Private Security Industry Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Ian Stewart (Eccles): My hon. Friend should rest assured that the trade unions are probably better equipped to sort out such problems. The Transport and General Workers Union and its sister union the GMB have a long history of being able to decide which of them would be appropriate. That should not be a problem.

Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is right. I, too, have attended drinks parties hosted jointly by the GMB and the TGWU at which such matters have been sorted out amicably and effectively—earlier or later in the evening, according to the difficulty of the problem. It is a tribute to the trade union movement that it can resolve such problems. Consumers are represented by the National Consumer Council or the Consumers Association, but they are different types of body—that is another non-trivial question. I do not cavil at the word ``representative'', but it is not quite the right way to go about it—a fact that is implied by the different formulations of amendments Nos. 6 and 52.

Mr. Hughes: I hope that the Minister noticed the other distinction between the amendments. Amendment No. 52 would impose a requirement:

    ``The Secretary of State shall ensure that''.

Amendment No. 6 states that the Secretary of State

    ``shall have due regard to the desirability of''.

My amendment would be tighter. Whatever the number of members above six, six of them will come from the six sectors mentioned in the amendment.

Mr. Clarke: I hear the point, and I note the distinction, but I shall come in a moment to another that is at least as important.

Mr. Bercow: I am a little perturbed, as most of us must be, that the Minister, probably inadvertently, should have outed himself by saying that he attended joint drinks parties of the TGWU and the GMB. It is a distinctly old Labour characteristic. That might explain the otherwise inexplicable absence of his name from articles by two respected political journalist in The Sun and the Daily Mail—respectively, Mr. Trevor Kavanagh and Mr. David Hughes. He did not feature in their recent speculation about imminent promotions.

Mr. Clarke: All I can say is that the hon. Gentleman's efforts to promote me must have ensured that any speculation about me was removed from consideration. I am delighted that that is so, and I thank him for the work that he has done to achieve it. I have always described myself as modernising old Labour.

The more substantive distinction between the amendments is serious and revealing. Amendment No. 6 reflects a powerful and important argument, which my right hon. Friend has made not only in Committee but on the Floor of the House. The final phrase of the amendment states:

    ``and that no single interest will predominate''.

The thrust of my right hon. Friend's argument—he will correct me if I misunderstand him—has been that the independence and autonomy of the authority is a critical factor in its successfully carrying out its functions under the legislation. It is significant that that phrase does not occur in amendment No. 52. I agree that that amendment, with its tighter definitions, would have a rounded effect, and I do not charge the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey with a deliberate attempt to take us away from independence.

The same cannot be said of amendment No. 31, however, which was tabled by the Conservatives. It does not list the private security industry, the police service, the employees' interest and so on, as the other amendments do. It simply relates to the police and the private security industry. A major thrust of the debate has been that bodies other than the police and the private security industry should be represented on the authority.

The Government are absolutely determined that the body will be independent, and that no single interest will predominate on it. I am at one with the spirit of amendment No. 6, which argues a critical position. However, that is in opposition to amendment No. 31, which refers to only two important parts of the ``family'' with which we are trying to deal.

I make the general argument for rejecting all the amendments on grounds of flexibility. That has been especially contested by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. However, I have two specific arguments. The first is about the difficulty of establishing such a representative process. It would be undesirable for the authority to be seen as representative and nominated in such a way, because we want it to be, in effect, an executive body. The increase in its effectiveness will go with ensuring that we pick the right people to carry that through. The second argument is about the single interest predominating. My right hon. Friend deserves credit for the fact that only his amendment, No. 6, pays specific attention to that. I hope that hon. Members will vote against amendment No. 31, if the hon. Member for Surrey Heath presses it to a vote—he implied that he would try to—because it does not do so.

Mr. Hughes: My amendment and that of the right hon. Member for Walsall, South set out six categories of people. Does the Minister regard it as necessary or useful for people with that relevant experience or background to be included, to ensure that there is more than mere abstract representation? What guarantee is there that the authority will not be composed of the great and good, as others are? For example, the long process for the people's peers ended up with exactly the sort of names from the top shelf that we would have had with no process at all.

Mr. Clarke: The people's peers were appointed under a different process. We do not propose to nominate any hairdressers. There is a serious point. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking me to commit to inclusion of all the groups that have been mentioned in amendments Nos. 6 and 52. I commit to that, absolutely and without qualification. All the interests have a direct part to play and cover exactly the range of people that we would consider when establishing a direct body.

On the point about the people's peers, it may be appropriate to appoint a door steward to the group, rather than necessarily someone from a trade union. It is more likely that one would consider the latter, but I can see an argument for one or two members of the authority having direct and immediate experience of carrying out such responsibilities.

Mr. Stewart: Lay trade unionists.

Mr. Clarke: As my hon. Friend says, some members could be lay trade unionists rather than trade union officials. I commit to the range of interests and experience on the authority that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey wants. It is critical that it has that, so that it has the independence that my right hon. Friend has argued for throughout the process.

However, I ask my right hon. Friend to think about the word ``representative''. It is a difficult word in the context of how one deals with the issues, not only for employees but in all other aspects. For example, it may be better to have someone from a private security company rather than someone from the trade association, in certain circumstances. I do not say anything on the subject trivially.

I hope that hon. Members will not press the amendments to a vote and will accept my arguments and the assurances that I have tried to give. In the event that they do press them, I will ask my colleagues to vote against them.

Mr. George: I knew that my luck could not last that long. I scored perhaps one goal and hit the woodwork with my last shot, which was a speculative effort from 50 yards. I understand what the Minister said. Mine was a probing amendment, and the Home Office will ultimately decide the issue. I accept that the word ``representative'' is perhaps inappropriate.

5.45 pm

My perspective over the years has been that the security industry has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the point of regulation. I have always been of the view that its members would be more likely to endorse statutory regulation by a regulatory authority, which most of them resisted and some still do, if they felt that their voice would at least be seriously listened to. The industry is fragmented, but a three-year period of office would mean that its different sectors would realise that their turn would come and that they would have the opportunity at least to comment on the serious issues of the day that affected them. In that sense, I am reasonably happy with what the Minister said.

The Minister's comments have also reassured me that my nightmare scenario will not become a reality. I want the private security industry to be represented, but I do not want it to become the regulatory authority as it transfers from self-regulation to statutory regulation, and I am assured that that will not happen. I do not want members of the industry to provide one of their own from the list of the great and the good. Such a person could influence events directly or, more likely, indirectly, particularly in the second term, when the Home Office's influence declines somewhat. That would be a disaster because people would say that nothing had changed and that self-regulation had been transformed into statutory self-regulation. The Minister is aware of those criteria. I look forward to seeing who is chosen as chairman, who the board members are and what bodies they derive from, if not represent.

I do not mind withdrawing the amendment, because I never thought that it was likely to be incorporated into the Bill. However, I have got the point over and I have been considerably reassured that my nightmare will not become a reality. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 31, in page 20, line 10, at end insert—

    `(4)(a) At least one of the members appointed by the Secretary of State shall be a person whom the Secretary of State considers to represent the interests of the police in England and Wales; and

    (b) At least one of the members appointed by the Secretary of State shall be a person whom the Secretary of State considers to represent the interests of the private security industry in England and Wales.'.—[Mr. Hawkins.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 11.

Division No. 7]

Bercow, Mr. John
Hawkins, Mr. Nick
Hughes, Mr. Simon
Lilley, Mr. Peter
Simpson, Mr. Keith

Clarke, Mr. Charles
George, Mr. Bruce
Hall, Mr. Mike
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.

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