The government is set to liaise with police chiefs following calls for officers to be given clearer guidelines over photographers' right to take pictures in public.
The verbal assurance emerged in the House of Lords in reply to concerns raised by Lord Rosser of Ickenham on 16 July, who called for a 'mutually acceptable balance between security needs and the legal right to take photographs in public places'.
Lord Rosser (pictured) verbally expressed concerns about reported harassment of photographers, both amateur and professional, by police officers and private security guards.
He also voiced fears recently expressed by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) that photographers are sometimes filmed themselves.
Lord Bassam of Brighton, representing the government, replied saying that police officers 'have the discretion to ask people not to take photographs for public safety or security reasons…'.
But he added that the government will 'make contact with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the National Policing Improvement Agency about the provisions of national guidelines for use by police forces'.
National guidelines for police treatment of press photographers are already in place following a campaign led by professional press bodies. Last year, ACPO agreed to roll out these guidelines to police forces nationwide.
In an interview today with Amateur Photographer, Lord Rosser said that Lord Bassam's reply suggests that the government's plan for new guidelines will apply to photography enthusiasts. 'As far as I'm concerned it covers all photographers, not just press photographers,' he told us.
Lord Bassam confirmed plans for Home Office Minister Tony McNulty to meet the NUJ's general secretary Jeremy Dear to discuss the issues raised (Austin Mitchell MP is also organising for a delegation of photographers to visit the minister).
When quizzed by the Countess of Mar about 'hysteria' concerning photography of children, Lord Bassam accepted the need to keep a 'sense of proportion on such issues'.
The government was also urged to ensure police guidelines are applied to the private security industry which was accused, by Lord Mawhinney, of creating 'the impression of having a slightly more cavalier attitude than the police'.
Lord Bassam admitted 'there is an issue here' and said he may raise this matter with the Security Industry Authority.
Meanwhile, Lord Faulkner believes train operators and Network Rail should follow British Transport Police guidelines which, he told the House, make it clear that photographers are not only welcome on the railway, but that they are an 'aid to security, as they provide an extra set of eyes to spot when things go amiss'.