Schedule 1 - The Security Industry Authority

Private Security Industry Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 1st May 2001.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 5:00 pm, 1st May 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 30, in page 20, line 5, after `members' insert—

`(being at least five but not more than fifteen)'.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 10, in page 20, line 14, leave out `five' and insert `three'.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

The amendment is designed to change the number of members of the authority. We believe that the Secretary of State has too wide a discretion. The Minister will recall that the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 established the Electoral Commission; that body bears some similarity to the new authority as it has broad regulatory functions, and is required to keep registers and so on. Section 1(3) of that Act imposes a precise requirement in relation to numbers. It states:

``There shall be not less than five, but not more than nine, Electoral Commissioners.''

Why cannot something similar be provided in the Bill?

The Bill is inconsistent with other legislation promoted by the Minister. Paragraph 1(4) to schedule 4 of the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, which the Minister and I debated not so many weeks ago, states:

``The total number of members of the Authority shall not at any time be less than eleven.''

The Government seem quite happy to put that sort of requirement in other recent legislation. Why not this one?

The quorum for the new authority is to be determined at its first meeting, at which at least five members must be present, as provided in paragraph 10(2) of the schedule. However, it is open to the Secretary of State to appoint fewer than five members. The amendment would ensure some consistency within the Bill. We believe that there should be consistency within the Bill and also within the Department.

Amendment No. 10, tabled by the right hon. Member for Walsall, South, seeks to reduce the maximum time of membership of the authority from five years to three. I do not know whether it is simply a probing amendment—the right hon. Gentleman is nodding—but amendment No. 30 is substantive. We seek to limit the Secretary of State's discretion not to fetter him but to ensure consistency. Even if the Minister cannot accept it, I hope that he will at least consider the matter and table a Government amendment on Report, so that the Bill is consistent with itself and with other recent legislation.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South 5:15 pm, 1st May 2001

As the hon. Member for Surrey Heath suggested, I believe that a three-year term would be better. I have been a member of various Select Committees for 20 years, but I sometimes think that membership should be limited to six months. Five years is a long time, especially for someone who may not be terribly interested or who makes no contribution to the proceedings. I suspect that a considerable number of people would be prepared to make a contribution—we could get 200 from the private security industry alone, which we would not want. A three-year term would mean that they had to prove their worth. If they were good, their term could be extended, as happened with the old Commission for Racial Equality; if they did not pull their weight and make a real contribution, three years would give the chairman and, initially, the Secretary of State the opportunity to move other people in—there will be many takers. I look forward to the Minister's reply.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I am not sympathetic to amendment No. 30, but I am to amendment No. 10. The reason for my lack of sympathy for amendment No. 30 is that there is no great virtue in consistency in the size of such bodies. They are created in different circumstances and perform different roles. It would be unnecessarily restrictive to tie ourselves to a minimum of five and maximum of 15 members in the development phase of the SIA in particular, because we are starting from scratch and want to have a consultative process and to ensure that the authority is broadly based.

However, I agree with the hon. Member for Surrey Heath to the extent that I acknowledge that the size of the body is important and that it is difficult to get the balance right, as we discussed on Second Reading and elsewhere. I will certainly take his points carefully into account. However, my initial inclination is to say that the Secretary of State—whoever that is after the general election, and whatever his party—should have the flexibility to build a body that can properly meet the needs of the industry and carry out its role.

I am much more sympathetic to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South. The Bill sets a maximum term of five years. When the matter was discussed in the other place, we acknowledged that there was no particular significance in the number five. Indeed, the terms of appointment in the majority of non-departmental public and other similar bodies for which the Home Office has responsibility are nearer to the three years proposed in the amendment than the five years in the Bill. I therefore commit myself to reconsidering the matter. In addition, I am prepared to make a commitment that if the Labour party returns to government, it will be committed to a maximum three-year term of appointment in such circumstances. We will examine changing the legislation to reduce terms from five to three years more generally.

