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Mr. Mike O'Brien: I welcome the Minister's conversion on this issue. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) rightly said, the Minister opposed the increases in penalties in our debates in Committee.
In Committee, I pointed out to the Minister that there had been a case in which a person had been arrested for possessing a large quantity of weapons. He possessed those weapons not to use them himself, but as an armourer. He hired out weapons to criminals who wished to carry out offences.
I have never believed that we can deal with crime simply by increasing penalties. It is sometimes possible to do that, but more often it is not. However, there are cases such as the one to which I have referred, where it is important to deal with cases where armourers possess weapons. Those people must be dealt with not just as ordinary people unlawfully possessing weapons, but as people who are making a business out of being unlawfully in possession of weapons and who make profits from that. They must be dealt with much more severely. We therefore need laws that allow the courts to deal with worst issue cases.
When that point was put to the Minister, he did not accept it. He said:
"I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North said and I sympathise with the concerns that lie behind it. It is essential for us to ensure that proper penalties are available for unlawful possession of offensive weapons and unlawful dealing in and purchase of firearms. The Government's paramount concern . . . is public safety, but I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has the correct approach. The longer I listened to his speech, the more convinced I was that he was tackling the wrong problem. The existing maximum penalty for possession of an offensive weapon is already substantial and we feel that it adequately reflects the seriousness of the offence and provides the courts with the necessary powers to deal with the worst examples of the offence that come before them."--[ Official Report, Standing Committee B, 15 March 1994; c. 1357.]
Column 505The Minister has undergone a great and welcome conversion. It is another example of his road-to-Damascus politics. We hope that he will be converted to other Labour party policies on law and order. Perhaps in due course, he will be saying in his sleep, "I'm tough on crime and the causes of crime." Perhaps that is the first step towards his doing a jig in his sleep to the tune of Die Tannenbaum. Lords amendment agreed to .
Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.
Lords amendment : No. 150, insert the following new clause-- Procuring disclosure of computer-held personal information-- ( Obtaining computer- held information
,--(1) In section 5 of the Data Protection Act 1984 (prohibitions in relation to personal data, including its disclosure), after subsection (5), there shall be inserted the following subsection-- (6) A person who procures the disclosure to him of personal data the disclosure of which to him is in contravention of subsection (2) or (3) above knowing or having reason to believe that the disclosure constitutes such a contravention shall be guilty of an offence.' .
(2) In consequence of the amendment made by subsection (1) above--
(a) in subsection (5) of that section, after the word other' there shall be inserted the word foregoing' ; and
(b) in section 28 (exemptions: crime and taxation), in subsection (3)--
(i) after the word contravening' there shall be inserted the words or in the case of section 5(2)(d) procuring the contravention of' ; and
(ii) after the words to make' there shall be inserted the words or (in the case of section 5(2)(d)) to procure' .' ) Read a Second time
Amendments made to the Lords amendment:
(a) in line 4, leave out its'
(b) in line 5, leave out subsection' and insert subsections'. (c) in line 10, at end insert--
(7) A person who sells personal data shall be guilty of an offence if (in contravention of subsection (6) above) he has procured the disclosure of the data to him.
(8) A person who offers to sell personal data shall be guilty of an offence if (in contravention of subsection (6) above) he has procured or subsequently procures the disclosure of the data to him. (9) For the purposes of subsection (8) above, an advertisement indicating that personal data are or may be for sale is an offer to sell the data.
(10) For the purposes of subsections (7) and (8) above, selling' , or offering to sell' , in relation to personal data, includes selling, or offering to sell, information extracted from the data.
(11) In determining, for the purposes of subsection (6), (7) or (8) above, whether a disclosure is in contravention of subsection (2) or (3) above, section 34(6)(d) below shall be disregarded.' .'. (d) in line 16, leave out word contravening' ' and insert words section 26(3)(a) above' .'.
(e) in line 17, leave out from words' to and' in line 18 and insert
or for an offence under section 5(6) above' ;'.
