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Lord Thomas of Gresford: I believe that an important matter of principle has arisen in relation to these amendments. The Government are not being consistent here. On reading Clause 18(3), which deals with entry, inspection and information, a person is guilty of an offence under that clause if he "intentionally obstructs any person" or,

Furthermore, Clause 20(1) states that,

    "A person is guilty of an offence if for any purposes connected with the carrying out by the Authority of any of its functions under this Act--

    (a) he makes any statement to the Authority which he knows to be false in a material particular; or

    (b) he recklessly makes any statement to the Authority which is false in a material particular".

It appears that some of the offences which can be committed under the provisions of the Bill will be absolute--if you are found guilty you are liable to be sent to prison, even if you were acting with a completely innocent mind and had no idea that a licence was required for what you are doing. That is wrong.

There is no consistency in the Bill because mens rea is required for other offences. The problem is therefore highlighted. I would ask the Government to think again on this point because I shall certainly return to it at a later stage. For the moment, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Exemptions from licensing requirement]:

[Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 not moved.]

6 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: moved Amendment No. 17:

    Clause 4, page 4, line 47, at end insert--

("( ) A person shall not be guilty of an offence if he--
(a) carries out any of the activities prescribed by Schedule 2 to this Act without financial or other reward and he does so where he, and those for whom he so acts, perform such activities on a non commercial basis;
(b) is not ordinarily employed as a security operative or required, in the course of his employment, so to act; or

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(c) is employed (whether remunerated or not) by a school, church or a registered charity.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 17 seeks to insert into Clause 4 the words as set out in the Marshalled List. In a moment we shall discuss with it Amendment No. 18.

Amendment No. 17 comprises a new subsection of three paragraphs, each of which excuses people from committing offences under the Act. Paragraph (a) would excuse those carrying out activities on a non-commercial basis. Paragraph (c) covers those,

    "employed ... by a school, church or a registered charity.

They are similar, although not identical. Paragraph (b) has in effect already been covered. It refers to a person,

    "not ordinarily employed as a security operative",

although he may act as such from time to time. As I have said, we have already discussed the matter of security activities being "incidental" to the main activities. For that reason, I shall not press new paragraph (b) of the amendment.

However, as regards paragraphs (a) and (c), I think that it is important that the regulations and licensing system should not cover innocent people who would be criminalised by the Bill if it was strictly interpreted. One can cite all kinds of activities where people take on the role of temporary door supervisors. I have in mind several jumble sales that I have attended in Chipping Sodbury town hall. Sometimes a considerable press of people wishing to get into the jumble sale first to secure the best bargains may be encountered at opening time. The same can happen in commercial premises, but when the jumble sale is run, as such sales habitually are, by a charity or some other deserving cause, this can occur. On a strict reading of the Bill, someone acting as a door supervisor for that purpose might be held to require a licence. If so, the organisers of the event would also require a licence, because they would be taking on people to act in that capacity, even if there was no remuneration.

It is also regrettably the case that occasionally a church service is disrupted for one reason or another. We all know that there was an interruption in Canterbury cathedral in the middle of a sermon by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury not so long ago. I am thinking particularly also of midnight masses at Christmas and Easter, which sometimes coincide with the pubs turning out. That can lead to unfortunate incidents, one of which I witnessed a few years ago. In such cases, people have to act as door supervisors, sometimes for an extended period. I want to be sure that that kind of activity is not covered and that there is no requirement for a licence. Another example is a school caretaker who provides security services occasionally, but he is probably covered by the "incidental" words we discussed earlier.

Amendment No. 18 provides that one can go to the local magistrates' court to apply for a temporary licence. This is intended to cover a one-off event, where the organisers may wish to take people on to act as door supervisors and so on. There are some large one-off events in our part of the country. One thinks of the Glastonbury festival. I have never been to it, but a large

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number of people do go, and the organisers have a great deal of trouble controlling the entrance, to such an extent that they are not holding the festival this year. Such events can be policed--if that is the right word--by one of the large security firms, but also by people employed by the organisations running the events.

No doubt under the Bill, although there is no special provision for this, organisers could ask for a temporary licence from the security industry authority. However, it would be more sensible for them to be able to go to the magistrates, although the magistrates should use the same criteria as the authority would. We have made it clear in the amendment that the licence would exist for only one month and would not be renewable, so this is not a way of opening up a separate channel for acquiring a licence.