The point is powerful and reflects experience, but a proper rotation and a proper time in service are appropriate. I have given my right hon. Friend two commitments. First, a Labour Government would appoint for only a three-year period, despite the power to appoint for a maximum of five years. Secondly, we will consider tabling an amendment on Report. With that, I hope that he will withdraw—

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Order. The right hon. Member for Walsall, South does not need to withdraw amendment No. 30, because it is grouped with the amendment No. 10.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I apologise for not being clear about that, Mr. Winterton. I hope, however, that my comments go some way to dealing with my right hon. Friend's concerns. I think that I am right in saying that Conservatives in the other place also favoured a three-year maximum term. I hope that Conservative Members on the Committee will acknowledge that I am trying to respond to that view.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I certainly acknowledge that the Minister is trying to be helpful. He is not, at this stage, prepared to go quite as far as we would like, but he correctly described the attitude of my noble Friends to the issue raised by the right hon. Member for Walsall, South.

I hope that the Minister and his officials will reflect further on the precise numbers. I genuinely think that there is a need for consistency between the new authorities that the Home Office is creating. I do not seek to press the point further, and will withdraw the amendment with the proviso that we might return to it on Report if the Government do not table their own amendment.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will wait for a moment before seeking leave to withdraw the amendment, because I first intend to call the right hon. Member for Walsall, South to make a few closing comments on amendment No. 30.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

Because the Minister was standing up, Mr. Winterton, you could neither see nor hear me falling to the floor with a thud, having heard that he would accept one of my amendments. Having fully recovered, I now express my delight. What else can I do but enthusiastically withdraw the amendment? The score is 18-1. I am on a roll, and I hope to increase it to 18-2 before our proceedings conclude. With great pleasure, and a deep sense of shock, I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendment No. 30.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

The right hon. Gentleman does not have to withdraw the amendment; it would not have been put unless he had asked for a Division. I should have been happy to grant one, but as the Minister has conceded the point, there is no need.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I return to what I was saying, Mr. Winterton, when you said that you would call the right hon. Gentleman. With the proviso that I mentioned, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 20, line 10, at end insert—

`(4) In making appointments to the Authority the Secretary of State shall have due regard to the desirability of ensuring the Authority includes persons representative of, or who have experience of

(a) the private security industry,

(b) the police service,

(c) the employees' interest,

(d) the insurance industry,

(e) the consumers' interest,

(f) local authorities

and that no single interest will predominate.'.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

With this, it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 31, in page 20, line 10, at end insert—

`(4)(a) At least one of the members appointed by the Secretary of State shall be a person whom the Secretary of State considers to represent the interests of the police in England and Wales; and

(b) At least one of the members appointed by the Secretary of State shall be a person whom the Secretary of State considers to represent the interests of the private security industry in England and Wales.'.

No. 52, in page 20, line 10, at end insert—

`(4) The Secretary of State shall ensure that the membership of the Authority includes persons whom the Secretary of State considers to represent the interests of

(a) the private security industry

(b) the police service in England and Wales

(c) the employees' interest

(d) the insurance industry

(e) the consumers' interest

(f) local authorities in England and Wales.'.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

It has been instructive to be a member of this Committee, and my knowledge of procedure has doubled. Sadly, that knowledge is superfluous, as I have no intention of sitting on another Standing Committee for a considerable time—not because of your Chairmanship, Mr. Winterton, which is an inducement, but because I find Select Committees more edifying.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

The right hon. Gentleman is being brave. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mr. Hall), the Government Whip, was listening when he said that he had no intention of sitting on further Standing Committees. The Whip might have found his contributions to this Committee so entertaining that, in another Parliament, what will then be the Opposition Whips Office will call on him a lot more.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Order. We have been most interested to hear that, but it is not relevant to the amendment.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

Thank you for your protection, Mr. Winterton. I did not divert the Committee from the straight and narrow.

We come to the composition of this eagerly sought-after board. As with much of the Bill, what is intended is rather unclear. The amendment would describe the kind of men and women who should be considered. I am not too exercised about how many members there should be—it could be nine, 10, 11 or 12. In one way, the more the better, because more members will bring with them a wider range of activities and experience and a greater ability to make the authority work. Those who are chosen by the Secretary of State will have to read not only the Bill but the document from the House of Lords telling them what is to be laid down by statutory instrument. If they can survive that, and take up their positions, they will have assumed enormous responsibility.

The selection criteria should be such that they ensure that the board is not dominated by one group or another. Although the security industry must be well represented, it must not be in the majority—representatives must include people from all the constituent parts. As the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments does its work, I hope that more sectors of the private security industry will be added to the list of those who may undertake licensable conduct. Places should be available for other groups to be represented on the board.

