|Private Security Industry Bill [Lords]
Mr. Hawkins: I was saying to the right hon. Member for Walsall, South and the hon. Member for Eccles that, as they are aware, we share several of the concerns that they have raised on behalf of employers and the major security groups. In tune with their remarks, we stress the hope that the Minister will keep such issues under consideration.
As I was saying when the Division bell rang, we will return to those matters when discussing amendment No. 32 to schedule 2. Parts of that scheduleto which the right hon. Member for Walsall, South has also tabled amendmentsare linked to clause 3. Whether the issues are more thoroughly debated at this stage or when we discuss schedule 2 is something of a toss-up. I suspect that we will have a longer debate on some of the CBI-related and Control Risks-type issues when we debate the amendments to schedule 2.
While I encourage the Minister and his officials to keep the matters in mind, I otherwise restrict myself to echoing what the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman said. They were right to point out that the issues are important, crucial especially to companies of the size that are represented by the association of corporate investigation consultancies. We will undoubtedly return to what the Confederation of British Industry believes that the Government have inadvertently done by including aspects that could apply to catch IT security consultants within the Bill's ambit. I do not want to detain the Committee further at this stage, but I will listen to the Minister's response with interest. I think that we will spend some time on the issues later.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): My hon. Friend the Member for Eccles raised an important point, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South and the hon. Member for Surrey Heath reinforced. I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with the latter. The issue is important. When we debate schedule 2, it will be important for the Government to have made clear their position about the merits and demerits of separating the physical from the virtual world, and whether it is technically possible to do that for the kind of businesses that we are discussing. Some businesses that provide physical security on premises might also, by the terms of their contractual obligations, be responsible for electronic security, to which the IT provisions relate.
That field is becoming immensely complicated. I do not know whether my colleagues have read the exciting description of a British first in the newspapers this morning. This might be an impossibility for Hansard, but the product is called ``: : mail''. It is a new virus tool being produced by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. Such developments will be immensely important to industry. One would not want to curtail the development and application of such tools because of the corporate criminality to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South alluded. However, we need to ensure that we do not exclude parts of businesses that may be properly included in the Bill in the context of their provision of physical security.
Mr. Bercow: I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes about the difficulty of distinguishing between the two types of work when referring to employees. The job definition of someone responsible for physical security might also embrace some responsibility for electronic security. However, I should like to be clear about exactly where the hon. Gentleman is coming from. Does he think that, in so far as the two fields can be distinguishedwhich they often canthat of electronic security should not fall within the Bill's rubric?
Mr. Miller: My whole point in rising was to say that I am not convinced one way or the other. I think that there are merits in both cases. It is a technical area, and we must not end up with a Bill that is proscriptive and damages the security aspects of businesses' IT provision. At the same time, when my hon. Friend the Minister introduced the Bill, it was made clear that it was targeted at scams that are at the other end of the spectrum: cowboy wheelclampers and the small-time security companies that have failed to meet the standards recognised by my friends in Geneva, the international union Uni, which has negotiated many international agreements about the provision of physical security.
Such distinctions get more and more blurred as time goes on. It will be an interesting challenge for those folk who are not actually here to come up with the right balance. My instinct is that the CBI has an important point but, equally, there are merits in the alternative argument. The Committee should take the issue seriously, and take time over it. Any decision that we take will have important ramifications.
Mr. Charles Clarke: This has been a helpful little tour d'horizon. As hon. Members have indicated, when we debate schedule 2paragraph 4 deals with private investigations and paragraph 5 with security consultantswe will pursue such matters in greater detail. However, I must make a couple of remarks about what has been said.
I first pick up on the IT point that was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South and then by other hon. Members. I agree that it is a substantive point, but I repeat what I said on Second Reading:
Mr. Hawkins: I am grateful for the Minister's helpful indications and am taking careful note of what he says. However, will the Minister say that he would be happy for his officials to have a specific meeting with those in the CBI who have concerns about the matter? It would be helpful if he could confirm that.
Mr. Clarke: I am able to confirm that. Indeed, I had a meeting with the CBI, at an earlier stage, to discuss those issues. We had a full discussion about what we should do.
Before we have a detailed discussion of schedule 2, I want to make a general point about the major dilemma referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller). Ten or 15 years in the future, if one were to want to subvert organisations by selling security services in a criminal way, it will no longer be a matter of sorting out door stewards in respect of dealing with drugs, but a matter of security systems installed in major corporations. We must bear in mind that the evolution of such systems will be important. A difficult balance of judgment will have to be made about how we decide between competing issues. For that reason, in the case of IT security, we have asked the Department of Trade and Industry to discuss with the industry how it might move forward.
We have also given a specific responsibility to the authority to keep such matters under review and to come back with proposals that ensure that we have a flexible process. We have taken the right approach in the Bill, as my hon. Friend was generous enough to say during the debate on clause 1. In the light of my remarks and assurances, and the further assurances that I will give during debate on schedule 2, I hope that the Committee will agree that clause 3 should stand part of the Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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