Boris Johnson’s knowledge of the Met’s phone hacking investigation came under scrutiny at today’s meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority.
Concerns over the Met’s handling of the investigation has already led to the resignations of Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates.
While the Mayor was posing for pictures at an event to mark the first anniversary of his cycle hire scheme, MPA members quizzed Chair Kit Malthouse over the nature of any briefings he and police officers gave the Mayor about the investigation.
Mr Malthouse, appointed to Chair the MPA after the Mayor stepped down from the Authority, has said he was aware the Met were considering flying officers to New York to investigate fresh claims made in a New York Times article on 10 September.
Five days later the Mayor told the London Assembly allegations of widespread phone hacking were “a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour Party” and insisted he was in “continuous” contact with the MPA chair over
the phone-hacking allegations “and other matters”.
However Mr Malthouse said it was “unlikely” he had informed the Mayor of the new claims and appeared to suggest that Johnson only received “periodic” briefings on Met operations which centred around the force’s anti-terror operations.
MPA member and Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones suggested that if the Mayor did know officers were investigating the New York Times allegations he would been “attempting to pervert the course of justice” when making his “codswallop” remark.
Malthouse warned Jones she risked getting herself “into hot water by saying things like that” and City Hall has subsequently dismissed the accusation as “preposterous”.
Speaking after the meeting Jones said: “Kit Malthouse says he did not tell London’s Mayor about a police briefing last September over new claims on phone hacking.
“However, the Mayor said that he and Malthouse were in continuous discussion. Both cannot be right.”
The Mayor has recently defended his “codswallop” remark, saying he based it on the knowledge he had at the time and was aways willing to reassess his opinion if new evidence came to light.
Addressing the meeting, Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin said the force would work to improve its transparency by publishing all meetings between senior officers and the media and details of hospitality.
The acting Commissioner said the Met was looking to learn from the example set by the Greater London Authority which publishes details of all hospitality over £25.
Mr Godwin told members “we need to learn, we need to change and we accept that.”
The move to a more transparent era was welcomed by Liberal Democrat MPA and AM Baroness Dee Doocey who said the current resister of gifts and hospitality “has more holes than a sieve and is often months, if not years out of date.”
“I therefore welcome the very clear statement by the Acting Commissioner that a new open and transparent system for recording all meetings and hospitality within the Met will be put in place in the very near future and will be available online. This is long overdue”
Godwin also expressed “regret” that recent criticisms of the Met’s failings in the initial hacking investigation and concerns that met officers provided information to journalists had lead to a decrease in public confidence in the force.
However he insisted corruption was “not endemic” and revealed that over the past 10 years 13 officers and staff members had been prosecuted for unauthorised access of data and that there had been 260 cases of disciplinary action for the same offence.
During the meeting members condemned the “discourtesy” of the Mayor and Home Secretary Theresa May in not consulting the authority over the appointment of Bernard Hogan-Howe as acting Deputy Commissioner following Godwin’s temporary elevation.
Malthouse was asked by members to write to the Home Secretary to express member’s dissatisfaction.