Clause 29

Part of Protection of Freedoms Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 26th April 2011.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) 11:30 am, 26th April 2011

Again, I do not think that there is any particular philosophical difference between the hon. Member for Gedling and I. If he looks at the consultation that we are undertaking on the code of practice, he will see that we have incorporated a section on the benefits of CCTV, which specifically mentions crime prevention and detection, counter-terrorism and criminal justice as three significant benefits of the use of CCTV. I do not think that there is any pointed issue or difference; we are not suggesting otherwise, or saying that that is not the case, or that the Government take a different view on the important use of CCTV for those issues.

Where there is a weakness, which the hon. Gentleman highlighted in the debate that he and I had some two years ago, it is that even he was not interested in playing the numbers game. He said:

“There could be 300 cameras or there could be three. Their effectiveness and placement are what is important.”—[Official Report, 19 March 2009; Vol. 489, c. 332WH.]

That is right, which is why when we look at the challenges on the matter, sometimes the use of the equipment, its locations and the systems used do not necessarily give effect to what we wish to see. That is why clause 29 incorporates the provisions on the development of systems, the use of images, the consideration of whether to use cameras, the type of systems and the technical standards. It might not come as too much of a surprise to the hon. Gentleman to hear me say that the very point that he is seeking to raise in his amendments will be dealt with or is implicit in the provisions contained in the Bill and the Government’s approach on the consultation on the points that he has highlighted.

The hon. Gentleman again flagged up the incremental approach that the Government have taken in limiting the statutory application of the code of practice at this point. I again point him to the comments of Andrew Rennison, the interim CCTV regulator. We have taken soundings off him and have listened to him on the guidance and experience that he has applied over the period in which he has been in place, looking at the very issues that the hon. Gentleman has sought to highlight. Andrew Rennison came to the conclusion that that incremental approach was the right way to achieve an effective code. In many ways, taking account of the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington in his earlier intervention, simply specifying groups in the Bill does not mean that it will not have a broader application; it will. The approach of having regulation, and setting and applying standards, means that those standards will be applied more broadly.

The provisions could in some ways be categorised as future-proofing, ensuring that we look to the future and to the issues of trust and confidence that we discussed in our last debate and which the hon. Member for Gedling has again highlighted. Although, as is shown by what I quoted, I agree with him that playing the numbers game is not the most appropriate way to consider the problem, it is interesting to note that the evidence—he had the survey at his fingertips when he was in a position to do something about it—showed that, as I have already mentioned, 28% of those surveyed by Ipsos MORI for the Home Office said that there are too many CCTV cameras in their local area, and 23% said that CCTV cameras make them feel too watched.

The hon. Gentleman talks about evidence, but he had evidence at his fingertips that implied there was an issue, albeit he clearly did not feel that he wanted to action that or recognise some of those concerns raised at that time. Even he is not suggesting that there is not an issue requiring the application of a regulatory framework, although he is looking for further information and we want to bring forward our proposals.