Session 2010-12
Publications on the internet
Protection of Freedoms Bill

Protection of Freedoms Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Martin Caton  , † Mr Gary Streeter 

Baker, Steve (Wycombe) (Con) 

Blackwood, Nicola (Oxford West and Abingdon) (Con) 

Brake, Tom (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD) 

Brokenshire, James (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)  

Buckland, Mr Robert (South Swindon) (Con) 

Chapman, Mrs Jenny (Darlington) (Lab) 

Chishti, Rehman (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con) 

Coaker, Vernon (Gedling) (Lab) 

Efford, Clive (Eltham) (Lab) 

Ellis, Michael (Northampton North) (Con) 

Featherstone, Lynne (Minister for Equalities)  

Johnson, Diana (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab) 

Johnson, Gareth (Dartford) (Con) 

Opperman, Guy (Hexham) (Con) 

Robertson, John (Glasgow North West) (Lab) 

Shannon, Jim (Strangford) (DUP) 

Tami, Mark (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab) 

Watson, Mr Tom (West Bromwich East) (Lab) 

Wright, Jeremy (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)  

Annette Toft, Rhiannon Hollis, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Column number: 323 

Public Bill Committee 

Tuesday 26 April 2011  


[Mr Gary Streeter in the Chair] 

Protection of Freedoms Bill

Written evidence to be reported to the House 

PF 39 National Union of Teachers 

PF 40 Campaign for Freedom of Information 

PF 41 Blackheath Cator Estate 

PF 42 Proserve Enforcement Agency 

PF 43 Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA) 

PF 44 Eric Tweedie 

PF 45 Steve Purkiss 

PF 46 Brian Griffiths 

PF 47 Submission from a member of the public 

PF 48 Forensic Science Service 

PF 49 Ms Edye 

PF 50 Deputy Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police 

PF 51 Local Government Group 

PF 52 Mike Matthews 

10.30 am 

The Chair:  Good morning, everyone. Welcome back. Before we continue our line-by-line consideration of the Bill, I remind hon. Members that the deadline for tabling amendments for Tuesday, 3 May is at the rise of the House this evening. It is earlier than usual because of the public holidays. We shall now resume our proceedings. 

Clause 29 

Code of practice for surveillance camera systems 

Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab):  I beg to move amendment 93, in clause 29, page 19, line 30, leave out subsection (1) and insert— 

‘(1) The Secretary of State must establish an independent inquiry into the use of surveillance camera systems in England and Wales.

(1A) Having considered the recommendations of that enquiry, and following a report on those recommendations to Parliament, the Secretary of State must prepare a code of practice containing guidance about surveillance camera systems.’.

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 99, in clause 30, page 20, line 39, at beginning insert— 

‘(A1) The Secretary of State must publish a draft code of practice prepared under section 29 60 days before it is laid before Parliament.’.

Column number: 324 

Vernon Coaker:  Good morning, Mr Streeter. I hope that among all the other things you have been doing, you have had a reasonable break and that members of the Committee have enjoyed themselves, and even on the beaches during the weekend have been preparing rigorously for our discussion of the Bill. 

It is good to be on the Committee reunited with colleagues and friends. I hope that the Under-Secretary and I swap places again soon. My brief from an earlier Bill, the hon. Member for Northampton North, is in Committee. I still have not received a bill for his work then, but it is good to see him. On a serious point, the hon. Member for South Swindon and I have not been members of the same Committee since we discussed the Academies Bill soon after he was elected to Parliament. We had some interesting exchanges at the time and, hopefully, in the forthcoming razzamatazz of our proceedings, we shall have more interesting exchanges of views and opinions as we approve this Bill. 

We have suggested under amendment 93 an independent inquiry into the use of surveillance camera systems before we proceed further with the Bill. Later clauses bring independent inquiries under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 as well as under powers of entry. One of the reasons why the amendment is so important is that the Government are caught on the horns of a dilemma in respect of what they are trying to do. The Bill amends certain pieces of legislation, and an independent inquiry would help it to achieve at its heart an all-embracing fundamental principle to drive on amendments in other areas. At present, it lacks such a principle. Although the Government are seeking to amend different bits of legislation and tweak certain pieces, as they are doing under the clause and the code of practice for surveillance camera systems, they do not have a fundamental drive forward. 

My hon. Friends have tabled an amendment to a later part of the Bill, and others have suggested a debate about whether such matters need to be amalgamated under the guidance of a privacy commissioner. An inquiry into surveillance camera systems would explain how such systems relate to other aspects, such as RIPA, powers of entry and a range of other emerging technologies that many of us have not yet even thought about. Such an inquiry would establish an evidence base for what the Government are doing. 

I am not alone in wanting an independent evidence base. In 2008-09, in its report “Surveillance: Citizens and the State”, the House of Lords Select Committee recommended that the Home Office commission an independent appraisal of the existing research evidence on the effectiveness of CCTV in preventing and detecting crime. Indeed, it proposed a statutory code for CCTV. It is not just me who is arguing that there is a need to understand such matters and look at them in more depth; the House of Lords Committee said exactly the same thing. 

Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon) (Con):  What assessment has the hon. Gentleman made of the cost of his very interesting proposal for a wide-ranging independent inquiry on the subject? 

Vernon Coaker:  Actually, I have not made an assessment of the cost, but if one wants legislation that is effective and will improve the current situation, one should start

Column number: 325 
with the principle and then look at whether it is affordable. As I said, the House of Lords Select Committee proposed a statutory code and an independent appraisal. The hon. Lady will have read the notes from the deputy chief constable of Northamptonshire—the hon. Member for Northampton North will be keen on this—who stated in his submission to the Committee, which I shall quote in a moment, that the Government should look at a privacy code rather than have what he politely refers to as a piecemeal way of changing the current system. An independent inquiry to look at all the evidence, the assessment and the rights and wrongs would help us much better to understand all the changes. 

There are some worthy proposed amendments to current legislation and on CCTV. No doubt, in his response, the Minister will say, “The hon. Gentleman will remember that when he was a Minister of State, he looked at a code of practice for CCTV, and said exactly that to the House of Lords Select Committee.” No doubt, the Minister will also point out that the interim surveillance camera commissioner was introduced by the last Government. That is all true, but what is missing in the Bill is the sense that there is an evidence base for the things we are considering. 

Having said that, I want to look at some unresolved issues in the Bill to see whether the Minister will lay out for the Committee the Government’s thinking and explain why no inquiry is needed. Will he explain that my amendment 93 is unnecessary because the Government have assessed the whole question, based their view on evidence and accordingly made the appropriate response in the Bill? 

For example, an inquiry might consider, and establish for us, exactly how many surveillance cameras there are. The figure always given was just over 4 million, but in his evidence to us Chris Sims said that ACPO believes 1.8 million is a more accurate figure. An inquiry on surveillance camera systems could look at who is right and what the correct figure is. As it currently stands, the Bill—notwithstanding the order-making power in it—states that the surveillance code will apply only to police and local authorities. 

How many police and local authority cameras are there? Is the Local Government Group right to state: 

“It is also important to remember that at most councils operate 3.3% of all CCTV cameras in England and Wales”? 

As it currently stands, the Bill—it will protect freedoms and has a great title—addresses only 3.3% of all the surveillance camera systems in the whole country. Surely an independent inquiry should look at that to see whether it is appropriate and whether the Bill’s provisions should be extended. 

The Information Commissioner pointed out that 

“only the police and local government will be obliged to follow the proposed code,” 

as I have said. He continued: 

“This could cause problems in practice given the many partnership arrangements between the public and private sectors for town centre monitoring. There is also widespread use of CCTV and ANPR systems across all sectors including government agencies and increasing deployment of ANPR in the private sector such as with car park operation, where sometimes details of people’s vehicle movements are stored indefinitely and insufficient safeguards are in place regarding security, access and further use.” 

Column number: 326 

He considers that 

“further thought should be given to the implications of limiting the application of the code to the police and local government only.” 

Again, if the Information Commissioner is concerned about how the Bill is set up and that insufficient thought has been given to how it applies to a small number of cameras—what about the rest?—surely an inquiry should look at that. The Information Commissioner is not suggesting a little tweak; he is pointing out that the Bill as drafted deals with only a small proportion of the surveillance camera system. 

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con):  The hon. Gentleman is addressing the matter with his usual eloquence, but is it not possible that most of the cameras in the 3.3% figure he is quoting are the ones that are most in the public eye? In other words, they are focused on public areas, rather than many of the cameras that are calculated in that figure, which will be within private buildings, companies and the like, with several cameras within one building. The ones that are mostly focused on the public, that the public are aware of, are those under local authority control. 

Vernon Coaker:  That is a fair point. We do not, however, know how accurate the hon. Gentleman’s statement is. There is a need for an independent inquiry. The Information Commissioner—not me—is saying that there is a problem with the Bill only applying to a small number of cameras. I am saying that an inquiry would enable us to establish the accuracy of what the hon. Gentleman said and whether—I am setting up a straw man here—there is a problem. The Bill creates a code of practice for the cameras that need a code to adhere to, which people have to have regard to. The honest answer to his question is that I do not know, which is why an inquiry would help. 

In the Bill, there is an order-making power for the Secretary of State to extend the power within the Bill to other bodies. At the moment, only the police and local authorities have to have regard to the code. There is an order-making power, which means that that can be extended to other public bodies, should the Secretary of State choose to do so. If we do not have an inquiry, what evidence will that extension be based on? How will it be determined that the order-making power should be extended? If this is such a fundamental part of the Bill and is so important for the protection of freedom, why are police and local authorities covered by primary legislation, but not other public bodies? Why should the extension to other public bodies just be a matter for the Secretary of State to determine? 

The inquiry could look at which camera systems are covered by the Bill. As the European Secure Vehicle Alliance said: 

“The context within which surveillance systems are assessed in terms of their efficacy and legislative framework might well consider broadening its scope to include road safety camera and ANPR systems in addition to CCTV.” 

As we know, the surveillance camera systems that the Bill defines include automatic number plate recognition. What evidence does the Minister have, apart from the Birmingham incident, which involved both CCTV and ANPR, that ANPR is not working and needs to be brought within the scope of the Bill? 

