Clause 29

Part of Protection of Freedoms Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 26th April 2011.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 10:30 am, 26th April 2011

Good morning, Mr Streeter. I hope that among all the other things you have been doing, you have had a reasonable break and that members of the Committee have enjoyed themselves, and even on the beaches during the weekend have been preparing rigorously for our discussion of the Bill.

It is good to be on the Committee reunited with colleagues and friends. I hope that the Under-Secretary and I swap places again soon. My brief from an earlier Bill, the hon. Member for Northampton North, is in Committee. I still have not received a bill for his work then, but it is good to see him. On a serious point, the hon. Member for South Swindon and I have not been members of the same Committee since we discussed the Academies Bill soon after he was elected to Parliament. We had some interesting exchanges at the time and, hopefully, in the forthcoming razzamatazz of our proceedings, we shall have more interesting exchanges of views and opinions as we approve this Bill.

We have suggested under amendment 93 an independent inquiry into the use of surveillance camera systems before we proceed further with the Bill. Later clauses bring independent inquiries under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 as well as under powers of entry. One of the reasons why the amendment is so important is that the Government are caught on the horns of a dilemma in respect of what they are trying to do. The Bill amends certain pieces of legislation, and an independent inquiry would help it to achieve at its heart an all-embracing fundamental principle to drive on amendments in other areas. At present, it lacks such a principle. Although the Government are seeking to amend different bits of legislation and tweak certain pieces, as they are doing under the clause and the code of practice for surveillance camera systems, they do not have a fundamental drive forward.

My hon. Friends have tabled an amendment to a later part of the Bill, and others have suggested a debate about whether such matters need to be amalgamated under the guidance of a privacy commissioner. An inquiry into surveillance camera systems would explain how such systems relate to other aspects, such as RIPA, powers of entry and a range of other emerging technologies that many of us have not yet even thought about. Such an inquiry would establish an evidence base for what the Government are doing.

I am not alone in wanting an independent evidence base. In 2008-09, in its report “Surveillance: Citizens and the State”, the House of Lords Select Committee recommended that the Home Office commission an independent appraisal of the existing research evidence on the effectiveness of CCTV in preventing and detecting crime. Indeed, it proposed a statutory code for CCTV. It is not just me who is arguing that there is a need to understand such matters and look at them in more depth; the House of Lords Committee said exactly the same thing.