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I am a practical person and I hope that I have made practical points and given a practical demonstration of some of the ways forward.

Tom Brake: I thank the Minister for making the practical and sensible suggestion—one that we have taken up in the Committee—that there should be a follow-up by the Home Office. I am pleased to hear him suggesting that he would like to provide the Committee with a follow-up report. Is he willing to extend that to all other reports that the Home Affairs Committee might produce, because what is good for the goose must be good for the gander?

Mr. Coaker: That is the second time that the hon. Gentleman has tried to push it. Steady on—let us just see. The commitment that I have made on this report is clear. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East knows, I am coming to the Committee the week after next to talk about police reform and some of the changes. I am always willing to come to the Home Affairs Committee. If the hon. Gentleman believes that there is something that I should do that I am not doing, he should talk to the Committee Chairman, and, as my right hon. Friend has done on many occasions, he will then speak to me.

Keith Vaz: I thank the Minister for the generosity of his comments this afternoon, and the impressive way in which he has dealt with our report. I know that he has not finished his speech, but what he has said so far on our recommendations has been extremely helpful, and we look forward to seeing him again to talk about these specific points.

Mr. Coaker: I thank my right hon. Friend. Having given a progress report, and if he and his Committee feel it appropriate, I am willing to talk to them.

I shall take a few minutes to put some more formal remarks on record. I shall refer also to one or two other matters that were raised during the debate. No one disputes that taking and using DNA to detect crime and help bring offenders to justice must remain a key tool for the police. The DNA database is crucial for public protection—a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South. Between May 2001 and 31 December 2005, almost 200,000 DNA profiles on the national DNA database that would previously have had to be removed—that is, before legislation was passed in 2001—because the person had been acquitted or the charges dropped, resulted in approximately 8,500 profiles from some 6,290 individuals being linked with crime scene profiles. Those involved nearly 14,000 offences, including 114 murders, 55 attempted murders, 116 rapes, 68 sexual offences, 119 aggravated burglaries and 127 cases involving the supply of controlled drugs.

However, we accept that the current policy of retaining DNA of persons arrested but not convicted needs to be changed to comply with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the S and Marper case. We are committed to consulting the public on a proposed new retention policy, to be embedded in legislation. We will include in the consultation paper all the recommendations in the Committee’s report.

James Brokenshire: The Minister has said that he will consult on those issues, and that that would be embedded in legislation. Does that mean that the Government are
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shifting away from relying on order-making powers? At present, the Government’s stance has been that the Home Secretary makes regulations. In other words, a particular outcome is not embedded in legislation. Is the Minister indicating a shift of approach?

Mr. Coaker: I am explaining the approach that the Government are taking with respect to the consultation. The hon. Gentleman knows that measures contained in the Policing and Crime Bill will give the Home Secretary the power to make orders by statutory instrument to change legislation to take account of the consultation. I am outlining to the House the fact that the consultation will be wide-ranging and will include the various points made in the Committee’s report.

Closed circuit television has been a vital weapon in fighting crime for many years. The police, local authorities, transport bodies and law enforcement agencies have all seen the benefits of using it. Indeed, the events of 7 and 21 July 2005 underlined the use of CCTV as an investigative tool. Between 1999 and 2003, the Home Office made available £170 million to help fund 680 schemes across the country. Subsequent funding streams for a range of crime reduction and community safety initiatives were available for CCTV, if local authorities considered it necessary. Such initiatives included Communities against Drugs, the safer communities initiative, Building Safer Communities, the basic command unit fund and the Safer, Stronger Communities fund.

However, there are also concerns about the use of CCTV. For one reason or another, its uses have attracted accusations of invasion of privacy rather than it being treated as a measured and sensible precaution to safeguard national security, protect the public from crime and to detect crime. If CCTV is to work, it must be operated in a way that commands the confidence of the community it serves.

The Home Affairs Committee report made a number of recommendations on CCTV, including the establishment of a national body, the undertaking of further research into the effectiveness of CCTV as a deterrent to crime, the creation of standards to enhance the value of CCTV images and a review of retention periods for CCTV footage. All those issues will be addressed as part of the work being undertaken by the national CCTV strategy board.

