The issue of CCTV in pubs has hit the headlines in recent weeks after a landlord in North London revealed that police demanded he install CCTV "capturing a head and shoulder shot of every person entering the pub". Under the Licensing Act 2003 police can make recommendations in the granting of licenses, which is still controlled by local authorities.
Now the Policing and Crime Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament, will be used to extend the powers of police to impose licensing conditions not only for pubs and clubs but also shops and off licenses.
Clause 31 of the Bill "makes provision about mandatory licensing conditions relating to alcohol". Specifically this consists of:
a) a small number of mandatory licence conditions (no more than nine) that apply to all new or existing licences and club premises certificates which permit the sale of alcohol;
b) a larger number of permitted conditions, which the licensing authority can, in consultation with responsible authorities, apply to more than one licensed premises or club at a time
The government is asking MPs to grant enabling powers before the mandatory conditions have even been decided. This legislation allows the government to circumvent proper parliamentary debate and constitutes a blank cheque to further erode civil liberties in the UK.
If this bill is passed into law then it will amend the Licensing Act, taking even more power away from local authorities and as a result CCTV could be introduced as a condition of all licenses. Such a power could be added without proper debate and would force anyone wishing to sell alcohol to install CCTV.
The bill has finished its committee stage in the House of Commons, where MPs are meant to scrutinise the legislation and suggest amendments, yet MPs did not contest the measures in Clause 31 and it was "ordered to stand part of the bill".
The bill is expected to get its 3rd reading in the House of Commons soon. Now is the time to write to your MP telling him/her about the danger to our liberties if Clause 31 of this bill is passed. You should also write to members of the House of Lords asking them to strike down these powers when the bill reaches the House of Lords.
There is ample evidence that CCTV is not an effective crime fighting measure. As the evidence against and criticism of surveillance cameras continues to mount it seems that the government is intent on expanding blanket surveillance regardless.