That is my thinking in proposing that the private security industry should be well represented. It would be impossible to exclude the police service, the insurance industry, representatives of consumers' interests and local authorities, but will the Minister consider including representatives of employees' interests?

Regrettably, we will be licensing not the companies but the employees. They are not well unionised—in fact, they are hardly unionised at all. They do not necessarily have to belong to an official trade union, but I would hope that they would. I must declare an interest. I am a member of the GMB, which, like the Transport and General Workers Union, provides membership services. However, it would be quite wrong to have all the gaffers, owners and retired chief constables on the board without including somebody who works at the security coalface.

I hope that the governing principle in the compilation of the list will be to ensure that no single interest dominates and to ensure that the definition of who should be included is broad. If there are not enough places on the board, the establishment of sub-committees—not a plethora, but some—would give the opportunity to those who do not make the main board but who have an enormous contribution to make, to participate at a low cost to the authority and the taxpayer. I believe that that would make this important organisation representative and help it to do a splendid job of work.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I very much support the thinking that lies behind the amendment No. 6. The Committee will realise that amendment No. 31, which is grouped with it, is intended to have a similar effect. We have dealt with these issues previously. We feel very strongly, as do a lot of the trade bodies, including the leading corporate investigation consultancies, that there should be a specific provision to ensure that the industry and the police service are represented. In addition, it does no harm at all to include the other groups that amendment No. 6 would write into the Bill. I have no strong feelings about whether amendment No. 31 or amendment No. 6 should be incorporated, but one or the other should be.

Should the right hon. Member for Walsall, South listen to the blandishments that I expect the Minister will shortly offer and decide not to press amendment No. 6 to a vote, I will be seeking your approval, Mr. Winterton, for a separate Division on amendment No. 31. That is subject to what the Minister may say. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey has his own amendment to deal with, which is also grouped with these other two.

I echo the remarks of the right hon. Member for Walsall, South. We feel strongly about the issue, for similar reasons.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The idea that there should be a broad spectrum of people on the authority is clearly widely supported. Amendment No. 52 sets out the same six categories of people as amendment No. 6, and amendment No. 31 sets out at least two of the categories as being prerequisite. We cannot leave the matter entirely at the discretion of the Secretary of State. It looks bad and it allows for abuse. As it stands, the Bill does not include proper controls.

This is the first piece of legislation dealing with this industry. The core provision of the legislation, without which the rest cannot happen, is to set up the regulatory body. Whatever the precedent may be, it must be better for that body to be representative. I need not elaborate the point. I want the Minister to explain why on earth we cannot have minimum criteria for the representative categories on the authority. That would at least allow for proper consultation about who should come from each of the sectors, which would be represented and be able to make nominations.

My supplementary point concerns the procedure for appointments, which will be public appointments to a quango. What, under the new rules, are the procedures for nominations and for scrutinising them? What is the procedure for advice on appointments? What procedure is in place as regards minimum qualifications and other considerations to ensure that people are perceived to be fit and proper candidates? Will there be a declaration of relevant interests and the like?

Let us please move from total discretion on the part of the Minister to a much more transparent and appropriately represented system. If he thinks that there are obvious omissions, he should tell us so that we can table a better amendment on Report—I would be happy to do that. What criteria and public processes exist to ensure that those appointed, by whatever means, are fit and proper people and are seen to be so? Such criteria will be necessary to give the authority the reputation and respect that it will need to do its job for the purposes that we intend.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 5:30 pm, 1st May 2001

There are some interesting points in the amendments, and I shall deal with some of the more straightforward ones immediately.

We are clear about the fact that the form of appointment mentioned by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey is the standard Nolan process. That should obviate many of his concerns about the potential corruption of a decision by a Secretary of State to nominate someone.

It is clear from everything that has happened that the Secretary of State will look for someone who has experience of the industry and who comes from one of the wide range of organisations set out in amendments Nos. 6 and 52. He will also be looking for a broad range of representation on the authority, in precisely the way set out in the amendments.

