Private Security Industry Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Hawkins: The Minister has, as I hoped, responded in an appropriately serious way. I hear what he says, but the problem is that one does not always choose, as he puts it, to work from home. Someone with a very small business, who works alone and has no substantial private means, might be unable to afford separate business premises and have no alternative to operating from home. Although I accept the point about the reference in subsection (4) to arrangements that the authority considers appropriate, there is a danger that it might make an exception only after a problem had been drawn to its attention. The trouble is that it would often be too late: by the time that the problem existed, the revenge attack would have already taken place. As the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey said, the whole register will probably be on the internet, and those who wants to commit grudge or revenge attacks on others need only press a few keys to find out their home address.

In the light of that concern, I want to press the matter to a vote.

Mr. Clarke: Will the hon. Gentleman clarify what he thinks should happen in the case of those whose operation is so small that they work only from home? Should they not give their address? Should it be handled confidentially and not made open?

Mr. Hawkins: My view, and that of my party, is that the authority needs to know the operational address, but it should not be given any publicity through an open register that would be on the internet.

Mr. Clarke: That clarifies the hon. Gentleman's position. If I said to him that I would be prepared to consider whether individuals working from home in that category could ask for their information not to be published under subsection (4), would that modify his approach to the amendment?

Mr. Hawkins: That is extremely helpful, and I hope that the Minister and his officials will continue to consider the matter and perhaps table an amendment on Report along those lines. If so, we would welcome the Government's change of heart. However, I still think that it would be useful, ``pour encourager les autres'', to vote on what is in the Bill. If the Government can subsequently improve on that through a Government amendment, as the Minister suggested, that would be of assistance.

Mr. Hughes: I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would say a little more to persuade me to support the amendment. If I am concerned that a Mr. Nick Hawkins, whom I have come across in a previous existence, is not the sort of person whom I would want to be given a licence for a particular job, and there are many Nick Hawkinses around—as I assume that there are—how will I know that the Mr. Nick Hawkins about whom I am concerned is the right one if I do not know his home address? If one just plucks an address out of the air that is nothing to do with one's home, that is obscuring the truth and putting people off being able to track down the very information that they need.

The Chairman: I call a Mr. Nick Hawkins.

Mr. Hawkins: The only parliamentary Mr. Nick Hawkins, Mr. Winterton.

As long as the authority has an individual's full details, if there is any inquiry to which it thinks it proper to respond, it can make its own decision. My worry is that a public register could be used by a person who wished to commit a grudge attack. For example, if he knows that there is a Mr. Simon Hughes who is a bouncer in the Southwark, North and Bermondsey area, he has only to push a couple of buttons on a computer keyboard and up comes that Mr. Simon Hughes's home address. The hon. Gentleman and I, and all those of us who have been involved in court cases, have seen the horrendous consequences of such grudge attacks—which happen far too often and sometimes have the most tragic consequences—and know that we need to protect people against them. Sadly, we are talking about an industry in which grudge attacks are not merely a possibility, but almost an inevitability. It is all too common for people to try to take revenge against bouncers.

I am grateful to the Minister for his response, but I wish to press the matter to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 3, Noes 12..

Division No. 5]

Bercow, Mr. John
Hawkins, Mr. Nick
Lilley, Mr. Peter

Clarke, Mr. Charles
George, Mr. Bruce
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hughes, Mr. Simon
Kennedy, Jane
Miller, Mr. Andrew
Pickthall, Mr. Colin
Prentice, Bridget
Stewart, Mr. Ian
Thomas, Mr. Gareth R.
Turner, Mr. Neil
Winterton, Ms Rosie

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Ian Stewart (Eccles): This excellent Bill addresses the statutory framework. It will set up regulatory authorities and give powers, where appropriate, to local authorities.

I have already referred to the importance of contractual matters in the maintenance of good standards. We have dealt with issues such as sick pay, training standards and proper employment contracts, and I would hope that when the regulatory bodies exercise their duties under the clause, they will look to those matters as well.

