Clause 29

Part of Protection of Freedoms Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 26th April 2011.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) 11:00 am, 26th April 2011

Certainly, we are not looking at the issue as a numbers game; it is about trust and confidence in how CCTV systems are applied. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate the concerns about Project Champion. As a west midlands MP who saw the local coverage, he will feel more acutely than other members of the Committee the impact of that challenge. It takes only a few such cases to start to erode overall confidence in the use of CCTV systems as a whole, which would be damaging and harmful from a crime prevention and criminal justice approach.

It is important to state that we believe in the significance of CCTV systems and of the benefits of their utilisation. We want to ensure that by virtue of appropriate regulation, they continue to inspire trust and confidence and to deliver on that intent. We are seeking to bring forward a  code of practice, and the hon. Member for Gedling has broadly accepted that that is a sensible means of travel. It would be wrong to stop doing that, and to say that we need yet more evidence, despite the evidence obtained over the past few years. It is better to legislate now to put a code of practice on the statute book, while understanding that the issue is likely to develop. Technology and its application are likely to require flexibility in the use of cameras, which the Bill’s approach will achieve. The flexibility in the code of practice—for instance, the ability to add to those who are subject to the code—will achieve that as practice, technology and indeed attitudes develop. To have flexibility in the Bill is important, sensible and the right approach, given what I have said about the desire to ensure that CCTV continues to have people’s trust and confidence and is not seen as spying on them, but as supporting them, giving them confidence and ensuring that we live in a safe society.

I am in no way downplaying the hon. Gentleman’s points about the criminal system and the use of technology, including to deal with counter-terrorism, where CCTV plays an important role. CCTV should continue to have the relevant public support. As I have already highlighted in the context of the Ipsos MORI survey undertaken by the previous Government, there was an issue.

It is right to consider information provided to us in the form of written evidence and at the Committee’s oral evidence sessions. Graeme Gerrard, a deputy chief constable and the ACPO lead on CCTV, said:

“We also requested some sort of framework for regulation and a sort of oversight body for CCTV. So in principle, we are supportive of what is being suggested.”––[Official Report, Protection of Freedoms Public Bill Committee, 22 March 2011; c. 16, Q34.]

Andrew Rennison is the interim CCTV regulator. He was appointed by the previous Government, but he has our support. We certainly regard as important the work that he has been undertaking in this arena, which is why it leads into the proposals that are contained in the Bill. He was persuaded that the proper approach would be to start with publicly owned cameras and then to develop the system, rather than going for the symbolic, totemic, big-bang approach that the hon. Member for Gedling has alluded to. He was persuaded that it was better to approach the system as we have done, and to consider how to expand and develop it more widely as circumstances change.