My first proposition is to make a case for the flexibility that we have discussed. Flexibility is important, although it can be contested as an abuse or for leaving too much open. However, under the system in this country, the flexibility of the Executive to address such matters is a positive, not a negative factor.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

The Minister seemed to be making a general statement about flexibility. In the light of that, will he not concede that his case is somewhat undermined once again by the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, which was recently introduced by none other than himself. Paragraph 1(3) of schedule 4, on the Central Police Training and Development Authority, does not give such flexibility. It requires two people to represent the interests of the police authorities, two to represent those of chief constables and one Crown servant. If that was appropriate for that authority, why not for the SIA?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

For the very good reason that I gave earlier. Police training springs from the tripartite nature of our police system, which involves chief constables, police authorities and the Government. That new police training authority is very narrow and has a narrow but important responsibility. That is in strong contrast to the regulatory body that we are establishing.

Leaving aside the general arguments for flexibility, I want to make two important points that flow directly from the wording of amendment No. 6. There are different emphases in the amendments. Amendment No. 6 uses the words

``ensuring the Authority includes persons representative of, or who have experience of'' the various categories. Amendment No. 52 includes the significantly different phrase:

``whom the Secretary of State considers to represent the interests of''.

That raises the issue of what type of body the authority will be. It is important that we do not simply see it as an agglomeration of representatives of various interests. To take an obvious question, which has been the subject of entertaining exchanges between my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Stewart) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South, is the Transport and General Workers Union or the GMB a more appropriate representative of employees in the industry?

In amendment No. 6, my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South speaks of

``persons representative of . . . the private security industry'', and in amendment No. 52, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey speaks of

``persons whom the Secretary of State considers to represent the interests of . . . the private security industry''.

The slight differences in those two formulations are important. The question concerns who is represented and the nature of that representation. One of the criticisms of the quango structure is that such bodies are less executive and represent a wide range of interests rather than taking action. I would argue positively for an executive authority to carry out the proposals that we have set out in the Bill rather than a representative body.

Determining who is representative in that sense is a major difficulty and it raises non-trivial questions on each of the categories set out in the Bill. Most people accept that the Association of Chief Police Officers is the appropriate body to represent the police, although some might argue that the Police Federation or the Police Superintendents Association is more appropriate in certain circumstances.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

My hon. Friend should rest assured that the trade unions are probably better equipped to sort out such problems. The Transport and General Workers Union and its sister union the GMB have a long history of being able to decide which of them would be appropriate. That should not be a problem.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

My hon. Friend is right. I, too, have attended drinks parties hosted jointly by the GMB and the TGWU at which such matters have been sorted out amicably and effectively—earlier or later in the evening, according to the difficulty of the problem. It is a tribute to the trade union movement that it can resolve such problems. Consumers are represented by the National Consumer Council or the Consumers Association, but they are different types of body—that is another non-trivial question. I do not cavil at the word ``representative'', but it is not quite the right way to go about it—a fact that is implied by the different formulations of amendments Nos. 6 and 52.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I hope that the Minister noticed the other distinction between the amendments. Amendment No. 52 would impose a requirement:

``The Secretary of State shall ensure that''.

Amendment No. 6 states that the Secretary of State

``shall have due regard to the desirability of''.

My amendment would be tighter. Whatever the number of members above six, six of them will come from the six sectors mentioned in the amendment.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I hear the point, and I note the distinction, but I shall come in a moment to another that is at least as important.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am a little perturbed, as most of us must be, that the Minister, probably inadvertently, should have outed himself by saying that he attended joint drinks parties of the TGWU and the GMB. It is a distinctly old Labour characteristic. That might explain the otherwise inexplicable absence of his name from articles by two respected political journalist in The Sun and the Daily Mail—respectively, Mr. Trevor Kavanagh and Mr. David Hughes. He did not feature in their recent speculation about imminent promotions.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

All I can say is that the hon. Gentleman's efforts to promote me must have ensured that any speculation about me was removed from consideration. I am delighted that that is so, and I thank him for the work that he has done to achieve it. I have always described myself as modernising old Labour.

The more substantive distinction between the amendments is serious and revealing. Amendment No. 6 reflects a powerful and important argument, which my right hon. Friend has made not only in Committee but on the Floor of the House. The final phrase of the amendment states:

``and that no single interest will predominate''.

The thrust of my right hon. Friend's argument—he will correct me if I misunderstand him—has been that the independence and autonomy of the authority is a critical factor in its successfully carrying out its functions under the legislation. It is significant that that phrase does not occur in amendment No. 52. I agree that that amendment, with its tighter definitions, would have a rounded effect, and I do not charge the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey with a deliberate attempt to take us away from independence.

