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Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 45:

The noble Viscount said: This is a simple probing amendment. There is some confusion about whether those involved in the carrying of cash or valuables in transit are covered in Schedule 2. Therefore, I have put them in, but I am sure that the Minister will tell me that the matter is covered somewhere else. I should be grateful for a simple explanation.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Paragraph 2(1) sets out three generic descriptions of the activities undertaken by those providing manned guarding services. The three types of guarding in question are guarding premises, property and people. This approach is a common feature of the drafting of the Bill. For example, we do not attempt to list in detail every type of occupation comprising manned guarding services, since any attempt at such a list would probably be flawed at worst and cumbersome at best. Similarly, we believe that the generic approach taken in paragraph 2(1) is sufficient to cover all relevant manned guarding activities.

However, I am aware of a desire in the private security industry to be reassured that guards under contract who transport cash and other valuables are covered by the provisions of the Bill. I am happy to confirm that this is indeed the case. Cash in transit--the abbreviation used in the industry--is very clearly within the ambit of the Bill, and in particular is covered by the provisions of paragraph 2(1).

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That should satisfy the noble Viscount, and I trust that he will be able to seek to withdraw his amendment on that basis.

Viscount Astor: I am grateful to the Minister. He said that this is covered by paragraph 2(1): where is it covered? Is it paragraph 2(1)(a), (b) or (c)?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: It is (b).

Viscount Astor: My amendment, of course, refers to that sub-paragraph, which currently states:

    "guarding property against destruction or damage, against being stolen or against being otherwise dishonestly taken or obtained".

Presumably, that means that "property" includes cash in transit. I am grateful to the Minister for nodding in confirmation. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 46 not moved.]

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 47:

    Schedule 2, page 22, line 43, at end insert--

("(2A) This paragraph does not apply to activities carried out to deter parking on private land without permission, which are conducted in accordance with regulations contained in an order made by the Secretary of State.
(2B) Regulations issued under sub-paragraph (2A) shall include--
(a) a maximum permitted charge for release of an immobilised vehicle which may include different maximum charges for different days and times;
(b) a requirement for the display of a notice describing how to obtain the release of an immobilised vehicle and during which hours it can be released;
(c) a requirement that, when a business owns or occupies the land, the vehicle can be released at any time within the normal hours of operation of that business; and
(d) a requirement that, when the land is attached to a dwelling, the vehicle can be released at any time when the premises are occupied.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 47 concerns wheelclamping, a matter to which some attention was given at Second Reading. I think that the Committee is agreed that the activities of rogue wheelclampers should be curtailed--certainly I agree--but I do not think that it should necessarily mean that this enormously elaborate licensing scheme should apply to everyone who might indulge in wheelclamping.

It seems to me that someone who has ground for parking attached to either their house or business premises--particularly in the middle of towns, where parking is very expensive and difficult to find; where it can cost several pounds an hour to park on a parking meter--should be allowed to deter others from parking on it, if necessary by means of wheelclamping.

The amendment proposes that the Secretary of State should issue an order under which--provided people remained within the fabric of the regulations contained in the order--there would be a general permission to carry out wheelclamping without the

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need for a licence. An authority would only be troubled for the issue of a licence if someone wished to go beyond the regulations.

As the Committee will have noticed in the amendment, I envisage, first, that the regulations should include a maximum permitted charge. It may vary according to the circumstances set out in the regulations--the time and date and so on--but there would be a maximum permitted charge.

Secondly, there should be a requirement that a prominent notice is properly displayed, stating "If you park on this private land you may be clamped". It should state "You may obtain release of your vehicle by taking the following action: Ringing the doorbell on the left or dialling this number", whatever it is. It should state the hours during which the vehicle can be released. I should have added also the cost of release, which would be however much is allowed under the first regulation.

There should be a requirement that the vehicle can be released at any time during business hours if it is parked on business land and at any time when the property is occupied if it is parked on domestic land.

I am not wedded to these particular parts of the regulations and I should like to leave the Secretary of State with some flexibility in the design of the regulations. But the principle behind the amendment is that restrictions of this kind would be sufficient to stop the rogue clampers and at the same time would mean that wheelclamping was an option for someone who wished to keep his private land private.

In the middle of large cities it is often extremely difficult to park. There is a great temptation to park on an area of empty land if you are anxious to do some shopping or to visit someone. However, a person or business has the right to keep private land free for their own or customers' parking, whatever they wish, rather than anyone being allowed to park on it. Of course, some land will have a fence around it and a gate that can be locked, but in the nature of things other land will not. Wheelclamping, properly conducted, is not an activity that we should attempt to stop or tie up with a whole lot of bureaucracy. Therefore, I suggest that a provision of this kind is desirable. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I appreciate the sentiments behind the amendment. On the other hand, it seems rather odd that a regulating power should be introduced in the second schedule to the Bill, as opposed to having a specific clause dealing with it.

