– in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 6th July 2010.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope, and I hope that you will pass my thanks to Mr Speaker for granting the debate. It is a welcome opportunity because the debate on the effectiveness of DNA and CCTV in tackling crime has, up to press, been rather sterile. It has been characterised as a debate between those who claim to believe in civil liberties and those who are seen as authoritarian; if one believes in the use of DNA and CCTV, one is automatically regarded as an authoritarian, and if one does not believe in their use, one must believe in civil liberties. I do not accept that rather simplistic premise. Today I want to make the pro-freedom case for CCTV and DNA.
I am a Conservative because I believe in freedom, and I am also proud to be a member of an excellent organisation called the Freedom Association. The last Government were one of the most authoritarian, intolerant and illiberal Governments that the country has ever seen, so I certainly do not support some of the measures they introduced. I consider measures such as identity cards and the ability to lock people up without charge, potentially for 90 days, to be authoritarian
The police asking to see one's papers is something one would expect to see in an authoritarian state; that would impinge on my individual freedom. However, CCTV cameras being installed on a particular street and forensic laboratories holding my DNA do not in any way impinge on my freedoms, because they do not stop me doing anything that I would otherwise want to do or going about my daily lawful business. We need to distinguish between those measures that impinge on people's freedoms and those that do not.
The coalition Government have pledged to regulate CCTV and remove from the DNA database the profiles of individuals who are not successfully prosecuted after three years. I believe that the first duty of any Government is to protect the public; it is for that reason that I believe we need, if anything, more CCTV cameras and more people on the DNA database, rather than fewer. Some might argue that that would be an infringement of people's civil liberties, but I do not know what that term really means. "Civil liberties" is one of those terms bandied about that we are all supposed to believe in because they sound good, such as sustainable development, but no one really knows what they mean. We all believe in social justice, but no one really knows what it means. I am sure that we all believe in civil liberties, but we do not know what the term means. In fact, the definition of civil liberties states:
"They are given to treat all the people equally under the law and make them enjoy rights of speech, protection, enjoyment and liberty."
It seems to me that the word "protection" is often missed out when people quote about civil liberties. I believe that one of my civil liberties is to walk down the street safely without being the victim of a serious crime. If DNA and CCTV means that more rapists, murderers and muggers are in prison, that enhances my freedoms rather than diminishing them.
I want to be clear from the outset that I am not in favour of the overuse and abuse of CCTV cameras. I do not agree, for example, with local authorities putting cameras into people's bins to see what kind of rubbish they throw out, which is ludicrous. I am talking about using CCTV as a crime-fighting measure for identifying and prosecuting criminals. There are many reasons for further regulating CCTV; it has been suggested that the images are often of poor quality, that the cameras are costly to install and run and that they can be used for underhand purposes. I want to tackle all those concerns. We should not, however, be provoked into a knee-jerk reaction and, as a result, remove cameras, reduce their numbers or over-regulate their use, which would make them worthless. CCTV images are now often of high quality and have good time frames, and many pictures are now in colour. It is possible to see things from different angles using footage taken from different cameras.
A Scotland Yard study into the effectiveness of surveillance cameras revealed that almost every Scotland Yard murder inquiry uses CCTV footage as evidence. In 90 murder cases over one year, CCTV footage was used in 86 of the investigations, and senior officers said that it helped in of the 65 cases by capturing the murderer on film or the movements of suspects before or after an attack. Scotland Yard's head of homicide, Simon Foy, said:
"CCTV plays a huge role in helping us investigate serious crime. I hope people can understand how important it is to our success in catching people who commit murder."
In many areas, CCTV is watched live by monitoring teams who can call the police to the scene of a crime.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that CCTV evidence has had a big impact in reducing the number of contested prosecutions and, therefore, the cost to the criminal justice system?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right and has pre-empted what I was about to say. In this age of austerity, we should be trying to find ways of reducing the cost of the criminal justice system, and as she rightly noted, CCTV is a key way of doing that.
Unless millions of police officers are stationed on every street corner, in every park and on every road, without CCTV those crimes would go unreported and often undetected. A prime example is that of the so-called "crossbow cannibal", who was arrested on suspicion of murdering three prostitutes in my home city of Bradford, but only because he was caught on CCTV. Without CCTV, that arrest would never have been made. We would never have been able to identify the
Let us look at the cost-effectiveness of CCTV. The average running cost of a CCTV system with 150 cameras is about £320,000 a year, and on average 3,000 events are monitored every year by each system, giving an average cost of about £100 per incident. It seems to me that that is good value for money in this age of austerity. It seems even better value when we consider that a 12-month experimental study in Burnley showed a 28% reduction in crime in an area with CCTV, compared to a 10% increase in crime in an area that relied solely on policing. Therefore, CCTV is not only cost-effective, but effective in reducing crime in the real world. An initiative in my constituency in west Yorkshire set up a CCTV camera, which cost only a few thousand pounds, and Crimestoppers has stated that the number of arrests and charges has increased by 40% as a result, so its cost-effectiveness has been proved beyond doubt.
As the hon. Lady pointed out, CCTV is a valuable tool not only for the police, but for the courts. It is an invaluable tool on two levels: for convicting the perpetrators of crimes; and for acquitting those who have not committed a crime. CCTV footage provides conclusive and unbiased evidence, void of anyone's spin or mistaken recollection. When viewed by defendants and their solicitors, footage often leads to a change of plea, from not guilty to guilty. That invariably happens in cases in which defendants were drunk or on drugs when they committed an offence and could not recall it. That not only saves the courts time and money, as the hon. Lady suggested, but prevents witnesses having to give evidence in court, which is often a stressful and unpleasant experience. CCTV prevented Richard Whelan's girlfriend from having to testify against his murderer, Anthony Joseph, who brutally stabbed Richard on a bus when he was attempting to defend her. That attack was caught on camera and Joseph, a paranoid schizophrenic, was jailed.
Equally, CCTV can prove that someone has been wrongly accused of committing a crime, as was the case with Edmund Taylor, who was convicted of dangerous driving. His conviction was quashed on appeal, when CCTV footage showed that a white man had committed the offence-Mr Taylor was black. Similarly, Garry Wood was cleared of raping Natalie Jefferson after police studied CCTV footage of his movements on the night of the rape and realised that he had not committed the crime.
I want to touch on the automatic number plate recognition scheme because it was through its use, and that alone, that the murderers of PC Sharon Beshenivsky were caught. Without an ANPR system around Bradford, those people would never have been brought to justice. On
"a revolutionary tool in detecting crime".
Many of my constituents are sick to the back teeth of drivers who do not have insurance, and who not only put other people at risk, but cause them unnecessary expense. Many of my constituents think that it is absolutely fantastic that the police can use ANPR to stop people who drive without insurance, and can confiscate the cars. I would not want anybody to try to stop the police doing that.
