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‘a code of practice containing’.
Amendment 104, page 20, line 9, leave out
‘Such a code must contain guidance’ and insert
‘The guidance may contain information’.
Amendment 105, page 20, line 12, at end add—
‘(c) the importance of using CCTV to prevent and detect crime,
(d) ways to take into account the views of the public in relation to CCTV provision, including the use of public petitions.’.
Amendment 106, page 20, leave out lines 13 to 28.
Amendment 95, page 20, line 13, leave out from ‘code’ to end of line 24 and insert
‘must have, in particular—
(a) regard to the purpose of prevention and detection of crime,
(b) consideration for petitions from the public as consultation on CCTV provision, with any such petition to be brought to the attention of the Commissioner,
(c) not inhibiting CCTV provision for the purpose of preventing and detecting crime, and
(d) consideration as to whether the use of CCTV will prevent and detect crime.’.
Amendment 107, page 20, line 29, leave out ‘such a code’ and insert ‘guidance’.
Government amendment 20
Amendment 99, page 21, line 14, leave out clause 30.
Amendment 100, page 21, line 35, leave out clause 31.
Amendment 101, page 22, line 22, leave out clause 32.
Amendment 102, page 22, line 30, leave out clause 33.
Amendment 103, page 24, line 5, clause 34, leave out ‘code’ and insert ‘guidance’.
Amendment 96, page 24, line 6, leave out ‘code’ and insert ‘guidance’.
Amendment 97, page 24, line 6, leave out from ‘code’ to end of line 8.
Amendment 98, page 24, line 30, clause 35, leave out ‘code’ and insert ‘guidance’.
Government amendments 31 and 67.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gedling, who originally tabled new clauses and amendments on behalf of the shadow Home Office team, has been promoted to the shadow Cabinet. If you will indulge me, Mr Speaker, I will begin by paying tribute to him for his sterling work in the police field during his time in this brief. Once upon a time, he was the Policing Minister. I succeeded him in government as the Policing Minister, he succeeded me as the shadow Policing Minister in opposition, and I succeed him again as the shadow Policing Minister. Between us, we have several years of service, but not continuously. I wish to place on record my thanks to my hon. Friend for his work in raising what we accept are politically contentious issues at a time when there is real concern about the future direction of policing and there are real differences between the Government and the Opposition. However, I hope I can say, on behalf of the Government as well as the Opposition, that he exercised those duties in a fair and equitable way.
I, too, put on record, in the nicest possible way, my best wishes to Vernon Coaker. He and I had some frank exchanges over the years, but I certainly mark out the good-natured way in which we were able to reconcile our differences at times, and I welcome him to his new responsibilities.
I am grateful for the Minister’s support for my comments about my hon. Friend. I assure the Minister that I will try to kick him very hard on some of the political issues, but I hope that we can enjoy a similar relationship to that he had with my predecessor. Having dealt with the hon. Gentleman from the Government side of the Chamber when he was in opposition, I am sure that we will have a positive relationship.
Indeed. I strongly appreciate my hon. Friend’s support in dealing with the proposals before the House.
I will move on to the meat of the issue, because that is important for the House. Part 2 of the Bill proposes the introduction of a surveillance code covering the operation of CCTV by public authorities in England and Wales, and the creation of a commissioner to promote compliance with the code. The code will operate as a mechanism of self-regulation and will be set by the Secretary of State. Our new clause and amendments would do several things which we want to explore with the Minister to get a feel for the approach he is taking. These matters were considered heavily in Committee. Perhaps fortunately, on some levels, I was not there, so we may need to revisit some of them today. It is important that we examine the concerns about CCTV; the amendments are designed to get a flavour at least of the Government’s thinking and to place on record the Opposition’s views.
Labour Members want to ensure that the role of CCTV is strengthened and its importance is recognised. We want to ensure that the code operates in an effective way and does not hamper the development of CCTV. We want to have a presumption in favour of the police being able to set up CCTV in our communities to tackle crime through prevention and through bringing perpetrators to justice. The purpose of new clause 16 is to put in place a review by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to ensure that we examine, quantify and agree on the definitive benefits of CCTV so that we know exactly the baseline.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and welcome him to his post. Shortly before the last general election, I heard a police officer from my region say on TV that his vision was to have CCTV cameras on one in three houses. He said that that would really give us a good eye on what was happening. Is that the sort of vision that the right hon. Gentleman has?
