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Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 30B:

("(c) requirements to seek approval of the Authority of the design of any uniforms proposed to be used by the providers of security industry services, so as to ensure that they are distinguishable from the uniforms of police officers").

The noble Lord said: On Second Reading, I expressed the concern that there should be no confusion between the police and those in the security industry who provide, for example, guarding services. It so happens that yesterday I was in Altcourse prison, which I discovered was in Fazakerley, Liverpool. That prison has the acclamation of the inspector of prisons, which is not easily acquired, and that of my client, which is even more difficult to acquire, for being one of the top prisons in this country. It is also a Group 4 prison.

A noticeable feature of the service provided by that company and by others is that they go out of their way to ensure that their staff do not look like prison officers of old. They do not wear blue serge; they wear green pastoral colours. That reduces the temperature in prisons and helps to distinguish them from authority figures such as policemen.

I am concerned to ensure that security firms are distinct from those who provide security on the streets--police constables. There is no reason why the authority should not have some control over the design of uniforms that are advanced by a company seeking approval for its employees. That would ensure that no confusion occurs. I recommend the amendment for serious consideration.

Viscount Astor: The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, wants to set up the authority as a kind of taste police that examines the uniforms, or prospective uniforms, that those providing security services might have to wear. That perhaps goes a little too far.

I seem to recall somewhere in the recesses of my mind--I should be grateful if the Minister would confirm this--that adequate laws already exist in this context. I believe that there is a law that makes it illegal to impersonate a policeman. That includes wearing a uniform that is similar to or that could be mistaken for a policeman's uniform. If that is the case--I believe that it is--the amendment is unnecessary. However, if the amendment is necessary, it would be better to state that people should not wear uniforms that will be confused with those of police officers. We need not set

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the authority up as a new couture house that decides on the right colour of uniform for those involved in the important task of providing security services.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I had written in my notes, "style council". We need not worry too much about this matter. I do not believe that the security industry authority will set itself up with the proposed function, and I do not think that Versace standards will be applied. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, made the point for me. We do not believe that the amendment is necessary or that it is necessary for conditions relating to uniforms to be included as a licence condition in the approved contractors scheme. As the noble Viscount said, under Section 90 of the Police Act 1996 it is already an offence to impersonate a police officer or to wear anything having the appearance of a police uniform in circumstances in which the person wearing it might be mistaken for a police officer. That ensures that those who attempt to pass themselves off as police officers are committing a criminal offence and will be prosecuted. Therefore, although the amendment is well-spirited and good-intentioned, we do not consider it to be necessary.

We want people to respect uniforms because they have an important, authoritative presence which, in certain circumstances, will be of help. I am certainly aware of neighbourhood warden schemes which attempt to achieve that objective without impersonating in any way, shape or form a police uniform or a police presence. Therefore, we are grateful for the notion, but the powers already exist and we do not believe that further powers are required. I hope that, notwithstanding his flattering comments about one of Her Majesty's prisons, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I am interested to note that the legislation was passed in 1996. In 1996 this provision formed part of the Liberal Democrat Party policy document. Obviously, the matter was of considerable concern at that time, but I must admit that I am not an expert in the branch of the law which concerns what policemen wear. It seems that my amendment is unnecessary and, accordingly, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 14 and 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Imposition of requirements for approval]:

[Amendment No. 30C not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Appeals relating to approval]:

[Amendment No. 31 not moved.]

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Powers of entry and inspection]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 32:

    Page 12, line 44, after ("may") insert ("upon the granting of a warrant by a Justice of the Peace").

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The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 32, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 32A, 33 and 33A, which deal with the same topic. They all refer to the circumstances in which representatives of the authority, authorised in writing--I believe that we could call them "inspectors"--may enter premises owned or occupied by a person appearing to be a regulated person. Later in the clause there is reference to offences of obstructing, and so on.

The permission for an inspector to enter premises is completely unfettered provided that the premises are owned or occupied by a person appearing to him to be a regulated person. That is a very strong power. Rightly, Parliament has been careful about granting powers of access and entry to inspectors and policemen. However, a large number of officials have the right to enter premises. In most cases, such officials, including policemen, need a warrant to enter and search people's homes. Two suggestions for limiting the power of entry are on offer in this group of amendments.

So far as concerns Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 in my name, I have suggested that under this provision there should be no access to domestic premises. Only business premises should be entered, and only then with a warrant from a magistrate.

I cannot see why an inspector of the security industry authority should want to go into somebody's home. There is not much to be gained by that. An Englishman's home is supposed to be his castle and I believe that it is right to protect access wherever we can rather than facilitate it. Amendments Nos. 32A and 33A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, who clearly takes a milder view of such matters than I do, provide that there should be a warrant only in the case of domestic premises. He is happy for people to waltz into business premises without any authorisation other than their ticket.

My understanding of the clause is that the authorisation in writing by the authority will in effect be the appointment of the inspector to that post, whereas when we seek a magistrate's warrant, whether for business or domestic premises, we seek permission for that individual to inspect those particular premises on that occasion. As far as I can see, the authorisation in writing is likely to be a piece of paper or an identity card which lasts for as long as an individual does that job. It is a blanket authorisation to walk into any premises covered by it, or in this case, if the Bill is passed, any home covered by it.

There is, therefore, not only a difference in who it is authorised by; there is also the difference of whether it is authorised on that particular occasion to go into those premises for that purpose, the case having been made out to the magistrate, or whether it is a blanket authorisation to enter at any time. There is more than one layer to the proposals to introduce warrants; whether they are introduced into all premises or just domestic premises.

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We should take the matter seriously. The powers of entry and inspection are powerful. Such powers are liked by police states and dictators but countries such as ours should be cautious about granting them to the authorities.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: This is the most serious attack on civil liberties in the whole of the Bill. It will create a whole class of persons who may enter premises without any leave. Furthermore, any person who obstructs them or fails to provide documents or other information relating to any connected matter set out in subsection (2) is guilty of an offence and could end up in prison.

I ask the Government carefully to consider the provisions. I am sure that there is a point of principle upon which we can all unite on this side of the Committee in considering what should be done. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, mentioned a slight distinction between us. I can see that there might be a reason for business premises to be entered in an ordinary routine inspection by an inspector of the authority in following up his duties of inspecting licence holders, and so forth. However, entering people's homes, demanding papers and information and imposing a sanction of imprisonment if a person fails to co-operate is beyond the spirit in which the law of this country has operated hitherto. One envisages little inspectors in the Russian style in such a situation. I ask the Government to consider the matter again.

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