I am obviously interested to know what the Minister thinks of CCTV. In 2007, he was calling for more CCTV cameras in his then constituency of Hornchurch. On his website he stated:
"I think CCTV would help to make an important difference in supporting the local police. It will also make clear to those intent on causing crime in Elm Park that their images will be recorded, increasing the likelihood that they will be identified, prosecuted and punished for their offences."
I could not agree more. I absolutely endorse everything that the Minister said then, and hope that he still feels the same.
I do not think that in this debate any Member is likely to say that they are not in favour of CCTV, but I do want to see where the boundaries of the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for these systems stop. The ANPR system in Birmingham was installed in a predominantly Muslim area, with a view to tracking vehicles coming in to and going out of the area. Does the hon. Gentleman support that? Does his enthusiasm go that far?
One purpose of this debate was to flush out the fact that people do support CCTV, even though they are always reluctant to say so, and I am therefore grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that he now supports it. On his point, surely the solution is to have more CCTV, because if there is more CCTV and more ANPR systems no community can feel that they are being unduly picked on, or picked on to the exclusion of others. If everybody has the systems, nobody can feel that they are treated unfairly. I think that the hon. Gentleman's argument is, therefore, for more rather than fewer of these systems, and I wholly support him in that.
Has the hon. Gentleman, or any Member here, ever had a constituent come to their advice surgery asking for less CCTV, or for CCTV systems to be taken away?
The hon. Lady makes a fantastic point. I certainly have never had anybody in my surgery making such a request-quite the opposite. If I am ever lobbied by any of my constituents regarding CCTV, it is because they want more of it-they would like some of it down their street, for tackling crime.
Of those surveyed for a 2005 Home Office report into public attitudes towards CCTV, 82% either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "Overall, the advantages of CCTV outweigh the disadvantages." I do lots of surveys in my constituency, and fear of crime is always the top issue, whatever else is in the news. It seems, therefore, that the public, once again, are streets ahead of politicians in recognising the importance of these crime-fighting capabilities.
Many opponents of CCTV and ANPR use this "civil liberties" argument, but I fail to understand how footage taken by CCTV cameras on a public street invades anyone's privacy. If someone chooses to walk down a street, or go shopping in a town centre, they have made a conscious decision to do so in the public domain and their actions are clearly not private. I could understand the concern if it were proposed that CCTV cameras were put into people's bedrooms or bathrooms, because those are clearly private domains, but the only thing that a public CCTV camera can possibly do is prevent people from committing crime, or from doing something antisocial or something that they should not otherwise be doing. It does not impinge on their freedom to go about their daily, lawful business.
The same civil liberties argument seems to be used against the DNA database, with people claiming that innocents' profiles should be removed. Again, I do not understand for the life of me why forensic laboratories holding somebody's DNA infringes that person's liberty; it does not prevent anybody from going about their daily, lawful business. We all have a national insurance number, which is used for identification purposes, and I am sure that hon. Members know the benefits of national insurance numbers in identifying constituents when corresponding with various parts of the state, for example the Child Support Agency and Revenue and Customs for tax credits. How is a DNA number different from a national insurance number? The use of DNA is heavily restricted by legislation that permits its retention only for purposes related to the prevention or detection of crime.
My hon. Friend rightly mentions that at birth everyone is issued with a national insurance number. It seems that if a DNA sample was linked to a child's national insurance number when they were registered in the national insurance system, the allegation that the retention of DNA profiles is unfair would be eradicated at a stroke.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. If he is arguing that we should take people's DNA at birth, I certainly do not disagree with that. I am afraid, however, that we are in the position of trying to persuade the Government not to take people off the DNA system, rather than to add people to it. I would rather try to win the first battle before fighting for more ambitious targets, but I am sure that if anyone can persuade the Government it is my hon. Friend, and I will happily support him in any way that I can.
The use of DNA is highly regulated. During the application for a judicial review of the retention of DNA in the divisional court, the now Lord Justice Leveson stated:
"the material stored says nothing about the physical makeup, characteristics, or life of the person to whom they belong."
The whole reason for introducing the legislation that allowed the retention of data was based on two very serious cases. One was the rape of an elderly woman and the other was a murder. In both cases, the DNA matches of the perpetrators had to be ignored, as prior to the rape and the murder the individuals concerned had been arrested for offences but not convicted. In the murder case, there was even a conviction based on the DNA evidence, but it was quashed by the Court of Appeal, which ruled that the evidence should not have been admitted in the first place. That means that somebody who was clearly a convicted murdered walked free. It was not the first time that had happened, and it will not be the last, if those calling for fewer people to be on the DNA database get their way. I would like to know how on earth that fits with the Government's first duty to protect the public.
If we accept the Government's suggestion of removing the unconvicted people from the DNA database, murderers such as Ronald Castree would be free to roam the streets and to kill again. Castree stabbed 11-year-old Lesley Molseed in 1975, when she was on the way to the shop to buy bread for her mother. Stefan Kiszcko was wrongfully convicted and jailed for 16 years for the murder, until 2005 when Castree's DNA was taken after he had been arrested, but not charged, over another sexual attack. A cold case of Molseed's murder provided a match with Castree's DNA, which would not have been on the database if the Government and those other people had their way.
Figures from the National Policing Improvement Agency state that, in 2008-09, 32,209 crimes were connected in which a DNA match was available or played a part. The latest annual report on the national DNA database concluded that six in 10 crime-scene profiles loaded to the database were matched to a subject's profile. Many violent criminals have only been jailed because their DNA was taken when they committed a minor offence.
Dennis Fitzgerald was sentenced to eight years in prison for the rape of a woman in November 1987. Nasser Mohammed was jailed in 2008 for raping a woman in 2002, after his DNA was taken when he was picked up for a minor offence. Often, a DNA match is the only thing that brings perpetrators to justice. Harry Musson raped a woman in her own bed while high on horse tranquillisers, and was jailed after 19 years when South Yorkshire police used DNA technology to match his profile to the crime scene. The case was reopened in March 2007, following advances in DNA science. Similarly, Neil Hague was jailed for six years in January 2010 for raping a woman on her way to church in 1987.
I could go on-I have case after case of people who have been convicted simply using DNA matches. I know that Caroline Flint has been prominent with her campaign about anonymity in rape cases, but that, I suggest gently, is to me a sideshow compared with what might happen to rape convictions if we start taking lots of people's DNA off the database.
The statistics can also speak for themselves about the so-called innocent people on the DNA database. In 2008-09, a research project looked at 639 profile matches in murder, manslaughter and rape cases. The results show that 11% of those matches belonged to individuals who did not have a conviction at the time of the match, but whose DNA had been retained on the database. If the law was changed to stop those people being on there, they would not have been brought to justice-we are talking about 70 serious offenders who would still have been out on the streets.