Column 506(f) in line 20, leave out 5(2)(d)' and insert 5(6)'.--[ Mr. Maclean. ]
Lords amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Subsequent Lords amendment agreed to.
Lords amendment: No. 152, to insert the following new clause-- Local authority powers to provide closed-circuit television -- .--(1) Without prejudice to any power which they may exercise for those purposes under any other enactment, a local authority may take such of the following steps as they consider will, in relation to their area, promote the prevention of crime or the welfare of the victims of crime--
(a) providing apparatus for recording visual images of events occurring on any land in their area;
(b) providing within their area a telecommunications system which, under Part II of the Telecommunications Act 1984, may be run without a licence;
(c) arranging for the provision of any other description of telecommunications system within their area or between any land in their area and any building occupied by a public authority. (2) Any power to provide, or to arrange for the provision of, any apparatus includes power to maintain, or operate, or, as the case may be, to arrange for the maintenance or operation of, that apparatus. (3) Before taking such a step under this section, a local authority shall consult the chief officer of police for the police area in which the step is to be taken.
(4) In this section--
"chief officer of police", in relation to a police area in Scotland, means the chief constable of a police force maintained for that area;
(a) in England, means a county council or district council; (b) in Wales, means a county council or county borough council; and
(c) in Scotland, has the meaning given by section 235(1) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973; and
"telecommunications system" has the meaning given in section 4 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 and "licence" means a licence under section 7 of that Act.
(5) Until 1st April 1996, in this section "local authority" means, in Wales, a county council or district council.")
Read a Second time.
Mr. Michael: I beg to move amendment (a) to the Lords amendment, in line 21, at end insert--
(3A) The Secretary of State shall make regulations to control the use of any apparatus provided under subsection (1) above, and such regulation shall provide for--
(a) restrictions on such apparatus to prevent, where practicable, the surveillance of private residential premises without the consent of the majority of the occupiers of those premises;
(b) the provision for the display of notices to the public of the existence of any system using the apparatus;
(c) the selection, training and supervision of the operators of the apparatus;
(d) arrangements for the storage of, and access to, any recordings made;
(e) arrangements for access to the recordings by the subjects of those recordings;
(f) arrangements for the destruction of the recordings.'.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to consider amendment (b) in line 27, leave out or district council' and insert
district council, London borough council or the Common Council of the City of London.'.
Column 507Lords amendment No. 176.
Mr. Michael: I will be brief because the amendment offers me an opportunity to raise a point and I hope to have a positive response from the Minister. Amendment (a) is narrower in scope than we would have liked. It requires a code of conduct in relation to closed-circuit television systems that are introduced and operated by local authorities. We should like a code of conduct that goes much wider than that, because local authorities are much more likely to be responsible and accountable to public interest than are other bodies that operate such systems.
The amendment gives us an opportunity to point out the need for a code of conduct and I hope that the Minister will respond positively by accepting that there is a need for discussion on the issue and to achieve a code of conduct that would apply more widely than that proposed in our amendment. That is why we do not intend to press the amendment to a Division.
The reason for a code of conduct in relation to local government CCTV systems--I will not refer to systems outside local authority operations, but the same case would apply to them--is that organisations should learn from the experience that has been garnered by using systems in a variety of different circumstances. I say that, because some systems have been found to be unsuitable or inappropriate, either technically or in their location because lessons had not been learnt before they were installed.
We should learn from best practice because there is now a wealth of experience around the country--some positive and some not so positive. In other words, sometimes the investment has been cost effective and sometimes it has not. There is also a need to ensure that the public are properly protected against misuse such as inappropriate access to recordings or a failure to destroy them after a reasonable period. The Lords amendment gives local authorities the power to provide CCTV. I understand that it has always been thought that that power existed and it is simply a matter of confirming that that is so and clearing up an anomaly following a query by a district auditor. It is reasonable that the point should be cleared up and that there should be no doubt. We therefore support the amendment in its attempt to achieve that.
