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Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 11A:

(k) he is required in the course of his employment to engage in licensable conduct falling within paragraph (b)").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 11A, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 52A. They have only one thing in common; they deal with issues in respect of which the Government have completely reversed their thinking.

As regards Amendment No. 11A, the Government stated in their White Paper that the provisions of the Bill are to include in-house directly employed security personnel. They added that:

    "The Government believes that to exclude in-house security personnel from the scope of licensing would create an unacceptable loophole and reduce confidence in the system".

I took up that matter during the Second Reading debate. In reply, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, stated that the Government had changed their thinking since publication of the White Paper, further stating:

    "In-house guards are vetted by employers and we see no need to add a further layer of bureaucracy".--[Official Report, 18/1/01; col. 600.]

Therefore, the reason for changing from an unacceptable loophole reducing confidence in the system to the Government's present position was simply because employers vet their employees.

That misses the point entirely. The whole purpose of the Bill is to ensure that those who engage in security work are properly vetted and trained and have the necessary skills and ability to deal with the public which will enable them to carry out their tasks properly.

If people are simply vetted and then engaged by an employer, who may or may not know anything about the provisions of this Bill or check the skills and training of those individuals, almost certainly a loophole will be created. Through that loophole can creep undesirable people. Firms will believe that they have engaged individuals who can carry out the functions of security guards but they will be deceived. In the end, what is achieved is a two-tier system whereby those who are employed by security firms are properly trained and have the necessary skills, and those who manage to creep into jobs with employers are not. I agree with the Government's original view that that is unacceptable and look forward to hearing the Minister's response.

I turn to Amendment No. 52A which deals with installers and so on. In paragraph 5.12 of the White Paper the Government state:

    "The lower end of the domestic market does not tend to be covered by these arrangements and although reputable companies do exist it is likely to be those that are most vulnerable who will be most at risk from unscrupulous operators".

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The White Paper goes on to make the very good point that,

    "Those who install or maintain alarms and CCTV systems have a unique opportunity to gain inside knowledge of the systems which could be used to facilitate or commit crimes".

I also raised that matter at Second Reading on the 18th December, and at col. 600 the Minister responded:

    "[The Government] take the view that that sector is already well regulated. It already has to meet high police and insurance standards and purposes. Also, it consists of many small businesses".

I cannot over-emphasise the current role of CCTV systems in dealing with crime. They have a central role in dealing with major criminal activity in this country. For much of the evidence adduced in court the role of CCTV is crucial in relation not merely to burglaries and break-ins but to violent scenes and so on. If a criminal gang infiltrates a CCTV managing system so that it controls what pictures are taken, retained and so on, big criminals, not small ones, will have an important opportunity to commit serious crime. As the White Paper originally suggested, I believe it is sensible that unscrupulous operators should be kept out of this field entirely. Those who are unlicensed and without the necessary skills, training, vetting and so on provided for by the Bill should not be allowed to offer their services to the general public. I look forward again to hearing the Minister's response. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that the Government have made an about-turn between the publication of the White Paper and the introduction of the Bill. However, unlike the noble Lord I believe that the Government are right to do so. Within the industry many large firms, trade associations and so on are keen that in this field both in-house operatives and those who fit alarms and deal with CCTV should be covered by the licensing system. The Bill, however, provides that only in-house door supervisors and wheelclampers, if a release fee is required, should be included, not those concerned with either alarms or CCTV.

I refer first to other in-house guards. One of the matters to be considered is what I term the "receptionist problem". Almost every business, professional firm or doctor's surgery has a receptionist of some kind at the front door who deals with visitors. From time to time, the receptionist, commissionaire or whoever it is, may have to deal with someone whose presence in the building is not welcome and fulfil guard-type duties. That may involve sending for others to assist in the process. We have heard a good deal recently about violence in hospitals, but it also occurs in health centres and doctors' premises. One of the difficulties is where one draws the line in relation to a person in that position who provides an element of guarding. That will vary from one doctor's practice to another. Some practices will be in inner-city areas where there are drug problems to which they will be much more susceptible. An individual who does that

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job will spend much more time engaged in that kind of activity, whereas in another area no such trouble may arise from one year's end to the next.