I am interested to know what my ministerial colleague believes. Our right hon. Friend Nick Herbert, now the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, said in a question-and-answer session in 2007:
"We shouldn't forget that the DNA database has enabled the police to solve a huge number of crimes, including very serious ones. I myself would have no objection to my DNA being put on it."
I endorse that-I tried to give my DNA to the local police force in my area, because I am such a keen supporter. However, I was told that I was not able to do so because I was not a suspect or involved in a previous crime. I have written to the Home Secretary to ask why people who volunteer their DNA are being refused the right to put it in the database. I await her reply.
The DNA database can also be used to acquit the innocent. The first murder conviction using DNA evidence, in 1988, proved the innocence of another suspect. Richard Buckland was suspected of separately assaulting and murdering two schoolgirls in 1983 and 1986, but subsequent comparison of his DNA sample with DNA found on the bodies of the two victims proved that he was not the killer. Colin Pitchfork was later arrested, having been one of the 5,000 local villagers who volunteered their DNA after which a match was found.
Another famous case is that of Sean Hodgson, who was wrongly imprisoned for 27 years for the rape and murder of Teresa de Simone in 1979. The police ignored a confession at the time by David Lace, and not until his body was exhumed in 2009 and his DNA cross-checked was he found to be the real killer.
Even if the Government disregard what I think about DNA and CCTV, and disregard what the public think, I hope that they will listen to what the professionals think-those professionals who have to deal with the repercussions of any change in policy.
Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said:
"DNA sample analysis plays an important part in protecting the public, and in the detection and prosecution of serious crime, as well as enabling the proper exculpation of the innocent."
Interestingly, he also stated that a prosecution would not be brought on the basis of DNA evidence alone, as there must be appropriate supporting evidence. However, he went on to say that
"a suspect's failure to account for the presence of his DNA at the scene of a crime may, in some circumstances, constitute appropriate supporting evidence."
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, has given his own DNA. He says:
"The larger the better from a policing perspective."
Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers said:
"DNA puts a person in a place and then they have to explain that."
Lord Justice Selby, one of England's most experienced Appeal Court judges, told the BBC that he thinks-like my hon. Friend Mr Nuttall -that the entire UK population and every visitor to Britain should be put on a national DNA database. He thinks that the current system
"means that a great many people who are walking the streets, and whose DNA would show them guilty of crimes, go free."
That seems to accord with the view of the United Arab Emirates, which announced in October 2009 that it will create a national DNA database covering the entire resident population.
We must also be careful making changes to the rules on DNA retention while looking to the Scottish model as the holy grail. First, we are not comparing like with like, as there is a distinctly different judicial system in Scotland. Secondly, the Scottish system for dealing with DNA is not fairer than the UK's at all. The DNA of adults arrested or charged but not convicted of violent or sexual offences can be held for an initial three-year period-an important point, because if a sheriff believes that there are reasons for keeping such data beyond the three-year period, he can extend it for an additional two years, and so on.
In the cases of the most serious crimes, it could be many years before a further offence is committed by someone cleared or not charged with an earlier criminal act. That concerns me greatly-the proposals to destroy what could be potentially crucial information need to be carefully considered before people who have committed a crime are let off.
The hon. Gentleman is making an excellent speech. Would he agree with my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson, the former Home Secretary, that before we rush into any hasty decisions, it is at least worth retaining the DNA database until 2012, when for the first time we will have six years of statistics? That would be wise, considering that the Scottish police say that they would rather have our system than their current one.
I agree with the right hon. Lady; she is absolutely right.
There is always the risk that, the day after any cut-off point, someone could, for example, go out and commit a murder. In that instance, such a person's previous DNA would not be available to the police so that they could detect the crime and prevent further murders, because it would have been destroyed in the name of civil liberties. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider that carefully before coming up with any reduced time scales for the retention of data, as it is Ministers who will have to live with the consequences of their actions further down the line.
In the fight against crime, effective technology such as DNA and CCTV should be encouraged, not discouraged. Those methods can hugely speed up police detection of crime, which could mean the difference between life and death for someone else. It really is that serious, which is why I am so determined to fight any proposals to restrict the use of those technologies in the name of so-called civil liberties.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way again-he is very generous.
Is his position the same as that argued by his hon. Friend sitting next to him, the hon. Member for Bury North, that the DNA database should be extended to include everyone?
I think I dealt with that in an earlier intervention. If my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North was proposing taking people's DNA at birth, I would agree. However, that is a battle for further down the line. What I am worried about at the moment is that we are removing from the database a limited number of people's DNA. We have not yet reached the issue of whether to extend the database-I wish we were and that that was the nature of the debate we are having today.
I am trying to stop the Government from making the stupid mistake of removing people from the DNA database. That is why I am so determined to fight the proposals to restrict the use of such technologies in the name of so-called civil liberties. Organisations such as Liberty are not really arguing for civil liberties but for anarchy, which cannot be right. I am sure that they would prefer it if no one was arrested for anything, but I am afraid that in the real world that is not what we are here to do.
All our liberties are at stake-our liberty to walk down the street safely is at stake. Again quoting the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs, I totally agree with what he said in a speech last week:
"crime can never be too low; our streets can never be too safe and there can never be excuses for inaction."
Unfortunately, the Government give the impression that they do not believe in CCTV or DNA. They may not go as far as I would, but I hope that this debate will at least give the Minister the opportunity to make it clear to the House and to the police that he supports the use of CCTV, DNA and automatic number plate recognition as essential tools in fighting crime that keep us safe, enhancing our freedoms, not diminishing them.
It is a pleasure to contribute to this debate, and I congratulate Philip Davies on securing it. This is the second time in a week that we have appeared together on the same side, so we are in strange times in terms of alliances. What unites us today is the argument about the balance between respecting individual freedoms and liberties and recognising that the people we represent want the freedom to live and work safely in their communities, free from crime as much as possible.
We all know that crime has gone down, but the reality is that often people's perception is that it has not. We politicians in the previous Government tackled that and tried to do so further. I am sure that the present Government will find that they face the same problem. CCTV has contributed to people's sense of personal safety. In Doncaster, CCTV cameras at the taxi cab ranks in the town centre have undoubtedly helped to solve crimes. I know of one case where some young men waiting in a queue for a taxi were attacked by some other young men. Before the victims had rung the police to inform them of the attack, the police had already seen it on camera and, by tracking the offenders by camera through Doncaster, they picked up the culprits before the victims got to the police station. That is a good example, showing how effectively CCTV can work.
CCTV has also been a tool in respect of antisocial behaviour. I was pleased that we in the previous Government had started to talk more about how communities could have more say in where cameras would be positioned. Undoubtedly, mobile CCTV units have been effective when placed in hotspots for antisocial behaviour that may lead to crime.