One reason why an update would be useful is that the Campbell Collaboration has produced a report on research conducted by the National Police Improvement Agency on the effect of closed circuit television on crime. It was published on 2 December 2008, and it may be of interest to the House. I shall read the text of the review:

this shows that I am not being biased; I could have missed out this word, but I shall not—

Those results lend support to the continued use of CCTV in preventing crime in public spaces, but suggest that it be more narrowly targeted than at present. It is an interesting report, and those Members who are not aware of it may wish to read it.

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James Brokenshire: The part of the report highlighted by the Minister is interesting. Will he confirm whether the Home Office is updating its national CCTV strategy in the light of the Committee’s recommendations and the research done by the NPIA? In the context of his comment on CCTV being used appropriately, but regardless of how many cameras there may be, will he comment on my point about licensing conditions and the fact that CCTV might be mandated for use in pubs and other licensed premises in a way would not necessarily take account of the principles that he has been enunciating?

Mr. Coaker: There is a need for us to look at how CCTV is used, and to use the evidence that we have. It is important to ensure that the information gets out—in this case, to the various crime and disorder reduction partnerships, the police and so on.

Creating a national body, as suggested by the Committee, would be a way to do the very thing that the hon. Member for Hornchurch has mentioned. However, I do not want to prejudge that question; I want people to consider whether there is a need to update practice and guidance. However, it must be done on the basis of evidence, and what is being said.

That is exactly the point being made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East. Where is the evidence for us to use CCTV in a way that would make a real difference? The Committee’s report starts to point out how that might be done. However, although we have a strategy, we do not have a national body to act as the delivery mechanism by which practice can be changed. That is why it is so important to have such a body, which is what I want to see.

The hon. Member for Hornchurch also asked about CCTV in pubs. I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I believe that the issue concerns changes to licensing conditions or applications for licences. In some cases, because of their concerns about crime in a particular area, the police have said that if there were to be a change to the licensing conditions, they would recommend the installation of CCTV. If I am wrong, I am wrong; but as far as I am aware that has happened in all sorts of applications in all sorts of circumstances. It is a pretty reasonable way forward. The police were doing it to reduce crime.

Tom Brake: While the Minister is on the subject of CCTV guidance, he may recall that the Committee took evidence from a police officer, who was concerned that he had to fill in a 16-page form in order to change the direction in which a CCTV camera was pointing, otherwise it could be considered covert surveillance.

On the other hand, Google Street View allows someone—I have checked this—to see faces in crowds, despite apparently having an automatic system that disguises people’s faces. While police officers have to fill in long forms to change the direction of a CCTV camera, the Google application shows people’s images without constraint. There seem to be some discrepancies.

Mr. Coaker: I hear such things, as well. We are attempting to reduce bureaucracy, and if police do have to fill in 16-page forms to change a camera’s direction, we need to look at that. However, when I have been in CCTV control rooms, including in my own area, someone has been controlling and operating the cameras—

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Tom Brake: These are fixed ones.

Mr. Coaker: That might be different. Police officers have not raised that with me, but if it is a problem, we need to sort it out. Nevertheless, CCTV remains an important tool in the Government’s crime fighting strategy.

The identity card scheme has been specifically designed to provide a convenient and more secure way for people to prove their identity, and to provide a secure and reliable method for individuals to be identified wherever that is in the public interest. However, we are aware that the collection and storage of personal identity information brings with it a huge responsibility to ensure that the information is handled securely and used only for the purpose for which it is intended. That is why the scheme has been designed to include measures to protect civil liberties, including privacy, and this is backed by legislation.

We have responded to the report’s recommendations. In respect of data minimisation, the national identity register will hold very similar information to that which is already securely held by the Identity and Passport Service on the passport database, and legislation specifically precludes holding anything beyond core identity information. Sensitive personal data about an individual, such as details of criminal or medical history, information about their political or religious beliefs, or financial information related to tax, pensions or benefits cannot be held on the national identity register. The Identity Cards Act 2006 also states that individuals will not be required to carry their identity cards.