My colleagues and I have encouraged that power. CCTV brings about greater protection of the public in city centres, for example. I argued for police access to the traffic television system in the centre of Cardiff for precisely that purpose--it helps in targeting police activity and it can discourage crime. Our concern is to make sure that that is done properly.
Of course, the greater infringement on liberty is to be the victim of a crime, which is why we support the use of such equipment in proper circumstances. At the same time, we must ensure that there is a proper system of regulation to prevent abuse. That becomes more necessary when the availability of such systems becomes wider and more comprehensive. Many local authorities and other organisations are using such systems. In general, the appropriate requirements are made by authorities when they set them up.
Column 508The Government should accept the need for such protection, whether it is by the police, local trusts, police authorities or large institutions such as health authorities in locations to which the public have access. As I have said, local authorities are more likely to observe a regulatory system--many that I have visited and inspected are doing so responsibly--than are other bodies, including some public bodies that are not as accountable to the electorate as local authorities are. The principle that is put forward is that there should be established a basic standard which should apply to CCTV schemes.
In May 1992, in the foreword to the Police Research Group publication, "Closed Circuit Television in Public Places", the then Under-Secretary of State wrote:
"Further work is now under way looking at the actual effect CCTV systems have on crime and disorder in the streets."
The results of that work have not yet been published. They should be published. There should be an opportunity for discussion and a code of conduct, based on positive experience and on experience of cost effectiveness. I hope that the Minister will assure us that that will be his concern also and that it would be appropriate for the House to return to the issue not just in relation to local authorities but in the wider context at the earliest possible opportunity. I hope that he will respond positively to those suggestions.
Mr. Bennett: I support the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) for a code of practice. I have always had considerable reservations about people being under television surveillance, but, having seen in the Stockport area in my constituency the use of closed-circuit television in big tower blocks, having noted how it has greatly improved the environment for the people who live in them, and having seen such equipment in Ashton town centre, I am prepared to accept that, provided there is a proper code of practice, the benefits might outweigh the disadvantages. However, it is very important that we have a proper code of practice and proper standards.
There are housing blocks in the Stockport part of my constituency. The housing authority has been tempted to increase the number of cameras, but not the number of staff who supervise them. If someone watches screens for a long time, their concentration tends to wander. If we are not careful, some systems might be undermined because they are not effective and people might not realise that if they misbehave on camera action will be taken. It is important that standards are set, that people are not expected to watch screens for long periods without proper breaks and that they have to watch only a reasonable number of screens.
As for the Tameside part of my constituency, I pay tribute to Tameside council, which took the trouble to operate a town centre scheme. That involved the council putting up money. It was a major initiative by the council to defend and enhance Ashton town centre. Councillors also took the trouble to look at other places in the country where such schemes are in operation. They saw that the best systems involved police co-operation and supervision. Having looked at the system in operation in Ashton, the police understand the civil liberties issues involved. I wish that the installers of the equipment had shown the same efficiency, and I hope that some of the teething troubles have now been overcome.
Column 509As a member of the Environment Select Committee, I have also looked at one or two other town centre schemes. Standards vary considerably according to who has supervision, whether it is private security people or the police, and particularly according to who has access to areas in which cameras are located. Having seen the amusement of young security officers following a group of young girls on camera, I can understand that there is considerable scope for misuse. Now that the best cameras can zoom in on a car and enable us not only to read its number plate but to determine whether a tax disc is present, there is considerable scope for misuse.
I plead with the Government not only to make it necessary for local authority schemes to have a clear code of practice but to make sure that all schemes are subject to an enforceable code of practice to ensure that we benefit from closed-circuit television rather than infringe individuals' civil rights.
Mr. Mike O'Brien: I welcome the amendment and support the plea for a code of practice. I have been trying for some time in the town of Bedworth in my constituency, with the local chamber of commerce which was recently set up through the good offices of a number of local traders, the police and the local authority, to raise funding for a CCTV system in the town centre. We have had increasing problems with crime in Bedworth. One of the senior security officers for Boots the Chemists said that many of her workers refused to work in the town because of their fear of people coming into the shop and causing difficulties when stopped for shoplifting.