The same cannot be said of amendment No. 31, however, which was tabled by the Conservatives. It does not list the private security industry, the police service, the employees' interest and so on, as the other amendments do. It simply relates to the police and the private security industry. A major thrust of the debate has been that bodies other than the police and the private security industry should be represented on the authority.

The Government are absolutely determined that the body will be independent, and that no single interest will predominate on it. I am at one with the spirit of amendment No. 6, which argues a critical position. However, that is in opposition to amendment No. 31, which refers to only two important parts of the ``family'' with which we are trying to deal.

I make the general argument for rejecting all the amendments on grounds of flexibility. That has been especially contested by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. However, I have two specific arguments. The first is about the difficulty of establishing such a representative process. It would be undesirable for the authority to be seen as representative and nominated in such a way, because we want it to be, in effect, an executive body. The increase in its effectiveness will go with ensuring that we pick the right people to carry that through. The second argument is about the single interest predominating. My right hon. Friend deserves credit for the fact that only his amendment, No. 6, pays specific attention to that. I hope that hon. Members will vote against amendment No. 31, if the hon. Member for Surrey Heath presses it to a vote—he implied that he would try to—because it does not do so.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My amendment and that of the right hon. Member for Walsall, South set out six categories of people. Does the Minister regard it as necessary or useful for people with that relevant experience or background to be included, to ensure that there is more than mere abstract representation? What guarantee is there that the authority will not be composed of the great and good, as others are? For example, the long process for the people's peers ended up with exactly the sort of names from the top shelf that we would have had with no process at all.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

The people's peers were appointed under a different process. We do not propose to nominate any hairdressers. There is a serious point. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking me to commit to inclusion of all the groups that have been mentioned in amendments Nos. 6 and 52. I commit to that, absolutely and without qualification. All the interests have a direct part to play and cover exactly the range of people that we would consider when establishing a direct body.

On the point about the people's peers, it may be appropriate to appoint a door steward to the group, rather than necessarily someone from a trade union. It is more likely that one would consider the latter, but I can see an argument for one or two members of the authority having direct and immediate experience of carrying out such responsibilities.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

Lay trade unionists.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

As my hon. Friend says, some members could be lay trade unionists rather than trade union officials. I commit to the range of interests and experience on the authority that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey wants. It is critical that it has that, so that it has the independence that my right hon. Friend has argued for throughout the process.

However, I ask my right hon. Friend to think about the word ``representative''. It is a difficult word in the context of how one deals with the issues, not only for employees but in all other aspects. For example, it may be better to have someone from a private security company rather than someone from the trade association, in certain circumstances. I do not say anything on the subject trivially.

I hope that hon. Members will not press the amendments to a vote and will accept my arguments and the assurances that I have tried to give. In the event that they do press them, I will ask my colleagues to vote against them.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South 5:45 pm, 1st May 2001

I knew that my luck could not last that long. I scored perhaps one goal and hit the woodwork with my last shot, which was a speculative effort from 50 yards. I understand what the Minister said. Mine was a probing amendment, and the Home Office will ultimately decide the issue. I accept that the word ``representative'' is perhaps inappropriate.

My perspective over the years has been that the security industry has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the point of regulation. I have always been of the view that its members would be more likely to endorse statutory regulation by a regulatory authority, which most of them resisted and some still do, if they felt that their voice would at least be seriously listened to. The industry is fragmented, but a three-year period of office would mean that its different sectors would realise that their turn would come and that they would have the opportunity at least to comment on the serious issues of the day that affected them. In that sense, I am reasonably happy with what the Minister said.

The Minister's comments have also reassured me that my nightmare scenario will not become a reality. I want the private security industry to be represented, but I do not want it to become the regulatory authority as it transfers from self-regulation to statutory regulation, and I am assured that that will not happen. I do not want members of the industry to provide one of their own from the list of the great and the good. Such a person could influence events directly or, more likely, indirectly, particularly in the second term, when the Home Office's influence declines somewhat. That would be a disaster because people would say that nothing had changed and that self-regulation had been transformed into statutory self-regulation. The Minister is aware of those criteria. I look forward to seeing who is chosen as chairman, who the board members are and what bodies they derive from, if not represent.