Where does one draw the line between the two? However, there must be a clear line because a licence is required. A person can be fined or sent to prison if he does not have a licence. The public and individuals are entitled to know whether or not a licence is required. Therefore, there is great difficulty in definition. In any case, I am temperamentally against regulation unless it is absolutely necessary. An enormous amount of legislation already affects firms of all sizes and to extend it further is something of which we should be very leery. I made that point at Second Reading and shall not labour it.

I do not believe that there is much difference between alarm companies and locksmiths. In each case someone comes to one's house or business premises and fits the necessary equipment, whether it be an alarm or lock of some kind, and leaves knowing the security precautions that have been taken. To a degree one needs to trust that those people will not misuse the information that they have gained. One can extend that to others who are not locksmiths but fit items that are to do with the security of premises. They may do the job incorrectly or pass on information. There is also a problem as to where one draws the line.

The position in relation to CCTV is a little clearer. We all know what we mean by it. However, I am not in favour of including something unless it is absolutely necessary. A firm or individual who hires a specialist organisation needs to be able to rely on the fact that it is up to the job and has proper standards. The Bill will provide that safeguard statutorily as opposed to the voluntary standards that apply now. I am not in favour of extending it further than is needed. Therefore, on this particular matter I prefer the Bill as drafted.

Lord Lane of Horsell: I declare an interest as a director of Reliance Security. Conceptually, I am very much in favour of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, but I believe that this is a matter of definition. If a suitable form of definition can be found to cover in-house security men--I slightly question whether it can--it should be explored very carefully.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, for tabling these amendments. It gives the Government the opportunity to explain why we have taken a different view, although some of these arguments were rehearsed at Second Reading. As the noble Lord said, in our White Paper we propose to regulate the whole of the manned guarding sector, including in-house staff.

However, we are a government who listen. We gave the matter further consideration. We concluded that to require all in-house staff to undergo what would effectively be two vetting processes by the employer and by the authority would add a largely unnecessary layer of bureaucracy on to business. Having heard

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comments today in your Lordships' House, it is plain that there is a fair measure of support for not going along that route.

In general, we believe that we can rely on companies satisfying themselves about the probity of their own, or potential, employees. However, it is also the case that the Bill seeks to regulate some in-house staff. Door supervisors and wheelclampers are sources of particular public concern. These operatives are in a different category. Door supervisors are in a position of authority, often with young people, and wheelclampers are in a position of considerable power over the owner of the vehicles they have immobilised and which only they can release. We therefore believe it is right to extend regulation to all those working in these sectors, the in-house employees as well as those supplying services under contract.

The noble Lord asked, why exclude the locksmiths and the alarm installers? He rightly said that in the White Paper we suggested they would be subject to regulation. We recognise that these industries wish to be included in our regulatory proposals. But we have decided not to include them for a number of reasons: first, there is no evident high level of criminality in either of these sectors. That is a widely accepted point.

Secondly, and this touches on what the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said, self-regulation has worked particularly well in the alarm installation sector due to the influence of the insurance industry and the police; for example, the police will not guarantee an immediate response to an alarm unless it has been fitted by a company approved by an ACPO recognised inspectorate. That makes a big difference.

Thirdly, there is a significant number of small businesses in this sector. We are conscious of the regulatory burden this might place on them and of the barrier to them expanding and developing their business.

Fourthly, the main focus of the Bill relates to those sectors of the industry where there is the biggest problem, particularly door supervisors and wheelclampers. Could the locksmiths and alarm installers be included later? We have established a flexible framework within which Parliament can include or exclude particular sectors of the industry according to perceived need.

We would prefer to get the SIA, the authority, up and running with the significant body of work the Bill already gives it and then make an assessment as to whether other categories, such as locksmiths and alarm installers, might be a priority for legislation. We are prepared to look at these matters at a later stage. We do not think that at this stage they are a priority. Therefore, we do not believe that they should be brought into the remit of the Bill. It is about getting the balance of regulation right. The Government do not want excessive regulation or to overly burden business. We believe that we have the balance right in this case.

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