HC Deb 07 July 1997 vol 297 cc604-6
13. Mr. Gray

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will extend the provision of closed circuit television. [5519]

Mr. Michael

We are reviewing existing expenditure programmes and reassessing priorities to ensure that we make the best use of the resources available. A decision on whether there will be a further CCTV challenge competition in 1998–99 will be made later in the summer.

Mr. Gray

One could only expect yet another review. Does the Minister accept the outstanding crime prevention and detection power of CCTV? Will he remember the 6,000 cameras provided by the Conservative Government at a cost of £34 million? Is he aware of the Conservative manifesto pledge to spend a further £75 million on providing CCTV? As north Wiltshire has not yet benefited from any of that Conservative expenditure, will the Minister consider sympathetically the forthcoming CCTV application from Wootton Bassett?

Mr. Michael

The hon. Gentleman seems to have answered his own questions by attacking the record of the previous Government. It is only sensible for an incoming Government to undertake a comprehensive review of expenditure and of the way in which resources are used. It is in that context that we are examining how we use the money available for CCTV.

The Conservative party's commitment, such as it was, in the general election was not worth the paper that it was written on. The Conservatives said that they would provide money over the next five years, but one of the first things that we found on coming into office was that the money that they had set aside allowed only one further round of CCTV expenditure, next year. They had allowed for nothing after the financial year to which I referred. By contrast, the Labour party is committed to taking action to tackle crime and its causes comprehensively. That includes on-going support for CCTV, which has been proved to work well when properly integrated with other steps to protect the public and to detect and prevent crime.

Dr. Mawhinney

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for confirming that there was money available for CCTV next year. He will also recall that the £37 million that we spent while in government was done on a year-by-year basis. Will he now demonstrate to the House his commitment in support of CCTV by saying that he will agree to match the Conservative manifesto commitment to spend £75 million more on CCTV during the course of this Parliament?

Mr. Michael

I join my hon. Friend the Minister of State in welcoming the right hon. Gentleman to his new post. As shadow Home Secretary representing the Conservative party he may find that on many issues it is wise to stay silent in view of the appalling record of the previous Government.

It is one thing for the right hon. Gentleman to confirm that money is available next year. As I confirmed in my response, my predecessor did not leave money for subsequent years—it was not allowed for. I will certainly not make commitments for further ahead. We are committed, however, to tackling crime and its causes comprehensively—a task in which the Conservative Government comprehensively failed over the years. The right hon. Gentleman also heard his hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) condemn the Conservative Government's failure to provide any money for CCTV in Wiltshire over the years. The right hon. Gentleman should listen to the noise from his own Back Benchers.

Finally, the right hon. Gentleman should recognise that in many cases Labour local authorities took the initiative to introduce CCTV into their areas—very often without the support of the Conservative Government and, indeed, with their active neglect.

Mr. Bob Russell

The Minister has expressed keen support for security cameras and has said that CCTV is a good measure. In view of that, and if the Government are serious about being tough on the causes of crime, surely the Minister should have found the ways and means immediately after he came into office to provide the additional money for that purpose. I also merely observe that the six-week running costs of the boot camp in Colchester would pay for the completion of the security camera system in Colchester.

Mr. Michael

I am not sure that doing so would have saved us a penny. Finding extra money out of thin air within a few weeks of coming into government is not something that we pretend to be able to do. We intend to act responsibly with the finances available to us and to use them in the best way possible within the Home Office to deal with crime and the other issues for which we are responsible.

The financial situation is, if anything, worse than we predicted before coming into office. The Conservative Government left us with that financial failure as well as their failure in relation to law and order. We shall make the best possible use of the resources available. We see CCTV as a valuable tool in the fight against crime, provided that it is used as part of intelligent and comprehensive approaches to reducing and preventing crime in areas where CCTV has been installed.