The various matters that the noble Lord suggests should be contained in the regulations--he does not pretend that this is an exhaustive list--seem very proper. As I say, the sentiment is correct; however, I am slightly unhappy about the way in which the amendment is expressed. I hope that the noble Lord will rethink exactly how to phrase such a provision at some future time.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I suppose that in a private moment I might have a great deal of sympathy with

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this amendment. We have a reasonably sized piece of land in front of our garden. I can envisage circumstances in which I might be hard-up for employment and could do with the extra income, in an unregulated form as well.

We must look closely at the effect of the amendment. As drafted, it would remove wheelclamping on private land from regulation by the SIA and make all disputes in relation to wheelclamping a matter for the courts, as they are now. Were we to accept the amendment, it would mean that the Home Secretary could make regulations governing how wheelclamping should be conducted to avoid the need for regulation by the security industry authority. I shall return to the issue of conditions. First, perhaps I may address the proposed new paragraph 2A to be inserted into Schedule 2.

The objective of the Bill is to regulate various areas of what has become known as the private security industry. We are doing this essentially because, as the law currently stands, it is possible for anyone to seek employment or to act in a self-employed capacity in any area of the industry without any check being carried out on any criminal activity in which he may have been involved in the past.

A key problem arising from the amendment is that it would leave wheelclamping activities, unlike the other security industry activities covered by the Bill, open to being carried out by criminals. I do not think that anyone wants that. We think it essential for the security industry authority to have the proper opportunity to refuse a licence for wheelclamping where the person seeking the licence has, say, convictions for crimes of violence. I am sure that Members of the Committee already appreciate the risks attached to allowing someone with a string of convictions for grievous bodily harm to work as a bouncer at a night-club. There have already been cases where bouncers have been, shall we say, too enthusiastic in the execution of their duties.

Wheelclamping on private land is not dissimilar. It is not uncommon, for example, for drivers who get into arguments with clampers over release fees or what they perceive to be unauthorised clamping to be threatened with violence. If anyone could operate as a wheelclamper under the Bill as the noble Lord, Lord Cope, seeks to amend it, it would be possible for someone newly released from prison one day to be clamping vehicles late the following night and confronting motorists at times when no one else is around. When considered in that light, it is no wonder that motorists are concerned about the problems associated with this practice under the present law. That explains exactly why we have introduced this Bill to tackle the problem.

As the Members of the Committee will have seen today, we are regulating private wheelclampers for three very good reasons. The first is to ensure that, by applying criminal sanctions to unlicensed operatives, anyone who wishes to operate as a wheelclamper will have to apply for a licence. Secondly, when applying for a licence, would-be clampers would be subjected to

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a check to discover whether they had a criminal record, particularly for offences of violence. If such a record did exist, the authority could refuse a licence, and any attempt to operate as a wheelclamper would then become a criminal offence. Thirdly, the authority would have the power to grant a licence on condition that the licensee adhered to a code of practice that the authority could publish or adopt. To tackle effectively the problems associated with cowboy wheelclampers, it is essential that those three conditions operate alongside each other.

I turn to sub-paragraph (2B), which would be inserted by the amendment. The legislation that we propose would leave to the discretion of the security industry authority the provisions to be contained in a code of conduct. Common sense dictates that such a code would determine a reasonable release fee, and that warning signs should be erected in restricted areas. The draft code of conduct drawn up last year by the British Parking Association is very explicit on those precise points. I do not believe that the security industry authority would need directing in law as to what such a code should contain. I shall not allow their discretion to be fettered in that way. That would be quite wrong.

In conclusion, it is essential that the powers that we introduce to deal with unregulated wheelclamping on private land are as straightforward, clear cut and robust as possible. Under the Bill, it is an offence, with certain common-sense exceptions, to use a wheelclamp without a licence. I would argue that any question about the way in which a licence-holder operates as a wheelclamper is, rightly, a matter for the SIA to take up on behalf of the general public, with the possibility of withdrawal of the licence if necessary.

The proposed amendments make no reference at all to the means of resolving disputes between the driver and the clamper about the latter's compliance with the regulations made by the Secretary of State. In the absence of such provisions, it is our view that the matter could be decided only by the courts on a case by case basis. That is broadly the position we are now in, and it needs to be improved. The proposals of noble Lords opposite would make it considerably more difficult to impose criminal sanctions on clampers who consistently operate outside the regime set by a code of practice. In my view, those proposals would allow cowboy clampers to continue to operate in the very way that our proposals are designed to tackle.

With vested personal interests on one side and all matters taken into consideration, I find myself unable to accept these amendments. I hope that the noble Lords opposite will very carefully reflect on the points that I have made and will feel able to withdraw their amendments.

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