I have a vision of CCTV playing a role in stopping crime and catching criminals. Communities in constituencies such as Ashfield and mine in north Wales should have confidence that if a crime is committed, people can be caught using CCTV. It might also have a deterrent effect. We should have a proportionate response with CCTV in appropriate places where police, local authorities and, as we have discussed and will discuss, the private sector feel there is a need to provide such reassurance and support.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his elevation, or perhaps I should say on his sideways move to shadow the position he held in government. I want to probe him on why he chose HMIC as the organisation that would monitor this matter under the new clause. In the new landscape, we tend to put a lot of responsibility on HMIC and I wonder whether it has the resources to deal with these additional responsibilities, important though they are.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his welcome. One advantage of being in opposition, although there are not many, is that the right hon. Gentleman’s Select Committee will not scrutinise me and my Department, as he will the Minister. There are occasional silver linings in what are very big clouds.
My right hon. Friend asked a valid question about HMIC. He will know that the new clause was tabled prior to my elevation to this post and that it was my right hon. and hon. Friends who chose HMIC. It is important that HMIC looks at issues of police performance, one of which is the role of CCTV and its effectiveness in fighting crime. There may be other mechanisms to look at that, but I want to hear from the Minister a defence of CCTV. I am already getting a slight sniff that some coalition Members are not so supportive of CCTV.
CCTV clearly has a role, which is why the Bill does not make having it illegal and merely tries to regulate it. CCTV is very useful in some cases. To answer the question that the right hon. Gentleman refused to answer, I am deeply uncomfortable with the idea of having CCTV cameras on one in three houses. I think that that would be a horrible, Big Brother state and it slightly alarms me that he is keen on it.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but he should not put words in other Members’ mouths. What I have said is that CCTV should play a role. I do not expect ever to see one in three houses in my street or in his street with CCTV cameras, but there is no strategic need for us to put obstacles in the way of CCTV being put in place if there is a need for it.
Is it not better to put it slightly differently? Many of our constituents who have suffered nuisance and criminality in their environment come to us and ask, “Why can’t we have CCTV?” Should this not be a matter on which we liaise with local communities to ensure that the scope of CCTV meets their needs?
As ever, my hon. Friend speaks common sense. Perhaps part of the guidance to be issued in due course could be about such consultation. I have not yet, in nearly 20 years as a Member of this House, had anybody come to me to say, “Mr Hanson, please do not put a CCTV camera in our street.”
It may happen in Cambridge, but it does not happen in my constituency in north Wales. In fact, most people in my constituency argue for more CCTV cameras, not fewer. I have digressed, but I repeat that new clause 16 asks for HMIC to make a case for the crime fighting capability of CCTV.
The second objective of our amendments is to strip away some of the bureaucracy that we believe could act as an obstacle to the police doing their job of tackling crime and making communities safer. I would welcome the Minister giving his view on why there has been no mention yet of the private sector’s role in relation to the further regulation of CCTV.
I hope it will help Dr Huppert if I say that only a few hours ago I looked through news from the past week or so about the impact of CCTV in our communities. I pulled off the internet four examples from just the past week of real instances in which CCTV has made a difference. I worry that the code of practice that the Minister is bringing in might well have an impact on the ability of the police or local authorities to provide the necessary level of CCTV coverage.
I looked first at the Daily Mail, which, as my hon. Friends will know, is an august publication that is required reading for Opposition spokesmen on every occasion. It had a headline that read, “Masked bank robber caught on CCTV holding a sawn-off shotgun to bank customer’s head”. There was a private CCTV camera in the bank, on which the individual was caught, but helpfully for him he had placed on his head a balaclava that covered his face, so he was not recognised. However, the gentleman concerned, a Mr Trevor Hayes, was recognised pulling his balaclava off his head as he walked away from the bank, in Watlington, Oxfordshire, having been caught on a local authority CCTV camera. I should like to discuss the case with the Minister; Mr Hayes is now serving 15 years for the bank robbery, which was caused by his actions but solved by CCTV capturing him on camera. My question to the Minister is whether his code of practice will ultimately lead to less use of CCTV by local authorities.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but what concerns me is that the coalition’s programme for government states that it is committed to implementing
“a full programme of measures to…roll back state intrusion.”
As part of that programme, it undertakes to “further regulate CCTV”. I am sure he would accept that capturing an individual, who is now serving 15 years, through local authority CCTV on a public highway is not “state intrusion” but a valuable use of CCTV.
That is what I want to test the Minister on. I know that he has discussed the code at length in Committee, and I am sorry that I was not there to share those moments with him. I shall quote the consultation for the benefit of Gareth Johnson. It states that the code will include consideration of
“whether the proposed installation is part of a developed and integrated strategy…clarity on the main purpose and perceived advantages of the use of the technology and an
“assessment of whether…technology will meet that purpose in full…whether there are alternative means of achieving the same outcomes…whether accompanying safeguards (including operating procedures) are already in place or need to be developed” and
“impact assessments (including environmental, privacy, disproportionality etc)”.