Tom Brake: I wanted to raise earlier an issue regarding the national identity register. The Select Committee report wanted confirmation that

The Government’s response stated that

I hoped that the Government would state definitively that they will not use the register to monitor the activities of individuals. The response had more caveats than that.

Mr. Coaker: We will not do that. We have other ways of targeting individuals. I know that the hon. Gentleman disagrees, but the register is aimed at ensuring that we can prove who people are, should they choose to put themselves on it.

Before the first identity cards can be issued to British citizens, we will also appoint an independent national identity scheme commissioner, who will have the sole responsibility of ensuring that the scheme complies with the obligations laid out in legislation. They will have full oversight of the register and the uses to which identity cards are put—the point that the hon. Gentleman made.

The commissioner will publish reports, at least annually, to be laid before Parliament, but should they have any concerns, those may be reported to the Secretary of State or the Information Commissioner, or raised before Parliament. If there is evidence of criminal activity, the matter may be referred to the police.

I say to the hon. Member for Hornchurch that the misuse of data on the register is a criminal offence carrying a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Last year, the Home Secretary announced that we will shortly be
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publicly setting out the importance of communications data, explaining the technological changes that will affect our capability and seeking views on options for maintaining it in a way that commands public confidence.

On a small number of occasions, local authorities have used techniques under RIPA in ways that are unacceptable and inappropriate. We must be able to stop them. To emphasise that, in December, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government wrote to all local authority chief executives. These instances were the result of a failure to apply properly the tests in RIPA. To address that concern, we will shortly be holding a public consultation on the full list of public authorities able to use key techniques under RIPA, as well as related codes of practice.

We are also considering—the Committee chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East made this point—raising the rank at which RIPA techniques are authorised in local authorities to senior executive and giving elected councillors a role. The consultation will take place shortly.

I remain satisfied that the essential framework set out in RIPA is appropriate, but we must ensure that public confidence is maintained. The key in the RIPA framework is the test of necessity and proportionality.

Let me say a couple of words on data security. We take very seriously our responsibilities to protect personal information. Following the report that we are debating today and the Cabinet Office’s data handling review, we have taken a number of key steps. For example, the Home Office has published an information charter setting out the standards that the public can expect from the Home Office when it requests or holds their personal information, how they can get access to their personal data and what they can do if they do not think that standards are being met.

Moreover, we have appointed a senior information risk owner to own and manage information risk, and she reports directly to the permanent secretary. Each of our main agencies and non-departmental public bodies has a senior risk owner.

Tom Brake: I raised a point earlier about the information charter. Will the Minister set out how its existence is publicised?

Mr. Coaker: It is fair to say that more work needs to be done to publicise all such information charters and cultural changes. We must challenge people and change behaviour. However, we need, in the first instance, an information charter, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East said. We have one and we must publicise it more than we do. In that way, we will start to protect information.

My right hon. Friend and others also pointed out that the Coroners and Justice Bill has made changes to the powers of the Information Commissioner. It is trying to ensure that the commissioner has the legislative power and the resources to do the things that we all want.

Keith Vaz: I did refer to the Coroners and Justice Bill. Will the Minister reassure us that there is no proposal to bring back this super-database and that the idea has been dropped?

Mr. Coaker: That is my understanding of the situation, and I hope that that reassures my right hon. Friend.

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This is a huge debate. If my maths is right, I have spoken for about half an hour. However, one could spend hours on each topic alone. Let me finish where I began. I made some commitments, and outlined some concrete proposals, that will help to bring about the change that we all want. By those commitments, I can be held to account, and we can see where change is happening. If, in one, two, five or 10 years, we are still debating the need for greater data protection and worrying about surveillance in our society, we will not have done our job as effectively as we should have done.

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Surveillance and data retention play important roles in protecting society and in reducing and tackling crime, including serious crime. However, that does not alter the fact that such behaviour brings with it serious invasions of privacy and compromises with respect to the individual liberty of the citizen. We have to ensure that we get the balance right.

Question put and agreed to.

5 pm

Sitting adjourned.

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