The police, the local authority and I thought that CCTV might be one way to approach the issue. The police have also adopted a policy of community policing, which is very welcome, but we think that CCTV might provide an added incentive for criminals to stay away from the town.
The problem, as always, is finance. The local authority has problems in finding the necessary money and the traders are hard-pressed after a very difficult recession. We need more Government funding. The Government have now come forward with a proposal involving about £40 million for a bidding system for local authorities. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that. Newspaper reports this week suggest that that figure is singularly inadequate. There is great demand among local authorities for such systems because of increased crime. The Government need to recognise the importance of CCTV and put more resources behind a bidding system, if that is the way they wish to operate it. CCTV is an important way of reducing crime. It is certainly supported by the police, and I very much hope that we will see more such Government action.
Mr. Beith: Closed-circuit television has proved to be a very useful tool in combating crime, particularly in town centres and on sites where there are considerable areas to watch. The way to regard CCTV is not, as the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) feared, as the surveillance of people, but as the surveillance of places to ensure that they remain safe.
It is only when people do wrong that they have anything to fear from CCTV. That has been the experience of police-operated systems in Northumbria. Police in Newcastle and Berwick are soon to use CCTV. When trained and accountable police officers are in charge of the operation, one has confidence that abuse can be avoided. There is no doubt about its value. It has led
Column 510to many prosecutions in the force area. None of the prosecutions in the Northumbria force area has been contested because the evidence on the film is so clear that guilty pleas are forthcoming immediately, which is a useful indication.
Obviously, there has been some misplacement of crime from areas served by closed-circuit television to other areas, which has been a bit of a spur to other places to set up systems. One of the features of the use of closed- circuit television is that it has been necessarily, until now, a crime prevention initiative involving the business community and others simply to finance the operation. It is good that businesses and other organisations have got together to set up such systems. I hope that we can continue to have a partnership through Government funding, business funding and community funding of various sorts so that everyone is involved in making a success of the scheme.
There will be an increasing need for codes of practice, not least because of the operation of closed-circuit television by people other than the police. The line between the proper use of closed-circuit television to protect the public and surveillance could easily be crossed, and we must build up a satisfactory means of preventing that. The operation is still in its infancy.
The Government can build up the kind of practice to which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) referred, but they should be actively doing so in consultation with the Association of Chief Police Officers. I hope that the Minister can give us a commitment that he intends to keep a close eye on both the valuable development of closed-circuit television crime fighting and the safeguards that it will need.
Mr. Maclean: The Government have always backed, and consistently and enthusiastically welcome, the development of closed-circuit television schemes. There are dozens of highly successful schemes around the country. Most work with some Government safer cities funding or with money from the single regeneration budget in partnership with the police, local councils and, importantly, the business community.
The schemes have been successful, and the initiative that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary announced this week will build on that success and get the schemes into some of the smaller towns and cities because some of the large centres are already covered by many hundred- thousand-pound schemes. Recently, I opened a scheme in Warwickshire, and a scheme in Liverpool which I opened cost about £350,000. We should now like to see the initiative get down into smaller towns.
The hon. Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. O'Brien) was not generous in his remarks about the initiative that we have announced. We expect dozens more smaller towns and cities to take some of the money and use it as pump priming for their partnerships.
Opposition Members claim that they invented the concept of partnership, admittedly years after the Government had been involved in such partnership initiatives. We will not hand over wadges of money to towns and tell them that it is the complete sum for CCTV and that they should get on with it. We will invite towns to get together with the private sector and the council in
Column 511their area, together with the police and any other people, and come to us with an initiative. They should then go into the partnership bidding round to get some of the millions of pounds that we are making available. That is how the partnerships already work; that is how we intend them to work.
