§ 3.5 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton)
My Lords. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
This is the first of the programme of five Home Office Bills announced in the Queen's Speech to be introduced in your Lordships' House. It forms part of the Government's commitment to reduce crime and disorder and introduces for the first time statutory regulation into the private security industry in order to drive out criminals and drive up standards. This is a regulatory Bill but it makes straightforward and sensible arrangements for the private security industry. The Bill is entirely consistent with our general aim to keep regulation to the minimum necessary and to remove unnecessary controls. We propose to regulate those sectors of the industry where there is genuine public concern over the activities of the criminal or cowboy end of the business. We do not propose to regulate for the sake of it in areas where public concern does not justify action or where the regulatory burden might be disproportionate
The private security industry is a thriving and diverse industry which has grown rapidly in recent years. Where once the public may not have been aware of its activities, it is now part of daily life. We are all used to seeing private security personnel in shopping centres and department stores and in office blocks and delivering cash to banks and building societies. At present there is no statutory regulation of the industry. The industry has taken significant steps in recent years to improve its act and image through its highly responsible trade associations and training and inspectorate organisations.
But voluntary self-regulation is not enough; it cannot deal with the criminal or unscrupulous elements within the industry. There are no effective controls to prevent such people leaving one area or one firm and setting up again elsewhere, 'which seriously hampers the work of the police in dealing with them. Clients of the private security industry, by definition, give privileged access to those who provide their security, and these providers are placed in particular positions of trust, with inside knowledge of their clients' weaknesses. This trust can be abused in ways which can have damaging or tragic consequences.
A recent survey indicated that some 350,000 people were wholly or mainly employed within the private security industry. The industry has a total annual turnover of over £2 billion. Despite the industry's size 575 and role, there is no proper regulation in place. That is why the public have reservations about the activities of those sectors of the industry which are particularly prone to exploitation by rogue elements and both the private security industry itself and the police have long sought statutory regulation. A statutory framework is the best way to drive out the undesirable elements and thus increase public confidence in the industry and the services it provides.
We have waited a long time for regulation of the private security industry. In 1995 the Home Affairs Select Committee in another place recommended a proper licensing system. The Conservative government of the time decided, however, that statutory regulation was not the answer. They relied instead on the ability of the industry to regulate itself. The Labour Party said at the time that this response did not go far enough, and we indicated our intention to regulate the industry on our return to office. That is what we are doing today.
Very soon after taking office we undertook a consultation exercise with those most directly concerned: the industry itself, the police service, local authorities and, importantly, the entertainments industry. As part of this, we met typical small to medium sized security firms. They saw regulation as a way to promote confidence in the industry as well as to protect the public. They were willing to be regulated, even if it came at a cost. Having considered carefully what we heard in these consultations, we published a White Paper in March 1999 outlining our proposals and inviting further comments. The White Paper has been deposited as a background paper to this Bill in the Library of your Lordships' House.
The key aspects of our proposals were, first, that it was essential to vet people working in the industry in order to exclude criminal elements; secondly, that companies providing a recognised standard of service should be recognised through a voluntary inspection scheme; and, thirdly, that regulation would help to raise standards within the industry, building on progress made through self-regulation. We received roughly 180 responses to the White Paper, from a wide range of bodies, generally supportive of the proposals and strongly in favour of regulation.
The Bill essentially reflects the proposals contained in the White Paper. Its overarching provision is to establish a new non-departmental public body. At this point I am sorry to have slightly to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Cope, by confirming the suspicions which he raised during the debate on the Address: the new body will not be called "Offbounce". It will, rather more prosaically, be called the security industry authority, and it will have responsibility for licensing individuals offering services under contract in designated sectors of the private security industry; regulating those involved in door supervision—that is "bouncers"—and wheelclamping services, both those offering services under contract to others and those employed in-house; inspecting companies in response to voluntary applications and issuing approved 576 contractor status to those meeting an acceptable standard; and setting and raising professional standards within the industry.
The Bill extends to England and Wales, and has been welcomed by both the industry itself and by the police service. It does not apply to Scotland, which is considering what, if any, steps to take to regulate the private security industry there. The functions of the new security industry authority are clearly set out in Clause 1 and are essentially to license individuals and to approve companies with the help of an inspections regime; to keep under general review the private security industry and the legislative framework within which it operates; and to set, approve and ratchet up standards.
Who is affected by the Bill is determined by the employment status of the individuals concerned and the type of security services they provide. Clause 3 defines the employment status of those who will be covered by the regulatory framework. All individuals directly providing security services themselves, their supervisors and managers, and the directors or partners of their company or firm will be required to have a licence. That applies also to those supplying services on an agency basis.
Schedule 2 defines the sectors of the industry which are regulated. There are two main groups: those providing manned guarding services; and those engaged in immobilising vehicles; that is, wheelclampers. Manned guarding is a diverse activity but has the common feature of guarding premises, property or people. We have all encountered activities that will be caught within this definition: for example, the security guard sitting at a reception desk or on patrol in a shopping centre; his or her colleague patrolling premises at night; and others delivering cash to banks out of armoured vehicles.
The Bill proposes that individuals in the manned guarding sector should be licensed if they are providing services under contract to a client. We do not propose to require them to have licences if they are employed in-house by companies. These companies will already have satisfied themselves about their employees, and the Government do not wish to foist on to them an additional layer of checking where it is not necessary. An important sub-set of the manned guarding sector regulated by the Bill is door supervisors—more commonly called "bouncers"—who are required to screen people entering pubs and clubs. There are professional and reputable companies and operatives providing door supervisor services. But the fact that door supervisors operate most often at pubs and clubs, particularly at venues where young people are likely to gather, has unfortunately meant that, on too many occasions, disreputable and sometimes criminal elements have infiltrated the sector.
We know of door supervisors who have turned a blind eye to drug dealing on the premises they are meant to be protecting. Worse still, we know of door supervisors who have used their positions to deal in drugs themselves. There is an unhappy record of 577 bouncers committing physical assaults against the public. The Bill therefore requires all door supervisors to be licensed, whether they provide their services under contract to a client or are employed in-house by a pub or club.
The second important sector regulated by the Bill is wheelclampers. The mischief we are addressing is wheelclamping on private land; that is, land which is not a road to which the general public has access. Roads are separately regulated under the Road Traffic Acts. Owners of land must be able to take action against those who park on it without their permission, and wheelclamping, or at least the threat of it, may be a very effective way of dealing with irresponsible parking. However, it must be carried out in a reasonable manner. To some extent, case law has already enshrined these principles. In 1995, the Court of Appeal adjudged, in the case of Arthur and Arthur v Anker, that dampers had acted legally as adequate warning signs had been displayed, the release fee was reasonable and there was a reasonable method of payment.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal provided useful guidelines to courts faced with similar cases, but only in the broadest of terms. It did not define a general standard for the size of signs or what a "reasonable" release fee might be. That leaves the motorist who is aggrieved by having his or her car clamped on private land with only limited practical means of redress. Unless the behaviour of the damper is quite outrageous, the motorist may well be uncertain of his or her rights. Moreover, he or she might well be dissuaded from going to court by the potential cost of legal fees.
This gap in the law needs to be put right. The Bill does this by ensuring that all wheelclamping on private land which is done as a business or as part of one's employment or for a release fee is regulated by a licensing system. Thus each individual who provides wheelclamping services I o others will need a licence, as will his or her director or manager. We considered whether the licensing regime needed to cover wheelclamping by businesses of cars on their own land where they used their own employees—in-house wheelclamping, if I may call it that. We concluded that it did. Immobilising a car gives the damper such power over the car owner, with all the inherent danger of that power being abused, that we would be leaving the public open to the risk of further abuses.
