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Private Security Industry Bill [H.L.]

8.30 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 8.

[Amendment No. 23C not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Revocation and modification of licences]:

[Amendment No. 23D not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 24:


(" .--(1) A person aggrieved by a decision made by the Authority in his case in relation to the granting, refusal, revocation or modification of a licence may appeal, within three months of the date of the decision to the magistrates' court for the area in which he resides, against such grant, refusal, revocation or modification of the licence.
(2) The Lord Chancellor may by order make provision for the procedure to be followed on any appeal under this section, including concerning the disclosure of documents or evidence, and such an appeal shall be held in public except to the extent that the interests of justice require otherwise.
(3) Magistrates hearing an appeal under this section shall have it in their discretion to make such order as to costs as they see fit, subject to the presumption that the costs of a successful appeal should be paid by the Authority.").

The noble Lord said: It is suggested that with the new clause we should discuss Amendments Nos. 25, 25A, 26, 27, 27A, 29 and 31. This group of amendments is concerned with the appeal system. It is a very important group, not least because people's jobs and businesses are involved and depend on the decisions taken. It is important that there should be an appeal system, not least in connection with human rights and so on, but also it is not a small matter to the individuals involved; it affects their livelihood and their businesses.

The Bill provides in Clause 10 that the Secretary of State "may" provide for an appeal against refusal of a licence. Under Clause 17 he "may" provide for an appeal relating to a Clause 14 application in respect of approvals of businesses. The Bill states both that the Secretary of State "may" provide for an appeal, and that if he decides to do so he "may" do it by setting up a tribunal. I am not sure what other way there is to provide for an appeal, but it is expressed as "may".

That is the first point, which runs through several of the amendments. Our amendments relating to appeals all use the word "shall" instead of "may". So does the Liberal Democrat amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, Amendment No. 25A, which is

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confined to that point. The same point--and a very important one--runs through all our amendments of this character.

It is essential that there should be an appeal. What is more, it is very important that the procedure should be established before the process goes active. People will be applying for licences. No doubt some will be granted them and some will be refused them. Before people are required to have a licence to carry out these activities, they must be able to appeal, if they think they have good grounds, and to have their appeal dealt with, so that either they do or do not have a licence on the day when it becomes statutorily essential to have a licence to carry out their job, whatever activity it is.

Therefore, it is important that there should be an appeal, and also that the procedure should be set up in time, before the Bill takes effect in the various sections of the security industry. To say in the Bill that the Secretary of State "may" set up appeals, if he feels like it, is not sufficient.

The next point to come out of the amendments is this: who is to set up the appeal system in the first place, and who is to supervise it? There are three suggestions in the Bill and these amendments. The first suggestion, in the Bill, is that the Secretary of State should do so. The second, in Amendments Nos. 25 and 31, is that the Lord Chancellor should be responsible for setting up the tribunal; laying down the lines on which it is to operate; how the parties are to be allowed to present their cases; what should happen about costs and disclosure of documents; and all the other matters necessary for ensuring that the appeals tribunal is a fair mechanism for arriving at a decision.

The word "tribunal", which is what the Bill suggests the Secretary of State should set up, has a legal ring to it. We think of a tribunal as being something within a legal framework. Given its important responsibilities, it should be properly set up, with proper rules about who may appear before it and whether they will be represented and what documents various parties should have to disclose in the course of an appeal. We have already discussed whether the authority should give its reasons for decisions to refuse a licence, so that the grounds of appeal are known, but it is also important that documents should be made available so that a proper and fair appeal can take place, since people's jobs and businesses are involved, and that the question of costs be dealt with.

Given this legal tone, it is important that the tribunal is properly set up in legal terms. The right person to do that is really the Lord Chancellor, who would give authority to the tribunal by being involved. His involvement would also make sure that the rules that applied in the conduct of an appeal were in line with those of other tribunals for which he is responsible.

In case that proposal does not take the Government's fancy as an improvement on the Secretary of State's doing it, we have put up another alternative in the new clause set out in Amendment No. 24, which is the lead amendment in the group because it comes first in numerical order. The

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amendment provides for an appeal not to a separate tribunal, but to an existing tribunal: the magistrates' court. The advantage of the magistrates' court is that its members are knowledgeable about the local scene where the activity is to take place. They are knowledgeable, too, by their nature, about the local characters who will sometimes be involved, particularly characters who have got into trouble. They will have a feel for the situation. They exist, they have rules, they have all the necessary clerks, premises and everything else to hear cases, and they have some very similar responsibilities, as we have already discussed in relation to earlier amendments.

Those are the three basic options before the Committee at the moment: first, that the Secretary of State should set up a tribunal; secondly, that the Lord Chancellor should set up a full legal tribunal; and, thirdly, that a case should go to the existing tribunal, the magistrates' court.

Other amendments in this group also refer to appeals. Amendment No. 26 provides that, whatever kind of appeal tribunal the Committee settles upon--whether it is Secretary of State, Lord Chancellor or magistrates' court--the decisions should be appealable both from the authority itself, which is what the Bill provides, and also from local authority decisions. We know that some decisions to grant licences and so on will be delegated to local authorities. I have no greater faith in local authorities than I have in the new authority. It is important that there should be a right of appeal against decisions made by the local authority in these cases as well as appeals against decisions of the security industry authority. This is a quite separate point from which tribunal is to be given the job. I hope that the amendment is so drafted as to apply to whichever tribunal is in charge of these matters.

Amendment No. 27 again embodies a separate point--whether there is an appeal only if the licence or permission, whatever it is, has been refused; whether there is no appeal if the licence has been granted. In some cases there might be, quite properly, an appeal when a licence is granted. For example, if the police thought that a particular individual was not suitable for a licence but, nevertheless, he was granted one by the security industry authority or by the local authority, as the case may be, the police may wish to appeal against it if they considered it wholly wrong that a licence should be granted. At the moment the appeal procedure is entirely a one-way street. It can only operate if a licence or permission is refused.

In addition, a person who is granted a licence with various conditions may feel that he wants the conditions altered, in which case he may want to appeal even though a licence has been granted. I am not sure, quite frankly, whether he can appeal under the Bill as drafted.

That brings me on to Amendment No. 27A, which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. The amendment seeks to make clear that the tribunal--whichever tribunal it is--can change the conditions of a licence as well as uphold a refusal or

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grant a licence. Again, that is important. It should not be, as it were, a yes or no answer; it may be a slightly more grey answer resulting from a more grey appeal in cases where it is not the granting of the licence that is wrong but the conditions attached to it. Amendment No. 27A is also a different point, but it is important.

Amendment No. 29, on the other hand, is simply consequential. All it seeks to do is to ensure that the words "local authority", which would be inserted by Amendment No. 26, are defined. I am aware that this is, in one sense, in the wrong place. If we were to accept Amendment No. 26, the consequential amendment would move the definition of "local authority" into Clause 22, the main definitions clause, rather than simply altering the wording here. I am against having a definition which applies to more than a section hidden away in the middle of the Bill. It is more convenient if the definitions are all in the definition section at the end. It is very much a subsidiary point. Whether we need to extend the definition depends on whether or not we can persuade the Government to agree to Amendment No. 26 or something like it.

I have made a variety of points, all relating to the very important question of appeals. I beg to move.

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