The magistrates' court is probably a good place to go for a temporary licence, particularly as the magistrates will be likely to be issuing a temporary licence for the sale of alcohol, for example, and perhaps for dancing or public entertainment; they are likely to be in the business of licensing the particular event that is being organised. Rather than having to apply separately to the security industry authority, a person should be able to apply to the magistrates for the necessary security licence as well.

The provision would also cover urgent cases in which something was being set up quickly. The national authority may be very slick in its operations and its issuing of licences to individuals and firms, but not all such authorities have proved very slick in the past, whereas the magistrates' court is up and running and one can go to it any day to apply for licences and get going. Once again, the licence would run for only one month. If it was a permanent activity starting urgently, one would still need to go to the authority to obtain the proper licence to proceed.

I expressed on Second Reading my concern that the Bill, which we support in principle, should not catch unnecessarily activities outside the main stream of the security industry, and these two amendments are designed to try to bring this matter into focus and to make sure that the Bill does not apply to people to whom the Committee--and, I feel sure, the Government--would not wish it to apply. I beg to move.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I support the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, on these two amendments. With the jumble of images that he has given us--the bursting open of the door at jumble sales, the vergers at risk on Christmas Eve and so on--he has painted a picture of the kind of situation in which people become involved in performing, on a temporary basis, some of the activities described in Schedule 2, and those people should not be caught by the provisions of the Bill.

I also agree with the noble Lord that the swift procedure of obtaining an order from the magistrates' court would be of great value. If the application could be heard together with the applications for the temporary liquor licence and the temporary dancing licence, that would be a very easy way of having some

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control over the kind of things that go on at special events. I am sure that the authority itself would welcome the use of the magistrates' court, rather than having to set aside part of its operations to deal with urgent and temporary applications.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: If I ever have to attend a jumble sale in Chipping Sodbury I shall now feel much more secure in the knowledge that the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, is likely to be on the door taking my 10p, or whatever the entry fee is.

It is not our intention to be excessive in the way in which we apply this part of the legislation. No person falling into the categories which are the subject of Amendment No. 17 will be taken into the regulatory regime established by the Bill as currently drafted. The Bill is directed to those who provide services under contract, or, in the case of door supervisors and wheelclampers, those also employed in-house, as I clarified earlier. These are covered by the provisions of Clause 3 and Part II of Schedule 2. The licensing arrangements do not apply to those who undertake the activities of a security operative on a non-contract or reward-free basis, nor to those who carry out security-related activities which are incidental to their main employment, a matter that we have already discussed.

If a school, church or registered charity hires security operatives under contract, we still take the view that it is right that those organisations should expect them to have been vetted to a national standard and licensed. If the security operatives that they use are employed in-house, they will be exempted from the licensing requirement; in those circumstances it will be the responsibility of the organisation to vet its own staff.

The Bill already takes account of the issues which the noble Lord has suggested as the basis of the amendment, and we think that for that reason the amendment is unnecessary.

Perhaps I might add that it is not our intention to cover innocent people inadvertently, and I hope that the clarification I have given will help in that regard. Regulations may specify in greater detail by description who is excluded. Further than that, the security industry authority itself will be able to make it clear that groups such as those mentioned in paragraph (c) of Amendment No. 17 are not covered. I hope that that helps the noble Lord.

Turning to Amendment No. 18, we do not believe that a temporary exemption from the need for a licence is necessary or desirable. It would potentially introduce an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy into the licensing process. It could also lead to different standards being temporarily applied across the country. That would be a recipe for confusion and would lead to the development of a rather uneven package. That is not something we should encourage. We want a level playing field.

Provisions already exist in Clause 4 for exemptions from the need for a licence. Clause 4 permits exemptions where the authority is satisfied that a valid alternative to its own vetting procedures exists. It also

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allows firms which have received approved contractor status under Clause 13 temporarily to engage unlicensed persons who have none the less applied for a licence.

The security industry authority will be a one-stop shop arrangement. To establish a separate exemption scheme through the courts would again lead to confusion. It would weaken the licensing regime rather than strengthen it and add to the work of magistrates.

The noble Lord suggested that one-off events could be approved by magistrates' courts in the same way as a temporary licence. We would argue that one-off events needing door supervision on a licensed basis should be staffed by properly licensed people, particularly an event such as a pop concert. It is appropriate that such events continue to be covered. In some respects, urgent cases may be an ideal opportunity for criminals to offer their services. Where the need arises rather rapidly is exactly the kind of situation where people with a dodgy background may seek to become engaged.

For those reasons--to ensure probity and evenness of application--we do not think that the amendment should be supported. Having heard that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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