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Session 2005 - 06
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Standing Committee Debates

Draft Private Security Industry Act 2001 (Amendments to Schedule 2) Order 2006

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. Greg Pope
Bryant, Chris (Rhondda) (Lab)
Campbell, Mr. Alan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
Clegg, Mr. Nick (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD)
Coaker, Mr. Vernon (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)
Fabricant, Michael (Lichfield) (Con)
Gwynne, Andrew (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
Hall, Mr. Mike (Weaver Vale) (Lab)
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab)
Hollobone, Mr. Philip (Kettering) (Con)
Hunter, Mark (Cheadle) (LD)
Hurd, Mr. Nick (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con)
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah (Portsmouth, North) (Lab)
Maples, Mr. John (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con)
Mercer, Patrick (Newark) (Con)
Stoate, Dr. Howard (Dartford) (Lab)
Touhig, Mr. Don (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op)
Ussher, Kitty (Burnley) (Lab)
John Benger, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

Second Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

Monday 3 July 2006

[Mr. Greg Pope in the Chair]

Draft Private Security Industry Act 2001 (Amendments to Schedule 2) Order 2006

4.30 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Vernon Coaker): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Private Security Industry Act 2001 (Amendments to Schedule 2) Order 2006.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr. Pope. Since 1 March 2004, we have been rolling out the licensing of the private security industry under the Private Security Industry Act 2001, which started with door supervisors or bouncers and then moved on to wheel clampers. On 20 March this year, licensing by the Security Industry Authority became compulsory for all manned guards who work under contract. The licensing of manned guards does not, in the main, affect manned guards employed in-house, except in specific circumstances, such as when in-house staff are supplied by their employer under contract or when they supervise contracted staff.
Crown employees who hold office and undertake security activities, such as police officers and prison officers, are not within the scope of the 2001 Act and are not therefore subject to regulation by the SIA. However, it recently became clear that the legislation had the unforeseen effect of including in its scope those security guards who undertook manned guarding activities while working under contract in prisons, immigration centres, as prisoner escorts and in a number of similar areas under the control of the police and prison authorities.
Early this year, my officials began work on an affirmative order to remove those groups from the scope of the 2001 Act. However, that took longer than expected, and there was insufficient time for the order to be debated and brought into force before 20 March. It was therefore necessary to use an alternative route to remove those people from the scope of the 2001 Act to avoid unintentionally criminalising them. That was achieved by laying a negative resolution statutory instrument, which came into force on 20 March. However, despite the fact that the individuals are now removed from the scope of the 2001 Act, we considered that the decision to remove them from the licensing requirement would benefit from scrutiny by both Houses, which is why we undertook in March to lay this affirmative order as soon as possible.
Since then, we have consulted widely throughout the Government and have identified additional groups of people who should not fall within the scope of the 2001 Act. Those groups include some in-house staff who work as police community support officers or as part of the British Transport police, the ports police and the civil nuclear constabulary. Those groups of in-house staff are caught only in certain limited circumstances, such as when they are supplied by their employer under contract or when they supervise contractors.
It was never the intention that those police staff and constables of certain constabularies should be covered by the 2001 Act. That was the result of an unforeseen legislative anomaly, which we are now seeking to correct. They are not private security staff, but uniformed police staff with statutory powers, and there is no difference between the screening and training that they receive and that of their police colleagues, who, by virtue of being Crown servants and office holders, are not within the scope of the 2001 Act.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): I follow the logic of what the Minister is saying—indeed, I agree with it—but he has said that the order is the result of an unforeseen consequence. In what way was the consequence unforeseen? Should we have been able to see it, or did the circumstances change in a way that could not have been foreseen?
Mr. Coaker: If I could foresee the unforeseen, that would be a fair point.
On a serious note, we are rectifying the legislative consequences of the 2001 Act, and the order clarifies a number of other matters of scope. The 2001 Act currently covers the activities of attaching a wheel clamp to or of restricting or removing a vehicle that is somewhere other than on a public road. The wording of the 2001 Act raises doubts whether it catches those who remove a clamp, release a vehicle or charge or collect a fee in isolation, and the order clarifies that all those activities are licensable.
The order also removes from the scope of the wheel-clamping and vehicle removal provisions the activities of certain bailiffs and those who tow away abandoned vehicles on behalf of the police or local authorities. It further clarifies that manned guarding activities on certain licensed premises constitute door supervision activities that are fully licensable for in-house staff only when they are undertaken at times when alcohol is being supplied or when regulated entertainment is being provided. Finally, it removes CCTV activities performed in relation to licensed premises from the activities amounting to door supervision activities that are fully licensable for in-house staff.
When the order was laid, it was to impact only on England and Wales, as the 2001 Act had that limited territorial extent. However, between the laying and the making of the order, the 2001 Act will be commenced in Scotland, so the order will now impact on Scotland, too. I commend the order to the Committee.
4.36 pm
Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Pope, and opposite my Nottinghamshire colleague, the Minister, who has put his case so articulately. That said, the anomalies to which he has referred and the oversights in relation to various pieces of legislation have, despite the negative resolution order of March this year, caused considerable difficulty and hardship in the private security industry. Indeed, the confusion caused by the 2001 Act has, in some cases, led to CCTV circuits not being manned, thus materially damaging security in general and counter-terrorist measures in particular. I am grateful to the Minister for the introduction of the negative resolution order and the affirmative resolution order, but this order is long overdue, because the operation of the 2001 Act has caused real problems and heartache in the private security industry and impacted seriously on the level of security.
In these times of heightened risk, I am sure that the Minister agrees that it is important to correct the anomaly, but why has it taken so long? Also, I notice that
“manned guarding activities carried out in relation to a licensed premises...are only subject to additional controls when they are carried out at a time when alcohol is being served for consumption on those premises or when entertainment is being provided.”
Will he guarantee the Committee that that provision is practical, that it will not founder in a mountain of bureaucracy, that people, especially bouncers or club security officers—call them what you will—plus of course their managers, who depend so heavily on those individuals for a proper and regulated industry, will be able to make sense of it on the ground and that it will work when the order comes into force?
Will the Minister clarify one final point? I have received a lot of post from CCTV operators about the restrictions placed on them by the 2001 Act. Will he clarify that the measure will not affect CCTV operators throughout the country?
4.38 pm
Mark Hunter (Cheadle) (LD): May I, too, say what a pleasure it is to contribute to the debate under your chairmanship, Mr. Pope? Many of the groups of people to whom the order refers deal with highly sensitive activities, as I am sure that the Minister will acknowledge. Staff who are employed in prisons or who work for the police, the immigration authorities and so on are responsible for dealing with incredibly difficult situations and require a high level of training and professionalism to carry out their work as effectively as possible. I would therefore be grateful if the Minister were to assure me in greater detail about the checks and training that such staff will have to undertake instead of qualifying for a licence. If, for example, I were to apply for a job with a private security firm that had a contract with the Home Office to administer an immigration facility, what checks would I need to go through and what training could I expect to receive?
Hon. Members will be acutely aware of the repercussions when the staff of institutions such as prisons fall short of the high standards of care that we all expect them to provide. It would send a very poor message indeed if, barely a week after the publication of the report on Zahid Mubarek, the Government were seen to relax in any way the rules governing those who work in the Prison Service. I am sure that that is not the case, so I hope that the Minister will take this opportunity to offer wider assurances.
The order applies to staff engaged in work outside the public sector, such as door staff. Although we retain a tough line on licensing people who supervise the door where alcohol and entertainment are offered, it is reasonable that there should be some flexibility on the range of other activities where door supervisors are involved, and I see no problem with that.
I warmly welcome steps to speed up the removalof abandoned vehicles. Abandoned vehicles are an eyesore for local people and damage the environment, and they can attract vandalism and other sorts of antisocial behaviour, so anything that makes it easier for local authorities and the police to remove genuinely abandoned vehicles is to be commended. We should also make it clear that people who are employed to clamp vehicles and remove them from illegal parking remain subject to the licensing regime.
With such assurances from the Minister, I would be happy to support the order, which appears to strike the right balance between protecting the public and, in particular, vulnerable people, which I am sure is its intent, while allowing business to perform its duties without undue interference.
4.41 pm
Mr. Coaker: I thank hon. Members for their constructive contribution to the debate and their general welcome for the order. A lot of preparatory work had to be done to get to this point, such as setting up the Security Industry Authority and moving the date to 20 March, but we have introduced the order as soon as possible to rectify the situation.
The hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) asked whether the distinction will be workable. If alcohol is being served, door supervisors will need a licence, and the same will apply if entertainment is being provided; otherwise, a manned guarding licence will be needed.
The hon. Gentleman also raised an important point about the CCTV criteria, which we developed over a considerable period in consultation with the industry, including with the CCTV user group. We believe that we have struck the right balance and have worked with the industry to deal with the problem, so I hope that reassures him.
I agree wholeheartedly with the point made bythe hon. Member for Cheadle (Mark Hunter) about the removal of abandoned vehicles. The way in which the order clarifies the situation will benefit all our communities and constituencies, and I thank him for making that point.
The hon. Gentleman also made a point about training, but the various police staff were never intended to be covered by the 2001 Act. The primary point of the order is to remove people who were inadvertently caught in the scope of the 2001 Act. However, we are not talking about private security staff but, in most cases, uniformed police staff with statutory powers. In that sense, there is no difference between the screening and training that they receive and that which is received by their police colleagues, who are already outside the scope of the 2001 Act. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman about screening and training.
With those brief comments, I hope that hon. Members are reassured and that we can pass the order.
Question put and agreed to.
The Committee rose at sixteen minutes to Five o’clock.

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