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Mr. George: My private Member's Bills in 1977, 1984, 1987 and 1994 offered models for regulation. They addressed that problem, but I suspect that the Home Office believes that primary legislation does not need to go into such minute detail. My Spanish friends can describe exactly the size, weight and shape of a badge, but it is more important to strengthen existing legislation to ensure that no uniform can be confused with that of other, public, services.
It is very important that staff wear a badge that can be easily seen, and readily inspected by any appointed person. I am worried that the regulated sector will be given different privileges from the non-regulated sector. How will people distinguish between security guards who are in-house and unregulated and those who are regulated and under contract?
The better regulation task force looked into fit-person criteria and produced a scintillating piece of nonsense. I mean no disrespect to plumbers and cleaners, but to compare their roles with those of alarm installers and locksmiths displays a degree of unreality. It is necessary to regulate the people who set up security apparatus in other people's homes. Why should home owners not know that those people have been well trained and that they have not just come out of the slammer? Their job is not comparable to a plumber's, who is entrusted with a different set of tasks.
A further criticism--or suggestion--that I would offer has to do with a matter on which the Bill remains flexible. The Bill, rightly, will require individuals to be licensed, but it proposes only a voluntary code for companies. There is ample precedent in other industries--such as financial services, gaming, gas supply, insurance, meat processing, telecommunications, television and radio broadcasting, water and aviation--of companies being subject to standards and having to prove certain matters to the licensing authority before being awarded a licence to operate.
In my Private Security (Registration) Bill of 1994, I went into some detail about what companies should be required to present by way of information. It specified that information should be given about the characters and backgrounds of directors and officers of the firm, and about their criminal records. It also specified information about the financial records of the firm, its directors and officers, and information about the character of the private security services that the firm proposed to provide. That 1994 Bill also specified that a proposed firm should have adequate insurance, and that its premises should be adequate.
The latter point is very important. My 1994 Bill said that a proposed private security firm should operate from premises considered to be "suitable for the purpose". In my model, a licence could not be given to a company
The part of the Bill devoted to training standards is an element that has the potential to be developed in a way that I would consider appropriate. However, the drafting leaves me with no idea whether that will happen. If the Minister has already covered that matter during my absence, I apologise--I shall check in Hansard tomorrow.
We could carry on with the present BSIA system of two days' formal training, plus one day on the job and no examination. However, I should much prefer the Home Secretary to issue stronger instructions--not mere guidelines--to the SIA to the effect that he does not want to maintain the current arrangements, which amount almost to an absence of training.
Perhaps the following account of training in other countries will scare some people. In Belgium, security officers receive 120 hours' training; within eight months they must pass a test. Additional specialist training of 40 hours for weapons is given--that will not apply to us--as well as 75 hours on the protection of people and 16 hours on guard dogs. Incidentally, I was invited to speak at a conference on guard dogs in Barking--the organisers did not know why I was helpless with laughter when they telephoned me.
In Belgium, an extra 65 hours' training is given for people who are responsible for cash in transit. Managers receive an extra 70 hours. Why not? Why should training be confined to the poor infantry? Why should not there be training for non-commissioned officers and the officer corps?
In Denmark, the training period is 120 hours; there is no examination. In Finland, it is 40 hours. In Germany, the situation is almost as bad as it is in this country. In the Netherlands, three weeks' basic training is required, with additional training leading to a basic security diploma that must be passed within 12 months. In Spain, 200 hours of training is set and supervised by the police, and an examination must be passed. Thereafter, training of 75 hours a year is required. In Sweden, security officers need 217 hours of training before they are accredited. The mother of all security training schemes operates in Hungary, where 350 hours are imposed. In a British university, that would probably lead to the award of a master's degree.
Mr. Bercow: Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what assessment he has made of the merits of the Security Industry Training Organisation? It was founded about 10 years ago and is known for its independence. It operates not only in this country but internationally. Can he also offer the House a pearl of wisdom on the merits of ISO 9000 and of the proportion of private security industry operators in this country who conform to it?
The Council may recognise as satisfactory and efficient training programmes, including training programmes established by or under the auspices of registered firms or associations of registered firms or persons engaged in the private security industry.
The Secretary of State may designate as efficient such courses, offered by academic institutions, which appear to him to provide appropriate training, or to lead to appropriate qualifications, including National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ)."
Each sector of the industry will have its own specific training requirements. Obviously, it will take longer to train a locksmith than a security guard, so I hope that the Home Office will instruct the SIA to work with the industry to lay down the standards for each sector.
I recall my assistant applying for a job with a reputable American company, now Swedish owned. The two-day training programme that he undertook had no examination at the end of it and was not part of the company's training programme. If he successfully completed the two-day training programme--that is, if he was still alive, had not expired and still wished to be a security guard--he would be offered a job. That is not the way to proceed.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman is criticising the British Security Industry Association. I am sure that he is aware that the BSIA covers about 70 per cent. of the existing security operations in this country. It covers closed circuit television, access control, manned security, grilles, safes, secure transport, and alarm manufacture, distribution and installation. The association therefore covers a very wide field in its ISO 9000 qualification, and in that qualification it regularly works with representatives in Europe to ensure that its standards are compatible. Is he saying that he criticises the BSIA for those standards, or does he think that the Bill should build on them?
Mr. George: I have no objections to the BSIA as a trade association. My objections to the BSIA are limited to when it purports to be a regulatory authority, because I do not believe that a trade association should have undertaken the task of regulation.
As a result of criticism from people like me, the BSIA took its inspectorate out of its Worcester building and sent it 25 miles down the road. To my mind, that mileage did not separate its licensing authority--its inspectorate--from the industry.
There must be a proper inspectorate. I mentioned several countries with great legislation, but great legislation is a waste of time unless there is a decent inspectorate. One of the nonsenses in the House of Lords a couple of days ago was the statement that the inspectorate may inspect during reasonable hours only.
The Security Industry Training Organisation, a very good organisation, may be part of the framework but must be extricated from its links with the BSIA. The inspectorate should use the expertise obtained in BSIA and its inspectorate, and in the National Approval Council for Security Systems--the intruder alarm inspectorate. Both those organisations are closely linked either to the security industry or to insurance.
I hope that the Minister, in his wisdom, will say that we need a strong inspectorate, that that inspectorate may take in people from the good existing inspectorates, wherever they may be, but that those people will be part of a Home Office inspectorate and it will not be a case of the Home Office subcontracting to an inspectorate closely linked to industry and telling it to get on with the job. The inspectorate and the legislation will seem compromised if it is seen that the big boys, who have obstructed regulation for 30 years, are to be the beneficiaries of something to which they objected so strongly.