Column number: 327 

The evidence put before us by the ESVA shows that the vast majority of the public are happy with ANPR. They think that ANPR is a good system that works well. Why is the Minister including ANPR in the scope of the Bill? If there is no evidence for it—I may have missed it, but I cannot find it apart from that one incident—why is the Minister doing it? Is it just that he thinks that it should be within the scope of the Bill, and everybody would say, “Why aren’t you including ANPR?” if he did not? If there is an order-making power, it will be the case that ANPR could be extended so that not only the police used it but also private car park operators, who increasingly use it. Again, what is the Minister saying with that? 

Surveillance camera systems, particularly ANPR, are strongly supported by the public. From the evidence before the Committee, they also make a huge contribution to crime prevention. As a result of ANPR, 20,592 individuals, 5% of whom were designated as prolific or priority offenders, were arrested; 52,000 vehicle-related document offences were identified; 41,200 vehicles were seized for other document offences and 2,000 stolen vehicles were recovered. I hope that nothing in the Bill will cause that contribution to be undermined, because those systems are clearly a very effective way of dealing with vehicle and other crime. An inquiry would need to look at the impact of further regulation on ANPR and how it might be undermined by what the Government are proposing. 

10.45 am 

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD):  First, does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Birmingham case in itself is sufficient to justify the Government’s proposals? Secondly, in relation to the use of ANPR by private companies, has he received representations, as I have, from private individuals who are concerned that private companies are gaining access to that information? 

Vernon Coaker:  No, I have not had any. 

Tom Brake:  I have. 

Vernon Coaker:  The hon. Gentleman asked me if I had received representations from anyone; the answer is no. I have received one from one person about the re-extension of measures relating to DNA, which we have debated before, but I have received none about CCTV and, from memory, none about ANPR. The hon. Gentleman may have received a representation from one person. The surveillance commissioner makes the point that it is bad to legislate on the basis of isolated incidents when things have gone wrong. That is not to say that such incidents should be ignored, but if we legislated only on the basis of when a law went wrong or when somebody abused it, that would be legislating badly. 

Returning to ANPR, the hon. Gentleman’s second question relates to private individuals, who will, of course, not be affected by the Bill as it currently stands, but only by the order-making power. Perhaps he will, therefore, support an inquiry that would look at the

Column number: 328 
necessity for extending the measure to ensure that ANPR, instead of applying only to police and/or local authorities, applied to other bodies. 

I have mentioned the deputy chief constable of Northamptonshire police, who, again, points to an unresolved and unanswered question for the Government in the Bill. He is worried that the introduction of a surveillance camera commissioner would mean that a further commissioner would be involved in the regulation of ANPR. ANPR might involve not only the surveillance camera commissioner, as the person responsible for the code, but also the Information Commissioner, because of visual images and data protection. In addition, ACPO is in conflict with the surveillance commissioner, who thinks that he should be involved because ANPR involves information collated from within a vehicle and could therefore be regarded as intrusive. All those things could be addressed in an independent inquiry. Clause 29 introduces a code of practice for surveillance camera systems, and my amendment simply asks on what basis the Government are seeking to do that. What unresolved issues need to be addressed before we charge headlong into the system? 

An inquiry into the use of surveillance camera systems could also look at how the new code of practice might be monitored. The Government seek to introduce a surveillance camera commissioner, who will be responsible for the code. Is that the best way to monitor the use of surveillance camera systems? The Information Commissioner is worried about the introduction of a surveillance camera commissioner because of the lack of clarity between the two roles. An inquiry could consider whether we need two codes of practice. The Information Commissioner has a code of practice for surveillance camera systems, and the surveillance camera commissioner will also have a code of practice. An inquiry to consider surveillance camera systems could try to decide which code of practice was more necessary. A number of those who gave evidence to us said that that was potentially a problem. 

Some of our later amendments will deal with the issues in more detail. However, I want to highlight the fact that almost no one who gave evidence objected in principle to the idea of a code of practice. But the Government have failed to explain the overall strategic framework and how the points raised about surveillance camera systems will be addressed. I have mentioned a few of the issues that an inquiry could address. Will the Government address those issues or simply plough on? 

The Information Commissioner and chief police officers say that there is a risk of duplication, and we have not even touched on the enforcement mechanisms. The Government’s answer is that at the moment the code is voluntary, and it can be taken into account by the courts should they so choose. An inquiry might look at how effective that would be. The Government’s view is to wait and see how it works, which is not a very powerful argument. The Government say that it is a voluntary code; they expect people to come up to the highest possible standards and they will see how it works. 

I want to raise one other point about an independent inquiry. All members of the Committee will be aware that we are a pilot for a public reading stage for the Bill, which means that the public are now heavily involved in our deliberations. We did not have a public reading

Column number: 329 
hearing, which I believe is coming later, but the Bill was named by the Deputy Prime Minister as one of the pilots for it, so there will be a big document for us—the public reading stage report—on what the public think. Any independent inquiry would necessitate the involvement of the public, but one of the problems is that nearly every time the public say something, the Government reject it. Although I have not looked through all of the public reading stage report, it is difficult to find one thing where the public say something and the Government say, “That is absolutely right. We will change what we are doing.” I quote an example: 

“A number of individuals commented that the clauses were ‘fairly toothless’, in particular pointing to the non-binding nature of the code of practice. The Government rejects this view.” 

There is a bit of an explanation for that, but with regard to CCTV and a code of practice, understanding what the public think is absolutely fundamental. It is a point that I will make later. The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington asked me about that. Although I think a code of practice is fairly reasonable in some respects, I have not had many people rushing to me and saying that they are really worried about CCTV and that it wakes them up at night. I have had lots of people come to me about counter-terrorism, but not about CCTV. 

An independent inquiry could also look at what a code of practice should be and what is in it. We have it before us now. The Government have begun a consultation on the code of practice, but that ought to have happened before the Bill. We are consulting people now on what should be in the code of practice, and there is scope for the Secretary of State to alter, amend or adapt the code. However, as we are a pilot for a public reading stage, we should have consulted the public on what should be in the code—or on any other matter—before the Bill’s proceedings. It strikes me as rather odd that that is taking place now. 

Through the amendment, I have raised a series of doubts, problems and issues about CCTV, the code of practice and what is in the Bill. The legislation on CCTV and other aspects lacks a focal point—the symbolic, real dynamic legislative change that would drive things forward—and perhaps, as some people have suggested, a debate on the privacy commissioner. Some of the Government’s thinking is confused and piecemeal. The amendment is an important one, and it will be interesting to hear the Minister’s answers to some of the questions. 

The Local Government Group was asked at the evidence session to send us evidence about CCTV. It was asked what evidence it had to show how significant CCTV was, and it sent us, in the submission we have just received, a whole range of examples where CCTV has made a difference. I know that the Minister will say that the Government are not opposed to CCTV and that they understand its importance, and that would be a fair comment. The LGG points out that there are 

“a number of high profile cases where CCTV has been instrumental in bringing criminals to justice including in the Jamie Bulger case, the 21st July 2005 bombings in London and the murder of Ben Kinsella” 

as well as other murders. It continues: 

“A Scotland Yard study…revealed that in 90 murder cases over a one year period CCTV was used in 86 investigations”. 

The inquiry would look at what changes we need to make to the law, the code of practice and the regulatory framework, but the important thing is how we do that

Column number: 330 
in a way that does not impact on the difference made by CCTV to the safety of communities, the confidence that people feel when walking around their streets and the prevention and detection of crime. They are real issues, and I shall be interested in the Minister’s response. 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire):  I too welcome members of the Committee back after the Easter recess to continue our consideration, scrutiny and detailed discussion of the Bill. I certainly welcome the continuing exchanges between the hon. Member for Gedling and me, which we have had over a number of years on these and other matters, and it is a pleasure to be able to continue that discussion this morning. 

The interesting thing about the hon. Gentleman’s comments and approach is that he is struggling to find an objection to our proposals on CCTV. He accepted that when he was a Minister, he, and the previous Government more generally, considered introducing a code of practice, but did not quite get round to it. That is the point at issue: his amendment seeks to defer rather than take action. 

11 am 

The hon. Gentleman will remember clearly our discussion on surveillance in Westminster Hall two years ago, following the report on the surveillance society published by the Select Committee on Home Affairs. He and I had a number of such debates and discussions in March 2009. At that time, when he was in a position to take action, he did not appear to have commissioned the independent appraisal that he is now seeking through his amendment. The amendment therefore seems to be about buying time and wanting to look further at things, when we already have the Home Affairs Committee report, the House of Lords report and various other evidence. It was equally interesting to hear his comments about the concerns on the issue, and whether that was a relevant factor. 

When the hon. Gentleman was a Minister, the Home Office commissioned an Ipsos MORI survey on CCTV. While he is absolutely right to highlight the support for CCTV systems, that report also highlighted the fact that 23% of people said that CCTV cameras made them feel too watched. Therefore, to suggest that there are no concerns downplays the survey and the public analysis that was probably undertaken when he was a Home Office Minister. Rather than waiting to see what further events may occur, we believe that it is important to put in place a mechanism such that there is some form of regulation through the code of practice as set out in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman made fair points about some of the details and arrangements, which we will undoubtedly examine further when discussing other amendments. 

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman thinks that the situation is static. I do not think that can be so, because he has looked at the issue quite carefully himself and must know that it is not static. Technology has changed markedly over a number of years, and to establish a commission to look at things almost implies that we will end up with one point that remains the same and there is no further change, and then it will happen again. That certainly has not been the experience. Technology and the way we engage with it continue to change, and attitudes may also change. 

Column number: 331 

At the heart of the Government’s proposals is a desire to ensure that CCTV commands the confidence of the community it serves. The hon. Gentleman and I are on exactly the same page about that; he said precisely those words to me on 19 March 2009 during our Westminster Hall debate on the surveillance society. I therefore do not think that there is a disagreement in principle or a fundamental difference between us on the issue. The difference is that we believe that the form of regulation we propose will help to instil the necessary trust and confidence in CCTV and automatic number plate recognition systems, so that they can continue to do precisely the things that we want them to do on the issues that the hon. Gentleman has highlighted, using CCTV in a manner that ensures that crime is reduced and offenders are brought to justice. It is therefore about ensuring that there is trust and confidence in the systems to do what we want them to. 

Mr Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) (Lab):  I am not as clued up on the matter as Members on the Front Benches, but I think I know where the Minister is going; there will be a kind of reasonableness test as a result of the measures. Is the intention under the regulations to have fewer CCTV cameras? If so, will there be a monitor? How will he ensure that the objective of the amendments is achieved? 

