Rapists and burglars are able to “walk the streets with impunity” after the Conservatives “wrecked” policing, Sir Keir Starmer has said.
The Labour leader aimed the criticism at Rishi Sunak as he urged the Prime Minister to accept in full the findings of a damning review into the Metropolitan Police by Baroness Casey.
Mr Sunak responded by defending his Government’s efforts to increase rape prosecutions and to tackle crime rates while also labelling Labour “soft on crime”.
The exchanges occurred during a session of Prime Minister’s Questions frequently disrupted by backbench heckling.
He added: “I’ve prosecuted countless rapists and I support tougher sentences, but you have to catch the criminals first and when 98% of rapists are not even being put before the court, that’s a massive failure of Government.”
Sir Keir, in his concluding remarks, said: “The reality is after 13 years of Tory Government they’ve done nothing on standards, neighbourhood policing has been shattered and burglars and rapists walk the streets with impunity.”
Mr Sunak referred to partygate investigator Sue Gray, who quit the civil service for a senior Labour role, as he replied: “I said at the time I respected the decision the police reached and I offered an unreserved apology.
“The findings of which confirmed that I had no advance knowledge about what had been planned having arrived early for a meeting.
“But he doesn’t need me to tell him that, he’s probably spoken to the report’s author much more frequently than I have.”
Sir Keir initially focused on the Casey review which found that Britain’s biggest police force is institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic.
The Labour leader earlier said: “I accept those findings in full. Does the Prime Minister?”
Mr Sunak said: “I was appalled to read the descriptions of the abhorrent cases of officers who have betrayed the public’s trust and abused their powers. And let me be clear, it is and was unacceptable and should never have happened.
“We have taken a series of steps already and the Government will now work with the mayor and the Metropolitan commissioner to ensure that culture, standards and behaviour all improve.
“At the heart of this matter are the people whose lives have been ruined by what has happened – it is imperative that the Met works hard to regain the trust of the people it is privileged to serve.”
He went on to urge Mr Sunak to back Labour’s plan for “proper mandatory national vetting” which he argued would “end the farce” of different recruitment standards across police forces.
Mr Sunak, in his reply, said: “There is no need to back that plan because we are already taking action to tackle the issues that are raised in the Casey report.”
Sir Keir went on to describe the Government’s attitude to policing as “sheer negligence” and warned that rape charges fell to 1.6% under the Government’s watch.
He responded to heckling by saying Tory MPs should be “ashamed” of their record and referred to reports of a woman in Armthorpe, South Yorkshire, being beaten with a baseball bat three years ago but with nobody charged.
He pressed Mr Sunak about the charge rate for theft and burglary, with the Prime Minister replying: “Actually, since 2019, neighbourhood crime is down by 25%.
“But he asked rightly about what’s happening with rape cases, so let me just tell him that we are on track to meet our target of doubling the number of rape cases that are reaching our courts.”
Sir Keir, who represents Holborn and St Pancras in London, said: “The Prime Minister stands there and pretends that everything is fine. He is totally out-of-touch.
“He needs to get out of Westminster, get out of Kensington, and I don’t mean to Malibu, to the streets of Britain, go there and tell people it’s all fine and see what reaction he gets.
“The answer he didn’t want to give, although he knows it, is 4% of theft and burglaries are charged – 96% of theft and burglary cases not even going before the courts.
“Burglars are twice as likely to get away with it now than they were a decade ago. They should be ashamed of that record.”
After highlighting burglaries in Armthorpe, Sir Keir said: “Rather than boasting and blaming others, why doesn’t he tell the country when he’s going to get the theft and burglary charge rate back to where it was before they wrecked policing?”
Mr Sunak, who represents Richmond in North Yorkshire, replied: “North Yorkshire is a lot further away than north London.”
After Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle had to calm MPs, and suggested those too excited could head to the tearoom, Mr Sunak said: “They will be Yorkshire Teas, Mr Speaker.
“Since the Conservatives came into power, crime is down 50%, violent crime down 40%, burglary down 56%. Why? Because we’ve recruited 20,000 more police officers, we’ve given them the powers to tackle crime and we’ve kept serious offenders in prison for longer.”
He criticised Labour for opposing Government measures, adding: “It’s the same old Labour – soft on crime, soft on criminals.”