[Sir John Butterfill in the Chair] — A Surveillance Society?

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:50 pm on 19th March 2009.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:50 pm, 19th March 2009

Again, I am grateful to the Minister for providing that clarity.

Some of the statements in the annexe to the information memorandum on the EU data retention directive on telecoms and internet data suggest that there will be no change in policy. Clearly, there has been a change in policy this afternoon. We welcome that approach to the review of RIPA. The review is essential. Greater confidence and trust are required in the use of those powers because they have been over-extended and overused by a number of organisations and agencies in the past.

The right hon. Member for Leicester, East made some valid remarks on CCTV. The Home Affairs Committee report highlighted the value for money of CCTV. The report stated that £500 million has been spent. There is little doubt that millions of pounds have been spent on CCTV cameras. That form of direct surveillance has an important purpose in providing public and national security. The problem is that many of the systems that have been installed do not meet expectations. For example, they are sometimes in the wrong place or the images that are captured are not of sufficient quality to be used in evidence.

The Home Office rightly identified various weaknesses in the "National CCTV Strategy", which was published in 2007. It recommended:

"Owners of systems should undertake a review of all the CCTV cameras in public space use, detailing their purpose and establishing if they are fit for that purpose."

It said:

"The role of the Information Commissioner needs to include greater powers to enforce licensing requirements of systems and people and needs to be clearer".

Recommendation R3.2 stated that

"consideration should also be given to whether or not there is a need for any new legislation to tackle invasion of privacy with regard to both public and private CCTV—the latter remains a grey area in many respects".

Will the Minister say what progress has been made on implementing that strategy?

Will the Minister explain how he expects others to improve their standards when the Home Office does not know the status of its systems? No overall assessment has been made of whether Home Office CCTV systems comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, the CCTV code of practice published by the Information Commissioner and relevant British Standards Institution standards. Does the Minister accept that it is a bit rich for the Home Office to lecture others when it has not got around to checking whether its own house is in order?

Will the Minister explain the Government's apparent wish to mandate the introduction of CCTV in pubs and other licensed premises on a blanket basis? He will be aware of the concern that the Government's new mandatory code on licensing will be used to impose such requirements. Why is such a blanket approach proportionate and necessary? How will it reassure the public over fears of a creeping surveillance state?

That brings me neatly to the concerns about identity cards and the ID card database. The Government have still not made a case for the necessity of the entire scheme. The arguments about the need for identity cards from a national security perspective have been shown to be based on weak foundations. Biometric passports and visas are one thing, but requiring the entire population to have compulsory national ID cards is a completely different proposition. Ministers seem to be scouting around for other justifications for their highly controversial policy.