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Session 2008 - 09
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Public Bill Committee Debates

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Dr. William McCrea
Blunkett, Mr. David (Sheffield, Brightside) (Lab)
Brown, Mr. Russell (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab)
Crabb, Mr. Stephen (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con)
Donaldson, Mr. Jeffrey M. (Lagan Valley) (DUP)
Engel, Natascha (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab)
Goggins, Paul (Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie (Bromsgrove) (Con)
Luff, Peter (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con)
McCarthy, Kerry (Bristol, East) (Lab)
McGrady, Mr. Eddie (South Down) (SDLP)
Marris, Rob (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab)
Moffatt, Laura (Crawley) (Lab)
Reid, Mr. Alan (Argyll and Bute) (LD)
Robertson, Mr. Laurence (Tewkesbury) (Con)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham, South) (Lab)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) (Lab)
Gosia McBride, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

Seventh Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 4 November 2009

[Dr. William McCrea in the Chair]

Draft Private Security Industry Act 2001 (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2009
2.30 pm
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Paul Goggins): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Private Security Industry Act 2001 (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2009.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to consider the draft Private Security Industry Act 2001 (Amendments to Schedule 2) Order 2009.
Paul Goggins: I warmly welcome you to the Chair, Dr. McCrea. The first draft order was laid before the House on 21 May 2009.
The Committee will be familiar with the work of the Security Industry Authority in regulating the private security industry in Great Britain. Extending the regulatory arrangements to Northern Ireland under the SIA will represent a major step forward, both for the industry and for the wider community. Our overarching aim is to reduce wrongdoing in the private security industry by protecting people from crime and increasing public confidence.
The majority of activities regulated by the 2001 Act in relation to England and Wales and to Scotland will be designated in Northern Ireland from December 2009. I have agreed to one temporary exception—the designation of in-house door supervisors, who will not be required to be licensed until April 2010. I made that decision after listening to the concerns raised by the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee established to consider this legislation. I agree that individuals in that position should have more time to be licensed.
The draft orders will ensure that Northern Ireland can benefit from regulation that is consistent and appropriate not only for Northern Ireland, but for the whole UK. The technical amendments contained in the draft orders are needed to ensure that the 2001 Act takes account of Northern Ireland legislation, and operates in Northern Ireland as it does in the rest of the UK.
Let me deal first with the draft Private Security Industry Act 2001 (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2009. The first amendment relates to an exemption for those working in certain sports grounds from any requirement to hold a licence under the Act. The exemption does not apply in Northern Ireland, as it is defined by the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 and the Fire Safety and Places of Sport Act 1987, neither of which extends to Northern Ireland. The amendment will extend the exemption to Northern Ireland by adding references to the equivalent Northern Ireland legislation—the Safety of Sports Grounds (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.
The second amendment relates to schedule 2 to the 2001 Act, which lists the various activities covered by the Act, one of which is the work of door supervisors or other security personnel in licensed premises. The amendment will add references to licensed premises in Northern Ireland, ensuring that door supervisors in Northern Ireland will be subject to the same licensing requirements as apply to door supervisors working in the rest of the UK.
The purpose of the second order is to amend schedule 2 to the 2001 Act to take account of Northern Ireland legislation by adding a number of new exceptions to the licensing regime and amending the definitions of roads, local authorities and licensed premises used in the schedule. In common with the first order, the effect will be that the licensing regime under the Act will operate in Northern Ireland as it does in the rest of the UK.
In particular, the order will ensure that the requirement to hold a licence does not catch certain prison or police-related activities carried out in Northern Ireland, or certain activities carried out by those acting for local authorities, a Northern Ireland Department or the Northern Ireland Court Service. It will also limit the requirement that certain door supervisors working in licensed premises hold an SIA licence to cover only those times when alcohol is being sold or entertainment is taking place.
Moreover, the order will ensure that those working as door supervisors in licensed premises that are used for bingo, theatrical performances or showing films are not required to hold a door supervisor licence. It will also make a minor technical amendment to ensure that the definitions of roads and local authorities in schedule 2 are correct for Northern Ireland.
The private security sector is one that many of us rely on for our personal safety and for the security of our property, business or possessions. SIA regulation is tried, tested and robust. Introducing it to Northern Ireland in a way that is consistent with the rest of the UK can successfully discourage criminal activity in the industry and provide further opportunities for local companies in Northern Ireland. The minor and technical amendments proposed to the 2001 Act in the statutory instruments before the Committee will ensure appropriate and proportionate consistency. I commend the measures to the Committee.
2.35 pm
Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): May I welcome you to the Chair, Dr. McCrea? I am happy for the two orders to be taken together, having received your prior assurance that if there were to be votes, they would be taken separately. I do not intend to call a vote. I do not even intend to discuss the orders at any length, other than to say that they seem very sensible. I thank the Minister for allowing me access to his officials to learn about the details of these matters and to discuss them. I do not see the point in detaining the Committee any longer.
2.36 pm
Mr. Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): I welcome you to the Chair, Dr. McCrea. I, too, welcome the orders, which propose some minor and sensible changes that will allow the security industry to work effectively in Northern Ireland. I have one or two questions for the Minister—not about the wording of the order; I am content with that—about implementation.
Is the Minister satisfied that the SIA will be able to cope with the additional work load that will come its way as a result of the extension to Northern Ireland? Will there be any additional short-term funding to help it? The Assembly report recommended slowing down the process of extending the scheme to Northern Ireland. Do the Government still intend to press on with implementation in December? Is the Minister confident that that target date can be met?
One of the Assembly Committee’s major concerns was the high cost of obtaining a licence for door staff. The cost of the licence will increase to £245, compared with the £30 charge under the current local arrangements. The Assembly report said that
“we feel that it is unwise to make decisions on the basis of such disputed information and that this argues further for a slow down in decision making until a fuller consideration of these issues has taken place.”