Today we should be talking not about restrictions, but about how we can improve the quality of the technology that is available. Let me tell an anecdote. Before I was a Member of Parliament, my husband and I were involved in helping stop an armed bank robbery in a local bank on a Saturday. Unfortunately for us, as part of the solution in solving that crime, it was the early days of CCTV and the Saturday staff who came in from another branch forgot to turn on the camera inside the bank. We have moved on a long way since then. It is important to ensure that the equipment is of the highest quality.
The hon. Gentleman cited a number of important cases. I should like to mention that CCTV was used in pursuing Steven Wright, who was responsible for the murder of five women in Ipswich. As I have said, CCTV is also used in multiple cases of drunk and disorderly behaviour, antisocial behaviour, graffiti and vandalism. I appreciate the points that have been made by hon. Members about other organisations, including local authorities. Again, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I do not advocate putting cameras into people's refuse bins. But when tackling fraud, for example, CCTV cameras can be useful, whether they are used by the Department for Work and Pensions or the local authority, where people say one thing about their inability to work, although the reality, which is caught on camera, is that they are working at or are seen leaving local sites regularly each day. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world with enough police officers and benefit fraud inspectors out there on every street-and I do not think that that would be a good use either of public money or their time.
It is vital that we equip the police with the technology that they need. I am proud, as a former Home Office Minister, to have been in charge of this area of work. Automatic number plate recognition is a fantastic tool. I recommend that all right hon. and hon. Members sit in a police car and see how it works, connecting up to the cameras. It is amazing. Undoubtedly, despite police complaints about bureaucracy, they welcome that technology wholeheartedly, as do the people that they work with in the community.
We have to ensure that CCTV can be used and that it is not stopped. It needs to be made more effective. I am pleased that under the previous Government an interim CCTV regulator was appointed to look at that. I hope that in all the rhetoric that is used we do not lose sight of the important job that CCTV does.
It has been suggested that we should reduce the amount of time that DNA is retained in the database. By 2012 we will have six years' worth of statistics. I urge the Minister to be cautious about doing anything to destabilise that information, which can then be looked at, allowing us to make a more considered choice. This is a good example of devolution politics. Although there is a three-year limit in Scotland, with a caveat on its being extended, we need to be clear about what we are talking about. Despite the three-year headline, in Scotland they are still mindful that the period for which information is kept might want to be extended. I understand that the Scottish police would like a system that is more like the one in England. Why not have something more like English policy once in a while?
The DNA database has been transforming. It has been used, for example, in south Yorkshire to resolve a case involving rape some decades old. The culprit was found because his sister was picked up years later on a drink driving charge. Her DNA was taken and matched in the system, making a connection with her brother, who had been responsible for a huge number of rapes many years ago. Without doubt, the DNA database has contributed to solving thousands of crimes.
Between March 1998 and March 2009, DNA evidence helped solve more than 304,000 crimes. In 2008-09, there were 252 homicides and 580 rapes with a DNA scene-subject match. It is also important to recognise that DNA also picks up people who have not been convicted of a former crime. In 2008-09, 79 rape, murder or manslaughter charges in England and Wales were matched to the DNA database from DNA profiles that belonged to individuals who had been arrested but not convicted of any crime. The evidence shows-this is not easy to come to terms with-that there is a justification for retaining the DNA of people who have been arrested but not convicted because their risk of offending, as measured by the risk of re-arrest, is higher than that of the general population. This risk is higher than the general population for six years following the first arrest, at which point their DNA would be removed.
We should also not forget the potential deterrent effect of DNA. People are less likely to commit crime if they know that there is a good chance they could get caught. There are many ways of deterring people from committing crime. We can look at our neighbourhoods and create designs to make them safer, but we should embrace and deal with technology and not be luddite about it. If people know that DNA can play a significant role in securing convictions, they will be less likely to commit crime in the first place.
The head of the National Policing Improvement Agency, which hosts the DNA database, has said that it has been the
"most effective tool for the prevention and detection of crime since the development of fingerprint analysis more than a century ago."
As the hon. Gentleman said, DNA does not only find those who are guilty; it can ensure that those who were thought to be guilty, or who were sent to jail as a result of a court conviction, can be proved innocent. I urge the Minister to be cautious in proceeding in this area in a way that could undermine some tools that are effective in fighting crime in the 21st century.
Order. Before calling the next speaker, can I say that it would be sensible to have the wind-ups starting at 10 minutes past 12 to allow more time for Back-Bench participation?
I, too, congratulate Philip Davies on securing this debate on an important subject. For me, the title of the debate is important because it specifies tackling crime by effectively dealing with either the prevention or detection of crime. In this way, it mimics the most basic aspects of my police training 20 years ago, where I was taught the function of a police officer, which is fourfold: to protect life and property; to preserve law and order; to prevent and detect crime; and to prosecute offenders. We judge the effectiveness of policing against those four aims, and, equally, as tools used as an aid to those aims, we should judge DNA and CCTV against them. We all agree that more rapists, muggers and murderers should be in prison, but we have to be clear about whether a DNA database or CCTV will achieve that.
DNA is undoubtedly an effective tool in detecting offenders. In 2008-09, DNA evidence helped to clear up 1,700 serious crimes. However, when looking at broad figures such as those, we should remember that in many cases the DNA evidence might not have been the only evidence or the decisive evidence. In my time in the police, I spent two years as a scenes of crime officer and attended many murder scenes, and murders are by far the best example. Most murders are committed in the heat of an argument by friends and family members, and, after the fact, no attempt is made to conceal the crime or to evade detection. DNA swabs would be taken as a matter of course and form part of the evidentiary process, but, in real terms, they would add very little.
We need to be careful about seeing DNA evidence as some sort of scientific knight in shining armour for serious crimes. It is still too expensive to be used in all but the most serious crimes, and fingerprints will still be left at many more crime scenes and are identified far more cheaply. Whether we have the correct legislative balance between DNA's effectiveness in crime detection and an individual's right to privacy is an important question. The European Court of Human Rights does not think we do. It described existing English and Welsh legislation as "blanket and indiscriminate", but noted the consistency of the Scottish approach. The problem is the blurring of the line between innocence and guilt.
The national DNA database is the biggest DNA database in the world, with 5.6 million people on it, but 1 million of those have not convicted of any crime. Despite the growing database, its effectiveness is declining year on year. Its costs doubled between 2006-07 and 2008-09 to £4.2 million, but detections fell by a quarter, and we must examine why. It is because we are getting closer to the point at which the database captures our criminal fraternity. It is the law of diminishing returns; as we capture the criminal profiles of fewer and fewer new convicted criminals, we are instead trawling our way through more and more innocent suspects. The focus needs to change, and we must ensure that anyone convicted of a crime is on the database; they have forgone their right to privacy, but the innocent have not.