However, in the case of in-house wheelclamping the Bill does allow the authority to avoid undue regulation by being able to require a licence only of the employer, if it is satisfied that the employer will vet employees to a suitable standard and ensure their compliance with all the requirements and conditions of the licence. Finally, the Bill requires a landowner to be licensed if he or she wishes to engage in do-it-yourself wheelclamping which involves charging a release fee.
The Bill also regulates three other sectors: private investigators, security consultants and keyholders. These groups are much smaller than manned guards and wheelclampers and their activities give far less 578 cause for concern. None the less, practitioners are in a special relationship of trust with regard to the security of their clients, and our proposals in the White Paper to take them into a statutory regulatory framework were welcomed. The Government believe that the public is justified in expecting those who offer such services under contract to be subject to a proper form of regulation. That is therefore what the Bill proposes for them. It does not affect operatives in these sectors who are employed in-house by companies; once again, we believe that employers' own screening processes are and should be sufficient.
That completes my description of who will he covered by the provisions of this Bill. To summarise: all the individual employees, supervisors, managers or directors in the sectors I have described—roughly 300,000 people in all—will be required to have a licence. It will be an offence for anyone to engage in licensable conduct as defined in the Bill without a proper licence. It will also be an offence to take on as an employee providing security services an unlicensed person. A licence will be required for each designated security service provided. So, for example, if someone legitimately works as both a manned guard and a wheelclamper, he will need to be licensed for both activities.
The Bill allows for exemptions from the need for a licence where an individual is already subject to a type of vetting that affords a level of protection for the public which is at least equivalent to that achieved by the criteria imposed by the authority.
The authority will determine the criteria against which it will issue licences. The criteria will be published, so that those applying for licences—and the public—will know what are the requirements. There will be two types of criteria. First, the authority will check an individual's criminal record with the newly established Criminal Records Bureau. For licence applicants in all but one of the regulated sectors, the authority will obtain a criminal record certificate showing both spent and unspent convictions. Because of the particular concerns about door supervisors which I mentioned earlier, they alone will be the subject of an enhanced criminal record certificate showing spent and unspent convictions together with convictions for minor offences and local police intelligence.
The Government believe that these exemptions from the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act are fully justified in order properly to license private security operatives. This belief was widely shared by those providing comments during our consultation period. The authority will determine what weight to give to any criminal convictions shown in these checks. It would be unreasonable to say that any criminal conviction whatsoever should automatically bar the grant of a licence; the authority will need to consider each licence application on its own merit and in the round. But it is likely that, certain serious offences relating to violence or, in particular, drugs will disbar an applicant from gaining a licence. 579 The second criterion that the authority will take into account will relate to skills and training. The authority will have an important role in setting and raising standards in the industry generally, and the Government will wish it to consider very carefully how to ratchet up minimum quality thresholds. The authority will clearly need to discuss proposals carefully with the industry itself. The authority will be able to attach conditions to a licence and it will be an offence to contravene them.
The authority will also be able to refuse, modify, suspend or revoke a licence. Its criteria for doing so will be published. There will be a standardised system of licence applications and procedures and a standard format of licence to help with public recognition and to enable the licence holder to work anywhere in the country. The authority will be able to charge a fee for licence applications. We want this fee to be the minimum necessary to allow the authority to be self-financing. We do not want to erect artificial financial barriers to employment in the industry. We believe that that would be entirely counter-productive. The exact fee will be determined by several factors, such as the level of charge that will be levied by the Criminal Records Bureau, but we expect the fee to be in the region of £35 to £40 for a licence normally lasting for three years.
There will be an avenue of appeal against the authority's decisions to refuse, modify or revoke a licence. I should tell noble Lords that, although Clause 10 is drafted permissively, it is the Government's clear intention to establish these appeal mechanisms. Although the Bill vests licensing powers centrally with the security industry authority, the Government know that many local authorities operate schemes to register door supervisors and wish to continue to have a role in licensing them. So, while setting licence criteria will remain the sole responsibility of the security industry authority, the Bill envisages the possibility of local authorities undertaking the grant of licences to door supervisors. However, we have no intention of foisting these duties on local authorities against their will and the authority, once established, will need to have detailed discussions with local authorities about the practicalities.
The final major element of the licensing system will be a public register listing every licensed person and the terms on which they have been licensed. The public and, of course, the police will thus be able to establish clearly whether an individual is properly licensed to engage in regulated security activities.
I should now like to move on and describe briefly the second main strand of the security industry authority's functions. The Bill establishes a system under which providers of security services who meet certain standards can obtain recognition from the security industry authority. The Government are aware that some bodies in the industry favour making this a compulsory scheme, but we have decided against this, at least for the present. We do not believe that the case is made out for imposing this additional burden across the board on the industry. We believe that the majority 580 of reputable companies will want to seek approval under the voluntary system. Providers of security services will be able to apply to the authority for approval against a set of published criteria. If the standards are met, the company in question will be able to display in advertising the fact of its approval under the scheme.
The supporting regime is similar to that for the licensing of individuals; that is to say, the authority will draw up and publish its criteria. It can withhold or delay approval until the criteria are met; it may attach conditions to the grant of an approval; and it may charge a fee for processing the application. An appeals mechanism against authority decisions will be established and there will be a public register of approved companies. It will be an offence falsely to claim approval under the scheme. It is important that the authority is able actively to police the licensing regimes it establishes. The authority will therefore have appropriately delimited powers of entry and inspection. Any regulated person—simply put, that is anyone who should have a licence—may be required to produce relevant documents or information about licensable conduct, as defined in the legislation. It will be an offence to obstruct any duly authorised person in the exercise of his functions and a balancing offence for any authorised person to disclose information revealed to him or her, except for the purposes of carrying out authority functions, or for any criminal proceedings.
The Government believe that the benefits accruing from this Bill are several. For those important sectors of the private security industry that legislation brings under its wing, the security industry authority will, for the first time, introduce a licensing regime that is universal, consistent and, above all, transparent. By licensing all door supervisors, the authority will drive down the incidence of violence and drug offences in pubs and clubs. By licensing all wheelclampers, the authority will deter the cowboys who prey on innocent motorists. The authority will begin to ratchet up standards across the regulated sectors, and will continue to do so at a demanding yet realistic pace.
The security industry authority will play a central role in the future relationship of the private security industry, the police, the Government and the public, whom we all serve. It will be important for the authority to work closely with the industry it will regulate in order properly to discharge its functions. But it is crucial that the authority is also wholly independent of that industry. This will enable the public to have increased confidence in the quality of the service and reliability in the specified sectors of the industry. This is, in turn, likely to lead to increased market opportunities for the industry. For all of those good reasons, I commend the Bill to the House.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, this Bill is not controversial in its principle. The proposals have been 581 widely discussed for some years and, as the Minister pointed out, they were the subject of a report published five years ago by the Select Committee on Home Affairs of another place. Studies have also been carried out by the Association of Chief Police Officers and others. As has also been said, the provisions have the support of the security industry, the British Entertainment and Discotheque Association, and other trade associations.
