Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Fourth 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: Minister's letter of 26 March 2002
Previous Committee Report: HC 152-xxi (2001-02), paragraph 5 (13 March 2002)
To be discussed in Council: April 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; information on progress requested



Background

  7.1  The Spanish Presidency intends this draft Decision to address a number of concerns about the private security industry, and to improve the ability of companies within it to operate in the European Single Market. When we considered it in March, we sought clarification from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) on several aspects of the proposal and of the Government's Explanatory Memorandum.

The Minister's letter

  7.2  The Minister has now responded. He begins by telling us:

    "The most significant development on this draft Decision since the time of the Explanatory Memorandum has been an opinion provided to the Presidency by the Council Legal Service, to the effect that the proposed Third Pillar legal base[10] is inappropriate, and that a First Pillar base[11] is preferable. The Presidency is currently considering how to proceed.

    "This will clearly have a significant impact on discussions relating to what the proposal is in general trying to achieve and hence on several areas of it where your Committee (and that in the Lords) has rightly pointed to a lack of clarity.

    "These issues, together with those others referred to in the Explanatory Memorandum which still await clarification, mean that ... many significant aspects of the proposal [remain] unresolved. The Government will press for these issues to be clarified as quickly as possible, but it must at this stage be questionable as to whether the Presidency's hope for agreement to the draft in April is now going to be feasible."

  7.3  We had asked for clarification about how the proposal was supposed to improve the operation of the Single Market, given its legal base and the fact that its content was mostly about improved surveillance. The Minister agrees that the situation is confused. The original legal base was not related to Single Market objectives; however, any new First Pillar base will make it difficult for the proposal to address the regulatory and surveillance aspects on which it is currently focussed.

  7.4  We also asked why the Minister was seeking "satisfactory arrangements in place for handling the Third Pillar aspects of the proposal", when the entire proposal fell within the Third Pillar. The Minister apologises for a drafting error, and adds:

    "In the light of the confusion which has subsequently arisen over the legal base and hence the underlying purpose of the draft Decision, it would now be better to say that satisfactory arrangements must be in place to clarify the extent to which there are both First and Third Pillar aspects of the proposal, and for implementing any such aspects."

  7.5  In the light of the information in the Explanatory Memorandum about the UK's current inability to identify a national authority or to provide the kind of data envisaged in the proposal, we asked how the Government planned to proceed. The Minister tells us:

    "No timescale is currently envisaged in the draft Decision for the operation of the proposed arrangements. The Security Industry Authority being set up under the Private Security Industry Act 2001 will become operational during 2003. It was indicated in the Explanatory Memorandum that the Government would need to discuss with the Scottish and Northern Ireland administrations the establishment of a national authority for the purposes of the draft Decision. One possibility might be for the Security Industry Authority to act as the UK contact point.

    "In the absence of a compulsory system of security company licensing, the UK will not be able to provide fully comprehensive data on companies as foreshadowed in the draft Decision. However, the Security Industry Authority will be responsible for creating and maintaining a register of all companies in England and Wales approved by it under a voluntary approval scheme. This will enable it to provide relevant information on companies to the extent that they have taken advantage of the existence of the scheme. This in turn should be seen by companies as an additional incentive to apply for approval. However, the attractiveness of this proposal rests on the assumption that the resulting database of company information will be a useful market tool. It is not clear that this will be achieved by the proposal as currently drafted."

  7.6  Finally, the Minister agrees with us that the initial Presidency timetable for the draft Decision appears optimistic, given the issues on which the UK is awaiting clarification (including those we have raised).

Conclusion

  7.7  We thank the Minister for his full and helpful reply.

  7.8  Our puzzlement about several aspects of this proposal and of the Government's Explanatory Memorandum turns out to have been well-founded. It is certainly difficult to imagine that speedy progress can be made on this proposal, especially if the Presidency decides to re-present it under the First Pillar where it will be subject to different legislative procedures.

  7.9  We will keep the document under scrutiny and wait with interest to see how the situation develops. We ask the Minister to keep us informed of progress.


10   The Third Pillar covers provisions on police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. Back

11  The First Pillar covers traditional EC business, including Single Market legislation. Back


 
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Prepared 26 April 2002