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Mr. Hughes: I am seeking the right hon. Gentleman's advice as much as anything. If there is no chance to amend the Bill, is it worth having as it stands?

Mr. George: I was not here for half the Minister's speech, so I do not know what promises he gave. If he sets out how we are to proceed with training, which is not mentioned in the Bill, that will help. He said that the chairman will be independent, so I am satisfied on that count. I will be happy if he assures us that the Bill's flexibility will allow this Government and their successor to say to the new authority, "You don't have carte blanche. Parliament has supported the Bill and it wants something a little stronger."

Mr. Bercow: I do not wish to dampen or quell the right hon. Gentleman's optimism, but I have a constitutional point to make. He must be aware that no Government are in a position to bind their successors. No Minister of State, no matter how senior, important, respected, or influential, and no matter how full his diary is--as in the case of the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke)--is in a position to say what his successor would do. The right hon. Gentleman should not be bought off too easily.

Mr. George: People do not always proceed according to what is constitutionally available. I recognise the hon. Gentleman's point, but I hope that the Home Secretary or the Minister will put some flesh on the Bill in a speech over the next week or two. I realise that whoever becomes Home Secretary or Minister of State may not be constitutionally bound to accept this Government's policies. Perhaps the Home Secretary will take over the role of Foreign Secretary and the Minister will deservedly be promoted to the Cabinet, perhaps as Minister of Defence. However, a word in the ear of the Minister of the day, with an offer that cannot be refused, would transmit the views of this Administration to the next.

This is not a great Bill, but it is a potentially good one. If the gaps are filled in, I suspect that most of the industry and most hon. Members present would be reasonably satisfied. After the election, we shall see what Administration we have, and hopefully the words of the Minister of State will influence his successor so that when the regulatory authority is established, the guidelines will

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be stronger and will not give the new SIA carte blanche to allow the old nonsense that has bedevilled the industry for the past 25 years to continue.

We do not want the SIA simply to be a gatekeeper, regulating who comes into the industry. We want it to be a catalyst for progressive change in an industry that has underperformed over the years. We are now setting the framework for an industry of which we can be proud, not to, of, or about which we can be hostile, critical and ambivalent. I will support the Bill, in the hope that it will deliver more than a rather negative view of it might lead us to conclude it will.

8.51 pm

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): I am delighted to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I am even more delighted to follow the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), one of the leading experts on the subject in the country, if not the world. His speech was one of the most effective that I have heard in my nine years as a Member of Parliament.

Mr. Charles Clarke: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clifton-Brown: If the Minister is patient, I shall give way in a minute. I want to pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Walsall, South because his speech was statesmanlike. I hope that in the light of the right hon. Gentleman's great experience on the subject, the Minister listened carefully to what he had to say.

I want to quote from the right hon. Gentleman's book, which he wrote last year with Mark Button, because he summed up the private security industry admirably. He said:

I agree with that definition entirely. I now give way to the Minister.

Mr. Clarke: Why did the hon. Gentleman wait five hours before seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Why was he not here for the first four hours of the debate?

Mr. Clifton-Brown: That is a rather churlish point. The Minister knows perfectly well that hon. Members have other duties in the House. Any Member is entitled to attend a debate and to speak in the House, provided that we can catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and hopefully to achieve some benefit by doing so. The House may conceivably derive some benefit from the speech.

Mr. Bercow: May I put it on the record that my hon. Friend and I have previously discussed this matter, that I thought it entirely possible that he might wish to speak on the important issues appertaining to the private security industry and that I, for one, am delighted that he is now contributing to the debate? Will my hon. Friend take it from me that I am delighted to be here to wind up the debate, and to wait right up to the last speech before

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the Minister's, in the approach to 10 o'clock if necessary? [Interruption.] The Minister is chuntering inanely from a sedentary position, expressing his disapproval of anybody else's entitlement to speak.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the Minister's attitude is simply due to the fact that he is gradually becoming a bit too big for his boots? He thinks that he is important and superior, and that he should be somewhere else; he cannot really be bothered and he does not want to listen. That is arrogance, and he deserves to be kicked out of office as soon as possible.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. He is absolutely right--the Minister has a bullying, hectoring style. He is part of an overbearing Executive who would rather put legislation through the House with no debate at all, so of course he does not want Members to speak on the matter, to debate it thoroughly and to explore all the points that need to be made.

Mr. Clarke rose--

Mr. Clifton-Brown: If the Minister is going to make the sort of intervention that he made before, I shall not give way, but if it is to be a sensible, constructive intervention, I will. Does he wish to intervene?

Mr. Clarke indicated dissent.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: No, he does not, so his intervention was not to be sensible and constructive. That says volumes about the Minister of State.

Let us return to the real debate before you call us all to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The right hon. Member for Walsall, South helpfully listed the sorts of activity that are covered by the private security industry. It is worth examining their scope, as the industry covers an extremely wide field. It covers manned security services, including static guarding, cash in transit, door supervision, stewardship, close protection, detention services, security storage and shredding; professional security services, including security consultants and professional investigators; and security products, including intruder alarms, closed circuit television, access control, electronic article surveillance equipment, detection equipment, locks, safes, vaults, security storage, barriers, shutters, fences, security glass windows and armoured vehicles. It can be seen that the industry's scope is very wide.

The Minister of State asked why I wanted to participate in the debate. Had he been a little more patient and listened to my speech a little longer before intervening, he would have learned that it so happens that the offices of the Group 4 security firm are located in my constituency.

Mr. Clarke: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clifton-Brown: I shall in a little while, but only if the Minister's intervention is going to be sensible and constructive.

During my years as a Member of Parliament, the director of Group 4, David Dickinson, has become a good friend. He is an extremely sensible person whom I last met when I went to see the potential asylum seekers from

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the hijacked Afghan aircraft, who were temporarily housed at the fire service college in my constituency. He was personally supervising the guarding operation for them and we renewed our friendship on that occasion. He has said of the Bill:

Most of us would say amen to that.

Mr. Clarke: I wondered whether the hon. Gentleman was aware that the fact that he represents part of that company has already been discussed at some length by the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff), who also made many of the points that the hon. Gentleman is now making. However, as he was not present, he would not know that.

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