The hon. Member for Cambridge hinted at privacy considerations. All I am saying is that I am worried that the code—as I understand it, the guidance has not been published—could lead to more hoops for local authorities and/or the police to jump through before a camera is in place in, for example, Watlington, Oxfordshire, to capture an armed robber and lead to his conviction. I should like some clarity before we reach a settlement that stops such a criminal being brought to justice.
My right hon. Friend was the Policing Minister when the Home Affairs Committee in the previous Parliament published its report on the surveillance society. In that report, the Committee warned of the excessive number of cameras. No one denies that there are areas where there is a demand for such cameras and that proper policing priorities mean that there ought to be cameras on some buildings. However, he must accept that we reached the end of the road with the unlimited use of CCTV all over the country in all circumstances. Surely there must be criteria to judge whether it is needed.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, in addition to the number of CCTV cameras, it is important to consider their quality? One problem that police come up against is the fact that many CCTV cameras are not turned on or aimed in the right direction, and do not capture the important data that they should capture. Rather than aiding the police in detecting and preventing crime, such cameras do not achieve what they should achieve. Perhaps a regulatory framework would assist rather than hinder the police. A properly framed regulatory framework could improve the situation for CCTV and surveillance in this country rather than create the problems that the right hon. Gentleman seems to imply it might.
May I helpfully—I hope—agree with the hon. Lady? I believe that we need strong, quality CCTV cameras. In one estate in my constituency, incidents have been seen by CCTV, but no convictions resulted, because the camera quality was insufficient and the pictures were blurred.
I apologise if these matters were covered in Committee, but it is important that we cover them again. I am just testing my worry with the Minister. The code will include consideration of
“the appropriateness of permanent or temporary/mobile cameras…cost benefit analysis…consultation with relevant partners…appropriate consultation with the public, or…specific group” and
“reviews of the continuing need for, or value of, any system installed.”
Those criteria have been set, and my simple question, which I hope answers the point made by the hon. Member for Dartford, is whether those hoops will help to maintain CCTV, or whether they will say to local authorities, “There is cost, time and aggro. Do you really want it?” Residents of a street in Cambridge might say, “We don’t want CCTV in our street,” but that street might just happen to be the one that Mr Hayes walks down when he takes off his balaclava.
The Opposition’s new clause 16 simply says that we want Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to undertake separately an assessment of the importance of CCTV as part of the crime-fighting capability of the police. That mechanism would say, “We recognise the importance of CCTV.” I want a clear statement from the Minister and the Government that CCTV is important and that their proposals will not add to the bureaucracy, time and difficulty of putting CCTV cameras in place.
Let us go back to basics. The Government say that they want to roll back “state intrusion”, but I do not believe that capturing a criminal who has just carried out a bank robbery is state intrusion. However, according to the logic of the hon. Member for Cambridge, CCTV cameras are not necessarily a positive thing in those circumstances. His logic is that “state intrusion” and CCTV cameras, used in a wide range of circumstances and covering different streets, might not be a positive thing.
In Northern Ireland, we have a large expanse of CCTV. In my area, we have them in our town, but there is a demand coming from the general public. The right hon. Gentleman has given one example in which cameras have proved useful. In the town that I represent, the general public want CCTV. It has reduced crime in the town centre by 50%, car theft by 45% and theft of other items by 55%. Clearly, CCTV can deliver and is a sleeping policeman that reduces crime.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend—if I can call him that—for his comments. I shall quote from an article last week in the Batley and Birstall News:
“Sgt Chris Hughes from Batley Neighbourhood Policing Team said the cameras were a ‘massive plus’ for the police. He said: ‘CCTV is independent evidence at the end of the day telling us exactly what’s going on and whether someone should be charged with an offence or not. CCTV is a massive, massive investigation tool for the police. We rely on it for everything from street crime to terrorist activity and murder.’”
In supporting the new clauses and amendments tabled by my hon. Friends, I simply point out that the coalition agreement states clearly that the Government want to roll back “state intrusion”. That sends a signal about a starting place which is not the starting place I am at.
The right hon. Gentleman is right to raise the case he did. I do not think that anyone in the House wants to prevent cameras in that situation from capturing people who rob banks, and I do not think that that is the intention of the Bill. However, we could just as easily identify cases in which public cameras are pointed on private areas. We need to find a way, through regulation, of ensuring that public cameras act as a deterrent and provide safety for the public, but do not intrude on private individuals in their own backyards.
