Friday, 11 June 2010

Prime Minister Cameron reveals attitude toward CCTV?

An interesting exchange in the House of Commons recently helps to highlight the new Government's attitude toward CCTV.

Harriet Harman (Leader of the Opposition; Camberwell and Peckham, Labour)

Before the election, the coalition parties talked about ending what they called the surveillance society. The coalition agreement said that the Government would further regulate the use of closed circuit television, but on Monday, the Home Secretary could not tell the House what that would mean in practice. Can the Prime Minister tell us now?

David Cameron (Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative)

… On surveillance, let me be clear that I support CCTV cameras. I have them in my constituency and they are very effective, and when I worked at the Home Office many years ago I championed such schemes, but I think everyone understands that the level of surveillance has become very great in our country. As well as the issue of CCTV, there is the issue of how many different sorts of officials are allowed to enter people's houses without permission. We will be bringing forward legislation to deal with that. I know that the Labour party has given up on civil liberties, and that the right hon. and learned Lady used to be head of what was the National Council for Civil Liberties-that was all a long time ago-but we on this side of the House think civil liberties are important.

Harriet Harman (Leader of the Opposition; Camberwell and Peckham, Labour)

May I ask the Prime Minister the question again, because I was asking not about people entering people's houses, but about CCTV? Can I tell him what Theresa was saying to me on Friday? [Hon. Members: "Theresa?"] Not the Home Secretary, but Theresa from the Poets Corner estate in my constituency. That Theresa is the one who knows about living on an estate that needs CCTV. Let me tell the Prime Minister that such people do not want to be told by this Government that it is going to be made harder to get the CCTV that they need on their estates. I press him on this because it is about people feeling, and being, safe in their communities. Will he guarantee that he will not do anything to make it harder to get or to use CCTV?

David Cameron (Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative)

The right hon. and learned Lady should understand that this is all about proportionality and making sure that we have a system that helps protect people while respecting civil liberties.
Bad news: No answer from the Prime Minister to reassure the public that they won’t make it harder for members of the public to get CCTV cameras where they are needed.

Good news: The Prime Minister acknowledged that:
  1. He supports CCTV
  2. CCTV is very effective in his constituency
  3. When he worked at the Home Office, he championed many schemes.
Before the election you couldn't get a straight answer out of the Conservative Party about CCTV and a search of the Internet for David Cameron and CCTV turned up no further clues. Perhaps they were trying to keep David Davis quiet.

Now, one month into the new Government and the Prime Minister reveals his true colours.

Oh it’s a bitter pill for our friends at Big Brother Watch to swallow. They were so hoping that the Government would row back on 16 or more years of development of CCTV. (A policy which, as the PM highlighted, was introduced by the previous Conservative government!)

BBW immediately dashed out this statement, attacking the PM's position on CCTV:

"It was very disappointing to see the Prime Minister soften his position on CCTV today. For the past decade, countless millions of pounds have been spent increasing the level of camera surveillance in this country, with no appreciable reduction in crime or increase in safety as a result. If the Coalition Government is serious about privacy and civil liberties, it will make sure that it tackles the public sector’s wasteful mania for CCTV as soon as possible."

Wasteful mania? More like, wise use of council funds to help support the police and focus resources on areas which need policing most.

You just can't argue with the facts: CCTV is effective; the public and the police like it; and councillors would be punished at the polls if they cut it.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. do you not think there's something disastrous in having absolutely surrendered all our privacy to the state and that we're happy with this?an effective system-how do police in countries like Germany and France cope,their conviction rates must be absolutely shocking......