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Mr. Bercow: I am always happy to be referred to a subsection of any clause of which the Minister is the parent. I have focused my beady eye on clause 19(8), which features on page 16 of the Bill, with which I am sure all hon. Members who are present will be intimately familiar. For the avoidance of doubt, I point out that subsection (8) deals with the meaning of the term "regulated person". That seems clear, but I think that the only provision of even modest significance in the subsection--this point is important if the hon. Gentleman is trying to develop an argument--is paragraph (d), which refers to
My view is consistent with that of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. I believe that the guidance on the exercise of entry and inspection powers is critical. Great issues are at stake. The powers of the officers must be adequate, or there will be no point in providing for them. Equally, there must also be adequate protection for those who will be subject to the exercise of those powers. It is not entirely a matter of those words that Ministers tend to use in the context of amendments to proposed legislation--our old friends "minor" and "drafting". Issues of judgment, evaluation, degree and what I might best describe as proportionality are involved. In that context, I think that the hon. Gentleman has a good point. Let us see the draft, which can be placed before this House and the other place, and let there be a debate on it in which we can offer our opinions about whether the Government have got the balance broadly correct.
Earlier, my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath expressed with a world-weary cynicism born of his nine years in the House his hope that the Minister would change the habits of a lifetime and accept an Opposition amendment. I want to renew that plea in an unselfish fashion, on behalf of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. The request in amendment No. 9 for an opportunity to see a draft document and to scrutinise it, as well as for an acknowledgement of hon. Members' right to speak and the possibility of a vote, is of the essence. That request is so transparently reasonable that only an extraordinarily unreasonable Minister could resist it.
The Minister is an assiduous, eager and very ambitious man, as I continually remind him. He is a man who was described by Mr. John Kampfner, the distinguished political commentator of The Guardian, as a future leader of the Labour party, and he is now under inspection.
Mr. Bercow: I say to my hon. Friend frankly that I am in danger of becoming emotional. We had a rocky start when this Parliament began. I think he doubted whether I had any right to sit in this place at all, as I went to a state school, paid a mortgage and bought my own furniture. Since then, he has been reconciled to me, and we have what might almost be described as a symbiotic relationship, so often do we see eye to eye on matters of state, both great and small. His interventions are invariably sensible and eloquent. With his unfailing skill in hitting the proverbial nail on the head--a skill that only somebody who has spent as much time on the Clapham omnibus as he has could demonstrate--he has got it absolutely right. We are considering a question of ambition versus reasonableness. I say to the Minister, who is always anxious to throw red meat in the direction of his under-utilised and ordinarily militant Back Benchers--
Mr. Bercow: I say to the Minister that he should prove reason, independence of mind and generosity of spirit. I say to him that now is the opportunity to show oneself to be a man of independent mind and generous nature. Will he pass or fail the examination? I await his response and the answer as to success or failure with bated breath, eager anticipation and beads of sweat upon my brow.
Mr. Charles Clarke: Before I begin, let me say how glad I am to see my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) in her place. I would not say that I have a symbiotic relationship with her, as I have been advised by my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale (Mr. Hall) that the only known example of a symbiotic relationship in the natural world is that between a plover and the crocodile from whose tongue it plucks leeches. When the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) described his symbiotic relationship with the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), I was trying to work out which of them was the soft little bird and which was the crocodile. I think that most people would acknowledge that, at a time such as this, the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex has the more meat-eating characteristics.
I was amused that the hon. Member for Buckingham began his speech by referring to the alleged plagiarism of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I do not think that he was correct. Plagiarism is often a two-way relationship. When we discuss the relationship between libertarianism and authoritarianism in the Conservative party, we get into deep waters. At the end of the Conservative party conference last year, everyone lined up behind their libertarian or authoritarian leadership challengers.
Some people listen to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. Some libertarians in Conservative party ranks--perhaps including the hon. Member for Buckingham--may support him, but others would not.
Clause 19 provides the authority with an important power that will help it to enforce its licensing regime effectively. It gives it the power to enter premises and require the production of documents or other relevant information.
A person who is properly authorised by the authority will be able to enter premises owned or occupied by a regulated person. Proper authorisation is defined in clause 19(1) and in clause 20, which states:
The Bill provides for guidance, and the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey argues that Parliament should consider that guidance. The answer to his question about whether prior notice will always be given under authorisation is no. He also asked whether the notice and the operation of the authorisation would be set out in clear guidelines, which were publicly available and hopefully agreed. The answer is yes.
A regulated person is defined in clause 19(8) as anyone who has or who ought normally to have a licence. Such a person may be required to produce documents or information about licensable conduct, the provision of security services or conditions attaching to approved contractor status under any compulsory scheme, should the voluntary scheme ever be converted into a compulsory one.
Amendment No. 8 would require a person who was authorised to enter premises to do that in a reasonable manner and only as part of a routine check, or as a result of reasonable suspicion of a breach of regulations or commission of an offence. The main effect of the amendment would be to limit the authority's ability to conduct random checks of regulated persons.
The provisions already place several requirements on any person authorised by the authority when exercising the powers. They include: exercising the power only at reasonable times; operating only in relation to persons "appearing" to be regulated--mere suspicion is not enough; and stating the purpose of the inspection. The inspector must produce evidence of identity and authorisation; a record must be made of what happens during the inspection; and a copy of that record must be given to those on the inspected premises if requested. That would form the basis of any subsequent challenge.
Those measures place several requirements on persons entering premises. They take appropriate account of civil liberties while providing a powerful and focused tool to enable the authority to enforce the licensing regime.