Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-First Report


NETWORK OF CONTACT POINTS FOR PRIVATE SECURITY


(23152)
5135/02
 — 

Initiative of the Kingdom of Spain on the setting up of a network of contact points of national authorities responsible for private security.


Legal base: Articles 29,30(1) and 34(2)(c) EU; consultation; unanimity
Deposited in Parliament: 4 February 2002
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 15 February 2002
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: April 2002
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested



Background

  5.1  As a result of two expert seminars in recent years which have expressed concerns about the private security industry, the Spanish Presidency has decided to launch this draft Decision. It also considers that those operating within the industry need to be able to extend their business interests to other Member States.

The document

  5.2  The document proposes the establishment of a network of contact points selected by the national authorities responsible for private security, which would be chaired by the national authority holding the Presidency of the Council, assisted by the Council Secretariat. The objectives of the network would be to facilitate co-ordination and co-operation, to exchange information on models of regulating private security, and to establish best practice. In the longer term, the possibility of approximating models and best practices would be explored.

  5.3  In addition, an Internet site is proposed to allow access to relevant Member State legislation, and to information about companies. The site would establish a permanent contact between the national authorities and provide an opportunity for exchanges of experience.

The Government's view

  5.4  The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth ) tells us:

    "The Government welcomes the broad thrust of this proposal, which is primarily geared to improving the operation of the European Single Market in the private security industry."

  5.5  However, he lists a number of aspects of the proposal on which the Government will be seeking reassurance. He emphasises the need for the Internet site to be developed in full accordance with the requirements of the EU Data Protection Directive and the Data Protection Act 1998, and points out that it could be very resource-intensive. He also notes the need for clarification both about where responsibility for the Internet site and for the network would lie and about how either would be financed.

  5.6  The Minister adds:

    "given the fact that the private security industry takes on quasi-police functions in some Member States, there must be satisfactory arrangements in place for handling the Third Pillar[7] aspects of the proposal."

  5.7  The Minister tells us that the UK does not currently have an obvious body to act as the national authority, as envisaged in the proposal. Although the Security Industry Authority will be established in 2003, with responsibility for regulating and improving standards in the industry, its remit will extend to England and Wales only. The Government will consider with the devolved administrations how best to participate in the initiative. He continues: "since the Security Industry Authority will not license security companies on a compulsory basis, the UK will not have the ability to supply the network envisaged in this proposal with comprehensive company data."

  5.8  The Minister tells us that the Presidency intends to secure adoption of this proposal at the April JHA Council.

Conclusion

  5.9  We find several aspects of this proposal and of the Government's Explanatory Memorandum somewhat puzzling.

  5.10  The Minister underlines one of the Presidency's objectives by describing the proposal as "primarily geared to improving the operation of the European Single Market in the private security industry". If it is, indeed, intended to improve the industry's freedom to provide services within the Community, why does it not have an EC legal base ? It is not clear to us just how the proposal would fulfil this objective anyway; its content seems more concerned with improved surveillance of the industry than with increasing its freedom to provide services. We ask for clarification.

  5.11  Further, we ask what the Minister means by saying "there must be satisfactory arrangements in place for handling the Third Pillar aspects of the proposal", when the entire proposal currently falls within the Third Pillar.

  5.12  Finally, given the UK's current inability to identify a national authority or to provide the kind of data envisaged in the proposal, we ask how the Government plans to proceed. Will it negotiate for a less ambitious network, or extend the scope of the Security Industry Authority?

  5.13  We shall be surprised if the proposal in its present state is considered ready for adoption in April. We will keep it under scrutiny until we have the Minister's response.



7  The Third Pillar is Justice and Home Affairs, and is an inter-governmental part of the EU's activity. Back


 
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Prepared 26 March 2002