HL Deb 24 January 1984 vol 447 cc134-5

2.42 p.m.

Lord Hale

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the number of persons employed in private enterprise security operations; to what extent is the use by them of arms permissible or specially authorised; and who is responsible for such licensing.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, information about the number of such persons is not collected centrally. As I said in reply to the noble Lord's Question for Written Answer on 20th December, private security personnel have no rights or privileges beyond those possessed by ordinary citizens, who are not granted firearm certificates for security or protection purposes.

Lord Hale

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Is it not a fact, and has he not observed, that the increase in crime on a large scale has become of an extremely worrying nature? We have pictures of great value and we also have 5 cwt. of gold at large, and this is almost classified as ordinary theft. We had the fastest filly—using the word in the equine sense—in Ireland made to disappear with much more skill——

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, it is not a filly; it is a stallion.

Lord Hale

I am very sorry about that, my Lords, but I am not sure that I have not reached the age when I might not tell the difference between the two. I have certainly heard it described as a filly. As I was saying, it has disappeared completely from the earth. The enforcement of the Theft Act as passed in this House seems to have predicted the mess of pottage. We find now that the security of the citizen and of the citizen's property is less and less capable of being influenced, even by one of the finest police forces in the world.

Lord Elton

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hale, shares his concern about the increase in violent crime with many others, and he will be familiar with the very vigorous steps which my right honourable friend has taken to combat that rise. He will also be aware of the increasing numbers and efficiency of the police forces. We believe that the security of both the citizen and his property properly rests with our police force, which is not normally armed. Where there are private security forces we do not believe that they should be entrusted with weapons.