At present, the industry has in place a measure of self-regulation covering at least the major firms. Furthermore, some local authorities have been running registration schemes covering part of the scope of the Bill. The Bill itself follows the lines of a command paper—it was not a White Paper—of March 1999. We accept the judgment of the Government that it is time to legislate. But we are always cautious about placing new regulatory burdens on industry, even when companies and trade associations ask for them.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that when everyone agrees in principle about a Bill, then critical faculties are dulled and publicity is at its least. A Bill is then most susceptible to the law of unintended consequences. In case anyone does not know, this basic law of government holds that the unintended consequences of any legislation are normally greater than the intended consequences. In a case of this kind, governments and those in an industry focus on the intended consequences but other people on the fringes get caught up in the unintended consequences. It is for Parliament to try to spot and eliminate the unintended consequences. To this end, the regulations should be clear and kept to the minimum possible. We shall want to assure ourselves that the Bill does not go further than is necessary or desirable.
New regulations are often desirable in themselves, but it is the totality of new regulatory burdens which makes life difficult for industry and business. I am not so concerned about big companies in the mainstream of the security business or those running clubs and so on. They have been consulted and will, no doubt, master the new regulations and forms because it is their business to do so. I am more concerned about companies and other organisations which are not primarily in the security business but which may find themselves involved because they have a security man or two. They probably do not know about this Bill yet and, in the nature of things, will not know until they find themselves in breach of some regulation brought in under the Bill. Few newspapers bother to record unsensational matters for the record these days, and so a new industry of parliamentary and government consultants has grown up to help businesses and others to watch out for the effects of legislation on their clients. I hope that they are watching this Bill, particularly if their clients have nothing to do with the security industry, because they are the people likely to he affected by it.
The Bill is called the Private Security Industry Bill, but its effects will cover a lot of people and firms which are not involved in that industry—if one can call it an industry. I am thinking, in particular, of publicans 582 who will be affected; some large pubs nowadays regularly have bouncers. Stewards at football matches will presumably be caught under the Bill, even if they are employed by the clubs themselves or work voluntarily. Those who run church halls may find themselves affected in certain circumstances. At the least, it would seem right to consider exempting functions not held for commercial reasons, such as private functions. If one's friends help to keep the wrong people from gatecrashing a party or a wedding in a hotel and so on, will that be an offence? They will, after all, be acting as bouncers.
The core of the difficulty, as usual, lies in the definitions. One looks first to the definition of "licensable conduct". That turns out to be the carrying out of "designated activities". So we look for the definition of "designated activities" for the purpose of the Bill. Unfortunately that is not in the Bill; it will be contained in an order under Clause 3(3). 1 hope that the Minister agrees that the draft order defining "designated activities" should be available to us and to the public well before the Committee stage. We shall then know exactly what we are talking about.
There are greater complications—at least they appear so to me—with the definition of "security operative". This is not defined in the interpretation clause, Clause 23, but in Schedule 2. Paragraph 1(1) of the schedule states that security operatives are those to whom a number of ensuing paragraphs apply. But sub-paragraph (5) of paragraph 2 states that the paragraph does not apply to someone who maintains order or discipline incidentally to activities which are not the activities of a security operator. That is a circular definition which I, at least, will need spelling out more carefully if I am to understand precisely those who are supposed to be caught or not caught. We know roughly from the Bill and the command paper what activities are to be covered. but "roughly" is not enough for the purposes of legislation.
Turning to wheelclamping, firms which have a private car park for staff or customers will. in future, need a licence if they want to use the threat of wheelclamps to protect their car spaces from those who are not supposed to park there but find it convenient to do so when there is a shortage of car parks. I recently heard of a dentist, whose surgery is near some shops, who has had to resort to this protection. From what the Minister said, it is the dentist who will need a licence from the security industry authority rather than his employee who carries out the clamping should it prove necessary. I am not sure that the dentist in question, or others, necessarily realise that. I also know of a private club which is trying to preserve its car park for its members. Presumably it, too, will need to be licensed by the authority.
In the Bill there are some examples of unintended consequences being eliminated in advance. Those who check tickets at the doors of theatres and so on are excused licensing under Schedule 2, paragraph 2(4). But, as I said, a publican who may need his staff to eject those who have had too much to drink will need a licence for each member of staff and for himself.
583 Journalists are exempt from the requirement for a private investigations licence by reason of Schedule 2, paragraph 4(5). That exemption could go very wide indeed. Anyone who says that he or she is collecting information for the purposes of publishing it in a newspaper is exempt, whether or not there is any chance of it being published in a newspaper or anywhere else in the media. We all know that quite a lot of people have information which they would like to be published in a newspaper—they may have collected it for that purpose—but not all of them are journalists within the normal meaning of the word.
With a general election coming up, I have looked at the question of political canvassing. It would seem that those seeking knowledge of who intends to vote for a particular candidate are exempt under Schedule 2, paragraph 4(9), which covers "market research". That is defined as,obtaining information…for the purpose of analysing public opinion on any matter".That would probably get the canvasser out of the private eye provisions.
At the end of the Minister's remarks, I was not sure about the position of someone who sends an employee to a bank to deliver or collect cash. If he hires a private security company to deliver or collect cash, that is covered, but I am not sure whether or not an ordinary firm or shop—which, for example, sends an employee to put money in the night safe last thing at night—needs a licence. Clearly cash in transit will be covered—or is intended to be covered—when it is carried by large firms, but an awful lot of smaller cash-in-transit operations go on as well.
We shall also wish to examine the inclusion of training in the Bill. I am not quite sure what is envisaged and how much the authority will intervene in training, or, for that matter, to whom this officially approved training will be relevant. Presumably there will be some kind of national curriculum for bouncers and for those covered by other aspects of the Bill, but we shall inquire as to whether successful completion of training will be a condition of a licence. That would be going a good deal further. All this is to be controlled by the new security industry authority, although, as I have suggested, it goes much wider than is generally understood by the security industry.
What kind of people will be appointed to the authority? The Minister says that it must be wholly independent. I agree. But will those appointed include a policeman—which I believe to be desirable? Is it intended, on the other hand, to exclude representatives of firms involved in the industry with their natural interest in seeing a monopoly for registered firms if possible? The nature of the appointments is certainly of interest.
The Minister spoke also about appeals against a decision of the authority. Clause 10 provides for an appeal, but at present the provision is vague. It provides for the possibility of an appeal tribunal of some kind being set up, but there is no detail about what is envisaged. This is an important point. The 584 livelihoods of some people will depend on the decisions of the authority. There may be people who have worked for some time in this area but who may find themselves unable to continue in their work because they cannot obtain a licence. They may lack the necessary training or they may have had a conviction in the past. So the authority's decisions need to be subject to appeal; otherwise, apart from anything else, the new Human Rights Act may come into play.
The Minister did not say when the Bill comes into effect. Many people will be affected. The Minister says that 300,000 people will need to be licensed. That is a considerable job for the authority to take on; to examine the background of 300,000 people and to approve some and not others. There is a considerable turnover. In some parts of this industry it is 70 per cent. It is not just a matter of licensing 300,000 people and then just a few each year as new people take over. There is a much larger turnover than that. Some hundreds of thousands will need to be approved or otherwise each year.
Part of the job may be delegated to local authorities. Again, Clause 12 is vague as to the exact intention. It says that the Secretary of State "may" permit some activities to be delegated to local authorities. I am not sure what the Government envisage.
Next, there is the question of the disclosure of convictions. It is not clear to me whether spent convictions in particular—which are of more concern than recent convictions, because we all believe in the rehabilitation of offenders—will be disclosed only to the authority, or whether they will be disclosed to companies which make inquiries. I hope not. My initial thought is that they should be disclosed only to the authority. The authority should also be under an obligation, if such an obligation does not exist under current law, to keep confidential any information it gains about previous convictions. If local authorities are to have a bigger role in these matters, these questions must be asked about local authorities as well.
