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CCTV and other Surveillance Camera Technology

Volume 558: debated on Thursday 7 February 2013

My hon. Friend the Minister for criminal information, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, has today made the following written ministerial statement:

On 13th September 2012, my hon. Friend the Minister of State for crime prevention (Jeremy Browne), issued a written statement to the House announcing arrangements for the implementation of provisions within the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 for the regulation of surveillance camera systems.

The Government favour the use of CCTV and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems as a crime-fighting and public protection tool. They support the use of overt surveillance in a public place wherever its deployment is in pursuit of a legitimate aim, necessary to meet a pressing need, proportionate and compliant with any relevant legislation. Like the public, the Government expect that where CCTV is deployed it is as effective as it can be in meeting its stated purpose and has appropriate privacy safeguards.

The public must, however, have confidence that such surveillance is appropriate and proportionate, and that those who operate the camera systems, or use the images and information they capture, demonstrate integrity in so doing and can be held to account.

This is why the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 now requires Government to put in place a regulatory framework for surveillance camera systems comprising a code of practice and a surveillance camera commissioner. The appointment of Mr Andrew Rennison as surveillance camera commissioner was announced in the previous written statement.

A period of statutory consultation in relation to the preparation of the code of practice will launch today, and close on 21 March 2013. The draft code is built upon 12 guiding principles, and for the first time introduces a philosophy of surveillance by consent. The Government see an important parallel with the well-established concept of policing by consent, which is based upon a presumption of transparency and accountability to assure the integrity of police officers and staff in exercising their powers on behalf of their fellow citizens. This Government will ensure that, for the first time, there is a robust framework in place to protect the public from any excessive or irresponsible use of CCTV or ANPR.

This consultation will seek views on the scope and clarity of the draft code and its likely impact, and also seeks to ensure that proper consideration is given to the position of the three non-territorial police forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency in relation to the code. Namely whether they should be added to the existing list of relevant authorities who will be placed under a duty to have regard to the code when exercising any functions to which the code relates.

Copies of the consultation document, the draft code of practice and the impact assessment will be placed in the Library of the House. I will report to the House on the results of the consultation exercise after the Easter recess, and in anticipation of laying the necessary draft order which carries the affirmative resolution procedure seeking to bring the code into force.