I want to discuss the philosophy behind the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South has adequately discussed the industry.

The Chairman: Order. I have listened extremely carefully to the hon. Gentleman. Clause 12 relates to the register of licences, and the philosophy behind the Bill is not relevant to it. Perhaps he will relate his remarks to the subject of the clause.

Mr. Stewart: Thank you for your advice, Mr. Winterton.

The register of licences, and the philosophy behind it, is extremely important. The learned contributions of my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South have been about the past. He referred to how the people whom we now prefer to call door stewards have been at the lower end of the scale and have not adhered to standards that the Committee would accept. Local authority licensing must be seen as having a more productive and civilised approach, involving women, for example. When physical contact is necessary, the intent should be about restraint and control, not about bouncing. That is the philosophy that should be behind licensing at that level.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 13

Licensing at local authority level

11.30 am

Mr. Hawkins: I beg to move amendment No. 29, in page 10, line 38, after `Authority', insert—

    `and the local authorities for the areas specified in the order'.

The amendment would require local authorities to be consulted, which is a matter about which we feel strongly. It has relevance to a local authority in my constituency, the leader and chief executive of which were amazed when they consulted the Home Office about an effective scheme for nightclub bouncers about 18 months ago, and the Home Office, instead of helping to answer some of the various queries, wrote back saying that they were not entitled to have such a scheme. That was a peculiar response, but I do not hold the Minister personally responsible for that.

A new system is being set up, and I am sure that the Minister and the Committee will agree that it is important for local authorities to liaise closely with the new authority. It would be useful to write into the Bill a requirement for close liaison and prior consultation.

Mr. Charles Clarke: I was rather surprised by the hon. Gentleman's example, because that is not the general stance that we try to take. Will he be good enough to give me a copy of the correspondence, so that I can look into the matter and respond in detail on his specific point?

Mr. Hawkins: I shall ensure that the Minister has all the details from the chief executive of the local authority. I took up the matter at the time, and one of the Minister's colleagues was good enough to say that it was not the normal response of the Home Office, as the Minister rightly said. Perhaps no one vetted a letter that was being sent to a local authority by an official rather than a Minister.

I was asked to raise the matter, but there is a wider point to make. That example merely showed where things can go wrong between the Home Office and local authorities under the current system. It is because local authorities will have an important role under the new structure that we felt that it would be helpful to have something written into the Bill. I hope that the Minister will say that he will keep the matter under review and discuss it with his officials. Even if he cannot accept our amendment today, I hope that he will table an amendment on Report.

Mr. Clarke: I ask the hon. Gentleman to reconsider the amendment because, with all respect, he has not fully understood the nature of the responsibility set out in the Bill. It establishes the Security Industry Authority as the central and authoritative body for the private security industry. The authority will have significant duties within the overall framework of its responsibility to the Secretary of State. It will have to consult local authorities about the delegation of its functions, as defined in the Bill, as they will be best placed to discuss the practicalities. The arrangements will be between the Security Industry Authority and local authorities.

I look forward to seeing the correspondence on the issue that the hon. Gentleman identified. It will always be possible and appropriate for a Member of Parliament to bring such matters to the attention of the relevant Minister. There is no sense in bypassing that procedure, and the Government will always want to assure themselves that delegations to local authorities have been properly prepared. It may be that the general liaison arrangements will be between central and local government and that matters will be discussed in a general way.

I want to emphasise that the prime responsibility for the process of delegation lies with the Security Industry Authority, which will discuss with local authorities, both individually and generally, how to proceed. We have discussed the general principle of consultation before, and I can assure the Committee that, as is normal, the Government will consult local authorities, the private security industry and all other interested parties about the details of the process. In fact, it was consultation that led to the White Paper that led to the Bill.

The consultation with local authorities that is the subject of the clause is primarily the responsibility of the SIA. That is why we make the distinction that we do in subsections (6) and (7). I hope that that clarifies the situation and that, on the basis of what I have said, the hon. Gentleman with withdraw the amendment.

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