It went on:
“The Committee in the time scale available has not been able to make a judgment on whether the local schemes are comparable in terms of quality with the SIA delivered arrangements.”
Given the concerns on costs—that is obviously very important for businesses in the current economic situation—has the Minister considered a delay in implementation to allow the Assembly to investigate the matter fully?
One point made by the Assembly was that there was not sufficient time to scrutinise the order because of the different recess times of this Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. For part of the 60-day period, the Northern Ireland Assembly was in recess, which raises an important point. In future—no matter which Government are in power—could the 60-day period be arranged so that the Assembly is not in recess? It is important that the Assembly have 60 days to consider the matter, as opposed to a 60-day period in which this House is sitting. I hope the Minister can give us assurances on those issues. However, as far as the orders are concerned, I am content with the wording.
2.39 pm
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down) (SDLP): Once again, Dr. McCrea, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.
We are debating fairly transparent legislation. I have already been put to shame by the contribution of Opposition Members; such brevity makes one embarrassed to continue at all. However, I wish to make one or two points, including on some things have already been raised by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute.
There was dissatisfaction in the Northern Ireland Assembly that its work was pre-empted, given the imposition of the 60-day consultation period. I think that it was justified in having ruffled feathers, although you, Dr. McCrea, and the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley will know more than me about the extent to which your feathers were ruffled. The Minister has tried to smooth those ruffled feathers by giving the lovely context of his hope that, in the fullness of time, the ad hoc committee dealing with this will acknowledge that local issues would be treated tenderly and devotedly by the Minister. I am not sure that the list he gave in his speech forms part of that love in, but this is a serious matter because there are many differences in terms of culture and sport between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Another point to consider—I shall address it only briefly because it has been touched on—is the impact for stakeholders and the financial implications of what is going to take place. The Northern Ireland Office has revisited the current fee structure and it is estimated that the cost of the licence itself—I have a letter to this effect from the Minister by the way—would be £500 per applicant. There are then the costs of designated training, which are estimated at £2,500 per person. If one adds the fee to the training, it is £3,000 per person. Many of our organisations and societies simply could not afford that—not even in good times and certainly not in the current economic situation. I fear a knock-on that would deter legitimate bodies and groups from seeking a proper licence because of the cost. We could get into a black market in which people provide a cheap service off the record. Even worse, the limited number of licensees will, because of the closed market, presumably be able to charge much enhanced fees for their services.
I would like to hear the clarification for which the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute asked about the closing date. We have two at the minute: one is December 2009 and the other is April 2010. People in Northern Ireland are not clear about the situation. The Minister gave some indication that bouncers, if I may use that term, would not be required to be licensed until April. Are there any other provisions, or is the whole thing extended to April? What has been the uptake to date regarding the designated training and establishments? Can there be implementation in Northern Ireland by December? I would be sceptical about that, so will the Minister address that point?
Finally, there is a requirement on companies that have multiple directors—every company must have at least two—for all directors of a company providing such security industry services to be trained and licensed. Normal practice is that one director, or one senior person, should have responsibility to the company board, or whatever it is, for implementation or being trained. Are we saying that all a company’s directors—there could be four or five—must be trained in this way at a cost of £3,000 each? While I greatly welcome the general thrust of the proposal, I would like the Minister to clarify points about administration and costs.
2.44 pm
Mr. Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak briefly in the debate and I welcome you to the Chair, Dr. McCrea.
We have long supported the principle that, when appropriate, legislation that applies for the regulation of matters such as the security industry should be uniform across the United Kingdom. We welcome the fact that these orders bring Northern Ireland into line with the regime that applies in Great Britain, which means that we will have a uniform regime across the UK. That will be beneficial for the regulation of the security industry.
We also welcome the fact that those who carry out activities regulated by the 2001 Act will be required to have a licence from the Security Industry Authority. The consultation responses on the draft orders reflect the broad support of the security industry in the Province.
The Minister referred to the report prepared by a Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Clearly he has taken account of at least some aspects of that report in respect of the orders. I declare an interest as a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Co-operation with the devolved legislature is important for the regulation of such activities, coming, as it does, in advance of the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Assembly, whenever that might happen.
Right hon. and hon. Members will be aware that there have been problems in the past, although not recently, with paramilitary involvement in the private security industry in Northern Ireland. Some of the paramilitary organisations on both sides of the political divide sought to exploit the non-regulation of the private security industry to launder some of their ill-gotten gains through apparently legitimate businesses. That practice has either come to an end or is coming to an end.
The orders will certainly strengthen the capacity of the police and the SIA to ensure that paramilitaries are not exploiting loopholes that enable them to engage in criminal and illegal activities using the cover of apparently lawful business enterprises. The regulation of the private security industry is important in that respect. This is not just about the principle of parity, because the legislation will also help to deal with a problem that was specific to Northern Ireland, which is something that we very much welcome.
I have just one query—it is really curiosity more than anything else. Perhaps the answer is obvious but I hope the Minister will guide the Committee. He mentioned that there will be a requirement for door supervisors to have an SIA licence in licensed premises in Northern Ireland, but only in circumstances when alcohol is being sold or entertainment is taking place. What types of activities will not be covered by the need for an SIA licence for door supervisors in licensed premises? How did the Minister reach the conclusion that a distinction should be drawn between one set of activities and another when it comes to dealing with the regulation of private industry companies that provide security in licensed premises in Northern Ireland?
I welcome both the orders. I am happy to support them and I look forward to the Minister’s response.
2.48 pm
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