Private Security Industry Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Clarke: I shall pass on those remarks to my colleagues.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 17

Imposition of requirements for approval

Mr. Bruce George: I shall not move Amendment No. 5.

During a number of votes on amendments, Committee Members might have heard my strangulated cries—the small sounds of rebellion. When Fred Mulley, a former Secretary of State for Defence, was asked in 1979 whether he was in favour of nuclear weapons, he said that he was intellectually opposed but institutionally in favour. To reverse that process, I am intellectually supportive of, but institutionally opposed to, many of the amendments that have been discussed this morning. The arguments given by my hon. Friend the Minister are not strong. However, there is no point in pursuing the amendment, because his views are set, at least until the SIA comes up with a better proposal. I find the idea that a company is not an entity unacceptable. Under the Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001, the company itself must be licensed in addition to the individuals concerned. There are many examples of companies being so regulated. The idea that they can be excluded from that, and that a good company should get a kite mark of approval for being good, is laughable. I hope that my view—which is, I suspect, that of many others—will be acceptable in future.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman need not seek the Committee's leave to withdraw the amendment, as he chose not to move it. Those were his opening words.

Mr. Bercow rose—

The Chairman: Is this a point of order, Mr. Bercow, or do you wish to speak in the clause 17 stand part debate?

Mr. Bercow: I should be much obliged if I could do so.

The Chairman: You can indeed.

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

Mr. Bercow: Your natural tolerance invariably gets the better of you, Mr. Winterton, whatever the intention with which you began our proceedings.

I want to refer to subsection (1) of the clause. I shall be characteristically moderate, restrained and understated in my criticism.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Shame.

Mr. Bercow: I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's sedentary encouragement.

First, suffice to say that the subsection is mildly circumlocutory. In 43 words, it appears to say that the Secretary of State will be able to prohibit categories of individuals from the provision of private security industry services unless they have been approved under clause 15. Can the Minister explain the need for a cut-across between clauses 15 and 17?

Secondly, as the Minister would expect me to do as surely as the passage of the seasons, I make my habitual inquiry as to whether the regulations referred to in subsection (1) will be subject to the negative or the affirmative procedure.

Mr. Simon Hughes: On Second Reading and earlier in this Committee, I asked the right hon. Member for Walsall, South what his preconditions are for agreeing to the Bill. Given that it has not yet been significantly amended on the crucial issues, and that the right hon. Gentleman has told us that he is intellectually persuaded by the need to amend it, I assume that if we reach Report stage today—

The Chairman: Order. I must say to the hon. Gentleman, who has legal qualifications, that the matter he is raising does not relate to clause 17. He tried hard, but I shall not permit him to proceed.

Mr. Charles Clarke: To be frank, the questions from the hon. Member for Buckingham were so penetrating that I would have welcomed the opportunity not to answer them—you standing between me and him is something that I could have lived with, Mr. Winterton.

In answer to the first question from the hon. Gentleman, negative resolution procedure will be used in this case. On the relationship between clauses 15 and 17, I am somewhat confused by his question. Clause 15 deals with the arrangements for the grant of approvals and clause 17 empowers the Secretary of State to establish regulations that extend across the legislation, which is why clause 17 relates to clause 15. I may have misunderstood his point, in which case I shall try to answer it more clearly. The purpose of the juxtaposition of those two clauses is to ensure that there is a relationship between the Secretary of State deciding whether or not to lay down regulations and the operation that exists under clause 15.

Mr. Bercow: The Minister's explanation is entirely satisfactory on this occasion. However, in view of his remarks, it is arguable that the contents of clause 17 could have been contained within clause 15, which may explain my quizzical tone.

Mr. Clarke: One day I hope to achieve the esteemed office of parliamentary counsel, at which point I shall engage in those kinds of discussions.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 19

Powers of entry and inspection

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

Mr. Bruce George: I should like some advice. While the Committee has so far lost 22-0 in terms of amendments proposed and accepted, the House of Lords did fractionally better. One of the few amendments that it secured was the nonsense in clause 19(3) that inspections can be undertaken only at a ``reasonable hour''. Bearing in mind that we are discussing some of the biggest rogues in the kingdom, if we want to bust them by inspecting their premises to see whether they are doing anything illegal and whether they are undertaking the task that they said that they would, the idea that only a visit at a reasonable hour will be permitted is absolute nonsense. I cannot see how, out of all the amendments that were submitted by their noble lordships, that piece of stupidity managed to slip through the system.

My next point—although I doubt whether I shall be able to make it—is that there will be a multitude of inspectorates. When the Minister chooses an inspectorate, I ask him to be careful to ensure that it is genuinely independent. I hope that I have his assurance on that matter

I cannot understand the idea in the White Paper that there will be only 10 inspectors—one chief and nine ordinary inspectors. That would be enough for my constituency only. The Gaming Board has 35 inspectors who monitor the 5,000 staff who work in 118 casinos and bingo houses. If we are to have a proper inspectorate monitoring the industry, 10 inspectors is clearly a fraction of what is needed. I hope that I shall receive assurances later this afternoon that it will not be a joke inspectorate, which is what 10 inspectors would make it.

The Chairman: Order. If the right hon. Member for Walsall, South wants to continue his speech at 4.30 pm, I shall certainly call him.

It being One o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

        Adjourned till this day at half-past Four o'clock.

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

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