James Brokenshire:  As the hon. Gentleman may appreciate, we as a Government do not set targets with a numerically based approach. We want systems that are effective and we want the public to have confidence in how CCTV is used, so there is no underlying intention behind the proposals necessarily to reduce the number of CCTV cameras. It is more that we want to ensure that there is trust and confidence in how they are applied and where they are sited, and that they have the appropriate support from the public. It is about looking at the issue in a broader sense, so that cameras are able to achieve the end result that collectively we all want to see. 

Mr Watson:  I am grateful to the Minister for letting me come back at him, in what will be my last contribution on this clause. To allay people’s fears, those who think that the Bill is just about ripping down CCTV cameras can be reassured that that is not the case. With the regulations, we might conceivably see an increase in the number of properly regulated CCTV cameras. Is that a fair assessment? 

James Brokenshire:  Certainly, we are not looking at the issue as a numbers game; it is about trust and confidence in how CCTV systems are applied. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate the concerns about Project Champion. As a west midlands MP who saw the local coverage, he will feel more acutely than other members of the Committee the impact of that challenge. It takes only a few such cases to start to erode overall confidence in the use of CCTV systems as a whole, which would be damaging and harmful from a crime prevention and criminal justice approach. 

It is important to state that we believe in the significance of CCTV systems and of the benefits of their utilisation. We want to ensure that by virtue of appropriate regulation, they continue to inspire trust and confidence and to deliver on that intent. We are seeking to bring forward a

Column number: 332 
code of practice, and the hon. Member for Gedling has broadly accepted that that is a sensible means of travel. It would be wrong to stop doing that, and to say that we need yet more evidence, despite the evidence obtained over the past few years. It is better to legislate now to put a code of practice on the statute book, while understanding that the issue is likely to develop. Technology and its application are likely to require flexibility in the use of cameras, which the Bill’s approach will achieve. The flexibility in the code of practice—for instance, the ability to add to those who are subject to the code—will achieve that as practice, technology and indeed attitudes develop. To have flexibility in the Bill is important, sensible and the right approach, given what I have said about the desire to ensure that CCTV continues to have people’s trust and confidence and is not seen as spying on them, but as supporting them, giving them confidence and ensuring that we live in a safe society. 

I am in no way downplaying the hon. Gentleman’s points about the criminal system and the use of technology, including to deal with counter-terrorism, where CCTV plays an important role. CCTV should continue to have the relevant public support. As I have already highlighted in the context of the Ipsos MORI survey undertaken by the previous Government, there was an issue. 

It is right to consider information provided to us in the form of written evidence and at the Committee’s oral evidence sessions. Graeme Gerrard, a deputy chief constable and the ACPO lead on CCTV, said: 

“We also requested some sort of framework for regulation and a sort of oversight body for CCTV. So in principle, we are supportive of what is being suggested.”––[Official Report, Protection of Freedoms Public Bill Committee, 22 March 2011; c. 16, Q34.] 

Andrew Rennison is the interim CCTV regulator. He was appointed by the previous Government, but he has our support. We certainly regard as important the work that he has been undertaking in this arena, which is why it leads into the proposals that are contained in the Bill. He was persuaded that the proper approach would be to start with publicly owned cameras and then to develop the system, rather than going for the symbolic, totemic, big-bang approach that the hon. Member for Gedling has alluded to. He was persuaded that it was better to approach the system as we have done, and to consider how to expand and develop it more widely as circumstances change. 

Tom Brake:  Does the Minister agree that it is likely, even with a voluntary code, that some private operators, particularly those who are working in partnership with the public sector, will feel that it is in their interests to adopt the voluntary code of practice to give people confidence? 

James Brokenshire:  I very much agree, which is why the legislative impact at this stage is prescribed as it is. It is certainly intended to have a broader application. As we stated in the consultation document, we need ongoing analysis and assessment of how the code is being applied. If it is not working as we intend and if it is having the effects that the hon. Member for Gedling highlighted, the Government will consider the matter further at that stage. The document is not static, as we will discuss in due course when we consider the role of the commissioner and the reports provided by the commissioner about the adoption and use of the code. It is a moving situation, and we want to keep it under review to see how the code

Column number: 333 
is being applied. The Government might need to take further steps if the code is not expanding further in practice around the core groups that have been identified in the Bill. 

We think that it would be a mistake to defer—to stop and to say, “We don’t think that anything is required at this point. We want a further commission.” Such a commission would no doubt take several years to conclude, by which time the world, technology and practice will have moved on. Although I recognise the points that the hon. Member for Gedling has sought to explore in his amendment, it would be a retrograde step to say, “We don’t need to do anything; we need a further commission.” 

Interestingly, that seemed to be the approach of the previous Government. Perhaps they recognised that there was an issue with surveillance, but they thought, “Let’s put it off for another day. Let’s not do anything. Let’s see how things carry on. Let’s have another commission and—in essence—kick this into the long grass again.” That approach was mistaken. We want to ensure that CCTV benefits from continued trust and confidence. We do not want sudden issues to start to erode that trust because there is no mechanism to ensure that the public feel that there is a check and balance—a framework for the system. The code of practice is intended to provide such a framework. We are consulting on it at present and it is important to have that consultation. 

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP):  On the code of practice, the demand from the general public who wish to have CCTV balances against those who have concerns about it. Because of antisocial misbehaviour and illegal activity, will the demand for CCTV outweigh the concerns about it? 

James Brokenshire:  The hon. Gentleman raises an important question relating to the pre-planning stages of the adoption of a CCTV system. If there is a sense that the system will be beneficial, it will have public support. That is one of the principal points that we are consulting on to flesh out in detail the code of practice and what it might mean. A specific section deals with the pre-planning stages. It deals with the assessments that might be appropriate, the safeguards that might need to be in place, and the consultation with relevant partners, and, indeed, the public, that may be appropriate in the development of CCTV. We are asking about the preparatory checks and balances that should be included. That is very much part of the consultation, which runs until 25 May, on the code of practice itself. It is important that we ask such questions to ensure that the code embodies the sense of support revealed in the Ipsos MORI survey and the support that we know is there. At the same time, it needs to address the more critical and negative aspects, such as people thinking that they may be spied upon, and perhaps the issues that have arisen from Project Champion as well. 

11.15 am 

It is important to introduce the code of practice. Putting it off for another day is not a sensible policy. I heard the points that the hon. Member for Gedling very sensibly made in a measured way. I will come to the more detailed points on the interrelationship between commissioners when we move on to further amendments. Having listened to the points that we have made, I hope the hon. Gentleman will recognise that there is a time

Column number: 334 
for action and the need for a measured, balanced and sensible approach, which the Bill delivers. I therefore hope that he will be minded to withdraw his amendment. 

Vernon Coaker:  I thank the Minister for his response and his remarks. I understand that we will come on to some of the other points that I raised. But with regard to the inquiry, the Minster is flying blind. What is the Government’s estimate of the number of cameras held by police and local authorities? What is their estimate of the number of private cameras—the point made by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington—that actually move on to public spaces? As my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East said, what are the Government trying to do? Do they want more or fewer cameras? The Minister referred to the need for confidence, and I agree—of course we need confidence. I do not disagree that there should be a code of practice. The Minister chided me slightly and said that we wanted to put it off for several years. I do not want to do that, but I want legislation that is based on evidence and research. No doubt, therefore, when we get on to some of the other points in the Bill, the Minister will explain about the research that shows there is not a problem and not an unintended consequence, so I shall not press the amendment to a vote. I simply want to understand. 

The Minister’s point is that the code of practice will increase public confidence in the use of CCTV. He will need a baseline—the current level—in order to understand whether the surveillance camera commissioner, who no doubt will be responsible for monitoring it, will see a rise or a decrease in that confidence. My amendment was tabled simply to try to start to understand the evidence base and the research that has been taken into account. 

The witnesses raised some real issues, which we will need to consider, and the Minister will need to explain in some detail how those issues will be addressed. Before I withdraw the amendment, I will finish with this point. I talked about a great strategic, totemic principle. The Bill that we have before us makes some reasonable amendments to existing legislation. I am not saying that this is the right way forward, but it does not have at its core, at clause 1, part 1, the establishment of a privacy commissioner, encompassing all the various other commissioners that deal with this and that—for example, such a commissioner to review the use of surveillance cameras and such a commissioner to review the use of RIPA. A privacy commissioner would pull all of that together. The Minister chides me for where we are and the number of research projects, but I chide him for the number of new commissioners he is setting up within the Bill. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

Vernon Coaker:  I beg to move amendment 94, in clause 29, page 19, line 35, at end insert— 

‘(c) the importance of CCTV to community safety and crime reduction.’.

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment 95, in clause 29, page 19, line 35, at end insert— 

‘(3A) Such a code may, in particular, include provision on—

(a) any potential improvement in public safety and crime reduction, and

(b) the significance of a camera as a deterrent to crime.’.

Column number: 335 

Amendment 96, in clause 29, page 20, line 8, leave out ‘need not’ and insert ‘must’. 

Vernon Coaker:  We have to make the Government Whip earn his money. He needs to be able to say “Aye” and “No” at the right places. 

These are simple, but none the less important, amendments. The Committee will note that clause 29(2) lays out that the code 

“must contain guidance about one or more of the following”. 

The hon. Member for Strangford was alluding to this point, as was my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East, but most of the public, as far as I can see, anecdotally—if the Minister chides me, I do not have research—are in favour of CCTV. I do not have people coming to me, saying, “Vernon, can you please make sure that you get rid of all these CCTV systems?” I have not had one. No doubt other Members will turn up and say that they have had one. Fine. I am sure we have all had one. I had someone come to see me about spaceships once. I am sure they exist, by the way. People come to see us about all sorts of things. 

I have not had one person come to see me and say that the CCTV systems around Gedling or Nottingham are undermining their personal privacy or things in their neighbourhood. What I get—I have had loads, not only one—is loads of people demanding more CCTV in their areas. I know that this is the Public Reading stage pilot Bill, and that the Government’s approach is to say, “Yes, it’s a pilot. We will ignore what the public say,” but I suspect that that is the experience of the vast majority of Members of Parliament in their surgeries and their communities. That is why I am astonished that I can find nothing on that in the Bill, which is why I have tabled some of these amendments. 

