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Volume 512: debated on Monday 28 June 2010

17. What proposals she has for regulation of the use of CCTV cameras by police services and local authorities. (4236)

In our coalition programme for government, as part of our work on safeguarding civil liberties we have stated that we will further regulate CCTV. We will introduce detailed proposals in due course.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Although there has been criticism that some CCTV has been used randomly and not always effectively, is he aware of the Safer Leeds project, in which CCTV has played an important role in the apprehension and prosecution of offenders? Can he give an assurance that future regulation will not deter the proper use of CCTV that my constituents in Stourbridge feel is essential in the battle against crime?

As the Prime Minister made clear in the House on 9 June, we support CCTV cameras. When used properly, they can be a significant asset in the prevention and detection of crime, but any such use involves a need to ensure that civil liberties are properly protected. The use of CCTV has increased in the absence of a specific regulatory framework. For reasons of proportionality and retaining public confidence, it is important that there is appropriate regulation, and it is interesting to note that the previous Administration recognised that when they appointed the interim CCTV regulator.

In the past 13 years, some 21,000 individuals have been arrested in Wrexham as a result of the operation of CCTV cameras. Wrexham’s CCTV system is widely appreciated. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm whether he expects a reduction in the number of CCTV cameras as a result of the regulation that he is describing, and how will that regulation be consulted on?

On the latter point, we will announce further details on how we intend to take CCTV forward and on how engagement will take place. As I have said, we recognise the importance of CCTV in the fight against crime. As for moving forward, the installation and use of CCTV systems is very much a matter for local decisions, so the regulation will certainly provide a framework to assist local decision making about the CCTV systems that should be put in place to protect local communities.

Before my hon. Friend jumps on the liberty bandwagon far too much, may I urge some caution? CCTV cameras do not prevent anyone from going about their lawful daily business freely. Will he acknowledge that the people who were responsible for the tube bombings on 7/7 were identified only through the use of CCTV, as was the person recently arrested in Bradford for the murders of three prostitutes?

I thank my hon. Friend for underlining CCTV’s important role in policing and protecting our communities. Perhaps more focus could be given to its use in prosecutions and as a forensic tool. However, the use of CCTV has developed in the absence of a specific regulatory framework. We believe, for reasons of proportionality, that regulation should be taken forward, so we shall proceed with that in due course.

I am interested to hear the Minister talk about CCTV in such a way, as it seems that there is already a slight shift in the coalition Government’s position. We know that CCTV has given people throughout the country their neighbourhoods back and the freedom to go about their daily lives. His Government talk about reducing red tape and regulation for the police, yet they plan to regulate CCTV and perhaps create more hoops for the police, who see it as a valuable tool, so will he answer a simple question once and for all: will the plans to regulate CCTV lead to fewer CCTV cameras? He is fudging.

It is interesting that the hon. Lady suggests that regulation is not required, because her Government established the interim CCTV regulator, thereby accepting that regulation is required and that the matter needs to be examined carefully. It is all very well for her to talk as if this issue has suddenly arisen, but she and her Government recognised the situation when they were in government. We will ensure that proportionate and relevant regulation is brought forward that will enable CCTV systems to be established by local communities in an appropriate way—