Boris Johnson’s most senior advisor has agreed that London Assembly Members have the right to question the Met Commissioner, drawing to an end months of internal City Hall wrangling over the issue.
The MOPAC is responsible for setting the Met’s overall priorities and budget and is scrutinised by the PCC which also has a statutory right to investigate issues of concern related to crime.
AMs have always argued that this wider right allows them to question the Commissioner and his senior team.
However in recent months Stephen Greenhalgh, Deputy mayor for policing and head of the MOPAC, has questioned this view and insisted they were responsible solely for questioning his office which in turn scrutinised the Met.
To the annoyance of AMs, at his first appearance in front of the PCC, Mr Greenhalgh “advised” Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe not to attend the meeting.
His stance contradicted that of predecessor Deputy Kit Malthouse who told this site in January: “While I’m Deputy Mayor for Policing and Boris is Mayor it would be inconceivable that the Commissioner will not accept an invitation to appear in front of the Assembly and answer questions.”
The attempts to block access to the Met were also at odds with Mayor Johnson’s own public statements on the matter.
Speaking in September, the Mayor said: “As for the role of the Assembly, what I have always said, when we embarked on the reforms and I effectively became the Commissioner for London, it was always going to be in my mind that the function of the Assembly was to provide the scrutiny function of the old Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) and I stick to that.”
In a letter to PCC Chair Joanne McCartney sent on behalf of the Mayor, Sir Eddie Lister, Johnson’s Chief of Staff, has urged an end to “argument about the interpretation of the legislation”.
Sir Eddie’s letter says Mr Greenhalgh has now “made clear that he has no issue with you inviting a relevant senior MPS officers to PCC meetings” and that “it is a matter for the PCC to decide who to invite, whether this be the Commissioner or his representative at the monthly Q&A sessions, and for this to be settled between the PCC and the MPS”.
Sir Eddie has also addressed Assembly and Committee concerns over the provision of information and answering of correspondence by the MOPAC.
In his letter, Sir Eddie says: “Stephen has made clear that MOPAC is committed to providing the Assembly with as much information as possible, and has recognised that more needs to be done – and indeed is being done – to improve performance in responding to requests.”
“Against this background, Stephen has said he will endeavour to respond within 20 days.”
AMs have also been told the Met will in future provide written answers and information directly to the committee rather via MOPAC.
Sir Eddie’s intervention followed criticism of MOPAC’s performance by all Assembly groups at a recent ‘Bureau of Leaders’ meeting with the Mayor’s office.
London Assembly Member Jenny Jones, who has previously criticised MOPAC’s performance, welcomed Sir Eddie’s intervention.
Ms Jones said: “I am glad this disagreement has finally been sorted. The Committee has the right to invite whoever it wants to our meetings and to ask for information from the Met. It was not appropriate for the Deputy Mayor to attempt to limit the Committee’s role and I am pleased he has come around on this matter.”