Hon. Members will see that amendment 94 is about the 

“importance of CCTV to community safety and crime reduction.” 

It is a bad move for those who want to be elected to say that the public are wrong. Those who tell the public that get found out in the end. Unless Government Members or my hon. Friends can tell me that I have got this completely wrong and that there are queues of people demanding that CCTV not be put up in their areas, amendment 94 seems to be important, because it would mean that there would be guidance in the code stressing the importance of CCTV to community safety and crime reduction. 

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab):  Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government should publish all the letters and evidence that they have had to support their argument? 

Vernon Coaker:  The Government will probably say that they have. Unfortunately for the Government, there is not a lot of evidence to say that this is a huge problem. To be fair, it was part of the coalition agreement. The Liberal part of the coalition is much more enthusiastic about aspects of this than other parts. This is not a probing amendment. I like the Government Whip and I want to be fair to him, so that he does not have the awful experience that he nearly had at one occasion in a previous sitting, where he thought that the hon. Member

Column number: 336 
for Strangford was just going to come in. The serious point is that CCTV makes a fundamental difference to the way that communities feel about their area. They believe that it enhances community safety and helps in respect of confidence. They want effective CCTV camera systems. The complaints that I receive about CCTV are not that they exist, but that sometimes the images on the cameras are not as clear as they should be. Communities want to have more powerful CCTV cameras with higher definition and a 360° rotation, not to have them taken down. 

James Brokenshire:  The hon. Gentleman seems to be rowing back from his previous position when he saw some merit in a code of practice. He is saying that there is not evidence to support a code of practice, but that he accepts the need for it to be effective, in order to instill trust and confidence. I am trying to understand his argument better. 

Vernon Coaker:  I have said that I can see the need for a code of practice. The amendment says something about what should be included in the code. There should be a reference to the importance of CCTV to community safety and to crime reduction. I am also saying to the Minister that I do not support such a code from the point of view that there is a huge demand for it from vast members of the public, who are concerned about privacy. I accept that there have been one or two examples of the inappropriate use of CCTV and ANPR, so it is not something that is illogical or something that we should not do; it might be helpful to publish a code of practice. 

I accept the hon. Gentleman’s argument that we can help to maintain public confidence in such a way, but I do not support a code of practice for CCTV from the starting point that vast numbers of people consider it an infringement of their privacy. I support it because I want to make sure that we do something about some individual anomalies that have arisen, but I do not want a voluntary code of practice in place, which in future can undermine the provision of CCTV systems in communities, shopping areas and other places where the public wish to see them. People consider them important in tackling community safety, in preventing crime and in increasing their confidence. 

John Robertson:  As we say in politics, perception is everything. The perception in our community groups is that CCTV protects them. Groups of people, not individuals, ask me for CCTV, particularly in inner-city areas where there is deprivation and high criminality. Such areas really need CCTV, and it is a perception that people are a lot safer as a result of it. I also believe that they are safer. 

Vernon Coaker:  That is a very good point. My hon. Friend supports what I am saying. Perception is important. It is also a fact that people understand what works in their communities. They know that CCTV makes a difference. They know that it makes them feel safer. They know that it prevents crime. As I have said before, what frustrates people is that sometimes the CCTV system is not as powerful or its images are not as clear as they hope. Their frustration comes from those facts, not that the CCTV system was there in the first place. 

Column number: 337 

CCTV is important, and it needs to be covered by the Bill. No doubt the Minister will say that it is contained within clause 29, subsection whatever, and that, if read properly, it will mean exactly what the shadow Minister is trying to achieve through his amendment. However, our constituents consider CCTV to be extremely important. Alongside amendment 94 is amendment 95, which would add to the code potential improvements in public safety and crime reduction, and the significance of a camera as a deterrent to crime. Similar arguments can be made for both amendments. 

11.30 am 

I will not, for reasons of time, go over all the arguments. The Minister knows that amendment 96 is included in the group, and he said that we would return to the various issues that I have raised when discussing amendment 93. Amendment 96 asks why the code will deal only with the police and local authorities. Will the Minister give us more detail on why it is only through an order-making power that the provisions of the code may be extended to other organisations? If he thinks that it is important to name the police and local authorities in the Bill, why should other organisations not be named if, as the Minister said, the clause is about maintaining confidence? I shall be interested in what the Minister has to say on amendments 94 and 95. I will not go into amendment 96 in any more depth because I have raised the issues when we debated the previous group of amendments. If we are to maintain confidence in CCTV, we must understand that the public out there see it as an important tool in the fight against crime, antisocial behaviour and criminality. 

James Brokenshire:  Again, I do not think that there is any particular philosophical difference between the hon. Member for Gedling and I. If he looks at the consultation that we are undertaking on the code of practice, he will see that we have incorporated a section on the benefits of CCTV, which specifically mentions crime prevention and detection, counter-terrorism and criminal justice as three significant benefits of the use of CCTV. I do not think that there is any pointed issue or difference; we are not suggesting otherwise, or saying that that is not the case, or that the Government take a different view on the important use of CCTV for those issues. 

Where there is a weakness, which the hon. Gentleman highlighted in the debate that he and I had some two years ago, it is that even he was not interested in playing the numbers game. He said: 

“There could be 300 cameras or there could be three. Their effectiveness and placement are what is important.”—[Official Report, 19 March 2009; Vol. 489, c. 332WH.] 

That is right, which is why when we look at the challenges on the matter, sometimes the use of the equipment, its locations and the systems used do not necessarily give effect to what we wish to see. That is why clause 29 incorporates the provisions on the development of systems, the use of images, the consideration of whether to use cameras, the type of systems and the technical standards. It might not come as too much of a surprise to the hon. Gentleman to hear me say that the very point that he is seeking to raise in his amendments will be dealt with or is implicit in the provisions contained in the Bill and the Government’s approach on the consultation on the points that he has highlighted. 

Column number: 338 

The hon. Gentleman again flagged up the incremental approach that the Government have taken in limiting the statutory application of the code of practice at this point. I again point him to the comments of Andrew Rennison, the interim CCTV regulator. We have taken soundings off him and have listened to him on the guidance and experience that he has applied over the period in which he has been in place, looking at the very issues that the hon. Gentleman has sought to highlight. Andrew Rennison came to the conclusion that that incremental approach was the right way to achieve an effective code. In many ways, taking account of the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington in his earlier intervention, simply specifying groups in the Bill does not mean that it will not have a broader application; it will. The approach of having regulation, and setting and applying standards, means that those standards will be applied more broadly. 

The provisions could in some ways be categorised as future-proofing, ensuring that we look to the future and to the issues of trust and confidence that we discussed in our last debate and which the hon. Member for Gedling has again highlighted. Although, as is shown by what I quoted, I agree with him that playing the numbers game is not the most appropriate way to consider the problem, it is interesting to note that the evidence—he had the survey at his fingertips when he was in a position to do something about it—showed that, as I have already mentioned, 28% of those surveyed by Ipsos MORI for the Home Office said that there are too many CCTV cameras in their local area, and 23% said that CCTV cameras make them feel too watched. 

The hon. Gentleman talks about evidence, but he had evidence at his fingertips that implied there was an issue, albeit he clearly did not feel that he wanted to action that or recognise some of those concerns raised at that time. Even he is not suggesting that there is not an issue requiring the application of a regulatory framework, although he is looking for further information and we want to bring forward our proposals. 

Mr Watson:  By way of a question, may I make a point to the Minister? Using market research is not necessarily a great way of deciding what policies to implement in legislation. If the Minister is saying that 28% of people—[ Interruption. ] I am sorry, but there was a sedentary heckle that I did not hear. If the Minister is responding to the fact that 28% of people feel concerned about CCTV, nothing in the Bill addresses their concerns that there are too many CCTV cameras. He has just said that he is not legislating to reduce the number of them, so I do not understand why he clings on to that Ipsos MORI research. 

James Brokenshire:  Far from it—I am not seeking to cling on to anything; I am merely seeking to highlight the survey undertaken by the hon. Gentleman’s Government. They clearly felt that it was important to do that work, because they would not have done it in the first place if they saw no need for it. All I am saying is that my fundamental driver is seeing that trust and confidence in the systems is maintained and assured in the future. The survey points to concerns about that trust and confidence driver, on which the hon. Gentleman and I have already had an exchange in Committee. The

Column number: 339 
only reason for my highlighting his Government’s Ipsos MORI survey is to identify that there is a potential question or issue on trust and confidence. That will benefit from having the code of practice in place, which is simply the point that I am seeking to make to the Committee. I simply underline the need for the code of practice to give effect to that trust and confidence issue. 

Mr Watson:  It was the sedentary hecklers who got me moving on this point, so if they continue I will just carry on. I fail to understand why, if the Minister is responding to the research—you have made a conclusion and you are saying that there is public concern about CCTV cameras—you have no evidence to show that just producing a new regulatory framework will reduce it. I am sorry to use “you”, Mr Streeter; I am getting back into the hang of it after being away for a few weeks. The conclusion that the regulatory framework will increase trust is not based on any evidence at all. It is merely the Minister’s belief that it will increase trust in CCTV arrangements. Market research says that people think there are too many cameras; that is what the Lib Dems were going on about, and that is why we have this ridiculous piece of legislation. 

James Brokenshire:  It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman suggests that providing protections and safeguards is not appropriate and that it is ridiculous in some way. 

Mr Watson:  That is not what I am saying. 

James Brokenshire:  It seemed to be what he was suggesting. He used the word “ridiculous” in relation to the legislation. I am surprised, because I know that he takes such issues seriously. I am sorry if I have mischaracterised him in some way. I genuinely would not want to do that because I know that he considers the issues very carefully and seriously. We do not regard the measure as unnecessary. We have listened carefully to the points made by a number of people. The hon. Gentleman will know the comments of Sara Thornton, the chief constable of Thames Valley police, in relation to Project Champion and the disquiet that was caused around that. We have considered feedback from the ACPO lead around CCTV, and the interim CCTV regulator that the hon. Gentleman’s Government appointed, so I think there is a strong prevailing sense of the need for a regulatory framework that is then able to respond further. It is not something that is simply set in stone. For the reasons that I have already alluded to, the code applies a flexible approach. It can respond to changing circumstances and address that fundamental issue of trust and confidence, which is at the very heart of the debate that pervades this very issue in relation to CCTV and other issues that we will get on to. 

