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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Amendment No. 22, moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, would oblige the security industry authority to have regard to any representations made to it and require it to seek such representations before it refuses to grant a licence. The Bill already provides for a transparent system of licensing. The criteria upon which the authority will reach its decisions will be published. The authority will wish to ensure that applicants are given every opportunity in their application forms to provide the strongest case in support of their applications. Unsuccessful applicants will have rights of appeal against the decision to refuse them a licence.

Therefore, the Government do not believe that it is necessary to add a further requirement for applicants to be afforded an opportunity to comment when the authority is minded to refuse a licence. The noble Viscount recognised that we are already proposing a complicated process. To do what he asks in the amendment would add a disproportionate further layer of bureaucracy and cost in contrast to no real gain in natural justice for the applicants. There is already a duty to make a speedy response so as not to cause applicants to have to wait too long. The SIA's published criteria should include a statement of its turnaround times for applications and targets. Some applications may be more difficult than others. However, applicants are justified in expecting to know when a decision should be available.

I hope that that has reassured the noble Viscount, who we know does not want to see the system become more time-consuming or more cumbersome. There will be a system of appeals against SIA decisions, as the noble Viscount said. Ultimately, there will be the availability of judicial review, but that would be additional to the right of appeal which is set up under the Bill.

I turn to Amendment No. 23. We believe that the duties of the authority and the rights of individuals already exist within the drafting of the Bill or elsewhere

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in existing statute or common law. Therefore, Amendment No. 23 would not add substantively to either the duties of one or the rights of the other. As the noble Viscount said, the security industry authority will, in common with other public bodies, have a general duty to act reasonably, including with appropriate care and skill.

Similarly, individuals already have the right to take legal action where their rights have been infringed. We believe that individuals who consider themselves adversely affected by the decision not to grant a licence to undertake security activities or to modify or revoke their licences will, in addition to any more general rights of redress, have a specific right of appeal against the authority's decision.

I hope that in the light of those explanations and assurances the noble Viscount will not press his amendments.

Viscount Astor: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for those explanations. She referred to a general right of appeal. I presume that she referred to Clause 10. As far as I can see, the Secretary of State has to make an order for the bringing in of appeals. I wonder whether she could answer my question on that. Is there a right of appeal elsewhere in the Bill or is it just in Clause 10 and has to be initiated by an order?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The process of setting up and enacting the Bill on completion of its passage through Parliament is one that has to be phased through a series of orders by the Secretary of State, as we recognised earlier. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, recognised that there needs to be discussions with industry. That is why there is a process. The process of bringing into effect the matters referred to in Clause 10 is the one which I have outlined. I hope that that satisfies the noble Viscount. If it does not, I shall write to him with further clarification.

Viscount Astor: I think that means that the noble Baroness agrees with me that an appeal system will be brought in by order by the Government under Clause 10. We shall see what that order says. I give the Government due warning that if I am to withdraw my amendment now, we want them to take note of what has been said during this debate so that they may get right the order. Otherwise, we shall have to look at it. I am sure the noble Baroness will consider that.

As regards Amendment No. 22, the comments of the noble Baroness satisfied me to a degree. I am not quite so happy with her reply to Amendment No. 23. It is always difficult for someone to obtain compensation. That is always a good test to put on anybody. Perhaps this should be dealt with by an order. It may not be right for it to be dealt with on the face of the Bill. I shall consider that point and read carefully what the noble Baroness said.

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7.15 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: It may assist the noble Viscount if I remind him that in responding I also said that the right of appeal is set up by the Bill. The procedures, details and timing are obviously part of the negotiations and discussions with the industry. However, the right of appeal is established.

Viscount Astor: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating her comments. My point is that we shall have to consider the nature and terms of appeal. As regards Amendment No. 23 and compensation, we shall have to consider whether we need to be specific. The noble Baroness said, quite reasonably, that the authority will have to have targets and turnaround times. We all know about government targets and turnaround times. We know how long it takes to reach targets, and about the targets for asylum seekers, which have not yet been met. I think that almost no turnaround time in government has ever been met by anybody. That was the same when we were in power, just as it is now. Perhaps it has become worse; perhaps not. Who knows?