I do not mind withdrawing the amendment, because I never thought that it was likely to be incorporated into the Bill. However, I have got the point over and I have been considerably reassured that my nightmare will not become a reality. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 31, in page 20, line 10, at end insert—

`(4)(a) At least one of the members appointed by the Secretary of State shall be a person whom the Secretary of State considers to represent the interests of the police in England and Wales; and

(b) At least one of the members appointed by the Secretary of State shall be a person whom the Secretary of State considers to represent the interests of the private security industry in England and Wales.'.—[Mr. Hawkins.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 11.

Division number 7 Adults Abused in Childhood — Schedule 1 - The Security Industry Authority

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 11 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

I beg to move Amendment No. 26, in page 21, line 26, at end insert—

`(c) powers to appoint directly members of its staff to be inspectors for such period and subject to such terms and conditions as the authority may determine.'.

As I have discussed the inspectorate—although not in detail—I shall not repeat my remarks, except for one point. There is a plethora of inspectorates operating within the private security industry, all of which are self-regulatory. Most are linked to business interests in the security industry: the large employers to BSIA Ltd and the insurance industry to the National Approval Council for Security Systems. NACOSS and the inspectorate of the security industry, which is derived from BSIA, have formed a joint inspectorate that would be keen to be appointed as the inspectorate. Indeed, I have no objection to the expertise in those organisations being incorporated in the inspectorate. However, I am delighted by the Minister's comments that whoever is appointed to the inspectorate will be employed, pensioned and under the control of the SIA. That will give the inspectorate the legitimacy and independence that is an essential pre-condition for its success.

The inspectorate will be crucial. It needs competent, enthusiastic and qualified personnel who know the wiles of the security industry. Such people cannot be plucked out of other industries. It takes a long time to get to know policing and security; it is not something that can be learned quickly. There should be a regional inspectorate attached to Government offices such as the Government office for the west midlands. As I have said, such an inspectorate should not employ 10 people; the figure should be nearer to 100. We should not worry if the work force is that large because the more, better-trained employees there are, the better job they will do, in which case the inspectorate would be serving the SIA, and the public interest would also be served.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I want to make two or three points in response to my right hon. Friend. First, the Bill already takes account of the aim of the amendment, which is to allow the authority to appoint its own staff as inspectors. I draw the Committee's attention to paragraph (9)(1), which states:

``The Authority may, to such extent as it may determine, delegate any''—

I emphasise ``any''—

``of its functions to any committee of the Authority or to any employee of the Authority.''

The relevant functions are established in clause 19(1), which we discussed earlier. It states that

``a person authorised in writing for the purpose by the Authority may enter any premises owned or occupied by any person appearing to him to be a regulated person''.

The authorised persons will be the inspectors who enforce the licensing and approval regimes. The current legislation makes it clear that the authority can decide to appoint and use its own employees as inspectors, should it choose to do so.

The second point, which I made during our discussion of clause 19, is that the new authority must have inspection arrangements that are independent of the industry that it is inspecting. However, as my right hon. Friend said, the authority must have the knowledge and understanding of the industry to be able to inspect it effectively. It is a matter for the authority to establish an inspectorate that is fully under its control, but it is also for the authority to decide how to do that. It may create its own in-house inspection regime or it may try to work with one or more of the existing industry inspectorates. Indeed, it may try a combination of the two or a variety of different approaches.

The key point, which my right hon. Friend made, is that the inspection process must be under the specific control of the authority in order to achieve independence. It might be of interest to the Committee to recall paragraph 74 of the explanatory notes, which states:

``The public service manpower necessary to staff the Authority is estimated at between 90 and 110 persons.''

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not saying that the authority will employ every inspector, but it will have control and will be empowered to take such a route if it wishes to do so. However, we are not trying to pre-judge those relationships. I hope that that is clear, and I am happy to give way to my right hon. Friend if necessary.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

I shall need to consider the Minister's arguments carefully. At the moment, I am not entirely convinced that an inspectorate from the private sector could be brought under the control of the SIA. Personnel who are part of an existing inspectorate should be chosen for their expertise and brought directly within the employ of the SIA. As a result, one could be certain that their bosses—those who determine their activities—were the regulators.