Coming back to the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Gedling, we see it as unnecessary. We believe that the whole concept and the purpose to which CCTV is applied is intrinsic. While I recognise the seriousness he attaches to the use of CCTV systems, and indeed the seriousness we attach to it, we do not believe his amendment is necessary. 

Column number: 340 

Vernon Coaker:  I shall not delay the Committee too long. The Minister says that the matter is included within the consultation, which is currently going on. That may be the case, but I think this is a hugely important issue. Any code on CCTC should have regard to the importance of community safety and crime reduction. That was the fundamental reason for the placing of CCTV systems in communities and for the use of ANPR and all such systems. To have a code that does not lay that out in primary legislation is a mistake and therefore I want to press the amendment to a vote. 

Question put, That the amendment be made. 

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 10. 

Division No. 11 ]  


Coaker, Vernon   

Efford, Clive   

Johnson, Diana   

Robertson, John   

Shannon, Jim   

Tami, Mark   

Watson, Mr Tom   


Baker, Steve   

Blackwood, Nicola   

Brake, Tom   

Brokenshire, James   

Buckland, Mr Robert   

Ellis, Michael   

Featherstone, Lynne   

Johnson, Gareth   

Opperman, Guy   

Wright, Jeremy   

Question accordingly negatived.  

11.45 am 

Vernon Coaker:  I beg to move amendment 97, in clause 29, page 20, line 11, at end insert— 

‘(za) Representatives from Community Safety Partnerships,

(zb) Neighbourhood Watch,

(zc) Other community groups who make representations to the Secretary of State.’.

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment 54, in clause 29, page 20, line 21, at end insert— 

‘(ga) local authorities within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1972,

(gb) the Greater London Authority,

(gc) the Common Council of the City of London in its capacity as a local authority,

(gd) the Sub-Treasurer of the Inner Temple or the Under-Treasurer of the Middle Temple, in their capacity as a local authority,

(ge) the Council of the Isles of Scilly,

(gf) parish councils within the meaning of Local Government Act 1972,

(gg) Police and Crime Commissioners,

(gh) Police and Crime Panels,

(gi) The Mayor’s office for Policing and Crime,

(gj) the Common Council of the City of London in its capacity as a police authority, and

(gk) the Victim’s Commissioner.’.

Amendment 98, in clause 29, page 20, line 21, at end insert— 

‘(h) any written evidence or submissions from any of the groups listed above must be published in full by the Secretary of State.’.

Column number: 341 

Amendment 55, in clause 33, page 23, line 13, at end insert— 

‘(ga) local authorities within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1972,

(gb) the Greater London Authority,

(gc) the Common Council of the City of London in its capacity as a local authority,

(gd) the Sub-Treasurer of the Inner Temple or the Under-Treasurer of the Middle Temple, in their capacity as a local authority,

(ge) the Council of the Isles of Scilly,

(gf) parish councils within the meaning of Local Government Act 1972,

(gg) Police and Crime Commissioners,

(gh) Police and Crime Panels,

(gi) The Mayor’s office for Policing and Crime,

(gj) the Common Council of the City of London in its capacity as a police authority, and

(gk) the Victim’s Commissioner.’.

Vernon Coaker:  This amendment takes up again the theme of the previous amendment. Members of the Committee will note that it relates to subsection (5), which sets out the people whom the Secretary of State must consult when preparing the code. The Minister will say, given that paragraph (g) covers 

“such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate”, 

no doubt people covered by the amendment will be considered appropriate. However, the Government have a mindset with respect to the clause. Labour Members backed the amendment that referred to the prevention of crime and the importance of ensuring community safety and said that such matters should be included in the Bill, but that was rejected by the Government. 

Under amendment 97, consultation should be not only with people under subsection (5), important though of course they are. What about the voice of the community? Why should that not be covered by the Bill? Is it not as important as the voices of others who operate the systems? Those to whom the amendment refers operate systems on behalf of the community. They believe that such systems add to confidence, prevent crime and catch criminals. The Government consider that such people are so important that they have to be named, but they do not believe that representatives of community safety partnerships should be consulted when preparing the code. They do not believe that representatives of Neighbourhood Watch should be consulted. 

I should have thought that the Government were in favour of localism. I thought it was their big thing. I hope that Conservative Members will vote for the amendment. It covers localism. I say power to the community. Power to Neighbourhood Watch, power to community safety partnerships and power to other community groups that want to make representations about such matters. 

Mark Tami:  Power to the people. 

Vernon Coaker:  I hesitate to use that phrase. People would perhaps see me as going too far. 

Such matters show the mindset of the Government. They show one side of the argument rather than the other. Of course, such people should be consulted—as should those to whom the amendment refers. Why do the Government think that those listed under the clause

Column number: 342 
are so important that they have to be consulted, but that representatives of the community are not as important? In other words, why are those who benefit from camera systems CCTV not as important as the Association of Chief Police Officers? The Minister says that such people will, of course, be consulted, but why are they not listed under the Bill? 

By listing those whom the code would affect under amendments 54 and 55, we would add to the Bill people such as the victims commissioner, and members of police and crime panels who must have regard to the code. Why should the victims commissioner not be consulted automatically in respect of preparing the code or how it operates? Why on earth have a victims commissioner if we are not to ensure that a victims commissioner is consulted on matters that are in place to prevent people from becoming victims? I fail to understand it. As I have said, the only reason that I can think of is that the Government see it from the viewpoint of those who operate the systems, rather than that of those who benefit from the systems. That is the whole point of not only this group of amendments, but the previous group. If people were looking at this and thinking about it, they would see it as reasonable to say that there should be a recognition in the Bill of the importance of the consumer of the CCTV system, rather than the producer. 

As I have said, this Bill is the pilot of the Public Reading stage. Where are the public in the Bill? Where is the voice of the community? Where is the voice of the victim? Where is the voice of the people who feel that CCTV benefits them? Where is the voice of all those who come to my surgeries demanding more CCTV? Where is the voice of those organisations that queue up at surgeries demanding more CCTV, as the hon. Member for Strangford and my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow North West and for West Bromwich East said? The frank answer to those people is that the silence in the Bill is deafening. It is not good enough for the Government to include it in a catch-all paragraph (g). It should be in the Bill and given the prominence and importance that other people are given by their inclusion. 

James Brokenshire:  I certainly hear the passion with which the hon. Gentleman has moved his amendment. He talks about the voice of the community, but we are consulting on the code currently. This is a public consultation. Anyone’s voice is able to be heard in it. I encourage his constituents, and those of any member of this Committee, to take part in the consultation, which, as I have already alluded to, runs until 25 May. That is a 12-week consultation for the public to be able to have precisely the say that the hon. Gentleman seeks to chide me on, saying that the public are excluded and that all those bodies are somehow out of the loop. They are welcome and I encourage them to take part in the public consultation, which is already engaged. We welcome their participation in it. 

I would, as a point of detail, point the hon. Gentleman to clause 29(5)(a), which reads across to clause 33 and the defined relevant authorities, which include the Greater London Authority, local authorities and any chief officer of a police force in England and Wales. Together with clause 29(5)(a), it can be seen that we are seeking to incorporate representatives of those persons’ views within this specific part of the Bill. For the hon. Gentleman to

Column number: 343 
say that in some way they do not count and that there is to be some sort of exclusion of those views is wide of the mark. 

Vernon Coaker:  Can the Minister confirm that, while clause 33(1)—linked to clause 29(5)(a)—says that a relevant authority must have regard to the code, under the defined relevant authorities later in the clause, the victims commissioner is not included? 

James Brokenshire:  Obviously, the victims commissioner is not a relevant authority, because the relevant authority relates to those persons who are subject to the code. The hon. Gentleman was suggesting that local authorities and police forces were not covered, that their voice did not count and that they were left out and excluded from the Bill. I am seeking to highlight to him that thought has been given to this and that it is addressed in the Bill already. 

I recognise the hon. Gentleman’s passion and his desire to ensure that there is appropriate consultation and that the parties involved are properly brought within scope, but I gently point him to the fact that some of the language that he used—although I understand his reasons for using it—was a little wide of the mark. That is particularly true when we take into account the public consultation, which is being undertaken to ensure that the voices and views of as many people as possible are framed in the public engagement. We very much welcome that engagement, which is very much at the core of, and in the formulation and development of, the code. 

The hon. Gentleman will say that that does not go far enough, but the Secretary of State can consult other people, and that is very much embodied in the clause, which refers to the people it may be appropriate for the Secretary of State to consult. Members of the groups that the hon. Gentleman has identified may well be considered appropriate. There is not some sort of ring-fencing, with only the people specified in paragraphs (a) to (f) being consulted; there is flexibility in the Bill to accommodate consultation. 

I hear the hon. Gentleman’s points, but I repeat that these issues have been dealt with. Indeed, the public consultation, which is already taking place, and which people are still very much able to contribute to, allows people’s voices to be heard loud and clear in the formulation of the code and in its continuing review and development. That is intended very much to promote the confidence that we seek to achieve in establishing it and the CCTV systems that protect us all. 

Vernon Coaker:  I thank the Minister for his reply. I note that the Government are consulting on who should be consulted on the code, but I am saying that the Bill is going through Parliament, and it is incumbent on me, as the Opposition spokesperson, to say what I think should be in it. 

Amendments 97 and 54 are important. Amendment 54 includes the victims commissioner, whom the Minister has accepted is not included in the scope of the Bill. That voice of the community will not be heard as loudly as others, and that represents a mistake in the drafting of the Bill. 

Column number: 344 

In looking at clauses 29(5) and 33(5), the commissioner would be astonished to find that she—the person established by the previous Government, and accepted by this Government, as the voice of those affected by crime, criminality or antisocial behaviour—is not listed in the Bill in the way that other people are. At best, that is a surprise. 

If the Government are setting out to name those they think it is important to include in the Bill, the victims commissioner, in particular, should be added to the list. It is not good enough for the Minister to say that it is sufficient for the clause to allow the Secretary of State to consult others as he or she thinks appropriate. That is particularly true with respect to the victims commissioner. 

I would therefore like to test the Committee’s views in separate votes on amendments 97 and 54. As amendment 54 relates to the clause, we do not have to wait until later to get it out of the way. 