CCTV is a far more difficult subject. Many people like CCTV, because it makes them feel safe and secure, but it is a comfort blanket. Surely, something that costs the Government hundreds of millions of pounds should be judged on its effectiveness. There is nothing in police legislation, which mandates the police to deal with the fear of crime. Caroline Flint mentioned a politician's need to deal with fear of crime, which we must do, but if we mandated the police to deal with it, how would it be measured? How would we measure DNA and CCTV's usefulness in dealing with it? In examining their effectiveness, we must ask, do they prevent crime? Some crime, in some areas, possibly, though whether it is prevention or displacement is arguable.
In city centres, where alcohol is involved in the commission of many crimes, as mentioned earlier, CCTV has little effect in crime prevention. Even in the examples of crime falling, the extra lighting, fencing and security guards, which come with many CCTV installations, might be the active element in preventing crime. Interestingly, the public believing that cameras are effective can have two adverse effects: first, people may become careless, having been given a false sense of security by the presence of cameras, which makes the commission of crime easier; and, secondly, people believe that someone is watching the footage in real time, which allows them to abrogate responsibility for becoming involved upon seeing a crime being committed. CCTV can work against creating the involved responsible society we need.
Do DNA and CCTV help to detect crime? Possibly, in some circumstances. It is important to be clear about the purpose for which a camera is introduced. If it is for number plate recognition in a car park, to detect stolen cars or cars with no tax, and that information is acted upon immediately, then it is effective. If it is city centre CCTV being watched in real time and acted upon, as in the example mentioned, then it can be effective. However, we should be clear that a tiny fraction of the 4.2 million CCTV cameras across the country fall into that category, and that is the issue. We have allowed the unrestrained proliferation of CCTV over the UK. We have reached the point where Shetland has more cameras than San Francisco, and Scotland, as a whole, has 10 times the number of cameras as Johannesburg, with a population of 4 million. In London, only one crime a year is solved for every 1,000 cameras. The hon. Member for Shipley mentioned the age of austerity as an argument for CCTV; I am sorry, but the numbers do not stack up. The time for regulation of CCTV is definitely here, not only to ensure that those systems that effectively help in the detection and prosecution of crime can continue, but to ensure that those systems that do not contribute to the fight are overhauled.
In essence, the debate is about what we mean by "freedom" and whose freedom. The body snatchers have taken the Conservative party and turned it into a libertarian party in which the rights of the individual are supreme over those of the community. The safety of the community gives many people their freedom. For an elderly lady who wants to cash her pension at the post office or a woman who works shifts and goes home at night from the tube station, a CCTV camera can provide freedom. For someone who can drive or has someone who will drive for them, and has a secure home in an area where there is little or no crime, these things mean nothing, but, for most of our constituents for most of the time, these things give them freedom. Not only freedom from actual crime, but freedom from the fear of crime, allowing them to use their lives to the best of their abilities, go to work and enjoy a social life, without which their lives, and our lives, would be sad and miserable.
At certain point, the media always appear to go one way, and those who are regarded as part of the intellectual class move away from our constituents. In my experience over the past 13 years, our constituents are the ones who generally get it right, such as on tackling anti-social behaviour, as the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was brave enough to do when he was ridiculed by the media. Now, our responsibility as MPs-representatives of our constituents-is to say no to the Government and no to those forces who see this as an arithmetical argument. It is an argument about an individual's safety and the detection of crime, and things that allow us to lead our lives as we see fit. Not only us, but the people who are the biggest victims of crime in town centres-young black men. They are often the people used to oppose CCTV and the DNA database, but they will tell us that those tools provide them with safety and security.
We must be suspicious of the things that we read and of the great causes often presented by individual newspaper columnists who do not see life as we or our constituents see it. Our constituents are the people to whom we should give first prominence.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Philip Davies on securing this debate and on his courageous opening speech. For my constituents, crime and antisocial behaviour are consistently among the top three issues in all the surveys that I have done. There are persistent problem areas that would be ameliorated by the greater use of CCTV-I do not argue for the unregulated use of CCTV, but for its greater use.
In Stourbridge town centre we have good CCTV coverage and, like Caroline Flint, I have been out with the local police force and seen the cameras in action. I have visited the viewing facilities, and it is an effective tool, but it covers only a small proportion of my constituency. The remainder of my constituency is covered by one single "Sherpa" camera, about which I will say a little more later, because there are some lessons to be learned from that. Technology is a vital tool in policing, and I am concerned that we should not go down the road of regulating it so that it becomes a problem for the police to deploy it. I am sure that that is not the Government's intention.
We have heard a little about the image of CCTV from Mike Crockart. There are arguments that CCTV is not effective, that half the time there is no film in it, that nobody-including the police-is watching it, or that the quality of the film and the resolution are not adequate to provide decent photographs that might aid a prosecution. However, those arguments are not against the deployment of CCTV but rather against the deployment of ineffective CCTV, which is not something that we ask for or promote. Of course, CCTV alone cannot solve crimes, but it is a fundamental part of the armamentarium held by the police in their battle against crime on behalf of society. The hon. Member for Edinburgh West also mentioned displacement, but one cannot have it both ways. One cannot argue that CCTV causes the displacement of crime at the same time as arguing that CCTV is not effective against crime. That does not seem to stack up.
Liberty and privacy are important, and I am hopeful that whatever regulation the Government have in mind, they will attend to those important issues without deterring the use of CCTV for rightful matters. We have heard a few quotes from my right hon. Friend Nick Herbert, the Minister responsible for the police, and I am encouraged to report another statement in which he said that our liberty is protected by ensuring that people can live safely. That is the point about liberty as far as I and the vast majority of my constituents are concerned. If we are to have more-or different-regulation, we need a system that is proportionate and facilitates proper usage, and that recognises the important role of CCTV when it is of decent quality and integrated with other policing methods.
I would like to speak briefly about the effectiveness of that tool within the overall armamentarium that the police have at their disposal as used in the Safer Leeds initiative, a crime and disorder partnership that operates in Leeds between the local authority and the police. The CCTV element is known as Leedswatch, and it is a powerful weapon against crime, according to the police and local authority members in that part of the world. The chief of police is quoted as stating:
"The CCTV cameras play a key role in the prevention and detection of crime and the recorded images provide vital evidence to law enforcement agencies to assist in the apprehension and prosecution offenders."
I want to draw attention to the point about apprehension and prosecution, because sometimes CCTV is defended too much for its use in crime prevention, and not enough for its benefits in the detection of crime and in improving the rate of prosecution. The quality of some of the camera footage and the ability to zoom in and get close-ups can help with the identification of individuals, or rule people out of prosecution who might otherwise have been deemed to have been involved in a crime.
