Private Security Industry Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Bercow: Does the right hon. Gentleman's support for a broad approach lead him to favour the inclusion within the terms of the legislation of public houses that do not employ designated security officers? As he knows, my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath objected to that.

Mr. George: The majority of public houses have security problems, although there are a fortunate few that do not. Many 19th-century pugilists ended up either as chucker outers or as the owners of the licensed premises where they worked. They dealt with their security problems in a manner unique to middle-aged, 22-stone pugilists.

If a public house does not employ designated security officers, their role might have to be undertaken by other staff, so the definition of security staff presents problems. There are so many marginal or tangential—although not peripheral—sectors of the security industry. Many employees perform security roles. If a driver pulls off the M1 to visit a service station to buy a copy of The Guardian—although I suspect that Conservative Members would be unlikely to buy that newspaper—the sales assistant might have a screen that monitors what is happening in the rest of the building.

The problem of definition would bedevil any legislation. I failed O-level maths so I am not in a position to offer advice concerning horizontal explanations, but depth of regulation takes account of entry requirements for firms and individuals wanting to operate in the industry and minimum standards of operation, and I feel that the Bill is in between shallow and deep. I devised five models of regulation: non-interventionist—which we have had until now—minimum narrow, minimum wide, comprehensive narrow and comprehensive wide. My view, and that of professionals in the security field, is that if we consider the top 10 countries in terms of a successful, accountable, regulated security industry, we can see that most of the best-regulated systems have a combination of breadth and depth. The Opposition want the system to be narrow—just covering man guarding—and shallow, whereas I think that it should be wide and deep. I suspect that the Home Secretary and the Minister are in favour of something in between. The clause is admirable—I will not be quite as eulogistic about all the other clauses—it sets the scene, and I support it.

Mr. Ian Stewart (Eccles): Good morning, Mr. Benton. It is good to see you in the Chair. I, too, am happy with the clause. The industry to which it applies ranges from well-organised, well-regulated companies to, at the other end of the spectrum, cowboys. I want to speak about the cowboy end.

I should declare an interest. Most people know that I am a lifelong trade unionist, and although I am extremely keen for the clause to be implemented in relation to standards, I believe, on the basis of personal experience, that because of the nature of the cowboy firms—doormen in clubs and pubs provide a good example—it is problematic in terms of industrial relations. A large number of people involved at that end of the industry pursue their activities within the black economy. That militates against good and proper standards in the industry, which are the subject of the clause. The one matter cannot be considered separately from the other.

During my 20 years as a Transport and General Workers Union regional officer I had occasion to recruit those who are known, colloquially, as bouncers. The nature of the recruitment was such that I did not have to go looking for them. Every December, they would come knocking on the union's door, asking to join. I came to realise that they would knock on the door in December, make use of their union identity for that month as a bargaining lever to ensure the highest possible return for working over Christmas and the new year, and in January they would no longer be members. Such playing of the game was endemic in the black economy.

I am firmly in favour of good, sensible and appropriate minimum regulation, as outlined in the clause. In turn, however, the Government should not forget that employment regulations are equally important.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Charles Clarke): 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.

Mr. Bercow: I think that what the Minister is saying is clear, but I want to establish it beyond peradventure. Will he confirm that the definition or job title of an individual establishes what is incidental and what is not, rather than the frequency with which he or she may have to deal with outbreaks of disorder?

Mr. Clarke: That is correct. The point is what is the main employment, and therefore what is the definition of that employment. There are other Bills currently before the House, or in the other place, in which we are considering issues such as outbreaks of disorder in other circumstances. That is not germane to the key purpose of this Bill, which is to focus on people whose main employment is within the security industry.

On training, I was interested in the letter that the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald received from the trainer in Newcastle-under-Lyme. I think that it illustrated as clearly as anything could the importance of training in the process. That is why subsection (2)(e) states that a function of the authority shall be

    ``to set or approve standards of conduct, training and levels of supervision''.

That is key to the clause. Many argue for a much stronger and better training regime—individual Members of Parliament with experience of the matter, trade unions and many of the companies involved. We should establish what types of training are involved, both on fundamental issues such as what forms of restraint may be used in which circumstances—handcuffs have been mentioned, for example—and on how to operate generally. Consideration must be given to whether carrying a two by four is the appropriate way in which to deal with such situations.

The hon. Member for Surrey Heath referred to well-established organisations that have done a lot of work in such matters, such as the Security Industry Training Organisation, the National Security Inspectorate, the British Security Industry Association and the Joint Security Industry Council. They would be the first to say that to establish a national regime whereby standards are approved by a national body is the right way forward. The letter to which he referred emphasised the strength of the case for such action. It will be a central function of the authority.

11 am

I cannot be as helpful about the hon. Gentleman's final point as he would wish. Subsection (3) states:

    ``The Authority may do anything that it considers is calculated to facilitate, or is incidental or conducive to, the carrying out of any of its functions''.

That is an important responsibility of the authority. We live in a dynamic world. An example to which reference has already been made is the fact that 30 years ago the current structure of security in pubs and clubs would not have been recognisable. The industry has evolved. My right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South referred to the security camera. Reforms in the industry will take place because of the rapid process of change. It is an important obligation of the authority to have that responsibility under subsection (3).

We are not considering further amendments to define that provision more widely. I say in its defence that the clause is only ancillary to the SIA's function, which is why it is covered by subsection (3), not subsection (2). Its power is not that broad: it is supplementary to what else is happening. The power is important, however, for the reasons of change that I have set out. I urge the Committee to agree to the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Directions etc. by the Secretary of State

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