Question put, That the amendment be made. 

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 10. 

Division No. 12 ]  


Coaker, Vernon   

Efford, Clive   

Johnson, Diana   

Robertson, John   

Shannon, Jim   

Tami, Mark   

Watson, Mr Tom   


Baker, Steve   

Blackwood, Nicola   

Brake, Tom   

Brokenshire, James   

Buckland, Mr Robert   

Ellis, Michael   

Featherstone, Lynne   

Johnson, Gareth   

Opperman, Guy   

Wright, Jeremy   

Question accordingly negatived.  

Amendment proposed: 54, in clause 29, page 20, line 21, at end insert— 

‘(ga) local authorities within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1972,

(gb) the Greater London Authority,

(gc) the Common Council of the City of London in its capacity as a local authority,

(gd) the Sub-Treasurer of the Inner Temple or the Under-Treasurer of the Middle Temple, in their capacity as a local authority,

(ge) the Council of the Isles of Scilly,

(gf) parish councils within the meaning of Local Government Act 1972,

(gg) Police and Crime Commissioners,

(gh) Police and Crime Panels,

(gi) The Mayor’s office for Policing and Crime,

(gj) the Common Council of the City of London in its capacity as a police authority, and

(gk) the Victim’s Commissioner.’.—(Vernon Coaker.)

Question put, That the amendment be made. 

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 10. 

Division No. 13 ]  


Coaker, Vernon   

Efford, Clive   

Johnson, Diana   

Robertson, John   

Shannon, Jim   

Tami, Mark   

Watson, Mr Tom   

Column number: 345 


Baker, Steve   

Blackwood, Nicola   

Brake, Tom   

Brokenshire, James   

Buckland, Mr Robert   

Ellis, Michael   

Featherstone, Lynne   

Johnson, Gareth   

Opperman, Guy   

Wright, Jeremy   

Question accordingly negatived.  

12 pm 

Vernon Coaker:  I beg to move amendment 81, in clause 29, page 20, line 25, leave out ‘of objects or events’. 

I say this because I do not have an ego about these things: I need the Minister to help me. I have tabled the amendment because I do not understand the meaning of clause 29(6)(b) and I think that the Committee needs the Minister to explain why it is appropriate. Subsection (6) describes what “surveillance camera systems” means. Clearly, it means CCTV or ANPR, as described in subsection (6)(a), but I do not understand subsection (6)(b), and neither does the Information Commissioner, who thinks that there is a problem with it. Under subsection (6)(b), surveillance camera systems means 

“any other systems for recording or viewing visual images of objects or events for surveillance purposes”. 

My amendment would simply leave out “of objects or events”. Why are those words included? Does that measure include the processing of views? I do not understand the definition—is a person an object or an event? I want the Minister to explain what it means. I understand that CCTV and ANPR are surveillance camera systems, but what is meant by “any other systems”? Are such other systems precluded from doing anything that processes personal information? The Information Commissioner asked if that includes the processing of views and images of individuals, and if not, why not? 

The amendment is probing, because as the Committee can see, instead of being my usual lucid, eloquent, dynamic self, with full cognisance of all the facts, I am struggling. I am sure that the Minister will come forward with a perfectly reasonable explanation, but it does not make sense to me, and it clearly worries the Information Commissioner. We need detailed clarification of what the clause means. 

James Brokenshire:  As the hon. Gentleman will know from our discussions of previous Bills and in other circumstances, Bills are sometimes drafted in language that provides as broad a definition as possible in order to encompass relevant facts and matters. As he will recognise, provisions are often drawn in to ensure certain things. In this case, for example, we are seeking to define the term “surveillance camera system”. If it could be interpreted as either a CCTV or ANPR recognition system, that might be too narrow a definition, so the provision seeks to provide a definition of systems for recording or viewing visual images or objects or events for surveillance purposes. It provides a broader definition to ensure that we cover what we need to cover. 

However, as the hon. Gentleman knows, I am a lawyer, so I take the Bill’s wordsmithing as seriously as he does. I am happy to consider further whether the words that he seeks to delete, “objects or events”, add to the understanding of the paragraph. I am certainly prepared to consider it and ensure further clarity, if

Column number: 346 
required, to address his points or indeed any points relating to the Information Commissioner. I am prepared to consider that genuinely. 

Tom Brake:  To add to my clarity and that of other Members, will the Minister confirm whether systems used by pubs and clubs to capture the images of people coming into the pub, to be used in case those people are excluded for being involved in fights, will come within the remit of this particular definition? 

James Brokenshire:  I suggest that that sort of system would be covered by paragraph (a) as a closed circuit television system. It appears from my reading of the Bill, although I will bow to more detailed knowledge of legal drafting, that such a system would be captured by either paragraph (a) or paragraph (b), although the matter would need to be analysed. It is a system for recording or viewing visual images of people, so there is nothing in my reading of the Bill to suggest that it would not be caught by the definition of a surveillance camera system in subsection (6). I hope that is helpful. 

The definition is intended to ensure that the Bill captures surveillance camera systems properly, so it is important that we get it right, given the application of the term elsewhere. As I said, the hon. Member for Gedling highlighted that he wants clarification to ensure that the people who are likely to be surveilled are properly reflected in the drafting of the provision. I will certainly consider closely the point that he highlighted. I thank him for the manner in which he has brought it to the Committee’s attention, and I will certainly give it some consideration to ensure that it properly achieves our intention. The advice that I have been given suggests that it does, but at the same time the whole purpose of the Committee is to test, challenge and scrutinise, and therefore I welcome the challenge that the hon. Gentleman has thrown down. I want to carefully and calmly reflect on his comments, and the comments of others, to ensure that the measure works in the way that the Committee and I wish it to, so that the Bill operates in the way intended. 

Vernon Coaker:  I thank the Minister for his helpful reply, for which I am grateful. As I said, I will withdraw the amendment. I do not know whether the amendment is necessary or not. In all honesty, I tabled it because of something that the Information Commissioner raised. I did not properly understand it. Some of it is very technical. As the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington said, when we start talking about “any other systems”, what that actually means starts to become difficult. Then we start talking about objects or events and thinking, “What does that include or exclude?” The Minister’s offer to go back and see whether there needs to be further clarification, and whether the drafting is correct, is very helpful, so I am happy to withdraw the amendment. I thank the Minister again for his response and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

Clause 29 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 30 

Issuing of code 

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

Column number: 347 

Vernon Coaker:  We can cover some clauses fairly quickly, but I want the Minister to explain subsection (7), which mentions a draft that would be treated as a hybrid instrument for the purposes of the Standing Orders. I do not remember being on a Committee where a hybrid instrument has been used. According to the explanatory notes, it relates to where one section or group of individuals is disproportionately impacted upon compared with another group, and it is required not by the House of Commons but by the House of Lords. 

Will the Minister explain why it is necessary to include subsection (7) in the Bill? What assessment has been made about which groups or individuals are impacted on in a different way to others? I do not know about other members of the Committee, but I have never been on a Committee where a hybrid instrument has been mentioned. I have been in the House since 1997 and I have never heard of it, which just goes to show the wonders of this place. Will the Minister clarify subsection (7) and the need for it? 

James Brokenshire:  As the hon. Gentleman will know, having raised it, the hybrid instrument is a fairly technical aspect of parliamentary procedure, as is the term “hybridity”. He will have seen from reading the explanatory notes that: 

“Some statutory instruments which need to be approved by both Houses are ruled to be hybrid instruments because they affect some members of a group (be it individuals or bodies) more than others in the same group. Hybrid instruments are subject to a special procedure which gives those who are especially affected by them the opportunity to present their arguments against the statutory instrument to the Hybrid Instruments Committee and then, possibly, to a Select Committee charged with reporting on its merits.” 

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. In the shorter time that I have been in the House, I have not been engaged in hybrid legislation. Such provisions are built into other Acts of Parliament. Therefore, the issue has not necessarily arisen directly in relation to this point. 

12.15 pm 

The clause is intended to give clarity and, in essence, to disapply the procedures or arguments that might otherwise apply in relation to hybridity, because it might, for example, be argued that the rules on hybridity were engaged. This is a technical issue, and the clause perhaps gives clarity and assurance. If the hon. Gentleman or others have concerns about the exclusion of the hybridity provisions in relation to this aspect of the Bill, we will no doubt hear more about that on Report or subsequent stages. 

The explanatory notes do not speculate about situations where a draft order could have been ruled to be a hybrid instrument, but it seems likely, if there are issues, that affected groups could air their views as part of the consultation process attending the preparation of the code of practice. In other words, we are consulting, and if there are concerns about hybridity, that will no doubt come out in the public consultation. However, I am not aware of any specific concerns having been highlighted. It may well be that this is a technical, legal, narrow issue and that subsection (7) is set out in the way that it is to give clarity and to remove any doubt or any question. 

Column number: 348 

Vernon Coaker:  I thank the Minister for that. From nods and shakes of the head, it appears that different members of the Committee have had different experiences of the issue; some have heard of hybridity and some have not. However, it would be interesting to know which groups, in the Government’s assessment, will be affected differently. Is it that the police and local authorities will be affected, but not others who run cameras? Is that the issue? Which groups would be affected in different ways, requiring the hybridity principle to be applied? If the Minister does not have that information to hand, it would be of interest to know how different groups would be affected disproportionately. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 30 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clauses 31 and 32 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 33 

Effect of code 

Vernon Coaker:  I beg to move amendment 100, in clause 33, page 22, line 10, at beginning insert— 

‘(A1) The surveillance camera code is not mandatory.’.

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 101, in clause 33, page 22, line 17, leave out subsection (4). 

Vernon Coaker:  Again, I will be relatively brief. The amendments go back to some of the debate that we had earlier. The amendments do different things, but in both we are simply asking the Minister to explain why it is not necessary for the code of practice to be mandatory. Could the Government make it mandatory in the future, should they choose to do so? Is there are power in the Bill to change it? I do not think there is, but can the Minister confirm that although the code is not mandatory, there is no order-making power to make it mandatory? I cannot find one, but I do not know whether one is tucked away in clause 96(4) or somewhere else. 

