|Private Security Industry Bill [Lords]
Mr. Hawkins: I am grateful to the Minister not only for giving way, but for the helpful and constructive spirit in which he is approaching the issue. I ask him to bear in mind one matter as he considers a possible route for an emergency procedure. It would not be appropriate to incorporate in such procedure powers delegated from the SIA to local authorities. That is why I mentioned local planning issues: they can cause emergency meetings and we would not want the SIA's delegated powers to be used because, in another guise, the local authority's actions might be controversial.
Mr. Clarke: I take the point that the role of local authorities is that of regulator of issues in their areas combined with their own interests as an institution. [Interruption.] I see from the pagers that a vote is coming in which I am interested. Given that I shall take an overall look at the policy, will the hon. Member for Buckingham withdraw the amendment?
Mr. Bercow: My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath and I generally think alike. I, too, welcome the spirit in which the Minister has responded. It should be put on the record that, first, I am happy to concede that there is not likely to be a large number of cases in which differential treatment might be desired or required. Secondly, I can go further and say that it is important that, when considering any back-up or protective treatment that might be available, we should ensure that we do not end up providing an incentive for people needlessly to seek a way out. In other words, I emphasise that applicants should be able to demonstrate good cause for seeking an exemption or fast-track procedure through the SIA of the sort that the Minister describes. It is not good enough for people to fail to prepare properly and prudently for an event and then to claim that they want to stage it now, that it did not occur to them to make proper preparations before and that they were unaware of the constraints of the law.
I am not being argumentative: I am talking about the few genuine cases in which an important local or other issue springs up without advance notice, an opportunity that had not previously existed arises to stage an important gathering, and the problem is how to hold the meeting without breaking the law. In that respect, I am encouraged by the Minister's comments. I am not hung up about the form, but I am concerned that the needs of the individuals or organisations concerned should be accommodated. I understand why he might be worried that introducing a separate layer will produce duplication or confusion, but there must be a fast-track procedure that works. He went on to say that he was unsure whether it would be necessary to table an amendment or a new clause at a later stage in the Bill. I presume that he was implying that the matter might be accommodated through regulations.
Mr. Clarke: All I was trying to say was that I was unsure whether there was any inhibition in the present legislation on establishing an emergency procedure, or whether it would be necessary to facilitate matters by primary or secondary legislation. It is also possible that the practice of the authority could resolve the situation without the need for any such further measures. I did not want to state any firm conclusions, but merely to say that it is a matter that I need to examine.
Mr. Bercow: I think that we all need to examine it. I do not know whether the required changes are proscribed or prescribed under the terms of the clause unamended. Parliamentary counsel's views would be required to determine whether a change in the legislation is necessary. However, we should work on the assumption that a change is required, which will be effected by an amendment or a new clause on Report or through regulations.
I am glad that the Minister's comments this afternoon have been fairly explicit. My anxiety is that a general electionor ``another event'', as I elliptically referred to it earliermight intercede. If that were the case, we would have to wait and see what happened to the Bill. That is a matter for discussion at the appropriate time and through the usual channels, but I want to be confident that the Minister had given us a definite answer about how our needs will be accommodated.
The Minister will not therefore be surprised that I now return to my usual hobby-horse: regulations. I assume that he will concede that there is at least a 50:50 chance that whatever amendment or clarification is required would be provided through regulations. If that were the case, it would be helpful if a draft of those regulations were made available before the next stage of the Bill, or if the Minister could write to me and my right hon. and hon. Friends to explain how he envisages meeting our concerns through the regulations. He appears to be quivering, although it is possible that he is nodding.
Mr. Clarke: I know that my bodily movements are always fascinating to the hon. Member for Buckingham. I was trying to indicate that I was thinking about what he had said. I am prepared to give the assurance that I will communicate with him and other Committee members, either in writing or by speaking in the Chamber, when I have further considered the matter in the manner that I have described.
Mr. Bercow: There is a limit to what one can expect in this life and I suppose that half a piece of cake is better than no cake at all. In keeping with the happy spirit that has characterised this exchangealthough it has not, perhaps, characterised all our exchangesI am prepared to accept the Minister's assurance. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
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