The identification of people who have committed a criminal act addresses one of the key public concerns about the criminal justice system in this country, namely that all too often, people assume that they can get away with crime. I am afraid that in large parts of my constituency, they can and they do because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley maintains, the police cannot be on every street corner. There are vast swathes where antisocial behaviour is prevalent, and there is no real means of building up a decent evidence base to deal with the perpetrators and return to law-abiding people the right to a decent quality of life.
I have a few statistics from the Leedswatch initiative. The Leeds police installed 14 cameras in what was effectively a no-go area in east Leeds. Within 18 months, crime had come down by 48% and the number of burglaries had fallen by 65%. I do not argue that that was solely due to CCTV, but the Leedswatch management stated quite clearly that the introduction of CCTV was pivotal to that improvement. While doing my research, I noted that during one week in June this year, CCTV coverage in Leeds led to 57 arrests. Such statistics demonstrate the value that CCTV can provide, and we cannot afford to ignore that when our constituents' fear of crime is very real.
When the Minister considers how best to regulate CCTV in future, I would commend to him the Leedswatch code of practice, which runs to 30 pages, and covers all the important issues concerning who accesses the photographs, the public's human rights, data protection, how the system is operated, on what basis the photo footage is disclosed and so on. The Government will probably find everything that they need to know about how best to regulate CCTV nationally from observing the code of practice in Leeds.
I mentioned the sole roving camera that we have at our disposal in my constituency to cover areas outside the town centre. The regulations covering the use of that camera are stringent. Before putting the camera up, the police must demonstrate that they have deployed extensive preventive measures and that those measures have failed. They can erect the camera for only 72 hours before taking it down. I could go on, but my point is that the system is already pretty well regulated. I hope that the Government will look at existing codes of regulation around the country and develop a sensible system that protects the liberty not only of those who are concerned about privacy, but of the vast majority of people who are concerned about crime and who, I believe, are far better protected by the use of CCTV within the overall mix than they are by any fear of regulating it so that it becomes more difficult to deploy.
Order. There are four hon. Members still trying to catch my eye and 12 minutes to go before the winding-up speeches. I call Mr Keith Vaz.
It is a pleasure to follow Margot James, with her very informative speech, and to serve under you, Mr Chope, for the first time. I was about to describe Philip Davies as the Shami Chakrabarti of the Conservative party until he described Liberty as an anarchist organisation, so I shall have to refrain and instead describe him as a kind of male Boadicea from Yorkshire, on his chariot fighting for the civil liberties of this country.
I think that there is no disagreement among Members of the House that we need both DNA on a database and CCTV as tools in our fight against crime. I would be amazed if any hon. Member said that we should stop using either of those two very important techniques in trying to detect crime. The division will be over the extent to which we use DNA and a DNA database and cameras to detect crime.
It would be churlish of me not to welcome what the Government propose, because it is fully in line with two reports by the Select Committee on Home Affairs in the previous Parliament. Both were unanimous and both called for changes to be made. To be fair to the former police Minister, my right hon. Friend Mr Hanson, we had the Government moving in the right direction, at least as regards the DNA database.
We have the largest DNA database in the world; 15,000 profiles are added every week. It is much larger than that of any other country in Europe, given the new information put on it on a daily basis. I shall explain the problem for the Select Committee and, I think, for other Members of the House. I am sure that the hon. Member for Shipley has discussed this with his hon. Friend Greg Hands. Quite innocently, he was asked to provide DNA to the police for an inquiry, and he waited for months and months to get information about whether the police had that DNA on their database. The issue for members of the Committee and Members of the House was very much one of process. I think that if the process of getting information from the police was a little better, we would not now be talking about trying to control the very large number of names on the database.
My hon. Friend Siobhain McDonagh, for whom I have huge respect, mentioned the black community and their willingness to be protected by the taking of DNA, but she will know that 75% of young black men are on the DNA database. It disproportionately takes DNA from young black people, so there are lots of faults with the current system. I think that all the Government are seeking to do-obviously, it is for the Minister, not me, to make the Government's case-is control it and to allow innocent people to have the opportunity, if they choose to do so, to apply to one organisation and receive a reply about whether their DNA is on the database.
[Mr David Amess in the Chair]
If we examine the process, the issue of whether the database should be extended can be dealt with, but I think that if people are innocent and are caught in a situation in which they have absolutely nothing to do with a crime, their DNA should not be on the database. The former Government moved significantly, from 12 years to six, and I hope that the present Government will carefully examine the process as well as the principle of what is proposed.
I understand that there are 4.2 million CCTV cameras. Someone can be caught on average 300 times a day on a CCTV camera. I had no idea that we had more in Orkney than in San Francisco per head of population, but those are very important statistics. We are not saying and the Select Committee, in its unanimous report, did not say, "Stop using CCTV cameras," simply because every time that I go back to my constituency, local residents are calling for more cameras.
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman's flow, but I want to make the point that the figure of 4.5 million CCTV cameras is derived by Professor Clive Norris for the EU-funded Urbaneye project. It counts the number of cameras in Putney high street and extrapolates that figure across London and then the UK. There are nowhere near 4.5 million CCTV cameras. According to the people who actually use the system, the figure is much nearer 1.5 million.
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman-I knew there would be an EU dimension to this debate somewhere. However, we have reached the stage at which we have too many cameras in the wrong places. As the hon. Member for Stourbridge said, we need more in different areas; they need to be fit for purpose; we need to know what their use is. That is why the Select Committee suggested that we have not reached the stage of being a surveillance society, but we are almost there, so let us stop and pause, which is precisely what the Government are doing in adopting the recommendations of the Select Committee, and examine the current situation. We also proposed that we should ensure that once a year the Information Commissioner lays a report before Parliament on this issue and that we have a proper debate, not in Westminster Hall but on the Floor of the House, where many more hon. Members can participate on these two very important subjects.
The hon. Member for Shipley and other hon. Members have quoted police officers and others in support of their arguments. Mike Crockart served as a police officer for eight years in Lothian and the Borders, so he comes to the House with huge experience on this issue. However, we do not always accept everything that the police have to say. They are very useful in providing us with information. The only time that the Select Committee divided in the previous Parliament was over the 42 days issue. That was the only time we had a vote, and that was because powerful evidence was given by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. We take such information, and obviously we have huge respect for those who implement these decisions, but at the end of the day, it is our judgment as politicians.
I shall just put one more expert into the pot, for the purposes of the discussion. I am referring to the views of Sir Alec Jeffreys, the man who discovered DNA profiling and who, in evidence to the Select Committee, said that he thought that it had gone too far or at least Governments had gone too far in extending and expanding the database. He suggested that there was a limit. We understand why DNA should be kept on the database if people are convicted, if they are charged, but if they are innocent, a time limit should be the order of the day. If not, they should have the ability to ask at least whether their DNA is being retained on the database.
