HC Deb 30 November 1995 vol 267 cc1322-3
9. Mr. Pike

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many closed circuit television schemes are financially supported fully or in part by the safer cities initiative. [1361]

Mr. Maclean

Forty-two CCTV schemes received funding under phase 1 of the safer cities programme, seven are being financially supported under phase 2, and of course 106 schemes were supported by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary's challenge funding scheme.

Mr. Pike

Will the Minister ensure that schemes such as that in Burnley, which are doing an excellent job, continue to have the necessary finances made available to them? Will he also give an assurance that steps will be taken to stop any illegal use of the tapes made in any of these schemes anywhere in the country?

Mr. Maclean

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall have another round of challenge funding. We have in fact announced another round of funding, and this time we are putting up not just £5 million but £15 million. We are inviting bids from all around the country, from communities large and small. A key condition of the funding is that there will have to be a code of practice on the proper use of video tapes. We shall also insist that if any scheme that is up and running wants any top-up funding, it should have a proper code of practice as well. I condemn totally the irresponsible use of any CCTV images for commercial gain.

Mr. Bellingham

Does the Minister agree that it is not just CCTV tapes which need to be looked at carefully, but police interview tapes? Will he look specifically at the bizarre and worrying case involving one of my constituents who bought, at a car boot sale, 20 police interview tapes marked "Essex and Cambridgeshire Constabulary", which contained highly confidential information, including an interview with a schoolmaster who was alleged to have interfered with a choirboy? That could have been highly damaging to individuals—[Interruption.] I do not know why Opposition Members are smirking and laughing—it is a serious matter. Will the Minister ensure that such an incident never recurs and will he comment on it?

Mr. Maclean

Inquiries are being made by the police. We must be careful about apportioning blame before the inquiries are completed. I understand from the reports that the police say that they have all their master tapes intact and it is likely, or certainly possible, that the tapes came from a solicitor—from the defence copy of the tapes, possibly from a practice from which a solicitor was eventually disbarred. I understand that to be the case and I would not wish to go further without having more information. I hope that when the facts are fully revealed we will not be blaming the police service.

Mr. Michael

As the Minister knows, the Labour party has encouraged the effective use of CCTV in cutting crime. He will share, as he has suggested, my concern about the sale of films. Does he agree that it would be tragic if public confidence was undermined by people selling surveillance films, whether from the police, the public sector or the private sector? We are willing to help the Home Secretary to pass legislation through the House quickly in this Session to outlaw such activity by anyone in the public or private sector. Will he accept our offer?

Mr. Maclean

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman has said. We must be careful and I warn the House that we should not hype up the episode, which is probably just what the promoter of the film wants. We must not get the matter out of proportion. I condemn irresponsible use, but at times it is helpful for the police and others to release certain video tapes or for programmes such as "Crimewatch UK" to show them as it helps detection and prevention.

We do not want to prevent, through hasty regulation, the sensible use of pictures because of a shoddy, poor-quality, over-hyped film. There is hardly any material on the film from public CCTV and the little that was released by the police for promotional purposes was mostly from private videos inside buildings. The quality of the film was worse than Logie Baird's first pictures in 1925—the public should rightly condemn such rubbish by not buying it.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my right hon. Friend think that the safer cities initiative is helped by racist comments such as those uttered on the "Dispatches" programme last night?

Mr. Maclean

I hope that the Opposition will respond quickly with a total denunciation of the comments and the colleague who made them. Racist comments of that nature are unacceptable from any quarter, particularly from Front-Bench spokesmen from a party which hopes one day to be in government.

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