[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

I am explaining the approach that the Government are taking with respect to the consultation. The hon. Gentleman knows that measures contained in the Policing and Crime Bill will give the Home Secretary the power to make orders by statutory instrument to change legislation to take account of the consultation. I am outlining to the House the fact that the consultation will be wide-ranging and will include the various points made in the Committee's report.

Closed circuit television has been a vital weapon in fighting crime for many years. The police, local authorities, transport bodies and law enforcement agencies have all seen the benefits of using it. Indeed, the events of 7 and 21 July 2005 underlined the use of CCTV as an investigative tool. Between 1999 and 2003, the Home Office made available £170 million to help fund 680 schemes across the country. Subsequent funding streams for a range of crime reduction and community safety initiatives were available for CCTV, if local authorities considered it necessary. Such initiatives included Communities against Drugs, the safer communities initiative, Building Safer Communities, the basic command unit fund and the Safer, Stronger Communities fund.

However, there are also concerns about the use of CCTV. For one reason or another, its uses have attracted accusations of invasion of privacy rather than it being treated as a measured and sensible precaution to safeguard national security, protect the public from crime and to detect crime. If CCTV is to work, it must be operated in a way that commands the confidence of the community it serves.

The Home Affairs Committee report made a number of recommendations on CCTV, including the establishment of a national body, the undertaking of further research into the effectiveness of CCTV as a deterrent to crime, the creation of standards to enhance the value of CCTV images and a review of retention periods for CCTV footage. All those issues will be addressed as part of the work being undertaken by the national CCTV strategy board.

One reason why an update would be useful is that the Campbell Collaboration has produced a report on research conducted by the National Police Improvement Agency on the effect of closed circuit television on crime. It was published on 2 December 2008, and it may be of interest to the House. I shall read the text of the review:

"Results of this review indicate that CCTV"— this shows that I am not being biased; I could have missed out this word, but I shall not—

"has a modest but significant desirable effect on crime, is most effective in reducing crime in car parks, is most effective when targeted at vehicle crimes (largely a function of the successful car park schemes), and is more effective in reducing crime in the United Kingdom than in other countries."

Those results lend support to the continued use of CCTV in preventing crime in public spaces, but suggest that it be more narrowly targeted than at present. It is an interesting report, and those Members who are not aware of it may wish to read it.