|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Hayes: The Home Affairs Committee, in the report to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, explicitly concluded that the current standards, particularly standards of training, in much of the private security industry were unsatisfactory and
Mr. George: The Bill as it stands is in part a mystery. It will depend on whom the Home Secretary appoints as chief executive, as chairman, and on who the members of the board are. I would not want them to be toadies directly responsible to the Home Secretary or the Minister of State, seeking permission from them before they blow their noses. Nor do I want the members of the board simply to come from the private security industry and from those companies that still object to regulation.
Can hon. Members believe that two large security companies would still love to see the Bill simply fade away? One of the crucial issues, therefore, is: who will be appointed to the board? I hope that the chairman will be not an establishment figure but an established figure, with a track record of impartiality, who does not come from the private security industry and is seen not as taking his or her orders from Worcester and the BSIA, but as basing the general framework of his or her operations on orders from the Home Office.
I hope that, in the days ahead, the Ministers of State will say, "We were a bit vague in the section on training. We will tell the SIA and its chief executive and chairman that the training must be serious." We do not want the current training to prevail; it must be more on the lines of that in Spain or Sweden, where the training is conducive to establishing a professional guard, not a half-trained or untrained guard.
Even if people with PhDs were instructed, it would be difficult to convey what is required. Spain has a good system that involves an examination, but the trainers will not even be regulated under the proposals. Proper training
Mr. Hayes: My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) mentioned the auditing process and analysis involved in ISO 9000. Is it not the case that, in the typical circumstances that exist in most other industries, part of that process involves the accreditation and careful assessment of trainers to ensure that they do their job properly? If the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that that will not obtain under the Bill, it represents a glaring omission.
Mr. George: The ISO standards series is voluntary and the percentage of people who have adopted it is, regrettably, too low. I want the training and standards to be compulsory. Perhaps we can use the various rules or models laid down for security storage, cash in transit or central stations. That is a good basis on which to find out how other people think security companies should operate.
Having gained that expertise and having consulted the industry, the SIA will, I hope, draft its own standards. I hope that the SIA will tell those who want to provide guarding services that they must meet certain requirements, that their men and women must undertake certain training and that, if they cannot do so, they will not be given a licence.
Mr. Bercow: I understand the right hon. Gentleman's concern about the fact that the authority should not be a prisoner of the private security industry, but that, of course, does not mean that it is incapable of learning from and being inspired by it. I do not know whether he was meeting the Secretary of State for Defence at the time, but I wonder whether I can refer to the point that I made earlier. I hope that he will agree that the Secretary of State's discretion should be properly circumscribed so that it is not unfettered and so that he does not have the opportunity simply to throw baubles at people as a reward for loyal service in unrelated fields. Does he agree that the authority's composition should draw in the expertise of the industry, the police force and others in related sectors?
Initially, I thought that there should be a balance between the two, but I now think that the majority should be made up of those from outside the industry. The chairman should also come from outside the industry and should not be linked to a private security company. That will ensure the legitimacy of--and the respect for--the organisation.
I again offer my profuse apologies for the length of my speech, but with one book and three more on the way, 150 articles and hundreds and hundreds of meetings, mostly involving bashing my head against a brick wall, I know that the industry has a potential that has not been remotely realised. Regulation by itself will not be a panacea. The industry will still require ingenuity, good investment, good people and the use of universities and teaching courses in security. Regulation can, however, make a significant contribution despite the Bill's imperfections and omissions.
The hon. Member for Buckingham thinks that the Bill's timing is malevolent; as I said, it should have been introduced 25 years ago. Unless the general election is in November, there is no way the Bill will receive the proper scrutiny that amendments deserve. However, I hope that the Bill will receive its Second Reading and that Ministers will say that the permissive powers provide us with a clue as to what they have in mind. I hope that it is not the minimalist approach of hardly any training, or the maximalist approach either, because I would not want to destroy the security industry by imposing the idea that a guard should receive 150 hours training. However, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and his colleagues will give us a greater clue as to what will be available.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): The right hon. Gentleman is far more knowledgeable about the subject than me and many others, and I bow to his knowledge. This is a serious question, but given the political situation that we are in, does he advise that we should have a canter round the course now, but not seek to rush the Bill through before a possible early election? Or is it better to have the debate on Second Reading, benefit from the deliberations of the Lords and then return to the Bill in the early days of the next Parliament, whoever are in government? Liberal Democrats certainly make the commitment that we shall expedite its passage as long as it receives proper scrutiny in the next Parliament.
Mr. George: The hon. Gentleman missed most of my speech, but he has hit the bull's eye. In an ideal world, I hope that we would give the matter the adequate scrutiny that would allow a better Bill to emerge than the one that is before us.
The security industry faces the same choice as I do. After 1,000 years--or the 25 years I have wanted to do something about the issue--we have a Bill. Will we accept it with its imperfections, or will we say that it is not good enough and ask the Government to introduce a better Bill in the next Parliament? The latter is an
I shall not rattle off the organisations and companies that have called for stronger legislation. I hope that the consultative process has made the Minister realise that the Bill is pitched at a level that is lower than the industry would accept. However, if he is able, without imposing outrageous costs and standards, to advise the chairman of the new authority about the parameters within which he wants him to operate in the short term, it will have been worth it. The Bill could almost be as good as the best legislation. However, if that opportunity is not taken and the Bill satisfies the better regulation taskforce and the minimalists, I will look back at the past few weeks with despair.