Clause 1 - The Security Industry Authority

Part of Private Security Industry Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 24th April 2001.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 10:45 am, 24th April 2001

I join my colleagues in welcoming you as Chairman, Mr. Benton. I hope that you will find the Committee interesting, and I am sure that we shall conduct ourselves in order under your stewardship.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South for his comments on the clause. He is right to say that it raises a question of balance of judgment. He is also right to emphasise, as I have sought to do throughout, that the process will be dynamic rather than static. As we examine the situation, we must see how we can make progress and respond to such circumstances.

I was grateful for the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Stewart) because he summed up his experience of organising many of the people who work in one sector of the industry, and of the practical problems that we are trying to address. I shall refer to his comments when I mention training.

I agree with the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn) about the need for proper consultation and collaboration in the process. There has been a full consultation process since the publication of the White Paper, and my colleagues and I have had many meetings with the industry and the police to discuss the matter. The membership of the authority is addressed in the schedule. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have debated issues such as the extent to which the Bill should specify interests. I want to reinforce two points. First, we believe that it is critical that the authority is independent in character and is not merely an in-house operation. Secondly, the authority should contain people who can ensure that it operates in an informed and intelligent way, because of their professional experience and knowledge of the industry. I assure the hon. Gentleman that such a factor will be a major consideration when we address the make-up of the authority.

I shall address the specific points of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. On the matter of the licensed trade, it is important to make a point that follows on from an observation made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South. The Bill does not cover publicans or any other people who perform security duties that are incidental to their main employment. There was confusion about that in the other place, in the debate to which the hon. Member for Surrey Heath referred. I make it clear that where security responsibility is incidental to a person's main employment, the Bill does not cover that individual. An illustration is that the bouncer is covered but not the barman, because the bouncer is retained specifically for security responsibilities as the main part of his employment. The barman is not covered because his main concern is to serve the drinks and run the pub, rather than security matters. I hope that that clarifies the matter.

The Bill does not cover a wide variety of people who undertake security activities incidentally. My right hon. Friend referred to many such people who undertake security as a bit of their job, but are not covered by the Bill. We are specifically focusing on the security industry.