|Private Security Industry Bill [Lords]
Mr. George: If a company hires a potential arsonist, its inspection process and psychological profilingabout which the hon. Gentleman can speak with far more authority than I canwill have failed. A wonderful young woman firefighter in Bristol died four or five years ago when a company, ironically named Burns, hired a security guard who then set fire to the supermarket that he was supposed to be guarding. It is up to the companies: now that they are becoming more respectable, they must put in place the processes to prove that they are respectable. The clause relates to the licence application process, in which the companies will have to follow best practice. They might slip upthose who do not go through the proper procedures will definitely slip upand have to go to the hon. Gentleman for legal advice to keep them out of jail, because the penalties, even under the softly, softly approach of the Home Office, are severe.
Mr. Clarke: I admire and respect my right hon. Friend's blood-curdling sentiments on this topic. They provide a useful introduction to the case in favour of the clause. As he said, it sets out a deterrence mechanism to show that there is a real offence that hurts the organisation that commits it. As the hon. Member for Surrey Heath said, there are three lines of defence. First, the accused may show that he neither knew, nor had reasonable grounds to suspect, that the operative did not have a licence. Secondly, it is a defence to show that he took all reasonable steps to ensure that the operative would not engage in activities for which he did not hold a licence. Finally, the accused may show that the security services that were provided were supplied by a person exempted from the need for a licence under clause 4.
We believe that those are reasonable defences, and no Committee members have disagreed. The proof of the pudding will be in the eatingthe way in which the clause is enforced to ensure that we deter such illegal activity. For that reason, we cannot answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath about the anticipated number of prosecutions. I hope that there will be no prosecutions, because I hope that everyone will comply with the law. However, if people seek to bypass it, I agree with the blood-curdling sentiments of my right hon. Friend, and we will have to enforce the law rigorously.
The hon. Member for Surrey Heath also asked about the reasoning behind the Lords amendment. I have reams and reams of briefing on such matters, not all of which I share with the Committee at all times, but I am happy to do so on this occasion. The amendment was purely technical: the word ``conduct'' in subsection (3), line 26, was previously ``activities'', but was changed to tie in with the concept of licensable conduct, as mentioned in clause 3(1) for example. The original phrasing was simply a drafting slip, no doubt influenced by the different concept of activities of a security representative.
More substantially, the hon. Gentleman asked how the clause would be enforced. Clause 19 will give the Security Industry Authority entry and inspection powers to check compliance. Those are important powers that can be applied in particular circumstances. The police have the responsibility of upholding the law and were fully consulted at both the White Paper and publication of Bill stages. It might interest the Committee to know that the Association of Chief Police Officers lead was taken by Richard Childs, the chief constable of Lincolnshire. He is an outstanding chief officer, who is driving forward a modern version of active policing in a number of different areas to deal with such issues. The police have been fully involved with the processes.
I do not accept for a moment the ridiculous suggestion that the hon. Gentleman made about so-called bogus recruitment statistics that were published yesterday. I was rather disappointed to hear a partisan political remark in this debate, but I am sure that that will not be repeated under your chairmanship, Mr. Winterton.
We do not have plans to provide special access to the register's contents for law enforcement. It is a public document, with clear information. No one has requested special access to the register, and I do not expect such a request to be made. It is simply a source of basic information on names, addresses and the licensed functions that a person may undertake. It is a public register, as we shall discuss when we reach the relevant clause.
I accept the hon. Gentleman's point about the need to integrate the database with the general range of other police databases. As I have said in other Committees, we are engaged in a major project. We are seeking to integrate important databases such as those for DNA and firearms with the police national computer. The Government have invested in that to try to rectify the underinvestment that we inherited from our predecessors. We shall address that issue explicitly in this context, but the hon. Gentleman will know that upgrading the PNC is a major national investment that must be taken forward in the right way. It has procedural and other implications, which we are considering. His point will be taken into account in that context. I urge the Committee to accept the clause.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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