker, there is nothing more important than the public’s trust in the police to do their work without fear or favour. So at moments like these it is natural that people should ask who polices the police.
I’ve already asked Jane Furniss, the chief executive of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, whether she has the power and the resources to get done the immediate work at hand. She has assured me that they do, but additional resources will be made available to the IPCC if they are needed.
I can also tell the House that I have commissioned work to consider whether the IPCC needs further powers, including whether it should be given the power to question civilian witnesses during the course of their investigations. Given that the IPCC can at present only investigate specific allegations against individual officers, I have also asked whether the Commission needs to have a greater role in investigating allegations about institutional failings of a force or forces.
Conclusion: the integrity of the police
Finally, Mr Speaker, I want to say one last word about the future of the Metropolitan Police. The Met is the largest police force in the country, and has important national responsibilities beyond its role policing our capital.
The next Metropolitan Police Commissioner will lead thousands of fine police officers, community support officers and staff, the great majority of whom have spent their careers dedicated to protecting the public - often at risk to their own safety. Just three nights ago, Honourable Members will know that in Croydon an unarmed Metropolitan Police officer was shot as he tried to arrest a suspect.
I know that the whole House will agree with me that it is for the sake of the many thousands of honourable police officers and staff, as well as for the public they serve, that we must get to the bottom of all of these allegations. Only then will we be able to ensure the integrity of our police and public confidence in them to do their vital work.
I commend this statement to the House.