Order. Winding-up speeches begin at 12.10 pm. Three hon. Members wish to speak. I believe that it will be a minute and a bit for each of them. I call Andrew Percy.
I will obviously now cut what I intended to say. I generally agree with pretty much everything that my hon. Friend Philip Davies had to say, particularly on European matters, on which he has some very sensible views indeed. However, I depart from him a little when it comes to the DNA database.
I shall deal with CCTV quickly. Like every hon. Member who has spoken, I am generally a supporter of it, but I represent a largely rural constituency and there are huge issues associated with the coverage of CCTV cameras in rural areas, the funding streams and the way in which CCTV cameras have generally developed through the crime and safety partnerships in the past few years. We cannot argue simplistically that because we have had CCTV, crime has fallen, because recorded crime has fallen-we might well have a debate about whether crime has fallen-both in areas where there is CCTV and in areas where there is not.
I do not accept what I think was the argument of Siobhain McDonagh, which was that if we can generally justify the ends, the means do not particularly matter. That is a somewhat utilitarian approach and not one I would wish to find myself on the side of.
There is an issue regarding the retention of DNA profiles for children, which I shall comment on in a moment, but no one would underestimate the value of DNA evidence in solving crimes. I would not wish to do that at all. It exists, it will continue to develop and I support its continued use. However, if we followed to its logical conclusion what some hon. Members have said, we would end up with everyone being microchipped at birth, because the technology is almost there for that, and everyone would be followed no matter where they went throughout the day. Consequently, everyone's actions would be entirely visible for everyone else to see. The argument is that as long as we are not doing anything wrong, why would we worry about that? That is the logical conclusion. If people want to pursue that argument and defend the notion that we should take everyone's DNA profile at birth, that is fine-it is at least logical and consistent. However, the situation now is that we have innocent people, convicted criminals and people in between-people who are innocent, but who are not really innocent, because it will be argued, as we have heard it argued today, that there is a good chance they will commit a crime. However, people are either innocent or they are not.
As we have so little time, let me turn to the issue of children. There are 24,000 innocent children on the DNA database, and I would not want that to become a self-fulfilling prophecy for them. In one case in Hull recently, a 15-year-old boy who was completely innocent ended up on the DNA database through no fault of his own. Those of us on the city council at the time had to shout, scream and bang on the door of Humberside police to get that child off the database and to extract an apology from them. Everything in moderation.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Amess. I congratulate Philip Davies on securing the debate. It was a pleasure to listen to his argument, although we will have to wait to see whether the Minister shared that pleasure. At times, it felt a bit like we were witnessing a domestic dispute, although I am not sure whether it was about body-snatching or political cross-dressing. We are used to Lib Dem supporters complaining that they voted Lib Dem and woke up to a Tory Government and cuts, but we now have Tory supporters who voted Tory only to find that they have a Liberal Democrat law and order policy, if that is not a contradiction in terms. More seriously, however, the hon. Member for Shipley questioned whether the Government have forgotten their first duty-the protection of their citizens.
Let me deal first with the DNA database. The previous Government responded to the S and Marper judgment in a balanced and proportionate way. The police told us that the database provided them with about 3,300 DNA matches a month and that it was a key instrument in bringing people to justice. However, we also understood the need to uphold the right to privacy, which is why we proposed a balanced and proportionate system of retaining DNA for six years. After that time, the evidence shows that the risk of offending levels out to match that for the rest of the population. There was strong argument over the issue on two successive Bills in the previous Session, and although the then Opposition-now the Government-allowed the second of those Bills to proceed in the wash-up, we are now told that Ministers intend to press on with the Scottish model, under which DNA would be held for only three years, without evidence that that would be in the public interest.
I therefore want the Minister to answer the following questions. What discussions has he had since the election with Chris Sims, the chief constable of West Midlands police and the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on DNA, who said:
"There are 40,000 crimes matched every year; it is helping us to keep safe. Reducing the numbers on the database will tip the balance towards making people less safe"?
What discussions has he had with Sir Hugh Orde, who said in his evidence to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry on DNA that anything that takes intelligence away from the police service can make our lives more difficult? What discussions has he had with the Scottish police, most of whom favour the English rather than the Scottish model?
Has the Minister spoken to Baroness Stern, the author of the recent report on rape, about the role that DNA might play in deterring stranger rape? Has he met Sara Payne, the victims' champion, to discuss his proposals? She said:
"I am pleased with the Government's"- the Labour Government's-
"new proposals as I believe they strike the right balance between individual liberties and the ability of the police to apprehend offenders and bring them to justice."
She went on to say that the DNA database has allowed many criminals to be brought to justice, especially those committing violent or sexual crimes.
Given that the ACPO criminal records office has said that 10% of DNA matches in murder, manslaughter and rape cases come from individuals who do not have a conviction at the time, but whose DNA has been retained on the database, what estimates have the Government made of the number of serious crimes that may not be solved if the Scottish model is adopted in England?
I now want to say something about CCTV. Designing out crime has a big role to play in reducing crime, and it has proven its worth in relation to vehicle crime. The Design Alliance brought young people to the Home Office some months ago and asked them what made them safer in their schools and communities, and their answers were very revealing. The first thing they asked for was better lighting and the second was CCTV. They wanted to feel safe even if cameras were watching. We should remember that young people are more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators, as we have heard this morning.
What discussions has the Minister had about CCTV? Has he discussed it with Sir Hugh Orde, who said that CCTV is not something that the public continually air concerns to him or many of his chief officers about? Has the Minister had discussions with Commander Simon Foy, the head of homicide at Scotland Yard, whom the hon. Member for Shipley quoted? Commander Foy talked about the importance of CCTV in catching people who commit murder. Has the Minister had discussions with Members of Parliament, most, if not all, of whom have probably campaigned with constituents for more CCTV? Will he come to Victoria terrace in my constituency to talk to residents, who believe that CCTV will be of enormous help in coping with the fallout from the nearby evening economy?
If the Minister remains unconvinced, let me return to the person to whom most of those who have spoken have returned-the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Nick Herbert, who is the current Minister for Police. He wrote in the West Sussex County Times:
"Some people object to this proliferation, but I don't. I agree that there is no substitute for police officers on our streets, but cameras help to make neighbourhoods safer and solve crimes...to those who claim that this all heralds a Big Brother society, I say, why should innocent people worry that someone is watching out for their safety?"
CCTV protects the most vulnerable, often in high-crime areas where people just want to be able to walk home alone at night, as the hon. Member for Shipley said. These people cannot afford the expensive security systems that Ministers enjoy in their homes and workplaces.
