A CABINET minister today (Friday, March 11) said he agreed that an independent investigation of Cleveland Police was necessary.

Chris Grayling, leader of the House of Commons, said he supported the demands of Northern Powerhouse Minister James Wharton for a thorough investigation into the force by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

On a visit to the region to support Matthew Vickers, the Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) in Cleveland, Mr Grayling told The Northern Echo: "There are concerns about Cleveland Police that continue to roll on.

"We need fresh leadership for the force in Cleveland, not in terms of the Chief Constable but in terms of the and Crime Commissioner who can provide a direction in overall terms for the force.

"James Wharton has been a strong advocate of doing things better and so I think James makes a very important point. The police inspectorate has the power to come in and look at Cleveland Police and look at what can be done."

Mr Wharton, the Conservative MP for Stockton South, last month said Cleveland Police was "rotten" and said he could not be confident the force could investigate itself.

He urged incumbent Labour PCC Barry Coppinger to use his power to call in HMIC for "an independent and thorough investigation of the force".

It followed a tribunal which ruled firearms officer Nadeem Saddique had faced racism from colleagues and superiors while in post.

However, Mr Coppinger responded by saying that the HMIC had recently completed a thorough inspection of Cleveland Police which concluded there were no areas in which it was failing.

He said: "I spoke one-to-one with the (inspector) when the report was delivered and he confirmed to me that he did not feel it was necessary for the force to enter special measures - which is what Mr Grayling appears to be suggesting.

"The HMI report did point out areas in which the force could improve and we have already implemented a plan to do this.

"During his time as Justice Secretary, Mr Grayling had presided over a £36m cut to the Cleveland Policing budget resulting in the loss of over 400 policing posts, so I am pleased that he has seen the error of his ways and is now calling for more police officers on the beat in Cleveland, which is certainly something I support.

"This is nothing more than a political stunt."

Mr Grayling joined Stockton councillor Mr Vickers to meet volunteers for Victim Support at Holme House Prison today.

They were told that the service is dealing more with victims of historic sex abuse than ever before, and help for victims of domestic violence was also a priority.

Mr Grayling said if the Conservatives won the PCC elections, they would be improving efficiency within the force.

"We will see, as Julia Mulligan has done in North Yorkshire, an innovative approach on how to make the force run better and more efficiently. We want to release more police to the frontline. We need more police on the beat but also in the areas they are most needed such as cyber crime."

Mr Vickers said: "Crime is up in Cleveland and putting victims first has to be a priority. It is done to some extent but we will ensure it is done even better. It is about listening to people on the frontline."

Cleveland Police's Temporary Chief Constable Iain Spittal acknowledged last month that improvements could be made, and that the force was working with HMIC on this. But he "strongly" refuted any suggestions the force was rotten.

Mr Coppinger said he would rather invest in improving the force than undertake another expensive inspection process.