Sunday 7 July 2013

Mayor Boris And The Met Payoffs

The latest from my regular contributor.

There was an interesting short exchange at the Public Accounts Select Committee on 3rd July. The subject under discussion was 'Confidentiality Clauses and Special Severance Payments' - primarily NHS executives' compromise agreements - a.k.a. unpopular large payoffs at public expense.

In amongst questioning there was that little something Hackgate-related, between Margaret Hodge (Chair) and Sharon White, (Director General, Public Services, HM Treasury):
Q123 Chair: Can I emphasise that this is not just the Department of Health? Paul Stephenson, the former commissioner who left because of his relationship and links with the News of the World, got over £176,000 after he’d signed an agreement. John Yates also left after the phone hacking scandal; he got £86,000 on top of his £120,000 salary. It is not just NHS oversight. You will have signed those off.
Sharon White: I don’t know the detail of the cases but there is a general point for the Treasury to take back on the basis of this discussion which is whether and how we might have a system that is more- 
Q124 Chair: I tell you what astounds us, which is why you are getting uniform shock around the table: these are high-profile cases we are talking about. These are not cases where it could well be that Paula Diggle or her officials in the Treasury would not have heard of them. Morecambe Bay is high profile. North Staffs is high profile. The Met Police and phone hacking is high profile. Yet somehow they get signed off through the Treasury. 
Sharon White: In the case of the police, this is not part of our approval process. We would not have signed off those individual cases.
So who DID sign Stephenson's and Yates' payments off? What criteria were used to decide and calculate payments over and above their voluntary resignations? What were the terms and conditions of the relevant compromise agreements? What was the quantum of confidentiality clauses/payments? And why?

Somebody needs to ask similar questions about those settlements as were asked about Gordon Taylor, Clive Goodman, Glenn Mulcaire and Andy Coulson.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MET or MPS) Management Board or Human Resources couldn't conceivably made the Stephenson/Yates agreements without referring them to the very top for approval. Presumably then, they were signed off by the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), now known as the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC). Although to be absolutely fair to the MPA - responsible for scrutiny of MET spending - they didn't know when the MET had spent millions on a fleet of secret aircraft (here).  But the buck now stops with Boris Johnson:
The Deputy Mayor will discharge the vast majority of MOPAC’s duties however the Mayor remains responsible for issuing his Police and Crime Plan, and for the appointment and removal of senior Metropolitan police officers." "...the role of Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime (DMPC) in London is analogous to that of an elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elsewhere. Although not directly elected, once the Mayor as occupant of MOPAC delegates his authority, the DMPC has all other powers and duties of a PCC.
Prior to Jan 2012, whilst Stephenson and Yates' severance payments were negotiated and approved, the Chair of MPA was Kit Malthouse. It is apparent from Malthouse's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry that he liaised with Boris very closely on appropriate mayoral responses to the News International scandal.

The Telegraph reported:
The London Mayor's deputy for policing, Kit Malthouse, was informed on Sep 10, 2010 that Scotland Yard detectives were looking into new claims made in a New York Times article." Five days later, when asked about phone hacking at Mayor's Question time, Boris Johnson said: "I am almost in continuous conversations with my deputy mayor for policing (Mr Malthouse) about this and other matters. It would be fair to say that he and I have discussed this. The conclusion of our conversation would be obvious from what I have said.... In other words, this is a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour Party and that we do not intend to get involved with it.
There was apparently at least one accidentally undeclared meeting between Boris and Rupert Murdoch in 2011, and his continuing support for beleaguered News Corp was evidenced by Boris hosting Rupert & Wendi Murdoch's VIP visit to the 2012 Olympics.

It has also been reported that Boris recently accepted an invite to dinner at Murdoch's London home. This drew some criticism as "Johnson also has ultimate, but not operational, responsibility for the Metropolitan Police, the force investigating phone hacking by Murdoch's News of the World and alleged corrupt payments made by Sun journalists.

Fortunately the Home Affairs Select Committee can, if it chooses, ask Boris more about the huge Stephenson/Yates compromise payments when Boris appears before them next Tuesday afternoon, 9th July:
3.15 pm Wilson Room, Portcullis HouseSir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Metropolitan Police Commissioner
4.15pmBoris Johnson, Mayor of London
Committee Chairman Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP said:
Public confidence in policing in London has been rocked by the devastating revelations that undercover police officers sought to gather information on the Lawrence family in the wake of Stephen Lawrence’s murder. The Committee will ask the Commissioner at what level this decision was taken, and why this information was withheld from the subsequent Macpherson inquiry.
The Committee also welcomes the first opportunity it has had to quiz the Mayor of London since he took office in 2008. It plans to seek his views on how public confidence can be rebuilt...
Keith Vaz sounds as though he is enthusiastic about Boris's first HASC appearance, though it is not known if any questions will be asked about former head of MPA Kit Malthouse - of whom MET Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick told the Leveson Inquiry (pp37-38 here):
I'm conscious that Sir Paul (Stephenson) made mention in his evidence of the conversations that he was having -- I didn't know he was having, actually -- with our then chair of our authority around the phone hacking investigation, Operation Weeting, in the early part of this year -- sorry, early part of 2011. You'll be aware that I was the management board member for that, and the line manager for Ms Akers. On a couple of occasions, Mr Malthouse, I thought jokingly, said to me: "I hope you're not putting too many resources into this, Cressida", and on the third occasion, when he said it again, I said, "Well, that's my decision and not yours, and that's why I'm operationally independent
That operational independence might come under further scrutiny on Tuesday as AC Cressida Dick too has been called before HASC
Tuesday 9 July 2013, Wilson Room, Portcullis HouseAt 2.45pm Cressida Dick, Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police
Commander Neil Basu, Metropolitan Police
Committee Chairman Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP said
It has been several months since the Committee last received an update from the Met on its hacking investigations – Operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta have collectively been going for more than six years and cost the taxpayer more than £20 million. We intend to explore progress on these operations and ask when they might reach a conclusion. We will also seek a response from the Met on Rupert Murdoch’s claim that the police have been “incompetent”. Furthermore, we plan to inquire about the Met’s role in investigating hacking by private investigators outside of the newspaper industry, following up on evidence the Committee took from the Serious Organised Crime Agency earlier this week.
The MET Commissioner, Mayor Boris, AC Dick, Weeting, Elveden, Tuleta, the secret Murdoch/Sun recording....

Looks like Tuesday afternoon could be action-packed for Hackgate watchers if HASC only ask the right questions - and get some answers.

Related Articles
Project Riverside And The SOCA Report
All Rise - Justice Saunders At Southwark
The Met - Red Flags And Red Tops
Hackgate - Issues For The Burnton Inquiry Into The Murder Of Daniel Morgan
Hackgate - The IPCC and Surrey's "Collective Amnesia"
Hackgate - Alex Marunchak - Presumed Innocent
Hackgate - Springwatch
Hackgate - Elveden: Murdoch Or King Cnut?

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