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Private Security Industry (Approved Contractor Scheme)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): Following public consultation during the autumn, the Government have decided to introduce an Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) for the private security industry.

The ACS will include elements from two of the options in the consultation paper: Option 3, which would require companies to possess one or more of a list of specified existing standards, and Option 4 which would introduce a new standard defined by the Security Industry Authority. These two options were the most popular in the consultation, with over 90 per cent. of respondents expressing a preference for one of them. By adopting a mixture of the two, we will enable those firms that have already achieved an existing standard to take credit for that, without requiring smaller firms, in particular, to go through the same procedure.

There is still a lot of detail to be worked through. The detail of the scheme, including the fee structure, will be announced as soon as possible, so that companies are able to plan and prepare for the implementation date. The detail of the ACS will be subject to annual review. Companies approved under the scheme will be permitted to deploy a small proportion of their security personnel who are not yet licensed but have completed training and have an application pending. They will not be able to deploy unlicensed personnel on assignments that involve contact with children or vulnerable adults. This will ensure that those dealing with this particularly sensitive group have undergone, and satisfied any SIA requirements relating to a Criminal Records Bureau check.

The date on which it will become mandatory for manned guards to be licensed remains 20 March 2006. Licensing for door supervisors and vehicle immobilisers is already mandatory.


Buncefield Oil Depot Fire

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mrs. Anne McGuire): The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) is today announcing the appointment of the right hon. Lord Newton of Braintree as the independent chairman of the board supervising the investigation into the incident at the Buncefield oil depot on 11 December 2005.

The investigation board, set up by the HSC under powers set out in Section 14(2)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, will report to both HSC and the Environment Agency. As well as the board chair, it also includes two other independent members
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with relevant expertise: Professor Dougal Drysdale, one of the leading international authorities in Fire Safety Engineering and Dr. Peter Baxter, a consultant physician in occupational and environmental medicine. The board will also include three members of staff from the Environment Agency and HSE.

The Commission will publish the special report produced by the Investigation Board.

The HSC's decision to establish an investigation board highlights the severity of the incident and the degree of concern for people living close to the Buncefield site and to the local business community. It
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is determined to ensure the investigation is carried out thoroughly, objectively, transparently and concluded in a timely manner with its findings made public as soon as possible, subject to legal considerations.

HSC is an independent body of 10 people, appointed by the Secretary of State for Department for Work and Pensions, after consultation with organisations representing employers, employees, local authorities and others. HSC's primary function is to make arrangements to secure the health and safety of workers and the public in the way work activities are conducted; including proposing new law and standards, conducting research and providing information and advice.