It will be extraordinarily difficult for the authority to keep to its target. The only way it will do so is by having a long transitional period. Otherwise, it will never get through all the people who are to be covered by the Bill.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. I am somewhat satisfied by her reply to Amendment No. 22. I shall consider carefully whether I wish to come back on Amendment No. 23. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 23 not moved.]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Licences to engage in licensable conduct]:

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 23A:

    Clause 7, page 6, line 41, at end insert--

("( ) The Authority shall state its reasons in writing, by reference to the criteria, for--
(a) a refusal to grant a licence under subsection (4), and
(b) an imposition of additional conditions under subsection (6).").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 23A is linked to Amendment No. 23D. Under Clause 7, Amendment No. 23A is concerned with the refusal of a licence. Amendment No. 23D is concerned with Clause 9 and the revoking or modifying of a licence. All those are decisions which are likely to give rise to an appeal by the applicant--adverse decisions to him.

I was pleased to hear the noble Baroness refer to the intention to create a transparent system here. The purpose of my Amendments Nos. 23A and 23D is to achieve transparency because it is necessary for the authority to state its reasons for a refusal on the one hand and the revocation or modification of an existing licence on the other. Those reasons should be given in

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writing and they should refer to the criteria which the Government have indicated are considered to be very important so that an appeal can be effective.

A simple blank refusal of a licence without reasons or the modification or revoking of a licence without reasons would clearly be contrary to natural justice and probably to the rules appertaining to tribunals in any event. So those reasons should be given. I hope the noble Baroness considers this a sensible suggestion, and I await her response.

Viscount Astor: Before the noble Baroness replies, I should like briefly to say that we support the intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, in his amendments. In these he might have gone a long way to satisfy the concerns which were behind our earlier amendments. Therefore I look forward to the Government's reply.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: Before the noble Baroness replies, I have said nothing about the proposed subsection (5). It seems to me that there is missing from the Bill a duty to notify the authority of matters which may lead to the modification or revocation of a licence. Two bodies are concerned: the police and the public. If the police hear of something adverse to the licence holder there should be an arrangement enabling the police to inform the authority of that so that consideration can be given to the continuation of the licence either as it exists or in some modified form.

As for members of the public, no doubt they will have complaints against licence holders from time to time. How are they to be dealt with? It is no use writing to the authority if its response is, "I am sorry: we have no way in which we can give effect to your complaint." There must be some way in which the authority can respond to the proper concerns raised by members of the public in respect of their particular licence problem.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I think all sides of the Committee share a concern that this system will work. We do not believe there is a need for the requirements to be on the face of the Bill. The establishment of an appeals mechanism against licence decisions by the authority will require the authority to state in all cases the reasons for a decision it has reached--a point which I hope will please the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford--and these must be set out very clearly against the criteria which it must also have published. The SIA will need to work closely with the police, as the noble Viscount recognised, and come to an operational understanding with them as to how to pass on relevant information. We believe that precise arrangements are best left to the authority, once established, and the police to decide that they are required to do this. We do not want to shackle the arrangements that will be reached in achieving the objectives we all share by prescribing them in detail on the face of the Bill.

The authority will also wish to establish a complaints procedure against licence holders. In deciding whether to continue, modify or revoke a

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licence, the views of the public and customers of licence holders will, as your Lordships recognise, be an important factor. Therefore it is important for the authority to establish and publicise a complaints system. Again, we see no need to specify this as a requirement on the face of the Bill.

I hope I have been able to give an assurance that will enable the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, to withdraw his Amendment No. 23A and not press Amendment No. 23D. I can assure both speakers in this short debate that the Government share their concern that this procedure should be absolutely clear and reassure them that the Bill requires that this process be followed.

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