Private Security Industry Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Charles Clarke: I welcome the debate. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath rightly said that the clause is a result of a Government amendment in another place. It makes it an offence for an occupier of premises to permit the unlicensed clamping of vehicles on premises where such activities require a licence. Clause 3 makes it an offence to clamp vehicles, without having a licence, for the purposes of one's business or employment, or for any other reason that has a view to the motorist being charged a release fee. We do not consider it appropriate to go further than that and require a landowner to obtain a licence from the authority for the purpose of using a licensed wheelclamper under a contract for services. That would be duplicating bureaucratic controls, without any real gain for the public.

However, we do accept the need for the Bill to deter unscrupulous landowners who would be tempted tacitly to allow unlicensed wheelclampers to operate on their property. Such a temptation would be particularly strong for the owners of prime sites where the lack of clear warning signs would be likely to lead to a rich harvest of release fees from unwary motorists. The clause closes off that potential loophole, and the reason for that was described by my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central. As well as her general campaigning efforts in respect of wheelclampers, she was studious in pressing that particular point with the support of the RAC and other organisations.

With regard to the offence under clause 5, there are three lines of defence. First, the accused may show that he neither knew, nor had reasonable grounds to suspect, that the operative was not the holder of a licence. Secondly, he may 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, he may show that the security services provided were supplied by a person exempted from the need for a licence under the provisions of clause 4.

As far as penalties are concerned, I can do no more than repeat what I said during discussion on clause 3. There is no new argument. It is a question of judgment, as I acknowledged, and the judgment that we have made is set out in the Bill. I urge the Committee to agree that clause 6 stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

        Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Mike Hall.]

        Adjourned accordingly at three minutes to Seven o'clock till Thursday 26 April at five minutes to Ten o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Winterton, Mr. Nicholas (Chairman)
Bercow, Mr.
Clarke, Mr. Charles
Fearn, Mr.
George, Mr. Bruce
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hawkins, Mr.
Lilley, Mr.
Miller, Mr.
Prentice, Ms Bridget
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Starkey, Dr.
Stewart, Mr. Ian
Thomas, Mr. Gareth R.
Turner, Mr. Neil
Winterton, Ms Rosie

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