Prime Minister David Cameron says he respects Sir Paul Stephenson’s decision to quit as head of Scotland Yard, but the focus must now be on investigating phone hacking.
The Prime Minister said he respected the decision to resign but said what matters “most of all now” is that the police investigate phone hacking and alleged police corruption as quickly as possible.
He said: “While I know that today must be a very sad occasion for him, I respect and understand his decision to leave the Met, and I wish him well for the future.
“What matters most of all now is that the Metropolitan Police and the Metropolitan Police Authority do everything possible to ensure the investigations into phone hacking and alleged police corruption proceed with all speed, with full public confidence and with all the necessary leadership and resources to bring them to an effective conclusion.”
What matters now is that the Metropolitan Police do everything possible to ensure the investigations into phone hacking proceed with all speed. Prime Minister David Cameron
Mr Cameron issued the statement from South Africa, where he is on a trade visit. He has cut the visit short by two days as the phone-hacking crisis continues.
Sir Paul himself issued a lengthy statement on Sunday explaining his rationale for resigning, citing allegations about his association with former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis, who was arrested last week as part of the police investigation into phone hacking.
It emerged that the Met had hired Mr Wallis as a consultant in 2009 and Sir Paul himself accepted thousands of pounds’ worth of free accommodation at a luxury health spa where Mr Wallis also worked as a consultant.
Watch Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation statement below
In an aside which some are taking as a parting shot at Mr Cameron, Sir Paul said he had not considered the Met’s relationship with Mr Wallis as an issue until recently, particularly as Mr Wallis had not resigned from the News of the World – unlike Andy Coulson, who was later employed by the Prime Minister as his communications chief.
Sir Paul added: “Unlike Mr Coulson, Mr Wallis had not resigned from News of the World or, to the best of my knowledge, been in any way associated with the original phone hacking investigation.”
The Labour party has seized on the statement, asking why different rules apply for the Met and the Prime Minister.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “It is striking that Sir Paul has taken responsibility and answered questions about the appointment of the deputy editor of the News of the World whereas the Prime Minister still refuses to recognise his misjudgement and answer questions on the appointment of the editor of the News of the World at the time of the initial phone hacking investigation.
“People will wonder at why different rules apply for the Prime Minister and the Met, especially when as Sir Paul said himself, unlike Andy Coulson, Neil Wallis had not been forced to resign from the News of the World.”
Sunday also saw former News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks arrested over the scandal. She was later released on bail.