Private Security Industry Bill [Lords]

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The Chairman: Order. I am sorry to have to remind the hon. Gentleman of this again, but interventions should be brief.

Mr. Hughes: I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman once more to allow him to finish his point.

Mr. Stewart: The point that I am making is that certain security staff need anonymity to an extent. It is when they conclude their actions or investigations that they need to make themselves known. I am sure that that can be better dealt with later—not in the Bill but by regulation or codes of practice.

Mr. Hughes: I completely understand the hon. Gentleman's point. I used to do legal work in relation to prosecutions for shoplifting on behalf of the police or private stores. There are two different types of security jobs—those in relation to which it is important that the public know that they are dealing with somebody who has the authority to take their possessions and remove them from the premises, or somebody who, by definition, does their work on behalf of the employer, privately, until they have to prove their identity at a later stage. The point that I made, somewhat light-heartedly, is that it is no good having an identification method that is so difficult to check that it is no use at the time—it is no good checking the day after—or so difficult to see that one cannot identify the person on the door of the pub or club.

I share the hon. Gentleman's view that the amendments would not take us all the way to the conclusion that he and I would like. That is not a failure of the amendments, but they do not address all the issues. This is a framework Bill rather than a prescriptive one, and I would be grateful to know how the Minister sees us reaching such a conclusion, which, I would guess, is a widely shared aspiration. It is no good having a system that does not work for the consumer 99 per cent. of the time because the identity of the person with authority is not known, so people who pretend to be in authority cannot be prosecuted because they cannot be identified.

Mr. Clarke: I was entertained by the hon. Gentleman's remarks about cleavages and how he operates. He told us in a previous Committee that he always used to encourage people to run away from the police. I wonder whether the Liberals will now introduce proposals that everybody should have their name stamped—

Mr. Hawkins: The Minister and I will be able to go into business jointly and write a tome based on all the revelations made by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey in various Committees on which all three of us have served. It will be known as ``The Confessions of . . .''

Mr. Mike Hall: There will not be a market for it.

Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend rudely and offensively says that there will not be a market for such a book, because only Liberals would want to buy it.

On the issues regarding utility companies, I advertise the work being done under this Government by the distraction burglary taskforce that we set up. We have put significant resources into the taskforce, which, with the help of the major utility companies, is trying to deal with severe and damaging crimes involving exceptionally elderly people—mainly women over 75—who are targeted in a cynical and vicious way by criminal organisations. We are doing significant work, and on a problem that has not been tackled before.

An interesting point was made about local authorities. Clause 13 envisages a role for local authorities, and we will no doubt debate that more fully later in our deliberations. I think that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey would concede that the approach that he advocated is more general in its application rather than being restricted to the Bill.

I believe that there is no difference between any of us on issues of substance. The Bill sets out: that there must be a personal licence; that the format of the licence will be prescribed in regulations; and that it must be portable, easily recognisable and difficult to tamper with or reproduce illicitly. The licence should include a photograph of the individual and a list of designated activities that the individual is licensed to undertake. That is explicit and clear in the Bill.

On the examples mentioned by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, any individual who falsely claims to be a licensed security operative by means of the devices that he described—whether or not he had a name stamped in the middle of his forehead—would be committing offences under existing legislation, namely the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 and the Theft Act 1968, which covers the offence of attempting to obtain property by deception.

There are two clear wings in the Bill. First, a licence for everyone, format defined. Secondly, the illegality of passing oneself off as a licensed person if one is unlicensed. Under clause 9(1)(c) and (e) we establish further conditions and obligations:

    ``(c) conditions imposing obligations as to the production and display of the licence;''

—a highly relevant point—and

    ``(e) such other conditions (whether or not relating to the criteria that would be applied by the Authority in determining whether to grant the licence) as the Secretary of State or the Authority thinks fit.''

A combination of paragraphs (c) and (e) provides the authority with the right to establish a framework that makes clear the requirement for people to display and operate in the manner that we have described.

There are real issues relating to what conditions are laid out under paragraphs (c) and (e). It is interesting to note that the British Parking Association last year launched a voluntary code of practice for wheelclampers—I was present at the launch and encouraged the initiative. It was a useful step towards preparing the ground for a code that the authority might eventually endorse. The precise form of the other conditions to be applied will—I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster Central—be the subject of discussion with motoring organisations and others when we discuss how the code should operate.