If there is no order-making power, what will the Minister do if the belief that a voluntary code will work is wrong? In other words, if there is no order-making power to make the code mandatory, and an incremental, step-by-step, voluntary approach does not work, what is the Government’s thinking on how they will take things forward? I agree that most public bodies, local authorities and police forces will aspire to the highest possible standards, but if the code is only voluntary, what will happen if a Birmingham-type example comes forward? Would people not be surprised if there was nothing that the Government could use to say that the code is there? During the Public Reading stage, the public said that the code of practice will be toothless. The Government reject that view, but that is not what the public feel about it. 

As I have said to the Minister, I am in favour of a code of practice, but what is the point of a purely voluntary code? There is no way in which the Government, without coming back to primary legislation, will be able to say, “This has not worked in the way that we thought it would. What do we do about it?” Will exhortation and a belief that everyone will rise to the highest possible

Column number: 349 
standards work of themselves? With the amendments, I am asking the Government to flesh out for us again their view on why it is not necessary to include in the Bill an order-making power to make the code mandatory, should it not work in the way that the Minister thinks is appropriate. I will be interested in his response. 

James Brokenshire:  I think the hon. Gentleman will recognise the approach on the clause and the code of practice. The bodies that have been caught by the clause—local authorities and the police—have to have regard to the code of practice, and the Bill provides flexibility to expand that requirement to other groups. As I have explained in previous debates on the clause, the approach will be informed by the reports of the surveillance camera commissioner on how the code is working and being applied. That will provide a helpful and important mechanism to assess whether the code is having the intended impact and whether trust and confidence, which we have discussed previously, are at the core of the matter. 

If we reserved an order-making power to turn a provision to “have regard to” into a mandatory requirement, we would fundamentally change the intent of the legislation. It would be incumbent on the Government to return to Parliament at that stage to change the intent in that way, given that one would be fundamentally altering the nature and structure of the legislation and meriting the turning of the current structure of the code as embodied in the Bill into a mandatory requirement. There are elements—I know that the hon. Gentleman and other members of the Committee will understand this in relation to, for example, the Data Protection Act—that are already mandatory and which already have sanctions and specific requirements attached. If breached, they will lead to significant and serious consequences. The nature of what we are addressing here means that some issues that relate to CCTV cameras already have mandatory requirements. That is part and parcel of the provisions in the Data Protection Act, which governs and addresses some of the points that are at issue here. 

Vernon Coaker:  I was going to ask the Minister to confirm that there is nothing in the Bill—no order-making power—that can change the voluntary code into a mandatory code, but he went on to clarify that there is not. 

James Brokenshire:  I hope that my comments have helped to explain to the hon. Gentleman our thoughts, the approach that we have sought to adopt, and why we believe that his amendment is unnecessary. There is no power to make the code mandatory in future, which, I hope, reassures him. We will continue to keep under review the code’s operation and the reports that we will receive from the commissioner. I hope that, with that assurance, the hon. Gentleman will be minded to withdraw the amendment. 

Vernon Coaker:  The amendment was intended to tease out whether there was an order-making power. I know from experience that it is sometimes necessary to have such matters properly confirmed, because it is not always possible to find those powers in the Bill. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

Column number: 350 

Mr Watson:  I beg to move amendment 43, in clause 33, page 22, line 34, at end insert— 

‘(ja) the proprietor of a school within the meaning of the section 579(1) of the Education Act 1996,

(jb) the proprietor of a 16-19 Academy within the meaning of section 579(1) of the Education Act 1996,

(jc) the governing body of a further education institution within the meaning section 90(1) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992,’.

The amendment is simple—it aims to include schools in the list of relevant authorities that are covered by the surveillance camera code. I propose the measure because I want to be helpful to the Government. I support the direction of travel in providing protection of freedoms for our children. Children in a school environment should be afforded the same protections that they and their parents receive outside it. An increasing body of evidence shows that schools inadvertently contravene the Data Protection Act, because they are unsure how it applies to them. CCTV cameras are ubiquitous in Britain’s schools—some 85% of schools now have them. 

The amendment aims to test how far the Government want to make real their stated aims of trying to protect children. I readily admit that I am probably ploughing my own furrow on this matter, but I do not think that there is much evidence to show that CCTV in schools increases safeguarding. I am not sure whether it makes schools more efficient or drives down costs; I am certain of one thing—it reduces privacy, and we should have regard to that in our discussions. 

The proposal is a neat way of ensuring that head teachers respect the code and do the right thing by the intention of the legislation. It cannot be right that one in 10 kids’ toilets have unregulated CCTV. That does not feel right to me—we would not want that in the House of Commons; I do not want it in my kids’ schools. That is why I have tabled the amendment. 

Vernon Coaker:  My hon. Friend’s amendment is interesting. Perhaps the Minister can reassure him by considering the proposal to see whether people in education should be covered on the face of the Bill or under subsection (5)(k). 

The code is voluntary and the measure seeks only to ensure that schools have regard to it; it does not state that they cannot use it, but that they should consider its use in certain circumstances. That is why, in general, I have always supported the introduction of a code and why we are not opposing it. Requiring people to have regard to a code is an important step forward. No doubt Committee members can think of other organisations or bodies that should be included under “relevant authority”. 

12.30 pm 

To be fair, the Government are in a cleft stick, because as soon as we start listing, people say, “Why haven’t you listed x?” as, indeed, I have on occasion. I have sat where the Minister is sitting and said, “We can’t list everyone, and that’s why we have put in a section that says that we can add anyone we feel is appropriate.” The point that my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East is making, and no doubt others could make, about bodies that should be relevant authorities is: which

Column number: 351 
bodies are so important that we should not leave the decision to the discretion of the Secretary of State but include them in the Bill? My hon. Friend has some justification for considering, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North West, that this body is of such importance that the Government should look at including it in the Bill. His comment is powerful, and the Government should at the very least consider including this body, perhaps along with others to which other Members can point. 

John Robertson:  What kind of discussions has the Minister had with the Department for Education on the issue? I do not have a problem with CCTV, as the Minister knows, but I have a great problem with CCTV intruding on a young person who is just going to the toilet. There is something rather nasty about anyone wanting to put a TV camera in a young child’s toilet; there has to be a bit more meat on the bones. There are rules in our Education Acts to protect children, but here that aspect is completely and utterly ignored and the Minister must look at it. Education is important, and we have to protect our children and not expose them to things that might fall into the wrong hands. 

James Brokenshire:  I thank hon. Members for the way in which they have sought to highlight the point. As a father with young kids at school, I have sensitivities about the effective and appropriate use of CCTV systems in the safeguarding of children, and recognise the concerns that have been genuinely expressed in this short debate. 

A challenge here is that we are talking about private and public schools—there are different sorts of environments. At the same time as wanting to ensure that CCTV systems are used appropriately, we do not want to become too prescriptive and undermine the very intent behind the systems. The comment made by the hon. Member for West Bromwich East about the Data Protection Act was germane. That is a legal provision with teeth, with mandatory requirements attached. Perhaps there is a lack of understanding of that Act’s application and of how the sense of proportionality is applied. There are, however, complexities attached, which is why we have not sought to include schools and colleges within the ambit of the Bill. 

We are in the midst of the public consultation, and I would like to see how that reports back on the code of practice and on the groups that may be encompassed within the application of the code. Aside from the reasons we have already debated under some of the Bill’s other provisions, even if a particular group or organisation were not formally prescribed in the Bill at this stage, we would intend the provision to have a broader application than those groups. It may well be that local authorities themselves, being directly caught, might wish to examine the application of the code in relation to schools and other environments. The issue is clearly emotive. The mix of educational and community activities for which school premises can be used is complex. The issue needs to be considered with great care to ensure safety, security and propriety. I do not want to act rashly now; I prefer to see what the consultation reports back, although I hear clearly the points raised in Committee this morning. I am sure that the question of how the code will apply in the future will be returned to and examined further. 

Column number: 352 

The Bill envisages that the code can be extended to other regulated bodies, and there is flexibility to do so through the order-making power. That may allow the addition of schools or colleges, if that is considered appropriate, but the complexities of the issue require further careful thought to ensure that we do not create unnecessary burdens or misapply the sense of the provision. Fair points have been made in this mini-debate, and we will need to consider them carefully as part of the consultation. I want to see what the consultation reports back before considering what further steps or actions are required. 

Mr Watson:  In the short time that the Minister has been in position, he has already gained a reputation for listening and for taking people’s points seriously, so I appreciate what he said. I hope that he will allow me to give him more detail from some of the parents’ interest groups and to make their case to him. 

James Brokenshire:  If the hon. Gentleman will send me further details or ensure that such information is properly included in the current public consultation, I welcome that. 

Mr Watson:  I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

Vernon Coaker:  Subsection (5)(k) will give the Secretary of State the opportunity to add to the list of relevant authorities that must have regard to the surveillance camera code. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East has already given the example of schools, although we feel that that should be included in the Bill. Will the Minister give us other examples of how the list might be extended? Presumably, the Secretary of State will have the power under the auspices of the clause to include all the cameras that are not currently police or local authority ones. Will the Minister confirm that? 

Will the Minister explain to the Committee how subsection (5) relates to subsection (6)? Do they mean that people can be a relevant authority for some of the things they do but not for others, so that they are a relevant authority not because of the nature of what or whom they are but only for specific functions that they perform as a relevant authority? For example, private detectives would not be relevant authorities for what they do, but if they operated a surveillance camera they would be a relevant authority for that purpose. Subsection (6) seems to imply that the functions of a relevant authority can be split, and that such an authority has to have regard to the surveillance camera code in relation only to some rather than all of its functions. Will the Minister clarify that and explain how it will work? If I have read the Bill correctly and that is so, how will the surveillance camera commissioner or whoever is responsible for the code know what is going on with respect to a relevant authority? How will that happen? Subsection (5)(k) gives a large power to the Secretary of State, but I shall be interested in the Minister’s explanation of how subsection (6) relates to subsection (5). 

Column number: 353 

James Brokenshire:  On that specific point, the drafting is intended to cover circumstances when certain bodies may have dual or multiple roles; for example, they have both public functions and private sector functions, and the duty to have regard to the code may therefore be limited to the exercise of one or one part of their functions. I suppose that it is a flexibility-type provision rather than something that would provide a splitting of the roles of public bodies in some way; it is more for where dual roles might exist. 