I am concerned about the prospect of a hybrid. The question of control might arise, even though a fee was paid to an employer, which might be a self-regulatory body. That would certainly not be popular, but inspectors should be seen to come from the industry, notwithstanding the question of hybridity. Until I have a good deal more evidence to the contrary, I shall remain convinced that this provision is a worrying prospect. I look forward to the Minister's clarification.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I can indeed offer some clarification. First, the option that my right hon. Friend describes is entirely possible, and I can envisage its taking place. Secondly, the Bill as drafted allows for it unequivocally and directly, even without his amendment. He said that an arrangement involving those employed directly and others from existing associations is not desirable, and although I hear what he says, that, too, is a possibility. However, the authority will resolve matters at the relevant time. I accept the force of his argument, but at this stage we do not think that his is the only approach. I accept the aim behind his amendment, and nothing in the Bill should make that less possible to achieve. Indeed, we believe that the Bill is consistent with that aim.

In the light of those comments, I hope that my right hon. Friend will withdraw his amendment. If he will not, I hope that he will consider my arguments carefully, and I am happy to continue the discussion at a later date.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

I am not entirely reassured, and I shall talk to the Minister and others, but I do not want to press the amendment to a vote at this stage. I hope that the Minister, or his successor, will realise that my approach is the better one. Sucking up to the industry will make some very happy, but it will make me and others very unhappy. None the less, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

We come to amendment No. 11, which is also in the name of the right hon. Member for Walsall, South.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

I do not want to move amendment No. 11.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

The right hon. Gentleman does not wish to move his amendment, so amendment No. 11 is not moved.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

I am in no way questioning your authority, Mr. Winterton, even though I might wish to do so. However, given that the best amendment that I tabled—on the complaints committee—has bitten the dust, may I make a four-paragraph contribution on the schedule?

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

That particular amendment was not selected because it was not considered appropriate. If the right hon. Gentleman briefly refers to what he would have said had the amendment been selected, I will not have time to rule him out of order.

Question proposed, That this schedule be the First schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South 6:00 pm, 1st May 2001

Thank you, Mr Winterton. My point is a matter of detail: at the moment, who does one complain to about a misdemeanour or crime against the private security industry? It is important to address that in the Bill and, if the Minister is interested, perhaps he will table an amendment on the complaints committee—which is not an appeals committee. I have gone into considerable detail on the matter, which should make further explanations superfluous.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I am sure that the Minister has heard what the right hon. Gentleman said and that he will respond.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Will the Minister set out the Government's latest thinking on the timetable for the recruitment, the composition, the work and the full functioning of the security industry authority?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I assure my right hon. Friend that I will carefully consider what he has said and whether it might be appropriate to table an amendment later.

I am in no position to give further information on the timetable. I can only say that, assuming the Bill receives Royal Assent, we intend to move as rapidly as possible in establishing the authority. There is no motive for delay. The whole industry and other interested parties want to see action on this matter. I will be happy to write to the Committee on that matter before Report.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

How many potential candidates for membership of the authority have thus far been earmarked?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

None. As I indicated, the Nolan process will be in operation, and we shall go through the normal process of advertising in that context. No one has been earmarked, or even considered, as far as I know.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister for giving a half-helpful answer. Given the practicalities, what is the earliest time by which he would expect the authority to be functioning? I understand all the constraints, but will he also give us the latest date by which the industry can expect the authority to be up and running and the process of registration to be in place.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

It is difficult to be precise but the fairest thing to say is that it will be difficult to establish the authority, get it going, and have it functioning effectively before the middle or end of 2002. Practically, it may even be later. I assure the Committee that we will be moving with maximum expedition. The process of establishing a new organisation and appointing a new authority takes time, and there is no way around that, as the hon. Gentleman would acknowledge.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am sorry, but it seems right to raise this final self-contained question, given the Minister's previous reply. Have the Government allowed for the administrative costs of the authority in their planning? I know that it will recoup its costs, but what running costs does the Minister imagine will fall to the authority, as opposed to other supplementary elements? Has a yearly figure been worked out?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

Paragraphs 72 and 73 of the explanatory notes state:

``The Security Industry Authority will be self-financing from fees'' as the hon. Gentleman indicated, and it continues:

``Funding estimated at £1m is required to establish the Authority and an additional £1.2m to £1.7 to cover a first year operating deficit. These monies will be recoverable through fees.

There are also likely to be annually recurring and non-recoverable public expenditure costs of between £0.5m and £0.7m for court costs and possible legal aid involved in any prosecution arising from the new offences created.''

I have nothing to add to that at this juncture.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.