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Pitchford Inquiry

Volume 777: debated on Monday 9 January 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether a person may be designated as a core participant in the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing if they are currently under surveillance, or subject to data access requests, for activities unrelated to any investigation of a serious criminal offence.

My Lords, the designation of core participants is a matter for the chairman of the undercover policing inquiry. The chairman will consider the inquiry’s terms of reference and the requirements of the Inquiry Rules 2006 when making his decisions.

I thank the Minister for her response. It does not answer my Question, obviously. The problem is whether or not the police are still spying on people they have spied on before, who are now subject to an inquiry. Has the Minister asked for assurance from the police that they do not still have those core participants under surveillance? If she has, has she told the inquiry chair, Lord Justice Pitchford, who really ought to know?

My Lords, I have not told the police. Obviously, I will not ask from the Dispatch Box whether the noble Baroness has asked the police but perhaps we could have a conversation about it afterwards.

My Lords, can the Minister tell us what she regards as appropriate oversight by police and crime commissioners of the undercover policing carried out by the police forces for which they are responsible?

My Lords, with regard to professional practice, the College of Policing published the Undercover Policing Authorised Professional Practice for consultation, and the guidance sets out the roles and responsibilities of police officers. Obviously, the PCC has oversight of the work of both chief constables and police officers.

My Lords, I was one of a number of MPs at the time who were named by an undercover police officer as having had a file on them. This was confirmed to me in person by Scotland Yard as being entirely innocent in my case, which some Members of this House may be sceptical about. Is that body of legislators—we were all legislators in the House of Commons at the time—being considered by the Pitchford inquiry? I think it should be.

I am glad to hear that the noble Lord is absolutely innocent. I never doubted it. Clearly, the Home Office sponsors the work of the inquiry but we do not direct its work. I do not know whether the noble Lord has asked the inquiry whether that is its intention.

My Lords, there are about 9 million custody photographs held on a police database, and the police cannot say how many of those pictures are of innocent people and how many are of people who have been convicted. What safeguards are in place to ensure that police databases comply with human rights law and data protection laws, particularly when they appear to contain personal details of those who have never been charged and convicted?

My Lords, there is a strict code of ethics on how people’s photographs are held if somebody has not been convicted. Perhaps I could write to the noble Lord further on the matter that he has raised.

My Lords, do the Government accept that it is possible that the findings of the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing could lead to revisions or amendments being needed to the recently passed Investigatory Powers Act?

My Lords, I will not anticipate the outcome of the inquiry, or indeed the report that is due in the spring of next year. Nor will I therefore predetermine what might or might not be in terms of the IP Act.