The hon. Gentleman highlighted an issue about the extension to other public bodies perhaps being added in due course and asked what we might have in mind. We clearly specified under the Bill local authorities and the police in relation to the initial approach. Although we will be guided by public consultation, we will also be guided by the reports of the surveillance camera commissioner in respect of future applications. An example has been proffered this morning by a member of the Committee of something that might be considered part of the ongoing review, but we do not have anything in mind in terms of extending the application of the code at this time. We will certainly be informed by the practicalities and by how we see matters developing. 

The desire is very much that the code is seen as a means of informing good practice to ensure that we drive up standards and that we give effect to the system’s retaining public trust and confidence. Therefore, the provision obviously extends further than the police and local authorities, although for private sector companies we see a voluntary type of approach. I want the code developed in such a way that it becomes a useful, positive document to which people want to give effect because of the manner in which it has been drawn up, embracing the standards and explaining some of the complexities that might exist in some of the interpretive points of, for example, the Data Protection Act. 

I do not envisage the code being set in stone but as something that will develop in time, informed by developments in technology. I do not think that any member of the Committee could second-guess what such technology may lead to in two, three, four or five years’ time. Having a flexible approach is important so that we can move with the change in technology and is the reason why the Bill has been framed as it has. The Government will keep the matter under review, but I hope that Members will be minded to ensure that the clause stands part of the Bill. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 33 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 34 

Commissioner in relation to code 

12.45 pm 

Vernon Coaker:  I beg to move amendment 102, in clause 34, page 23, line 23, at end insert— 

‘(1A) Before the Commissioner is formally appointed, the candidate must give oral evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee about the use of surveillance camera systems.’.

The amendment is fairly straightforward. The confirmatory practice is quite good. Should the surveillance camera commissioner be established under the Bill—as

Column number: 354 
it goes through Parliament and survives all the processes—under our proposal, before being appointed, the candidate would give evidence to the Home Affairs Committee about the use of surveillance camera systems. The candidate should have the opportunity to explain their thoughts and views, and state how they see the Bill operating and how they see the relationship between the Information Commissioner and the surveillance camera commissioner, which we will come to in the next group of amendments. They should explain how victims will be given the voice that they deserve, and all those sorts of things. It is a straightforward probing amendment to ask whether the Government see any merit in the proposal. 

I would like to see such an approach taken across a range of public appointments; as we know, there have been one or two examples. Before being made chief inspector of Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, Sir Denis O’Connor gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee. Those are steps in the right direction, and the amendment seeks to ask the Government whether they see any merit in asking the surveillance camera commissioner to do the same thing. 

James Brokenshire:  At the heart of what the hon. Gentleman seeks to achieve is ensuring that the surveillance camera commissioner has the right qualities. We have made clear our intention to combine the new role of surveillance camera commissioner with that of the existing forensic science regulator. The existing regulator, Andrew Rennison, gave evidence to the Committee. He was appointed by the previous Government as the interim CCTV regulator, and he has a considerable amount of grounding and knowledge in the area. I have asked him to stay in that role pending the passage of the legislation, so as to provide continuity. He has already established a wide range of contacts with interested parties, and those will prove helpful in his new role of promoting and monitoring the new code of practice. 

As the hon. Gentleman suggested, he raises a broader point, and the role that Select Committees should play in the process of public appointments is an issue that we should consider in the round. The coalition agreement stated that it will strengthen the powers of Select Committees to scrutinise major public appointments, and the Cabinet Office is currently working with the Liaison Committee to deliver that commitment. When the Public Administration Committee considered pre-appointment hearings in 2007-08, it took the view that we should expect them to apply to major auditors, ombudsmen, regulators and inspectors, as well as to those responsible for the appointment system. Others who have looked at the issue, such as the Institute for Government in its March 2011 report on the right role for Parliament in public appointments, have taken a broadly similar view. 

The surveillance camera commissioner does not necessarily fit strictly within those criteria, given that the role will largely be one of monitoring and reporting. The Cabinet Office and the Liaison Committee will review the existing criteria and the list of posts subject to pre-appointment hearings, and I do not want to pre-empt the outcome of that work. That is not to say that the Home Affairs Committee should not take an interest in the work of the commissioner once appointed, including taking evidence from him or her as the role develops. At this stage I am not persuaded that a

Column number: 355 
pre-appointment hearing is appropriate, and I would like to see the results of the work done by the Cabinet Office and the Liaison Committee before considering the issue further. With that reassurance, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be minded to withdraw his amendment. 

Vernon Coaker:  I will withdraw the amendment. It relates to a broader point; the practice of confirmation and giving Parliament a wider remit to consider who is appropriate for a particular job, rather than just the Secretary of State—whoever that may be—would be an important improvement to our processes. I mentioned the surveillance camera commissioner because that is the subject of the legislation, but there is a broader point and as the Minister said, the Government are looking at the matter and there is a Cabinet Office report. Hopefully that report will be produced speedily, and the matter can be considered in the context of the recommendations made. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

Vernon Coaker:  I beg to move amendment 82, in clause 34, page 23, line 28, after ‘it’, insert 

‘and the processing of personal information if that information relates to the code’. 

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment 83, in clause 34, page 23, line 28, at end insert— 

‘(d) handling complaints and taking enforcement action in relation to breaches of the code’.

Amendment 85, in clause 34, page 23, line 37, at end add— 

‘(5) The Secretary of State shall keep under review the functions of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner to ensure that those functions are not duplicated by the Information Commissioner or any other public official.’.

Vernon Coaker:  This set of amendments is very important, because they go to the heart of one of the tensions in the Bill, which is the role of the Information Commissioner vis-à-vis the surveillance camera commissioner. The Government say that will not be a problem and that they will work together, but there will be two codes of practice. Once it is up and running, the surveillance camera code will be monitored by the surveillance camera commissioner. Alongside that, there will be the Information Commissioner, who has published a code for surveillance camera systems. The Information Commissioner’s code is legally enforceable through the Data Protection Act and the legal sanctions within it. If that is wrong, the Minister will be able to correct me. 

Amendments 82 and 83 seek an understanding about who is responsible for the processing of personal information as it relates to the surveillance camera code. The situation is quite confusing. Amendment 82 specifically mentions personal information that “relates to the code”. If it was a general reference to personal information, everyone would be able to say that it relates to the Information Commissioner. Is it the case that if personal information relates to the code, it would relate to the surveillance camera commissioner? We

Column number: 356 
need some clarity about that. Does the Minister intend that the two codes of practice will continue, or does he hope that they will merge? 

How will personal information collected by surveillance camera systems be processed? Who will be responsible for collecting it? Who will be responsible for monitoring it? Will the surveillance camera commissioner have to pass on personal information, collected as it relates to the code, to the Information Commissioner, or does the surveillance camera commissioner say, “This is to do with the Data Protection Act, and it is, therefore, nothing to do with me”? I do not properly understand how the two systems relate to each other. How will people operating the CCTV system, who must have regard to the code, know whether the part of the code that they must have regard to is the code as it relates to the surveillance camera commissioner or as it relates to the Information Commissioner? 

A large number of witnesses—not just the Information Commissioner—have told us that there is a real danger of confusion between the role of the surveillance camera commissioner and that of the Information Commissioner. I do not properly understand how the system will work, how it will be monitored and policed and who will be ultimately responsible. I do not know how people are supposed to understand it. It would helpful to the Committee and to those who read these proceedings for the Minister to lay out in detail the different responsibilities of the Information Commissioner and the surveillance camera commissioner and how they will be reflected in the way that the code of practice will actually work. 

James Brokenshire:  The hon. Gentleman highlights an important point about the relationship between the surveillance camera commissioner and the Information Commissioner. Nothing in the new surveillance camera commissioner’s role will interfere with the current role and responsibility of the Information Commissioner. We expect the two commissioners to work together harmoniously and closely, dealing appropriately with CCTV matters. The hon. Gentleman will know from their evidence that the Information Commissioner and the interim CCTV regulator already work closely together, and that they have an understanding about the remit of their work. We see no reason for there to be conflict between their future roles. 

The surveillance camera commissioner will oversee and monitor the code, encourage the compliance of CCTV operators, reveal the code’s effectiveness and impact, and provide advice on it to users, the public or the Government, as requested or as necessary. He will also act as a conduit to the Information Commissioner on data protection. If a matter referred to him is clearly a data protection issue, it will be referred to the Information Commissioner. As I said, the Information Commissioner will continue to have primacy on data protection, and the surveillance camera commissioner will have primacy when dealing with the more practical and technical questions. 

There is clarity and distinction of their respective roles, albeit that a gateway mechanism between the commissioners will be needed to ensure that they are applied appropriately. Evidence to the Committee and what I have been told in private discussions give me every confidence that it will be an effective means of operating the code of practice, as envisaged under the Bill. 

Column number: 357 

The hon. Gentleman highlighted the question of whether there should be two codes or one. I seek to clarify the matter. The provisions of the Data Protection Act are legally enforceable, but although it gives guidance on particular aspects of the Act the CCTV code issued by the Information Commissioner is not a legally enforceable document. In that narrow way, it is the Act that is legally enforceable; the Information Commissioner therefore has the responsibility to ensure that the code is legally applied and enforced. I understand the point being made by the hon. Gentleman about the CCTV code of practice as previously published by the Information Commissioner. However, it is not the code that is legally enforceable but the Act under which it seeks to give guidance. 

I turn to the question of whether we need one code or two; in other words, whether the Information Commissioner should retain his separate data-protection focused code, or whether it would be better to have a single code of practice as envisaged under the framework mechanism of the Bill. I am considering the matter carefully. The question was flagged up in the public consultation, and I want to hear people’s thoughts on the most effective and sensible way forward. It is a question of ensuring clarity and certainty, and having things in one place

Column number: 358 
would be my starting point, as it seems sensible to have all relevant information on standards and the potential data protection aspects embodied in one code of practice. However, I shall listen to the views of the regulators and other parties before making a formal decision. We are considering the matter carefully. 

Mr Watson:  Does the Minister accept that if the functions of the two commissioners were merged, we would not need to debate two codes of conduct? 

James Brokenshire:  I do not have much time before we break for lunch, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we gave careful consideration to who might be the most appropriate person. Rather than creating a new position—we already have a forensics commissioner and an Information Commissioner—we opted for combining the role with the forensics commissioner so as to reduce administration. There is clearly an understanding between them. 

1 pm 

The Chair adjourned the Committee without Question put (Standing Order No. 88). 

Adjourned till this day at Four o’clock.