I shall try to find some common ground. I do not necessarily think that the public state sector—the police and local authorities, which is what we are dealing with in the Bill—should be training cameras on people’s private homes. However, the code of practice refers to
“appropriate consultation with the public, or any specific group, most directly affected by any planned surveillance”.
I shall cite a case in Southampton this week. A local paper reported:
“A thug who punched two men in separate unprovoked attacks during a drug and booze fuelled night out in Southampton has been locked up. One of Jamal Farooq’s victims was left needing surgery on a fractured jaw after being ferociously hit in the face in the apparently random attack… The attack…came shortly after CCTV cameras had caught Farooq, of Orchard Lane, Southampton, approaching and punching an unknown victim in another apparently unprovoked attack.”
He was only caught because of CCTV cameras in an area where there were public places as well as private places. He was only convicted because of the CCTV cameras.
Following a match between Luton Town and York last year, the police released CCTV footage to the media in an effort to track down offenders, which led to four convictions of individuals for gross activity and violence at a football match, including for
That happened in a public area where, under these proposals, there might need to be appropriate consultation with the public, which might mean further hoops to jump through. I think that the wider public interest, to which the local authority—elected by the public, let us remember—must have regard, and the police, who will shortly be accountable to police commissioners, can provide sufficient control to manage these issues in a way that does not add hoops. I want the Minister to justify the code to ensure that we are not putting in place something that will roll back what is termed “state intrusion” by the coalition agreement.
In response to my hon. Friend Gareth Johnson, the right hon. Gentleman gave a number of examples, but I do not think that they accurately characterise the problem between public and private areas. An example of a local authority possibly creating a problem of privacy would be a local school wishing to put CCTV cameras in the children’s bathrooms or changing rooms. That could create more problems, which we might want to address in a regulatory way. Similarly, a camera placed on a local authority building might also overlook private housing. Those are the kinds of areas in which the public-private dynamic creates problems, and a regulatory framework would be helpful in resolving them.
Those are interesting ideas to test in the debate, but we have not got the guidance. I confess to the Minister that, in the dying days of the Labour Government, my hon. Friend Mr Campbell and I looked at how we might manage this, and we did not reach any conclusions. The key question is: how do we ensure that CCTV in public places is not discriminated against by the hoops that are being set up by the legislation?
The new clause proposes an independent assessment by the police, through Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, of the importance of CCTV, to ascertain how it contributes to crime fighting and crime prevention, prior to the code and the guidance being produced. We do not want the code and the guidance to militate against the crime-fighting potential of CCTV.
I want to touch briefly on automatic number plate recognition. This is another area in which “state intrusion”, in the form of examining number plates, could be discriminated against by the proposals in the Bill. The random examination of number plates is an effective crime-fighting tool. I have seen it at work in my own force in north Wales, when I have sat in the back of vans, both as a Policing Minister and as a constituency MP. A code could, however, fail to acknowledge its importance. I want clarification from the Minister on whether automatic number plate recognition will be seen as the “state intrusion” mentioned in the coalition agreement.
Let me give an example from my constituency. Only recently, Mr Laurence Bernard Levey and Mr Gary Warner were convicted of conspiring to secure the robbery of some £140,000 worth of cash and jewellery from the home of one of my constituents. After a long trail was followed between a jewellery store and a well-known criminal with previous convictions, the conviction was achieved only because automatic number plate recognition cameras were able to prove that a car had been in a certain place at a certain time, which tied in with the mobile phone records of another party who said that those involved had never met. The automatic number plate recognition and the mobile phone records tied those individuals to that place at that time.
The Government could argue that having automatic number plate recognition equipment stationed at certain places at certain times constitutes “state intrusion”, because such equipment could capture my car, or those of my hon. Friends the Members for Ashfield and for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller) or my right hon. Friend Keith Vaz, for example, as we drove past that location, but would that be “state intrusion”, or would it simply provide a record, if it were needed, that a certain person had been in a certain place at a certain time? Such undeniable evidence ultimately led to the conviction last week of the two individuals I mentioned: Mr Warner received a sentence of 16 years in prison and Mr Levey one of 10 years. In my view, that “state intrusion” helped to bring justice for my constituent, whose property was stolen by two people who will now have a long time in prison to reflect on the importance of automatic number plate recognition.
I am not alone in saying that; the Local Government Group said in evidence to the Committee that CCTV had been
“instrumental in bringing criminals to justice including in the Jamie Bulger case, the…bombings in London and the murder of Ben Kinsella,” and other murders—indeed, CCTV was used in 86 investigations into 90 murders in London in one year. Our starting point is that CCTV is a good tool for the police in tackling crime. I do not want confused and piecemeal legislation that could negatively affect the police’s ability to carry out their work. The purpose of our new clause is to ensure that we analyse the police’s assessment of CCTV before finalising the code and guidance. New clause 16 reinforces our other amendments in calling for HMIC to commission a report on the use of CCTV by the police and local authorities for the prevention and detection of crime. It strikes me—although I would say this—that in tabling our amendments, my hon. Friends have some eminently sensible points to make. I hope that I have done them justice today.