Of course, the Government accept the need for close consultation between the police, local councils and the community when CCTV systems are being planned and developed. We are not convinced, however, that statutory regulations to control the use of CCTV are necessary or, indeed, desirable. Regulations setting out a statutory code of practice would inevitably be prescriptive and would not allow for flexible local responses, and that is where the tremendous success of CCTV has been.
Shortly, we will issue a good practice guidance booklet on the way in which CCTV can contribute to combating crime. The guidance is aimed at town centre managers, crime prevention partnerships and other groups that may be considering setting up CCTV schemes. The guide will recommend that a local code of practice should be developed for each scheme. As schemes vary widely in their nature and extent, with different operating requirements and different aims and objectives, each scheme will need an individually tailored code of practice to meet its local needs.
Our good practice guide will include advice about the main issues that a code of practice should address. It includes issues such as staffing, control room procedures, video tape handling and storage, spot checks and liaison with the police--in essence, the issues covered in the amendment.
The Association of Chief Police Officers has issued a policy statement on CCTV which supports that approach and offers the advice and guidance of the police service in developing effective schemes and codes of practice. Therefore, in view of the advice offered by ACPO, and in view of the Government's good practice guide which will be issued shortly, there is no need to establish a bureaucratic statutory framework to enforce the adoption of the codes of practice.
Mr. Michael: With the permission of the House, I shall reply. I see that the Minister could not resist noting the references in the debate to the partnership approach. I cannot resist reminding him yet again that the Morgan report lies gathering dust on the shelf and that the Government have voted down the necessary statutory support for the partnership approach on a number of occasions in debates on both the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill and the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill. The Minister's recognition of our claim of having pushed forward the partnership approach both in the House and through the actions of many excellent Labour local authorities is well placed.
What we should have heard from the Minister is a promise to publish the research--presumably, it is the research on which his guidance will be based. We do not want more pontification by Ministers; we want a debate and advice which will be helpful for those operating such schemes. Policy statements and advice notes, whether from the Government or the Association of Chief Police
Column 512Officers, do not deal with the maverick users of CCTV, and that is what is required to provide protection for the public.
As I said before, we are well aware that local authorities in particular and many police forces have worked together in a positive way and, indeed, have placed sensible limitations and requirements on their schemes. The Minister again fails to recognise that there is a need to regulate those who do not voluntarily restrict themselves in a sensible way. Indeed, there is a wider need for regulation of the private security industry, especially in view of recent developments that threaten, in some cases, the safety and good order of local communities. I hope that that will be recognised by the Minister. I regret that it was not recognised in his response to this short debate. However, as I said earlier, because of the nature of the amendment, which is necessarily narrower than the one that we wished to table, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lords amendment agreed to.[Special Entry.]
Lords amendment No. 153 agreed to. [Special Entry.]
Lords amendment: No. 154, in page 120, line 6 at end insert-- ("(6) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument amend the provisions of this section so that they apply to any sporting event for which 6,000 or more tickets are issued for sale.")
Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde): I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to take Government amendment (a), in line 3, leave out from instrument' to sporting' in line 4 and insert
apply this section, with such modifications as he thinks fit, to such sporting event or category of'
Government amendment (b), in line 4, after sale' insert as he thinks fit'
Government amendment (c), in line 4, at end insert--
(7) An order under subsection (6) above may provide that-- (a) a certificate (a "ticket sale certificate") signed by a duly authorised officer certifying that 6,000 or more tickets were issued for sale for a sporting event is conclusive evidence of that fact; (b) an officer is duly authorised if he is authorised in writing to sign a ticket sale certificate by the home club or the organisers of the sporting event; and
(c) a document purporting to be a ticket sale certificate shall be received in evidence and deemed to be such a certificate unless the contrary is proved.
(8) Where an order has been made under subsection (6) above, this section also applies, with any modifications made by the order, to any part of the sporting event specified or described in the order, provided that 6,000 or more tickets are issued for sale for the day on which that part of the event takes place.'
Lords amendment No. 170.