There is also the question that I mentioned in the debate on the Queen's Speech regarding the responsibility of the new authority for the licensing process that it carries out. If, with the full authority of the SIA, a company employs a licensed guard, for example, to carry cash to the bank, and the employee turns out to be bent and goes off with the cash, can the company expect compensation from the security industry authority, having relied on the licence that the SIA awarded? Clearly, if the SIA were negligent, an ordinary civil action might be possible if a company had relied on it in employing the individual concerned. But is that the end of the matter? Is the authority to have any special responsibility towards those who will rely on the licences?
There is a suspicion among those of a suspicious turn of mind—unlike myself—that the Bill may be a covert attempt to replace some of the functions of the police so that the private security industry, newly regulated, will in due course take over some of those functions. If that is so, the Government ought to let us know.
585 I realise that the Minister will not be able to respond to a large number of detailed points today. Apart from anything else, we seem to be a rather exclusive band discussing the Bill. Apart from the Minister, no Labour Peer seems to want to contribute. Perhaps those on the Benches opposite want to get home for Christmas just that little bit earlier. I understand. that I shall not receive an answer to many of these points today; however, we shall return to them in Committee, and there will no doubt be others. To appreciate the nature of the Bill, it is necessary to examine the detail, not just the general principles behind it. It may help to give advance warning of at least some of the matters that we shall want to raise in the later stages to permit the Minister to respond more easily.
I agree with those in the industry who point out that effective security of this character helps to prevent crime and that if it is in the wrong hands crime can be facilitated. That is the underlying justification for the Bill—which I accept. However, new regulations that apply to a wide range of businesses must be thoroughly scrutinised and justified.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Lord Thomas of Gresford
My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the Bill. We shall try constructively to suggest ways in which it may be improved. I have to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that many aspects of the Bill are vague and the purpose behind the provision needs to be clarified and that the terminology needs sharpening up.
In an industry of this size, with a £2 billion turnover, one needs regulation of this character. There are estimated to be 125,000 active security officers in the United Kingdom. To give some idea of that proportion, it is the equivalent of the number of police officers that we have in this country. Greece is the only European country where the industry remains unregulated. Although the fetters of regulation are not always acceptable, they are certainly necessary in an industry that directly affects the safety and security of the public. I suggest that in this field a balance needs to be struck between permitting free competition between legitimate enterprises that provide security services, and a free-for-all in which pilot organisations of unscrupulous people may come out on top.
The security industry authority may well have a larger remit than the Government appear to envisage from their financial calculations. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope, in that respect. The Bill sets out a wide range of functions. In addition to licensing and approvals and appeals therefrom, there is monitoring, inspecting, the setting of standards of conduct, training and levels of supervision. Could all these functions be carried on a self-funding basis, as envisaged by the Bill?
In the White Paper the recurring costs were estimated at £1.68 million annually, on the basis of an administrative staff of 22 and seven inspectors. That was the level of staffing that was suggested. On that basis, the individual licence fee in the White Paper was put at about —22. I noticed today that the licensing fee 586 has been put up into the region of £3.5 to £40. I suggest that those estimates of staff and costs are wildly out and that, if the scheme is to be self-financing, there is the danger that fees may be prohibitive for the individual, or for the company or partnership that employs him. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that there should not be too high a t hreshold, which might create artificial barriers to employment.
On the question of membership of the authority, as set out in the first schedule to the Bill, it seems to be entirely in the discretion of the Secretary of State. I respectfully suggest that consideration should be given as to whether it should be a requirement to have members drawn from the security industry, the police, police authorities, customer interests, employees and a balance of independent persons. I believe that the inclusion of someone from the security industry would be helpful so as to give an insider's view of how the industry works.
However, the Government have drawn in their horns a little in a number of respects since the White Paper was published. For example, the White Paper encompassed regulation of alarm installers, In paragraph 5.12 it stated that,although reputable companies do exist [at the lower end of the domestic market] it is likely to be those that are most vulnerable who will be most at risk from unscrupulous operators. Concerns also exist about the probity of those running companies … and those who install alarms in people's homes. It is particularly important in terms of public safety that those who install alarms in private homes, where there may often be only a sole occupant, should be of good character. Those who install or maintain alarms and CCTV systems have a unique opportunity to gain inside knowledge of the systems which could be used to facilitate or commit crimes".That is what the White Paper says, but the Bill says nothing about alarm installers. They are not to be regulated. One wonders what has happened. Was there, or is there, a problem about alarm installers? Are there any statistics on the amount of criminality that is derived from the installation of alarms, as set out in the White Paper? Why has this change of policy taken place?
Another area where horns have been drawn in relates to in-house security services. At paragraph 5.4, the White Paper said:The Government believes that to exclude in-house security personnel from the scope of licensing would create an unacceptable loophole and reduce confidence in the system".But the Bill envisages that a firn can, without licensing, employ its own personnel for the purposes of guarding. Again, one wonders what reason there is for this very considerable change of policy.
However, more than that, under Clause 4 the Secretary of State may grant exemptions from licensing requirements if he is satisfied that the company concerned has made, "suitable alternative arrangements". So the whole scheme of licensing is no longer designed to apply to,the whole of the manned guarding sector",as the White Paper stated. Firms of the size of Group 4 will not have to bear the costs of licensing. Yet, paradoxically, that company has issued a briefing 587 that calls for a mandatory system to apply to the whole industry. Perhaps I may declare a distant interest here in that I was advising Group 4 on its agreements 25 years ago.
The scheme of the legislation is to establish a voluntary register of approved contractors; that is to say, it is only on the application of a particular company that approval will be considered. The conditions of approval are in the most vague terms. Clause 14(3) states that the applicant must comply,with such technical and other requirements, as may be prescribed".He must also be willing to carry out the conditions of the approval, whatever they may be, and must "otherwise" be,a fit and proper person".to be approved. That chestnut of a definition has made many at the Bar who specialise in licensing matters very happy chappies.
But why does this have to be "voluntary"? In some areas, especially those that provide the "door supervising" function—the bouncers, who are bounced more often than they manage to bounce others—there is much to be said for requiring mandatory approval of their management, training and organisation. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, wondered what sort of training is given to bouncers. I happen to know that in a reputable firm door supervisors are trained in the application of various grips that are designed not to cause injury to the people whom they eject, for example, down the steps of the club and into the street. That is the sort of training that such door supervisors undergo; no doubt that also includes rage control, and so on.
It would be flying in the face of experience not to recognise that turf wars do break out between competing companies of door supervisors. It is not enough that just the operatives should have individual approval; the companies that supply door supervisors should also require approval and be subject to the sanction of having that approval removed. In that way a rogue outfit could be put out of business altogether. In any event, there should be a provision to review the approvals of companies and organisations, whether voluntary or mandatory, at fixed intervals—say, every three years.
Another weakness that we see in the Bill is the failure to create any mechanism to update the register. Although there may be informal arrangements between the police and the proposed authority to inform the authority of any fresh convictions, it should be a statutory requirement for either the police or a court to give particulars to the authority of fresh convictions when they occur. Of course, a sentencing court will know of the existence of a licence under the legislation from the antecedents of the convicted person. That is an area in the Bill which should be considered with some care.
588 Pirate clamping is a recognised nuisance. The RAC has records of dampers threatening, for example, to hold a mother's three-year-old daughter to ransom until she collected £60 from the bank. In Sheffield, dampers demanded that a female motorist's gold tooth be handed over as payment and, on another occasion, a hearse was clamped outside a church, although there was a body in the back. Clampers have even demanded sex from a young woman who was unable to pay the removal fee.
In Scotland, the courts robustly described such activities as "extortion" and "theft", but, as the Minister mentioned, the Court of Appeal in this country upheld clamping on a private business car park in Truro in the case of Arthur and Arthur v Anker. The miscreant Mr Arthur had seen the notice, which warned him of a clamping fine. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Bingham, who sat in the Court of Appeal at that time, said, "no wrong is done to one who consents". That gave rise to considerable debate in this House. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, remarked that the law was inadequate and based on laws of some antiquity relating to straying animals. Unhappily, the then Conservative government did not have time to update the law before they left office.
We are therefore glad that proposals have now been brought forward to deal with dampers. However, the problem is to find out what those proposals are. Part II of Schedule 2 states that the activities of such cowboys will be subject to additional controls. However, as far as I can see, it leaves it to secondary legislation to spell out what the controls will be. Some clarification of what is proposed would be helpful.
The appeal tribunals were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. They are to be set up under Clause 17. Is there any precedent for the introduction of a judicial body of this nature by way of secondary legislation in a Bill such as this? I cannot think of such a precedent. I should be grateful to be told whether there is one. Appeal tribunals are, of course, necessary for the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, gave, but they should not be set up by way of secondary legislation.
In the foreword to the White Paper the Home Secretary stated:The Government's commitment to a partnership approach to crime and disorder as set out in the Crime and Disorder Act means that there will be the opportunity for the private security industry to play a wider role in securing community safety".What is that "wider role"? What did the Home Secretary mean by that? He also stated:It has also been suggested recently that the private security industry might be able to assist the police by performing a form of complementary patrol service. The Government is considering the issue and welcomes constructive debate in this area".This has caused Fred Broughton, the chairman of the Police Federation, writing in this month's edition of that illustrious journal, our very own House Magazine, to state that the police have a real sense of foreboding. Mr Broughton writes of a huge suspicion and a 589 powerful sense of unease in the police service about what is going to happen in the future. He wrote in the House Magazine:Are the standards going to be lowered? Is the patrol of our streets going to be given up to a different body of people such as neighbourhood wardens? … Are we going to start policing in a different way? Is the professional policing body going to withdraw to headquarters and bureaucracy and leave the street issues to a lower standard of policing?If it is the hidden agenda of this Government that the private security industry should be brought up to scratch so that it can start policing the streets, the Government can rest assured that the Liberal Democrats will oppose such proposals to the utmost. Patrolling private property is one thing but private patrolling of public areas is little better than vigilantism.
We Liberal Democrats have a mantra which is helpful to an insomniac like myself; namely, "More bobbies on the beat". We do not support any move which would replace the "size 12" of the bobbies on the beat with the cat-like tread of the Pirates of Penzance. I would welcome an assurance from the Minister that the Government envisage nothing of that kind in their proposals.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Lord Windlesham
My Lords, if this Bill in some ways is characteristic of the Government's disposition to regulate and to control, it is an irony that the need to regulate is sometimes enhanced by a characteristic of previous administrations.
Not so long ago—it seems a different era—privatisation was a keynote of many policies of the then government and party to which I adhere. Who would have anticipated that such a diverse range of what had hitherto been regarded as essentially public service responsibilities would be delegated to private commercial organisations? In the penal field alone, I cite three examples: first, the escort to and from the courts of persons charged with criminal offences and remanded in custody; secondly, the establishment of some prisons, initially for remand prisoners, but shortly afterwards for adult or juvenile sentenced prisoners as well, to be built, staffed and managed by private sector companies; and thirdly, electronic tagging, a device to monitor the whereabouts of offenders subject to curfew orders or who had been released early from custody under home detention curfews.
I may be wrong, but my recollection is that all those changes were opposed, often passionately, by Labour spokesmen in both Houses. Yet the White Paper issued last year by the Home Secretary, to which reference has already been made, sets out proposals to regulate the private security industry. It appears to accept that as each of the activities which I have mentioned is already adequately controlled by existing legislation there is no need for them to be included in the Bill. I ask the Minister to confirm that these three existing private sector functions—there may be others—at the heart of the penal system are excluded, even though they may be supplied by providers who will be regulated, such as Securicor or Group 4.
590 The arguments for greater regulation of the private security industry are overwhelming, and have been for some years. It should be as extensive as possible and cover as much of the industry as can be practically arranged. It should not be confined to the manned-guard sector or to the other activities listed in the second schedule to the Bill. As has already been mentioned, the United Kingdom is now one of only two European countries—the other being Greece—where private security firms are not yet regulated.
While the main employers and their trade association, the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) are responsible enough, and are to be commended for having readily co-operated with the Home Office and for setting up independent security inspectorates—having been encouraged by the Home Office to do so—the fact remains that there are still too many unsuitable persons operating in different capacities.
In its evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee in 1995—this was referred to by my noble friend Lord Cope—the Association of Chief Police Officers estimated that some 2,600 offences a year were committed by private security employees.
A Home Office study of door supervisors showed direct or indirect involvement in drug offences, and identified individuals working in the industry with a background of serious criminal offences. That is stated on page 27 of the White Paper. This must be one of the rare occasions where the leaders of an industry about to be regulated evidently want to go further than the Government. In welcoming the Bill the BSIA. through its chairman, accepted the extra cost of compliance, but expressed disappointment that in-house security staff and alarm installers had not been included in the licensing plans. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, made the same point. The BSIA chairman said that in order to confer greater credibility on an industry that had fought to protect its image from a minority of disreputable operators, the association hoped that Ministers would widen the scope of the Bill to encompass those areas.
In the White Paper published as recently as March of last year, prefaced by the Home Secretary himself, outlining government proposals, a section was included which made a clear arid unequivocal acceptance of the case for including staff in these categories within the licensing scheme. Paragraph 5.12 states:Those who install or maintain alarms and CCTV systems have a unique opportunity to gain inside knowledge of the systems which could be used to facilitate or commit crimes. Security firms are also tending to offer a whole 'package' or security including alarms, CCTV and security guards and it would be wrong if one part of the business had to be licensed but the other did not.The Government therefore proposes that all those who install, monitor and maintain alarm systems should be licensed".In reply, will the Minister explain why there has been a change of mind and, if so, whether he is ready to accept amendments or further debate on the matter in later stages of the Bill?
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, I intend to confine my remarks to the issue of wheelclamping on private land. To my recollection, this has been debated in this House and elsewhere for at least 10 years. It has been debated frequently here. The previous government issued a consultation paper in 1993. I am glad that, finally, something is being done about it. It is an industry worth an estimated £150 million a year.
There have been many examples of abuse, including cowboy firms wheelclamping vehicles on land that was not even theirs and having no authorisation from the owner to do so. There have also been cases of a bizarre and excessive nature. Until a couple of years ago, I was for a number of years on the public policy committee of the RAC. I recognise the examples given by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, of the gold tooth and the hearse. There are others. Unfortunately, there is a large number of cowboys.
As has been said, in Scotland in 1992 the Lord Justice General ruled that clamping on private land was extortion and theft. He said that an activity as sensitive to abuse as wheelclamping requires careful regulation under law. Since then, in Scotland the activity was judged illegal. In England it has been allowed to carry on. The Minister referred to the case in 1995 which brought some clarity to the issue.
I agree with the Minister that, of course, the private landowner is entitled to protect his property from those who would take advantage of it for parking without paying the fee. That refers not only to the private landowner but the public landowner as well. Hospital car parks spring to mind, especially in London and other major cities where adjacent on-street parking can be very expensive. I welcome the parts of the Bill which will license those who undertake this activity.
However, aside from complaints about some who are thoroughly disreputable, which I hope licensing will address, the way in which the activity is conducted must be considered. Some of the main complaints have been that the piece of land is not adequately signed to warn you that your car will be clamped if it is parked there or if the fee is not paid or if you have overstayed the time limit. Clear instructions are needed about how to get the vehicle released and how much it will cost. I believe that the cost should also be reasonable, not extortionate, and probably in line with the charges for on-street parking. We need to know the name of the clamping firm involved. We need to know the hours during which it can be contacted for release and how long it will take from contacting the company to release.
I believe that a written contract with landowners authorising clamping on their land should be available for motorists to see. The size, number and format of warning signs should be standardised. A standardised appeals procedure should be established and special provision made for the disabled. Motorists should be free to pay by cash, cheque or credit card and given a reasonable time in which to find the money. Cars should be towed away only if they are to be stored in 592 a secure compound whose address is given to the motorist involved. A receipt should be provided; and vehicles should be released immediately after payment.
The Minister will probably say that all that and more will be covered in the regulations made by the Secretary of State or by the authority. But I should like to see at least some of them on the face of the Bill. I shall hope to move amendments in Committee to do just that unless the Minister can persuade me otherwise. As the Lord Justice General of Scotland said, it is a sensitive issue requiring careful regulation. I think that the public are entitled to see provisions on the face of the Bill so that there is consistency in all areas of the country.
The Bill is already quite specific in the details of the conditions for obtaining a licence but it is silent about the operation. I believe that it should be more specific.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Viscount Goschen
My Lords, this may not be a party politically controversial Bill but, as my noble friend Lord Brabazon indicated, it deals with some extraordinarily sensitive issues involving the potential confiscation by wheelclampers of one's property and the means of personal travel, and the restraint of private individuals by private sector employees. I believe that the proposals to some extent deal with earlier initiatives of the previous government when in office. Clearly if we are to have a regulatory system, it must work well. There will be many difficulties when we discuss the detail of the Bill.
There could almost be a parallel—I do not go too far down that line—with the vexed issue of the regulation of minicabs. Regulation is required. The industry currently, and somewhat unfairly, has a poor reputation in some quarters caused no doubt by a minority of companies which practise less than reputable schemes. We welcome the fact that the Bill is supported by the security industry but there may be difficulties with regard to the detail.
If we put in place a system of regulation which looks powerful but is not, I suggest that we shall be worse off than if we had done nothing or if self-regulation had been left to the industry itself. Therefore, we must be extremely clear about the exact level of scrutiny that the new authority will take forward.
I suggest that uncertainty currently exists in relation to the powers of private security operators. I should have thought that a census of individuals employed in the industry—particularly perhaps in the marginally less reputable end of the industry—would provide a number of different answers about what the powers of, for example, doormen or bouncers would be if customers were unruly or drunk or had committed a criminal offence on a property. With regard to restraint, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, referred to his knowledge of arm locks and so forth. However, clearly the doormen would be at risk of facing criminal prosecution if they exceeded their authority. With the passage of this Bill, I hope that the new authority will be able to shed light on that specific issue.
593 With regard to the dealing of illicit drugs in night clubs, there appears to be a considerable body of evidence that some disreputable doorkeepers not only turn a blind eye to the dealing of drugs but are actively involved in it themselves. Therefore, I believe that we should look closely not only at the regulation of the individual but also at the companies which employ them. I shall return to that matter a little later in my remarks.
On the subject of wheel-clamping, we have heard a number of examples of cases where less than reputable practices have been deployed. Indeed, in some circumstances it would seem that traps have been set for the very purpose of generating fines or fees for the release of vehicles rather than providing parking facilities for authorised personnel. The principles behind the level of fees, the type of service offered by the declampers in terms of their response time, the placing of notices, and so forth, clearly all require more scrutiny.
The implementation of this Bill could well be central to our consideration of it. A large number of people potentially will require regulation—we have heard various figures mentioned referring to between 150,000 and 300,000 individuals. It is a substantial task, and I refer back to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, regarding the number of people who will be deployed to ensure that the licences are issued in a reasonable time. I believe that we shall need more information from the Minister regarding what a reasonable time for the implementation of the schemes would be and what transitional arrangements would be in place when some people were licensed and some were not.
I suggest that mistakes that may be made during the roll-out of the scheme, with a great deal of pressure being applied to the new authority to issue licences. If it were to succumb to that pressure, mistakes made at that stage, perhaps due to a lack of resources at its disposal, could be prejudicial to the whole scheme.
Similarly, I am sure that in Committee we shall pursue in some depth the definitions of who will and who will not be covered by the Bill. We can all think of examples which throw up lacunae. We have heard about people who install alarms. I understood that the Bill made provision to cover those who advise on security issues. Perhaps the Minister could refer to that in his closing remarks. I should have thought that someone who was fitting an alarm, for example, could be said to be advising on the security of a house; so, for that matter, could a locksmith, a builder or a double-glazing company.
We have also heard about the exemptions within the Bill, such as those that relate to people for whom security work is incidental to their principal role within a company. That appears to be a vague definition. Similarly, we have heard about journalists being exempted. I am sure that that is not the case simply so that the Minister may receive a fair wind for his Bill in the press. On the other hand, who is a journalist? If I submitted a short article on this very measure to the House Magazine, perhaps I could be considered to be 594 a journalist and would then be allowed to rummage around in the rubbish bins of the glitterati in order to further my career and generate money. Perhaps I would be covered; perhaps I would not. I believe that we shall require further clarity on that issue.
Standards are most important to this industry but they appear to vary considerably. I suggest that there is some justification for a varying of standards; for example, the doorkeeper at White's Club has a different set of skill requirements to a bouncer at an East End nightclub where 2,000 young people are attending a rave party. Thus, I return to the issue of training, which is so closely linked to standards. We hope that the Bill will give a harmonisation of standards where appropriate, and a harmonisation upwards.
Finally, I consider the balance between the regulation of the employee—the individual security guard or bouncer—and the regulation of the company which employs him to be absolutely vital. Clearly, close regulation of the individual is one strand of the issue. However, perhaps it could be said that the real villainy is to be found in the employment of substandard bouncers and doormen and those of a criminal tendency.
Surely, if we are to have a system of regulation, it must work. That means that considerable emphasis must be put on those who have the most to lose; in other words, the company which employs the doormen. I am sure that such companies would be willing to sacrifice one or two employees who could easily be replaced by fresh doormen, perhaps from other parts of the country. That would not be a very strong sanction, but I suggest that a greater focus on the company would be. Therefore, I am not clear why the approved contractor scheme is voluntary. We know that in other industries—for example, the financial securities industry—both the individual personnel and the companies that employ them are regulated. There are good reasons for that. I would draw a parallel with the security industry itself.
In our consideration of the Bill it is clearly our duty to ensure that the regulations work and that the public can derive from them the comfort that they need. We shall return to these issues in Committee.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwin of Clee
My Lords, with permission I should like to intervene briefly in the debate. Before doing so, I declare an interest. For 30 years I was an official of the GMB trade union—the major union in the security industry. Therefore, on behalf of that union and others, I give the Bill a warm welcome.
The Bill is the culmination of years of campaigning to persuade successive governments to introduce a legislative framework for regulating this industry. However, I wish to put one or two concerns to my noble friend. The Bill still contains a voluntary element in that registration will be voluntary. I believe that that means that no minimum standards of operation will be in place. Companies which do not register and which do not meet the voluntary standards will still be 595 allowed to operate legitimately. I would welcome an assurance that my noble friend will not allow a return to the two-tier system in which cowboys or disreputable elements in the industry undercut and undermine reputable security companies.
Finally, there is the question of the membership of the authority. That matter was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and other noble Lords. The authority must be independent; it should have an independent majority. But we need people on the authority who know about the security industry. Even if they are not direct representatives of the companies, they must be experienced in the industry. I ask my noble friend to ensure that representatives of people who understand the aspirations and concerns of employees in the industry also have a voice and a. place on the authority.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Viscount Astor
My Lords, the Minister looked rather lonely on the speakers' list at the beginning of the debate. He had no support from his side. But the noble Lord, Lord Gladwin, has come to his rescue and showed that not all his party have gone home for Christmas.
The Bill will set up the security industry authority. As the Minister said, and as I understand from the industry, up to 300,000 people may be employed by the industry. As my noble friend Lord Cope has pointed out, there is a large turnover within the industry. It is up to 70 per cent in certain areas, but, practically, the average may be 50 per cent.
Therefore, this new quango, which is what it is, could in its first year have to deal with up to 450,000 new licences. That is a very steep task for the body, particularly, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, given the Government's original plan for the number of employees it is to have. We need to be assured by the Minister that it will be able to deal with this huge task. It is not just a matter of issuing licences; it is a matter of looking into the backgrounds of those people who are going to be employed. At the moment, if any quango, police force or regulatory body was suddenly asked to issue an additional 450,000 licences to people, it could not possibly take on that job and deliver them.
The major grey area in the Bill and the biggest problem that it poses relates to the transitional period. How will it work? My noble friend Lord Goschen was concerned about that. How long will it take to process all these applications? Have the Government done any assessment of how that will happen? The industry cannot just grind to a halt because the new authority has not managed to process the applications. What is going to happen? It has been suggested that if an application is put in to the authority in the transitional period, the power given to the Secretary of State in Clause 2 might cover the matter. But I should like the Minister's comments on whether that is the case.
We must consider also that under Clause 2 the Secretary of State has a wide power with regard to the licence. Indeed, if one then looks at Clause 7, one 596 discovers that the new authority will be able to set additional conditions over and above those that are prescribed by regulation. We do not know what those additional conditions will be. We do not even know in which areas they may be. Will they be conditions depending on the nature of the individual or conditions depending on the nature of the job? The Minister needs to tell us how that will work. Furthermore, before we get to Committee stage we need to see what the Secretary of State has in mind in terms of some of those powers.
In Clause 12 there is a power for delegation to local authorities. The Minister has not explained how that will work. I should like to know what consultations have been carried out with local authorities. Have any of them agreed in principle that they will take on that responsibility? How will local authorities deal with the sensitive information that will be made available so that they can take on the programme? I should like to know, for example, whether a local authority, say, Newcastle, will be able to issue a licence that will work in London. Will it mirror a national power or will it relate only to the local area? We need to know much more about that, because there will be enormous gaps and we shall end up with a mishmash of responsibilities between local authorities and the new proposed security industry authority.
We know what the Government intend, but it is not clear exactly what is covered by the licence. My noble friend Lord Cope asked whether it included stewards at football matches. How does one define in-house security personnel? What happens if he or she steps outside for five minutes?
My noble friend Lord Windlesham raised some extremely important points about whether the Prison Service and the transfer of prisoners and such issues will be covered. I look forward to the Minister's replies on those questions.
There is an important point of principle with regard to spent convictions. Under the Bill the authority will have the power to look at those. But if spent convictions are to be disclosed and taken as a factor for any job within the industry, how does that stand with the Government's intention that under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act—which they supported—someone may have a clean start? It would be wrong totally to exclude anyone like that from starting in this industry. Therefore, I should like the Minister to expand and explain the Government's thinking on this issue. Is he saying that no one who has ever had a criminal offence of any kind will ever get a job and is automatically debarred and excluded by the authority?
Perhaps I may turn to training. Noble Lords would like to know whether or not that will be subject to licence conditions. What will be the requirements? Will they vary from place to place? If a local authority issues a licence, will there be different training from that available if the new authority issues one? The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, called it "training in rage control". Are we going to have rage control NVQs? It will be interesting if door supervisors have to undergo such training.
597 There are order powers in the Bill. In Clause 3(3) there is a definition of "designated activities". I repeat again, it is crucial to the way we look at the Bill to know what is in the Government's mind.
The Bill is supported by the industry; but it is supported particularly by the larger operators in the industry which have the resources and the money to fulfil all the conditions that are required. However, we are not concerned only with the larger operators; we are concerned also with the smaller operators and how the provisions will work for them. It is extremely important that this is not something that drives out small operators, leaving only two or three national companies in the industry because they are the only ones that can fulfil the complicated requirements.
Perhaps I could briefly turn to wheelclamping. That is an issue that concerned my noble friends Lord Goschen and Lord Brabazon of Tara. There have been some terrible problems with "rogue clampers" or "dodgy clampers". We need to define the controls on these people by secondary legislation under the Bill, otherwise we run the risk of legitimising "dodgy clampers". That is a real risk that we need to consider closely. As my noble friend Lord Brabazon said, we need to look at all the issues surrounding that.
This is a new quango. It is largely welcomed. It will imposes costs on the industry. But there will be continued pressure—as with all quangos—for it to extend its remit. It will be tempted to extend its remit. So we need very clear boundaries on what it is and is not going to do. As we have seen, the authority can place conditions on licences over and above any that are required by the Secretary of State. In other words, the authority can impose any requirements it thinks up on the day. They might be fair; they might not he fair. We shall have to consider whether that is a fair use of power. Indeed, we shall have to consider the Government's proposals relating to who will serve on the new authority.
I declare an interest as a director of a public company which has 12 bars; 10 of which are in London's West End. The company has over 650 employees, over 80 of whom are what one might call "door staff'. I am told that we have an average number of customers (approximately 60,000 per week), so it is a substantial business. On a Saturday night, we probably have 12,000 people drinking in our bars. As far as I can see from the Bill, at least 80 security staff will be included under its provisions, as will managers and, indeed, directors. I am a director of a holding company which is a quoted company. If I have to apply for a licence, I shall do so as fast as I possibly can. I shall give the Minister's name to the new authority as a referee. I am sure that that will mean that the licence will come winging back by return of post.
However, perhaps I may raise a serious issue about licences, as there is some confusion. Will doormen in hotels be covered by licences? They stand on the street and decide who may or may not enter an hotel. If the Doorkeepers in your Lordships' House go out to the car park or into the public road to assist your 598 Lordships, will they be covered by this licence? We shall have to consider that matter carefully. Unless we get right the definitions, the Bill will not work. In all Bills, particularly those that emanate from the Home Office, the devil is always in the detail. However, we shall consider closely the detail during the Bill's stages through this House.
Perhaps I may end by repeating an issue which I regard as of supreme importance. If we are to give the Bill proper scrutiny in Committee—we all look forward to doing that—it is crucial that the Government publish in draft the orders that they intend to lay alongside the Bill. Without that, we shall not be able to see how the Bill will work.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I listened with more than the usual level of interest to the debate and the comments on the Bill. I am pleased that there seems to be a fairly unanimous welcome for the Bill, even if there is not unanimous accord to all its details and content.
The other matter which I find particularly pleasing this afternoon is the concern expressed by Members of your Lordships' House to get right the detail of the Bill. I believe that the Committee stage will provide a useful scrutiny of the Bill because there is much interest. We have just heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that he has an interest to declare. I am sure that is of value to us because he speaks from personal experience.
It was personal experience which excited my interest on Saturday evening. One of the delights of being a Minister is that one has to experience much of the legislation, or at least where it will be put in place. Sussex Police kindly extended to me an invitation which I could not possibly refuse—after all, it was from the police. There I was, on a cold, windy, Hastings seafront at one o'clock in the morning watching how the industry operated and how the police interacted in a spirit of partnership. I have to say that I would have preferred to have been in bed. Nevertheless, it was instructive and most helpful.
A number of questions have emerged about the detail of the Bill. I know that I shall fail in my duty to respond to all of them; I give notice of that. However, I shall try to work through some of the points raised. Those that I miss I shall happily add to the burden of the correspondence department of the Home Office and pick up later if Members of your Lordships' House wish me to do so. No doubt we shall return to many of the issues in principle and detail in Committee.
Perhaps I may start with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, who generally welcomed the effect of the legislation. He seemed unsure as to whether he wanted more or less regulation. However, he nevertheless welcomed the legislation. He asked a number of specific questions, one of which concerned the impact of the Bill on small companies, not primarily in the security industry but those which may be caught because they have a security man or two at 599 their disposal. To some extent, the Bill will catch publicans. To some extent it will catch stewards at football matches. If they are provided in-house, they will not be subject to regulation because it will be assumed that the company, the football club, will have properly trained them and will be responsible for improving standards and so forth. However, if in the instance of stewarding football matches the football club decides to hire in a company, licensing will apply. Perhaps I may reassure the noble Lord that it is certainly not our intention to catch companies not involved in the private security industry. The Bill is clear as to who is meant to be covered. Regulations will obviously further clarify inclusions and exclusions.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, also raised the issue of a need for a draft order showing designated sectors and suggested that it should be available before Committee. The authority will need to get up and running. We believe that probably in the first instance there will be no real need to bring forward draft orders, as the noble Lord suggests. However, we reassure him that the first sectors in terms of priority of implementation will be manned guards and wheelclampers and there will be careful consultation on those sectors.
The noble Lord also asked about a particular instance where an employee might be sent to a bank to deliver or collect cash. In such circumstances the person would clearly not be a private security operative as defined in the legislation and would not be caught by the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, also asked about the role of the authority in setting standards in training. He asked whether successful completion of training would be a condition of the licence. That may well be the case. It will not be for the authority to decide the precise conditions. However, I think that there will be a firm obligation set out on training. That is clearly one of the defined areas of interest for the authority to take carefully into consideration.
The noble Lords, Lord Cope and Lord Thomas, asked about composition of the board. They asked whether it would contain members of the police service and exclude members of the industry. ACPO will be invited to nominate a representative. The inclusion or exclusion of industry representatives will be given careful consideration. It is important that the authority has advice from the industry and the sector. However, the way in which we might provide for industry representation will have to be carefully and clearly constructed so as to provide for the authority's independence.
Perhaps I may also make that observation in reply to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwin, about the importance of ensuring that employee representation opportunities are provided for.That is a matter which we shall have to carefully consider, but we must protect the independence of the authority.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked about the reputation of the industry as a prelude to contracting out police core functions. A number of Members of 600 your Lordships' House raised the issue of whether the regulation of the sector is a precursor to a further extension, as they saw it, of privatisation within the police service. That is not our intention in bringing forward the Bill. We have no great desire to contract out core police tasks. We believe that the police service is properly in the public sector. As many of your Lordships will know, we have spent extra resources and put more money into the police service. We want to shore it up. We do not want to hack away at it for fundamentals. There is no intention of using this as a precursor to any form of contracting-out, though we fully recognise that in some circumstances within the criminal justice system, as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said, it has been entirely appropriate for contracting-out to be used.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, also asked whether spent convictions would be disclosed only to the authority. I can say positively that that will be the case; there will be no need to disclose spent convictions to anyone else.
The noble Lords, Lord Thomas of Gresford and Lord Windlesham, asked about the position of alarm installers and why, when there had been clear reference in the White Paper to the need to regulate that sector of the industry, we, as a government, have since had a rethink. We take the view that that sector is already well regulated. It already has to meet high police and insurance standards and purposes. Also, it consists of many small businesses. As the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said, it would be unreasonable and perhaps unfair to squeeze out those small operators. We do not want to do that through what may accurately be described as disproportionate over-regulation.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, raised the question of why we exclude in-house guards. We have changed our thinking in that regard since the White Paper. In-house guards are vetted by employers and we see no need to add a further layer of bureaucracy. But the Bill is flexible enough to include them later by regulation if it becomes necessary or desirable.
The noble Lord asked also about the compulsory approval of door supervisor firms to prevent violent "turf wars" developing. We hope that the arrival of the security industry authority will prevent turf wars. But we do not believe that the threat of withdrawal of approval will necessarily be a deterrent if companies feel that illegal activities are the way to gain their business objectives. Reputable companies will want to be approved. The absence of such approval will be a powerful market signal to potential customers.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, also raised the fact that there was an absence of a requirement to update the register of licences. The Bill requires the authority to establish and maintain a register. So there is a requirement to keep the register up to date. The noble Lord asked also about the precedent for establishing appeal tribunals through subordinate legislation. I am advised that there are plenty of precedents of powers to create bodies being put into Bills, leaving their establishment to be delegated through secondary legislation.
601 Finally, the noble Lord asked what the additional controls are to be on wheelclamping. Those controls are set out in the Bill and comprise the extra licensing requirements that apply to wheelclampers and bouncers. They are set out in paragraphs (g) to (j) of Clause 3(2) and a careful reading of that clause will bring out the information the noble Lord seeks.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, asked about the Bill excluding the running of curfews. The Bill regulates sectors of industry described in Schedule 2. It does not give new responsibilities to the industry so we do not believe that that eventuality will come to pass. The noble Lord also asked about alarm installers and I hope that I properly addressed that point.
The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, asked about the way in which clamping is conducted and the costs, method of payment and written contracts with landowners. It was suggested that such provisions could be included on the face of the Bill. We agree that the manner of clamping needs to be well regulated. However, the level of detail suggested by the noble Lord should not go into the Bill; it is more properly dealt with in codes of practice. No doubt careful consultation in that regard will take place with the security industry authority when it is up and running.
The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, asked about the powers of private security operatives and the possibility of their being exceeded. He suggested that the new authority should shed light on the uncertainties and inconsistencies in that regard. I agree. But we take the view that the activities of door supervisors and others are already subject to laws of assault and other offences. The authority will no doubt want to consider excessive use of authority as part of the training standards. That makes good sense. It will also want to establish benchmarks and standards for managing those difficult situations.
I believe I have covered most of the main points.
§ Viscount Astor
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, he did not cover the important issue of the transitional period. I look forward to his reply.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, the noble Viscount anticipated me. There will be phased implementation of the Bill. We expect the authority to be set up within 12 to 18 months of the passing of the legislation. The points made by the noble Viscount were very relevant. As I said earlier, we expect early regulation of manned guards and wheelclampers because we see those as being a priority. We shall discuss carefully with the industry the implementation of the provisions. We are sensitive to the points made. We want to get this right. We believe that this is good legislation; it is legislation on the side of the angels. Because of the widespread consensus about its need and importance, we shall be careful in introducing it over a period of time. No doubt we can come back to that point in Committee and focus attention on it.
I have spoken at length in covering all the points raised. I apologise for that. I am sure there is other important business for Members of your Lordships' 602 House to undertake today, but this is an important piece of legislation. I am looking forward to its detailed consideration in Committee. We have had a constructive debate today. This legislation will go a long way to improving the quality of regulation of the private security industry. It has been long awaited and broadly welcomed. For those reasons, I commend the Bill to the House.
On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Commit tee of the Whole House.