If the Government are to continue to “roll back state intrusion”, they should do so on the basis of the available empirical evidence. We know anecdotally, from what the Local Government Group reported to the Committee, that CCTV is making a positive difference. If there are negative or positive repercussions once the voluntary code has kicked in, policy decisions can then be made on the best information available. We know that automatic number plate recognition helps to bring individuals to justice. Some 20,592 individuals have been brought to justice through automatic number plate recognition in the last couple of years alone, including about 52,000 for vehicle document-related offences—no road tax, for example—and about 41,000 vehicles have been seized for lacking insurance.
Will the Minister clarify the parameters of “rolling back state intrusion”? Would it be state intrusion to install an automatic number plate recognition camera at the end of a residential street in an area with a high level of burglaries, for example, or on a main road used every day by people driving to work or to the shops? Having looked at the provisions of the code—only in the last couple of days, I accept—and having seen what my hon. Friends said in Committee and the Government’s general starting point, I worry that the Bill’s proposals on working towards guidance and the code will restrict the use of CCTV and make organisations such as the police and local authorities think even harder before they use it, thereby leading to an increase in crime.
In passing, I ask the Minister to reflect on something that surprised me when I examined the Bill afresh today. Why does it cover police and local authorities? The vast majority of CCTV cameras are in the hands of private individuals or organisations, so why are they not to be covered by the proposed code of practice? It strikes me that some thought should be given to that as part of the overall strategy. In the first example that I gave today—Mr Hayes committing a bank robbery—the first CCTV picture in the Daily Mail was taken from in the bank, and the second, which was used to convict him, was taken from a camera in the street, yet the proposals in the Bill appear to treat each set of CCTV cameras differently. I would welcome an explanation of that from the Minister.
“There is also widespread use of CCTV and ANPR…across all sectors including government agencies”.
He thinks that
“further thought should be given to the implications of limiting the application of the code to the police and local government only,” which indicates the kind of thinking about the private sector generally that I just mentioned. The chief surveillance commissioner said in evidence to the Committee said that there is ill informed and wrong criticism of local authorities in relation to covert surveillance, which is the issue that the hon. Member for Cambridge and others raised. Again, I would welcome a response from the Minister on that. The Local Government Group has been
“keen to ensure that CCTV regulation does not overburden councils and we believe that the new Code of Practice for surveillance camera systems could be a useful resource if it is genuinely a single source of guidance… We are concerned however that new data burdens are not placed on councils, and are also concerned at the potential for confusion from having both the Surveillance Camera Commissioner and Information Commissioner regulating CCTV.”
There is a range of issues there.
In summary, the new clause is saying, “Let’s have an assessment before going down this much more detailed road. Let’s look at what the police and local authorities need to do to ensure that we have CCTV that meets our objectives of capturing criminals, supporting the reduction of crime and increasing confidence.” The genuine concerns of Members about how CCTV is used should also be met. My worry is, albeit without having seen the guidance in detail, that the code as drafted will put off local authorities and the police from using CCTV. Ultimately, that will potentially lead to a rise in crime. I commend new clause 16 and look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new role. I know he dealt with CCTV issues during his time as Police Minister, so I recognise that he was examining regulation during his time at the Home Office. He acknowledge some of the challenges and issues surrounding CCTV and its use, and the need to continue to command public confidence so that CCTV can achieve the results we want, which are to protect the public and ensure that those who commit crimes are brought to justice.
The right hon. Gentleman may be reassured about the Government’s approach—I acknowledge that he has not been in his position very long, so he might not have had the opportunity to read the consultation document on the code of practice—if I quote what the consultation document says at the outset:
“We do not intend therefore, that anything in our proposals should hamper the ability of the law enforcement agencies or any other organisation, to use such technology as necessary to prevent or detect crime, or otherwise help to ensure the safety and security of individuals. What is important is that such use is reasonable, justifiable and transparent so that citizens in turn, feel properly informed about, and able to support, the security measures that are in place.”
It is that context of ensuring trust and confidence and moving forward on that basis that will allow us to ensure that CCTV is able to fulfil the important purposes he mentioned.
In the aftermath of the disorder in August, I went to see the Metropolitan police CCTV centre. I was struck by what I saw of the work undertaken there to identify the criminals who had been engaged in looting and other disorder in our communities, and I saw how the work was followed through to ensure that those responsible were brought to justice. The Government recognise the important role that CCTV can play.
