asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what is the policy of the Metropolitan police towards the use of car tracking devices; on how many occasions in each of the last three years such devices have been affixed by the police to cars they wish to put under surveillance; and if he will make a statement;(2) if he will call for a report from the appropriate chief officer of police about the use of a car tracking device in investigations preceding the prosecution of Mr. Colin King, recently acquitted at the Old Bailey, as to what rank of officer authorised the use of the device in this case, his name, the basis on which use was authorised and as to the rank of the officer in the force concerned who usually authorises such surveillance activities; and if he will make a statement on the substance of the report.
I am assured by the Commissioner that the use of surveillance devices by the Metropolitan police is authorised strictly in accordance with the relevant Home Office guidelines. The current Home Office guidelines on the use of equipment in police surveillance operations were issued on 19 December 1984, replacing those issued in 1977. Copies of both documents are in the Library. Under both the 1977 and 1984 guidelines, the use of tracking equipment requires, in the Metropolitan police, the authority of an assistant commissioner, or, if used with the consent of the owner of the vehicle concerned, a deputy assistant commissioner or commander.It would not be appropriate to give information about the use of surveillance devices in particular criminal investigations, nor, as I made clear when the 1984 guidelines were published on 19 December 1984, at columns 152–58, would it be in the interests of the prevention and detection of crime for detailed information to be made public on the scale of use of particular kinds of surveillance devices in criminal investigations.