The existing powers should allow entirely for what the hon. Member for Buckingham was saying. However, I had one flutter of doubt on the question of the wearing of a uniform, and I reassure the hon. Gentleman that I will reflect between now and Report on whether I am satisfied that paragraphs (c) and (e) confer the power to establish a requirement to wear a uniform, if that were desired after consultation and consideration.

I ask myself whether the powers are sufficient, and my preliminary advice is that they are, but I will give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks. Between now and Report I will consider carefully the legal advice, and should we decide after consultation to go down the uniform route, we must be happy that the power in those paragraphs is sufficient. I cannot think of any other example raised about which I have any doubt, but I give the requested assurance that I shall consider the matter carefully.

I urge the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) to withdraw the amendment. I entirely accept what has been said, but I believe that the Bill allows the authority to do precisely what hon. Members from all parties urge.

Mr. Hawkins: I understand that the Minister approaches the matter in a constructive spirit. He has helpfully undertaken to consider the point about which my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham and I were anxious. Nevertheless, we are confident that the Bill would be improved if such important matters were specified in it, and we shall press the amendment to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 3, Noes 10.

Division No. 3]

Bercow, Mr. John
Hawkins, Mr. Nick
Hughes, Mr. Simon

Clarke, Mr. Charles
George, Mr. Bruce
Hall, Mr. Mike
Miller, Mr. Andrew
Prentice, Bridget
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Mr. Ian
Thomas, Mr. Gareth R.
Turner, Mr. Neil
Winterton, Ms Rosie

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Bruce George: I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 8, line 28, at end insert—

    `(6) The Secretary of State and the Authority shall take into account mandatory and other conditions set in member states of the European Union in prescribing the conditions under subsection (1).

    (7) The Secretary of State and the Authority shall ensure that in establishing the conditions specified under subsection (1) a licence holder will not be disadvantaged by reason of the prescribed conditions in seeking to gain recognition in another member state of the European Union.'.

I have something of a difficulty, as clause 8 overlaps considerably with clause 9. I shall therefore keep strictly to my amendment, rather than dealing with the clause.

I have lost my thread.

Mr. Charles Clarke: My right hon. Friend will be thinking about the exchange that we had in relation to a previous clause, about mutual recognition in the single market and the European Union, and I know that he will want to reflect on that in his comments.

Mr. George: I am eternally grateful to my hon. Friend.

I hope that my hon. Friend will accept the amendment, as it states the obvious. If it has a deficiency, it is that it should be superfluous. However, I am moving it anyway, to ensure that the regulatory authority will bear the matter in mind.

I know that if anyone mentions Europe, Opposition Members sometimes descend to a different plane. However, whether we like it or not, we operate in a European-administrated political environment. The decision to endorse the Single European Act 1985 clearly had an effect on how we operate. Globalisation is a reality and the multiplicity of global initiatives to deal with crime has led to great co-operation between the intelligence services, the police services and Customs and Excise.

3.30 pm

When it comes to co-operation in respect of security, however, we should bear it in mind that home affairs and justice fall within a pillar. They are exclusively a national responsibility, and the principle of subsidiarity applies. As for policing, there are many examples of European directions and regulations having had an effect on British regulations, such as the Firearms Acts (Amendment) Regulations 1992. The single European market opened up scope for co-operation and, although once again justice and home affairs would be a national responsibility, there has been some collaboration and co-operation with regard to private security.

I referred earlier to DG5 in the Commission, which brings together experts from Europe to discuss with trade unions and employers issues that affect trading standards, common procurement and so on. It is important to recognise the areas in which there is European co-operation. Common standards cover equipment, which unfortunately is outside the scope of the Bill. Such standards have certainly been imposed as a result of the Data Protection Act 1998, the Human Rights Act 1998, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, the working time directive and the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981, all of which emanated in full or in part from the European Union.

Standards of training and of selection are infinitely superior in some European countries. Under the amendment, the regulatory authority and the Home Office would be obliged to take into account conditions that have passed into law within Europe, including the ability of a qualification in one country to be recognised in another. I was reminded by my friend, Peter Jones, who has been helping me over the past 25 years in the regulation of private security, of the case in which one Amos took the Italian Government to court—a risky undertaking in the circumstances—and obliged them to recognise his private investigation qualification.

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Prepared 26 April 2001