From the way the right hon. Gentleman introduced the new clause and amendments, I gained a sense that he felt slightly uncomfortable about some of the provisions. I understand his desire to probe and to go back over some of the debates we had in Committee, and I accept that he might not have had the opportunity to review and reflect on the Committee reports, but I can tell him that a number of the issues he has brought to our attention this afternoon were considered in detail in Committee.
The right hon. Gentleman asked why, at this stage, the code of practice is to apply only to public authorities and the police. We want to take a measured approach: we want incremental change rather than a sudden significant shift, in order not to undermine the purposes of CCTV that he has identified. We want to provide a regulatory framework that allows CCTV to operate and to achieve the desired result of ensuring that the public have trust and confidence in the system.
In 15 years of being a political animal—I was a councillor before I came here—the only complaints that I have received about CCTV have related to private use. As Nicola Blackwood pointed out, there can be knock-on effects for next-door neighbours. I think that the Government are doing this the wrong way round: they should try to regulate use by the private sector and private residents before trying to deal with the public sector.
There is a potential issue of trust and confidence in the public sector as well. In a review of Project Champion, which involved the use of CCTV cameras in Birmingham, Sara Thornton, chief constable of Thames Valley police, wrote:
“In the course of this review I have met members of the community and have read the press reports and it is clear that many people feel that their civil liberties have been disregarded. As a consequence, the trust and confidence that they have in the police has been significantly undermined.”
Our code of practice is intended to provide a framework that would initially apply to public sector CCTV cameras, but could be adopted by the private sector to raise standards more generally. The Bill provides for an extension of its ambit or remit in due course, if that proves necessary. I believe that that proportionate approach is the right way to address this important issue.
My right hon. Friend Mr Hanson referred to the statement made by the coalition. The last time the Select Committee considered this issue, we noted that there were 1.85 million cameras in existence, but the number has probably risen since then. Do the Government have a target for the number of cameras, or will a different criterion be used? We keep hearing about how their use will be rolled back, but we are keen to know how many will be rolled away.
It is not a simple question of numbers, but a question of people’s trust and confidence in the use of CCTV in their neighbourhoods and communities. That is the relevant factor and it is reflected in the approach that we adopted in the consultation, whose findings we have published and the responses to which we are now examining. It is a question of whether the public trust what is there. We want CCTV to be seen as a positive benefit that will aid security.
“sleepwalking into a surveillance society”.
It was felt that the system had grown up over the years without a proper regulatory framework, but of course there are provisions relating to the Data Protection Act and the information published by the Information Commissioner himself. We want to bring those elements together to create clear guidance and a regulatory framework to which public authorities and the police must have regard, to ensure that that trust and confidence exist.
We must also look at value for money and effectiveness. As the right hon. Gentleman says, there are a lot of CCTV cameras. We must ensure that they are harnessed and used as effectively as possible and that standards are applied. The interim CCTV regulator appointed under the previous Government has focused on that and taken the standards issue further. It is on that basis that we need to look at regulation and trust and confidence, as well as how we can ensure cameras are used more effectively in the fight against crime.
The code of practice says that only local authorities and police forces
“will be required to have regard to the code in their use of surveillance camera systems”.
Will private sector retail cameras also be covered? They might intrude on public spaces. What might be the implications for the use of such cameras in relation to incidents such as the recent riots in London, Birmingham and the cities of the north?
At this stage, we take the view that public sector cameras in the purest sense—those of local authorities and police—should be covered, but we intend that any standards set may be rolled out further in due course and that other providers of CCTV services should consider the code of practice and perhaps adhere to it on a voluntary basis. That is why I have referred to the process being incremental. We want the introduction of regulation to be handled in a measured way, in order to avoid some of the negative consequences to which the shadow Minister alluded and to ensure that CCTV provides protection and assurance to the public.
It is worth highlighting that we have undertaken a public consultation, which has now been completed, to garner feedback from all the different stakeholders. I might point to the evidence given in Committee by Deputy Chief Constable Graeme Gerrard, who is the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on CCTV. He talked about the work the previous Government did in 2007 on producing a national CCTV strategy, and emphasised that that addressed
“standards around images, the retention period for images, the quality of images and ensuring that systems are fit for purpose. We also requested some sort of framework for regulation and a sort of oversight body for CCTV.”
The House should be aware that there has not been a headlong rush to try to undermine CCTV and its benefits. Rather, we have tried to ensure trust and confidence in its use, both now and in the future, by providing a regulatory framework that gives the protections that many of our constituents have lobbied us about. This is not a kneejerk reaction or an attempt to get rid of lots of CCTV cameras. It is an attempt to give confidence in the use of CCTV cameras, reflecting on initiatives such as Project Champion, by putting in place a regulatory framework.
