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Lord Cope of Berkeley: First, I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, that this may not be the ideal place in which to insert in the Bill a new power of this character, and that perhaps it should be separate. I am grateful to the Minister for his personal views, which seem to be a little more sympathetic than
As far as concerns lack of compliance, if one failed to comply with the regulations and had not obtained a licence that would constitute unlicensed clamping and, therefore, would be an offence. I do not see any particular difficulty in that respect. However, I recognise that this amendment and the thoughts behind it do not have the sympathy of the Minister in his ministerial capacity. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Viscount said: This amendment has been tabled in an effort to try to understand the Government's view on those in the industry who are operating outside the United Kingdom but who happen to come to this country. For example, if someone from one of the famous American detective agencies were to come to this country and carry on work that would be covered by the SIA, would that person be obliged to obtain a licence to do so? If not, how long could that person operate without a licence? In short, I should like to know how the system will work in such a situation.
That leads me to another point about which I am more concerned; namely, that if someone from abroad does not need a licence to operate, I am concerned that unscrupulous operators might use non-UK operators in this country in order to avoid using those who are licensed. Can the Minister outline the Government's view on those operators who come from overseas--whether it be America or the European Union--who may or may not be licensed in their own countries? If in the course of a divorce case a private investigator is sent over here from, say, Italy or Hungary, to carry out the sort of work that would currently require a licence in this country, would such a person be able to operate in the UK without a licence? Do the Government intend that to be the case? I beg to move.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: When we were considering what "skills" were necessary at an earlier stage of our deliberations today, it seemed to me that skills for the immobilisation of vehicles required the ability to use a spanner. When it came to private investigators, I had in mind the ability to be able to climb a ladder, or, perhaps, to use a camera.
The noble Viscount has made a serious point. At present, private investigation companies are international. Some very well-known American firms operate in this country, just as we seem to send private
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am slightly surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, seems to think that private investigators in what appear to be--as he implied--domestic marital disputes still rely on ladders. From reading the back of various journals, I understand that there are all kinds of other pieces of high-tech equipment that avoid the need for ladders and cameras. However, the noble Lord may be quite right. Indeed, in certain parts of England and Wales, the use of a ladder may still apply.
I am delighted to be able to reassure noble Lords that all those operating in England and Wales, including detectives from the United States or American companies, will be required to have a licence in order to operate. There is a further dimension to this particular amendment which would apply the regulatory framework of the Bill to private investigations carried out anywhere in the United Kingdom.
Sectors of the private security industry that will be regulated under the Bill may have provoked Members of the Committee into believing that private investigations are most likely to take their practitioners outside England and Wales in pursuit of their assignments. However, the Bill will extend to England and Wales only with the sole and specifically limited exceptions that are set out in Clause 24(3). Responsibility for those matters has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive. Those bodies are currently considering whether--and if so, how--to regulate private security services in Scotland.
Limited provisions to regulate the private security industry already exist in Northern Ireland as part of the Terrorism Act 2000. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, is well versed in legislation affecting Northern Ireland.
The amendment would create a strange anomaly in the Bill, whereby all but one of its regulated sectors would be contained within England and Wales. I am sure that no Member of the Committee would wish to risk the wrath of colleagues in the Scotland Office and the Northern Ireland Office by indicating that they supported the amendment, which would be constitutionally unacceptable.
Viscount Astor: The noble Baroness said that the amendment would create a strange anomaly in the Bill. However, it is the Government who have gone around creating strange anomalies. If someone wanders into the British Embassy in Washington and says, "I am a private investigator, and I am going to work on a divorce case", he might be asked, "In England, Scotland or Wales?". If the answer was England or Wales, he would be told that he had to get a licence, but if the answer was Scotland, he would be fine, but woe betide him if he went a mile south of Gretna Green--if he did so, he would be in trouble. That is the biggest anomaly.
I take note of the fact that the noble Baroness said that the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament were looking into the matter. Those bodies are rather independently minded of the Government at the moment--they reject or accept government policies when they want to. They appear to have a mind of their own.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The noble Viscount provokes me. My colleagues who are benefiting from the advantages of devolution in Scotland accept government policies when they remain to be determined here in Westminster. In other areas, they exercise their right to make their own judgments in matters that have been devolved to them by the will of Parliament.
Viscount Astor: That is a very good defence of devolution but it does not get away from the fact that the colleagues of the noble Baroness over the Border are making decisions that are clearly not always in line with government policy on this side of the Border. We just have to read the newspapers to appreciate that.
I am reasonably satisfied by the reply of the noble Baroness. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, asked an important question. If someone came to this country and was asked, "Will you go to work in Cuba, or any other country?", will the relevant bodies be covered if they work abroad? Can people who are not registered to work in other countries be sent to work in other countries? I do not know what the case will be if foreign police arrive in this country. Will it be all right if they clock in officially? What will happen if they arrive unofficially to do their own investigation? Will the provisions apply to them? I do not need an answer now, but I hope that between now and Report the noble Baroness or the Minister will write to me about that.
It seems to me that market research cannot be carried out without asking someone a question, unless the research is surreptitious, in which case one is looking at statistics or other published sources. Therefore, if a person approaches someone, tells him that he is conducting market research and asks a question, that is covered by sub-paragraph (7). The person who is asked the question has immediate knowledge of the fact that he is being interviewed.
I believe that that general power, which does not apply exclusively for the purposes of market research, could pave the way for a loophole. It would become too easy for people to say that they were conducting market research, whereas proper market research is carried out by people looking at either published statistics or statistics in the public domain. Market research is also carried out by questioning people about what they think and whether they buy a certain product, or whatever.
If it is the latter, that is covered by sub-paragraph (7). That is why I believe that the words which the amendment seeks to remove are unnecessary for the purposes of the Bill and possibly could be used as a loophole by those who do not wish to be regulated in their various activities. I beg to move.
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