HC Deb 06 June 1996 vol 278 cc701-2
1. Mr. Barry Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make it his policy to implement the recommendations of the Home Affairs Committee in its first report of Session 1994–95, HC17, regarding regulation of the private security industry. [30261]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Maclean)

The details of our proposed scheme for access to the criminal records of potential employees in the private security industry are well advanced and I hope to announce the details shortly.

Mr. Jones

Why has the Minister taken so long on this important matter to respond to the excellent report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs? Does he agree that, alongside many excellent companies, there are charlatans who give bad advice for a fee? Why can we not have quality personnel, vetting procedures and statutory regulations?

Mr. Maclean

This is an important matter and it is vital that we get it right. We must bear it in mind that, although the hon. Gentleman can put up a fairly honest plea for the controls that he wants, many Labour Members have consistently opposed the private security industry, do not like it and would like to regulate it out of existence. Some of the controls for which they call would enormously damage the industry. We want to ensure that it can continue the generally excellent service that it provides, with the proper safeguards.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

Although Conservative Members are whole-heartedly behind the Government's deregulation policy and a first glance might show that the recommendations of the Select Committee on Home Affairs went in the opposite direction, is not the strength of our report this: that this regulation is being called for by the industry itself and that, far from expecting that it will be a burden on the taxpayer, the industry is prepared to pay for it?

Mr. Maclean

My hon. and learned Friend's report from the Select Committee was a valuable contribution to the debate on regulation and control of the industry—there is no doubt about that—but he would be the first to admit that his report, although it made some valid suggestions, did not provide the detailed blueprint that one would require if one were to have proper safeguards in place without damaging the industry, and without heading down the road that many Opposition Members call for, which involves excessive regulation, training, hours of work and every single iota of the private security industry's work.

Mr. Michael

The Minister did not answer the question and he ignored the recommendations of the Select Committee, whose Chairman has just questioned him. The Minister tells us about plans to vet staff, but runs away from the need to regulate the private security industry as a whole, despite the calls of the Labour party, the Select Committee, the police and the private security industry itself. Why will the Home Secretary not face up to the fact that the Government's refusal to legislate is allowing his friends, the crooks, to masquerade as private security firms?

Mr. Maclean

That carefully rehearsed harangue would be much more believable if it came from someone with a credible record on voting on law and order issues, but this is the hon. Gentleman who argued that someone should be given bail if locking him up was bad for his health, and who voted against giving courts powers to impose longer sentences on violent and sexual offenders. He voted against reforming the right of silence, against increasing penalties for people who are cruel to children, against life imprisonment for hard drug dealers and for people who take guns to crime, and, seven times in a row, against the prevention of terrorism Act. If the House had agreed with him and had implemented the policies for which the Labour party voted, serious criminals would be walking the streets today instead of languishing in gaol. No wonder Labour's own Front Benchers described their policies as absolutely ridiculous and complete and utter nonsense. The fact is that one cannot trust Labour on crime.