Let me deal briefly with the amendments in the name of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Amendment 20 is a response to a similar amendment tabled in Committee by Vernon Coaker. Clause 29(6) defines surveillance camera systems for the purposes of chapter 1 of part 2 of the Bill. In addition to CCTV and automatic number plate recognition systems, the definition includes
“any other systems for recording or viewing visual images of objects or events for surveillance purposes”.
The hon. Gentleman questioned the need for the reference to “objects or events”. Having considered the issue further, I am satisfied that nothing hangs on these words, and that, as he suggested, they are more likely to confuse than enlighten. Our amendment therefore simply removes the offending words.
Amendments 31 and 67 simply debar the surveillance camera commissioner from also serving as a Member of the House by adding the office to the list in schedule 1 to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975.
In essence, the Opposition amendments seek to replace the proposed surveillance camera code of practice with guidance that will simply provide information about how CCTV can prevent and detect crime. Moreover, they would remove any form of parliamentary scrutiny, and they would remove the duty on the police, police and crime commissioners and local authorities to have regard to the code, and on the surveillance camera commissioner to provide advice about the code, including on changes to it. Taken together, the amendments would remove the code of practice and the framework that we believe is important in order to deliver on those issues that I have highlighted, such as giving trust and confidence to communities about how CCTV is being operated. That is why we do not believe that the amendments are necessary, and I hope that, on reflection, Mr Hanson will consider the measured and proportionate approach that the Government are taking and will feel minded not to press his amendments to a vote.
I thank the Minister for being very generous with his time. I just wanted to ask about the use of mobile CCTV cameras by police forces for crowd control purposes, particularly outside football grounds. Fortunately, parties on both sides of the House have introduced legislation and given powers to the police to reduce the amount of hooliganism. What will be the implications of the Bill for mobile CCTV usage by police to reduce crowd hooliganism, in any sport?
It will depend on the nature of the CCTV use—whether it is covert or overt, and whether, if it is covert, it falls within the separate regime under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The code could apply to overt CCTV but, as I have highlighted this afternoon, the actions we are taking are not intended to diminish the effectiveness of the police. From my visit to the football policing unit, I recognise how CCTV and video camera evidence can be very powerful tools in dealing with football hooliganism and those who shame the legitimate football supporters who are proud to support their clubs. I recognise the importance of putting our focus on football policing and how CCTV can play an important role. Given my comments, I hope that the right hon. Member for Delyn will not press the Opposition amendments to a vote.
May I begin by congratulating my right hon. Friend Mr Hanson on assuming the position of shadow police Minister? We remember his many contributions over the past few years as the police Minister in the Labour Government. May I also congratulate my hon. Friend Gloria De Piero on joining our home affairs Front-Bench team? I had the pleasure of interviewing her when she came before the national executive committee of the Labour party as a candidate. Although I thought that she was an outstanding candidate and that she would have a glittering career, not even I could have predicted that within 18 months of her election she would be sitting on the Front Bench speaking on behalf of the Opposition on home affairs.
I do not think that there is a lot that divides the two Front-Bench teams on this issue. Although my right hon. Friend is trying to make a great divide between the Government and the Opposition, I heard nothing in the Minister’s speech to suggest that there is going to be a bonfire of cameras. Members on both sides of the House accept that there will always be circumstances in which cameras are necessary and desirable.
This country has 1.85 million of these cameras, one for every 32 citizens. When the Select Committee on Home Affairs in the previous Parliament produced a weighty report into the surveillance society, we were concerned that the country was, in the words of the commissioner,
“sleepwalking into a surveillance society”.
When considering this subject it is important that we balance what our constituents want with the general civil liberties issues. Cases of this kind always involve a balance. When we ask constituents, they say that they want more and more CCTV cameras. Jim Shannon talked about his constituents in Northern Ireland. The shadow Minister talked about Mr Hayes and his balaclava, and he will obviously be one of the great features of this debate. I can talk about my constituents in the Northfields estate, as every time I go to a public meeting in that estate they want cameras put up because they feel that that is the only way to reduce crime. That must apply to every Member of this House: local residents feel that one of the best ways of catching criminals is for CCTV cameras to be put up in the neighbourhood.