We are told that the freedom Bill might roll back CCTV because of the threat to civil liberties. We are also told that the public, who I believe support CCTV, can nominate regulations to be scrapped in the Bill. If the public call for more CCTV and less regulation of it, will the Government accept that view and act on it in the Bill?
Crime is down by a third, whether we look at the British crime survey or the recorded crime figures. The previous Government were the first since the second world war to leave office with crime lower than when they came in, although we now have the unedifying spectacle of the Home Secretary looking for a counting system that will allow her to disprove that record. However, part of the reason why crime is down is that we had more police officers, who had more access to new technologies, including DNA profiles and CCTV. It now seems that budgets will be cut by between 25% and 40%, and the Government might want to limit DNA profiling and CCTV. It is one thing for any Government to risk their reputation on crime, but it is much more dangerous to put the safety of citizens and communities at risk.
I welcome you to the Chair, Mr Amess. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I congratulate my hon. Friend Philip Davies on securing the debate and on raising a number of important issues. I noted the initial comments of Keith Vaz, and it is interesting to see the coalitions that can sometimes form during a debate. I do not know whether it includes Caroline Flint, but a coalition has certainly been created in this debate.
Perhaps I can reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley and other hon. Members by saying that I absolutely agree with what they said about the importance of DNA and CCTV in tackling crime. My hon. Friend referred to comments that I made, not necessarily in a previous life, but in a previous seat. I certainly believe in the importance of CCTV, which can be harnessed in such a way as to protect our communities.
In many ways-to take the point made by the right hon. Member for Don Valley about many people's perception or fear of crime within their community-CCTV can be an important tool for that if it is used effectively with the appropriate framework and public support. That point was made by my hon. Friend Margot James. I do not want to give the impression that the Government are fundamentally opposed in some way to CCTV cameras. They have an important role in supporting communities and aiding the police in their work.
I should like to make some progress; I need to reply to several speeches, and I might need to take an intervention from an hon. Member who did not get called to speak.
The interesting and perhaps central point in the debate is the balance between the right of the public to be protected from crime and the right of individuals to live their lives without unnecessary state intrusion. That has been at the forefront of many of the speeches this morning. It has been interesting, and there have been some important contributions. I hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley said about drawing a distinction between certain freedoms, which he articulated with reference to ID cards, which he sees as an intrusion, as against CCTV surveillance or the retention of DNA profiles, which he did not see as an intrusion in the same way. Clearly, not everyone shares that view, as we have seen in connection with developments in Birmingham; indeed, many cases from constituency postbags, to do with DNA profiles, for example, show that the issue is considered significant for the way the state may perceive individuals who have done no wrong. That private life interest is involved in the balance.
There have been comments about the role of the police. We have certainly discussed issues with ACPO and other police representatives and shall continue to do so as we progress with and publish our detailed proposals, so that the House can give them proper consideration. I am sure that we are only at the start of discussion of those important issues, which is why I welcome the speeches that have been made, albeit that, while it is a pleasure to continue in debate with Mr Campbell, he and I have probably debated the issues six or seven times in the past couple of years and I am reconciled to our not reaching complete agreement. We do, however, find agreement in the importance we place on public safety and the need for checks and balances on the retention of DNA. Although I may the other day have made a pejorative suggestion about the hon. Gentleman supporting the indefinite retention of DNA, I recognise that at the time in question that was not his position: there was recognition of a need for some restrictions on the retention period and related matters. We may not be wholly on the same page, but I recognise that there is at least some agreement about some issues.
Does the Minister accept the recommendation of the Select Committee that there should be an annual debate on the issue in Parliament, with a report presented to Parliament by the Information Commissioner?
I very much welcome the contribution made by the Home Affairs Committee on the issues of CCTV and DNA retention. I made sure that I had a copy of at least one of those reports before coming to today's debate. We shall certainly reflect on a range of issues about CCTV as we proceed with the framework for regulation, and I shall consider the recommendations in the Committee's report. Other codes of practice have been referred to and the right hon. Member for Leicester East mentioned the Information Commissioner, whose office has published a CCTV code of practice. That is important in informing the debate, as are the findings and feedback that we receive from the interim CCTV regulator, which as the right hon. Member for Don Valley pointed out was set up under the previous Government. We await the regulator's recommendations and feedback and will reflect upon it closely in relation to how we may proceed.
Have the Minister or the Government made any assessment of the cost to businesses of increasing regulation of CCTV cameras? Many businesses in Wolverhampton North East use them to prevent and tackle business crime, which is still a massive issue.
The hon. Lady makes an important point about the nature of regulation. We are considering its ambit and scope in relation to public versus private areas, and publicly-owned versus privately-owned CCTV. Of course we are conscious of the regulatory burden and the possible regulatory impact. That will be a factor that we shall consider-and are considering-as part of the regulatory framework we shall bring to the House, so that there can be further debate.
Perhaps I should return to the central issue of the debate and the balance between the public's right to be protected from crime and individuals' right to live their lives without undue interference. I do not see that there is necessarily a conflict between the two. We are rightly proud in this country of our tradition of policing by consent. Securing the trust and confidence of the public is vital to the police, to enable them to detect and prevent crime effectively. That extends to the techniques and tools used by the police in their role. I was struck by the remarks of Mike Crockart; one of his key points was about the concepts of usefulness and effectiveness. If we ensure that there is trust and confidence, and that the scientific elements are deployed so as to be more effective and so as to secure public trust and confidence in them, that in itself aids policing; it aids confidence, trust and belief in the work that the police do on our behalf to make communities safer. That is an important aspect of the debate and I welcome the hon. Gentleman's speech.
We are all aware of cases in which DNA evidence has been important in proving guilt or innocence, and several examples have been given this morning. The fight against crime necessitates the use of modern scientific techniques of investigation and identification. Indeed, this country claims a pioneering role in utilising DNA technology. As we have heard, it has proportionately one of the largest DNA databases in the world, with more than 6.1 million profiles stored on it. It has grown by more than 1 million profiles in the past two years. The use of technology must strike the right balance between the wider interest of public protection and the respecting of private life rights. That sense of proportionality is central to the debate.
Will the Minister explain briefly how having a DNA profile put on a database can affect someone's private rights? How does their profile being on a database impinge on their rights?
I think that I touched earlier on the fact that it is a question of the way the state may perceive an individual as a criminal, when they are innocent, and the impact of that on a person. As a Home Office Minister I sign many letters to honourable colleagues who have raised that point, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Tynemouth used to do so before me.
This morning's debate is drawing to a conclusion. I look forward to continuing debate and I invite right hon. and hon. Members to engage positively in it as we progress and as further details of our proposals are published. We have reflected on the need for and effectiveness of CCTV systems and the DNA database in helping to prevent and detect those crimes that are of most importance to our constituents, in a way that respects their civil liberties and commands their confidence and thus supports the police in making us all that much safer.