A senior Metropolitan police officer has said he was advised that it was up to him whether or not to fly a rainbow flag outside a station in east London and he was not ordered to take it down.

PinkNews.co.uk reported yesterday that the flag, an internationally-recognised symbol of the gay community, was flown at Limehouse station to mark the start of LGBT History Month.

Sir Paul Stephenson, who was appointed Met Commissioner last month, was reported to have ordered that the flag be taken down.

The Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement that policy in relation to displaying flags at MPS police buildings is that only two flags should be flown: the Union flag or the MPS flag.

“The Commissioner reaffirmed that he expects all staff to adhere to this policy,” a spokesperson said.

“It would appear someone, albeit with good intentions, decided to fly the rainbow flag over a police building in support of LGBT History Month.

“All staff have been reminded of our policy and any flags other than Union or MPS flag will be replaced.”

Today Borough Commander Det Chief Supt Paul Rickett told the East London Advertiser that had asked the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, for permission late last year.

“I made enquiries when I was approached by a member of staff who wanted to fly the rainbow flag to mark LGBT History Month,” he told the paper.

“When I asked what the policy on flags was I was told that it was a local decision and was basically up to me so I took the decision to fly the rainbow flag for one day to mark the start of LGBT History Month.”

Det Chief Supt Rickett said no-one was ordered to take it down, but from now on he would be sticking to the rules.

“We won’t be flying any flags other than the Union Flag and the MPS flag,” he said.

The rainbow flag has been flown from police buildings in Wales and Scotland as part of LGBT History Month.