The problem for local authorities and the police is to ensure that there is a balance. There cannot be a CCTV camera everywhere that people want one. They must be fit for purpose and they must contain film because, as we heard from Nicola Blackwood, in some cases the cameras do not work. Criminals will not necessarily be put off when they see a camera that does not move. In this Chamber, every time somebody moves from one position to another, the cameras move their little heads and follow the Members as they speak. It is very important that cameras are fit for purpose. When they are put up—especially when new cameras are erected—they must pass a test: do they benefit the local community and will they result in criminals being caught? If they are merely being put up for the sake of it, are they necessary? That is the test that we must all follow.
I was glad to hear from the Minister that he is interested in regulation and that there is a desire for a code of practice. I was also glad to hear that from the shadow Minister, although I was concerned by his proposal that the body that monitors the code should be HMIC. In his modest and boyish way, he said that he did not write the amendment, so he was not necessarily 100% clear as to why that body was the HMIC, but there is a danger in placing too much on the shoulders of the HMIC and poor old Sir Denis O’Connor and his fellow inspectors. I think there are only about a dozen of them in total, with one vacancy now that Mr Hogan-Howe is the new commissioner. We should be wary of placing more responsibilities on organisations. The decision was made before my right hon. Friend took office, so to speak, and we do not know why the HMIC is given that role, but I take his point that an organisation needs to monitor what is going on.
We must be very clear that we have probably reached our limit as far as cameras are concerned. With millions of cameras in this country and a large amount of personal information being gathered about individuals, we should be cautious.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that an additional challenge is the fact that technology in this area will not stand still? In the future, we will potentially see various technologies such as face recognition systems and even CCTV that can listen in on private conversations. If we want CCTV systems to maintain public confidence, we need a code of practice and some regulation that will ensure that they are not misused by public services.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Of course, we all have our own technology—I see that Dr Huppert is in his place and he is the Committee’s expert in tweeting and new technologies, whereas I am still a dinosaur—and within seconds of an event taking place, people will capture it on their cameras, they will e-mail it and it will be on YouTube. Such technology is available all around us and it might not be as necessary to have a fixed camera to capture what is happening locally as it was 10 years ago. Mr Hayes and his balaclava could have been caught by somebody else walking around at that time. We should not necessarily rely on fixed cameras.
The report by the Home Affairs Committee in the previous Parliament was concerned with the need for a report to be placed annually before the House by the Information Commissioner. We did not necessarily feel that local police forces were incapable of producing reports to their local police authorities or to their police commissioner if and when they are elected next November, but the fact remains that we felt that a report should be placed before the House and properly debated so that we know the precise situation. That is very important.
There seems to be an attempt by those on the Front Bench to pick a bit of a fight on this issue, but I think this is just the shadow Minister getting back into the groove in the Home Office team. There really is not very much between those on the two Front Benches on this issue. Probably we are all saying, “We’ve got enough cameras. We probably don’t need any more in vast numbers. But those that are there need to be monitored carefully.”
I talked about the cameras in this Chamber. Your office, Mr Deputy Speaker, is in the House. My office is in Norman Shaw North, and since
The right hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. Are we not substituting the responsibility of parents for their children? When I was growing up as a wee lad, if I misbehaved on my estate—
We will talk about this later. What the hon. Gentleman did as a wee lad sounds like a fascinating story.
Back to the point. Let us have a proper debate about this. Let us not let down our constituents, who want to see proper mechanisms for dealing with crime, but let us have in place a proper code that will be looked at carefully, and an organisation or individual to monitor what is going on.
I will try to be brief as we do not have much time left. It is a great pleasure to follow the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, particularly after he so politely managed to demolish the argument made by the shadow Minister. I congratulate him on the elegance with which he did that. Mr Hanson, at least as he described it, seems to live in a slightly bizarre world where CCTV is either all a good thing or all a bad thing, and that people should either support all of it or none of it. He talked having no obstacles to more CCTV. That is the kind of thinking that has led to us having a huge number of CCTV cameras. I hesitate to admit that I have slightly different figures from my Chair. I have seen the figure of something like 4 million CCTV cameras. However, it is a huge proportion.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the correction.
That is one camera for every 14 people in this country. That compares with other countries that also have interests in law enforcement. Chicago, with a population of 3 million, has something like 10,000 cameras. That is a 20th of what we have. Do we know something that they do not? Across the United States, they use fewer cameras.
The truth about CCTV is that it is not an all-or-none issue. It has its uses and its abuses, which is why we need this code of practice. It has its costs for running and monitoring the systems and it has privacy implications, which is why I absolutely support the Government’s proposals. I hope that the right hon. Member for Delyn will withdraw the new clause.
Time is pressing because of the programme motion, which we opposed. Rather than explain why I shall support the new clause and why I ask my hon. Friends to support it, I will simply press it to a Division.
Debate interrupted (Programme Order,
The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (
The House divided: