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Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot): I am sorry for missing the Minister's earlier remarks. Will he ensure that those who serve on the authority not only understand the industry but are independent? That is important.
Mr. Clarke: I apologise if I was not clear about that. At the beginning of my speech, I said that the Security Industry Authority will need to establish good working relations with the industry to keep properly informed of the realities of the sector that it will regulate. It is obviously important for some members of the authority to have direct personal experience of the industry. It is vital to reach a position whereby the independent agency carries such authority that its integrity is generally accepted.
Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield): I accept the Minister's comments about the authority, but the Bill will not cover people who install alarms. Why has that change from the proposals in the White Paper been made?
Mr. Clarke: In summary, we made the change because the better regulation taskforce, which considers burdens on industry, examined the extent to which legislation was needed to tackle crime in the alarm installation industry. We concluded that the need to tackle criminality was not clear enough to justify the inclusion of such a provision in the Bill. I shall deal with the point in more detail later, but I emphasise that one of the key functions of the new authority is to keep the legislative framework under general review. Similar issues to that mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman might arise in future.
Mr. Clarke: My officials and I have considered that carefully. I shall address the point in detail later; I believe that I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurances that he seeks. However, I was seduced by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) into going into a specific subject earlier than I intended.
The employment status of the relevant individuals and the type of security services that they provide determine who is affected by the Bill. Clause 3 defines the employment status of those who will be caught by the regulatory framework. All individuals who provide security services directly, their supervisors and managers and the directors or partners of their company or firm will be required to have a licence. That also applies to those who supply services on an agency basis.
Schedule 2 defines the sectors of the industry that are regulated. There are two main groups: first, those providing manned guarding services and, secondly, those engaged in immobilising vehicles--wheelclampers.
Manned guarding is a diverse activity, but it has the common feature of guarding premises, property or people. The Bill proposes that individuals in the manned guarding sector should be licensed if they provide services under contract to a client. We do not generally propose to require them to have licences if they are employed in-house by companies. Those companies will already have satisfied themselves about their employees, and the Government do not intend to add an additional layer of checking where it is not necessary.
The Government are fully aware of arguments in the industry and elsewhere that in-house staff should also be licensed. That relates to a point that the hon. Member for Taunton (Jackie Ballard) made earlier. We appreciate the weight of opinion behind those arguments. We were initially attracted to that idea, but, for the reasons that I gave the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, we decided against it because we believed that it would be an additional bureaucratic burden on business.
The Government are not closed to the arguments that have been made in favour of regulating in-house staff. We will bear them carefully in mind. The authority has a general duty to keep the operation of the industry and its parent legislation under review, and we will also have a formal review of all the arrangements after the authority has operated for three years. The Bill is flexible, and the Government can add or delete sectors of the industry by regulations. We will pay close attention to any recommendation from the authority that in-house manned guards should be brought into regulation.
Mr. Bercow: The hon. Gentleman is right to be cautious about extending the burden of regulation, especially as it could affect large numbers of small businesses. He will be aware that the British Security Industry Association covers 70 per cent. of the sector,
Mr. Clarke: I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the figure that he requests. The thrust of his point is correct. The BSIA, with which we have worked closely, has been a strong advocate of the Bill. We are glad to have worked closely with it. However, it also has a commercial interest in strengthening the position of its members vis-a-vis some of the smaller operators in the field. That is why we have been concerned to see what the impact would be on those smaller operators, and why, on the balance of judgment, we finally took the decisions that we have taken about those specific sectors, and about in-house staff.
The provisions for the review and consideration of the process and its application will allow us to see whether we have been too bureaucratically heavy-handed in relation to some parts of the industry, or whether some parts of the industry--such as in-house staff--that are not within the remit of the Bill will need to be regulated. That is the judgment that we have made about the right way to proceed, but I am sorry that I do not have the figure that the hon. Gentleman requested.
Door supervisors, or bouncers, form an important sub-set of the manned guarding sector regulated by the Bill. There are professional, 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 meant that on too many occasions, disreputable and even criminal elements have infiltrated the sector.
We know that some door supervisors have turned a blind eye to drug dealing on the premises that they are meant to be protecting. Worse still, we know of door supervisors who have used their position to deal in drugs themselves. We are also aware of bouncers committing physical assaults on members of 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. I shall come in a moment to the licensing regime and its relationship to the local authorities.
I mentioned partnerships earlier. This will be an important area in which we can establish good partnerships between the police and local door supervisors in pubs and clubs. For example, in Manchester, 130,000 young people are in the city centre at 2 o'clock on Friday and Saturday mornings. That is an enormous number of people. Even in my own city of Norwich, between 10,000 and 13,000 young people are in the city centre on Friday and Saturday nights.
Mr. Clarke: The MP was out in the centre of Norwich with the police at that time of the morning a couple of weeks ago, and I think that the numbers were about 50 per cent. higher than they would otherwise have been because the word had got around that I was going to be there.
Wheelclampers form a second important sector regulated by the Bill. I want to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton), whom I am delighted to see in her place today. She has been a strong, consistent campaigner for proper regulation of the industry, and, since being elected to the House, has taken an active, positive approach to the issue, which I want to place on record.
We are addressing the issue of wheelclamping on private land--that is, land that is not a road to which the general public has access. Roads are separately regulated under the Road Traffic Acts. In our view, landowners must be able to take action against those who park on private land without permission, and wheelclamping--or at least the threat of it--may be an effective way to deal with irresponsible parking. However, it is crucial that such wheelclamping is carried out in a reasonable manner. To some extent, the law has already enshrined those principles. For example, in 1995, the Court of Appeal adjudged, in the case of Arthur and Arthur v. Anker, that clampers 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 provided useful guidelines, but only in broad terms, to courts faced with similar cases. The court 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 at having his or her car clamped on private land with only limited practical means of redress. Unless the behaviour of the clamper is outrageous, the motorist may well be uncertain of his or her rights and may also be dissuaded from going to court by the potential cost of legal fees.
We believe that that gap in the law needs to be filled, which is why the Bill ensures that all wheelclamping on private land carried out as a business or as part of one's employment, or for a release fee, will be regulated by a licensing system. Each individual who provides wheelclamping services to others will therefore need a licence, as will his or her director or manager.
We also considered whether the licensing regime needed to cover the wheelclamping by businesses of cars on their own land using their own employees, or in-house wheelclamping. We concluded that it did. Immobilising a car gives the clamper such power over the car owner, with all the inherent danger of that power being abused, that we would leave the public open to the risk of further abuses were we not to legislate.
However, in the example of in-house wheelclamping, the Bill allows 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 also ensure their compliance with all the requirements and conditions of the licence.
The Government believe that the public are justified in expecting those who offer such services under contract to be subject to regulation. However, that does not affect operatives in those sectors who are employed in-house by companies. Again, we believe that employers' own screening processes are sufficient.
The hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) asked about IT security consultants. I am happy to clarify a point relating to security consultants that has caused concern in some circles. Paragraph 5 of schedule 2, to which he referred, extends the provisions to security consultants whose activities are broadly defined in terms of giving advice about security precautions against any risk to property or the person.
In keeping with the rest of Bill, that is a broad definition, accompanied by some clarificatory exemptions. Concern has been expressed about the position of the information security industry in relation to those definitions. Just as with tangible assets, there are real threats to the security of information and security advice, and precautions are needed to protect it.
At present, there is no regulation of the information security industry. However, the Government are committed to regulating only where necessary. The Department of Trade and Industry will therefore consult the information security industry on the extent and effectiveness of existing precautions--protected measures--and whether further action is required. In the light of that, I am happy to make it clear that we do not currently intend to bring the information security industry within the scope of the new licensing regime established by the Bill.
The Security Industry Authority, when established, will undertake full and detailed consultations about the discharge of the remits placed on it by the Bill. Nobody will be regulated by the Bill without their full knowledge and understanding. All relevant types of security consultant will be invited to participate in the authority's consultations at the appropriate time. I am happy to make those points clear and I hope that I have dealt with the confusion that arose.