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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:25 pm on 19th March 2009.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security) 4:25 pm, 19th March 2009

The hon. Gentleman is pushing it now. I have said that I will consider the idea and now he is trying to take me down the path of what I should decide. I need to consider the idea. Let me consider it and see whether we need to go anywhere with it. In my formal remarks, I shall also deal with his points about access to data and some of the comments that the hon. Member for Hornchurch made about that.

I absolutely agree with the hon. Member for Hornchurch on the importance of the work of the Information Commissioner. In a minute, when I make specific commitments, the hon. Gentleman will see that the role of the Information Commissioner is crucial. Both the hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East think that there is a need to inject more urgency, speed and pace into this area of work. I will take up that point.

Obviously, chief constables have a right to delete DNA from a database if they think that appropriate. That is an operational decision for them. They own the data; it is a matter for them. I think that the hon. Gentleman, supported by my right hon. Friend, was asking me whether I, as Minister responsible for the police, should consider how I could remind them of that process and its importance. I will do that, and do it in a way that is necessary and proportionate, but I will do it. Sometimes, it is important to remind people of such things. I might send them a copy of the report of the debate, so that they can see the points that were made. I hope that that is helpful to my right hon. Friend and to the hon. Gentleman.

Let me say a couple of specific things, drawing on the report. First, let me make some specific commitments to try to drive the issue forward. We have made a commitment to having the national CCTV body. I will try to progress that more quickly so that we have the national oversight body. Let us try to drive that forward. I have already made a point about the RIPA review. I shall make some formal remarks on that in a moment. It will happen shortly. It will be a consultation about how some RIPA authorisations are given and who does that.

The Information Commissioner is talking to the Ministry of Justice about an annual report to Parliament. I will try to ensure that we get that annual report to Parliament so that it can be debated. Again, that is important. I hope that what I have said is helpful, although I cannot give a guarantee. The decision involves the Ministry of Justice with the Information Commissioner, but I will talk to fellow Ministers about the issue to see whether we can progress it. I hope that that also helps my right hon. Friend.

I will make another commitment so that we start to get some meat on the bones of this. I will meet the Information Commissioner and talk to him specifically about some of these issues. I will get his view and, from then on, set up regular meetings with the commissioner to see how all this is progressing, or not.

The communications data consultation document will be published shortly. The hon. Member for Hornchurch mentioned a consultation on DNA. That, too, will commence in the near future.

I say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East that I think it would be helpful to his Committee—I hope he will confirm whether that is the case—if the Home Office updated its response to the Committee. If we sent one to him, he could share it with the members of his Committee. I cannot give him a specific time, but perhaps we could do an update in the next two or three months or so and send it to his Committee, specifically addressing some of the points that have been made. I hope that he and the Committee will find that helpful, and then we can take it forward. He may want to do other things as a consequence.

I am a practical person and I hope that I have made practical points and given a practical demonstration of some of the ways forward.