Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Bassam of Brighton: As the noble Viscount knows, the Bill is directed primarily at those who provide services under contract or, in the case of door supervisors and wheelclampers, those who are also employed in-house.

The amendment would remove from exemption from regulation private investigation activities conducted in support of market research. Although a number of people may find it irritating regularly to be stopped in the street by market researchers or to receive their questionnaires, one cannot say that they are conducting activities which are in any way associated with the private security industry. Therefore, we take the view that it would be wrong to give a false impression that their activities might be covered by the provisions of the Bill. The exemption

30 Jan 2001 : Column 676

from inadvertent regulation, which is achieved by Schedules 2(4)(2) and 2(4)(9), is an important clarification.

My understanding is that the amendment would take out of exemption and into regulation people who conduct market research activities. Therefore, undoubtedly the amendment would weaken the effective targeting of the regulation introduced by the Bill as it would take in people who should be excluded.

In our view, sub-paragraph (2) is not needed because market researchers would need to ask people questions. Therefore, they would be excluded by sub-paragraph (7). We agree with that point. In any event, market research--that is, asking questions of individuals--may well be excluded by that paragraph. However, other forms of market research exist, such as general surveys and non-personalised research. We believe that the paragraph avoids doubt. I hope that that clarifies the point. Perhaps I may suggest to the noble Viscount that he withdraws the amendment. I believe that we are already well covered.

Viscount Astor: I am somewhat confused by the Minister's reply. I think he would agree that paragraph (7) on page 23 includes activities by market researchers who ask questions. Once they ask a question, it is carried out "with the knowledge or consent". They would have to be quite clever to ask a question and for the person not to know that it was being asked. That form of market research is covered. That is the reason I tabled my amendment. I felt that paragraph (2) is not necessary.

The Minister said that it is necessary because we need what I believe he described as "non-generalised research". I do not have a clue what that means. It would seem to me to be taking information from available public sources, whether that be from universities or wherever. It is not implied in any way that that is covered in the Bill. I cannot see that anybody will get the idea from doing market research that they will suddenly be covered by the Bill. Therefore, I maintain that the paragraph is unnecessary. I do not understand why the Minister needs it.

However, I shall read carefully what the Minister has said. Perhaps he will consider the issue and write to me between now and the next stage and state why the Government feel that the paragraph is necessary.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I thank the noble Viscount for giving way. I suspect that the lateness of the hour has affected my brain. Perhaps I did not explain the issue as carefully as I should. It is "non-personalised" research, in other words not asking people, that needs to be excluded. That is the point on which we may well differ. We cannot agree the amendment. We do not think that it works in the way suggested by the noble Viscount. If in what I said I inadvertently gave the impression that I agreed with him, that was not the

30 Jan 2001 : Column 677

case. However, if there is further mystery after this exchange, I am sure that it can be clarified between now and Report.

Viscount Astor: I was not suggesting that the Minister agreed to delete paragraph (2) but that he agreed that paragraph (7) covers asking questions in the guise of market research. However, what he is saying is that he needs paragraph (2) to cover other types of market research. We shall have to study that closely to see what is covered. I shall consider it before the next stage and perhaps I may ask the Minister to do so. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 49A:


    Schedule 2, page 23, line 20, at end insert--


("( ) This paragraph does not apply to any activities of a person who is a member of--
(a) the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales,
(b) the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland,
(c) the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, or
(d) the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, and which are carried out--
(i) by him,
(ii) by any firm of which he is a partner or by which he is employed, or
(iii) by any body corporate of which he is a director or member or by which he is employed.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 49A inserts a new paragraph, which refers to accountants. I should first declare at least a theoretical interest. I say "theoretical" because I am not a practising accountant. However, I am a qualified chartered accountant and, by that means, licensed to carry out audits, and so forth under various provisions. Nowadays the regulations have been tightened up a good deal, so I do not think that I am licensed to do much.

I also admit at once that the drafting of this paragraph could be improved. However, the point behind it is a real one. The immediately preceding provision rightly provides that lawyers and those employed by them shall be able to carry out investigations for the purpose of their legal practice. A large number of accountants these days, particularly forensic accountants, are engaged in investigating fraud and rackets of one kind and another. On a wider level, auditors are engaged in examining books for, among other things, possible fraud. They also examine the operations of companies to ensure that fraud is not taking place. All these are investigatory activities of the kind otherwise covered. I think it is important that unless the Government want to have this security industry authority license every practising accountant in the country, with a large number of their staffs, some provision of the general character represented by this amendment should be inserted into the Bill.

30 Jan 2001 : Column 678

As I have said, I admit that the drafting may be rather crude but the point behind it is an important one, to which I believe we shall need to return. I hope the Government will take this away, think of better drafting and consult as necessary in order to cover the point properly. I hope that is what the noble Lord the Minister will say in response to the amendment, which I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: It is not the intention of the Bill to catch groups such as chartered accountants, auditors, insolvency practitioners and all those employed in similar occupations. I think the noble Lord makes a good point.

Primarily of course it is directed at security operatives providing services under contract: door supervisors, wheelclampers and those employed in-house, as we have rehearsed before. Those are covered by the provisions in Schedule 2. This amendment seeks to exempt chartered accountants, and I understand that. However, it is important to place on record that it has never been our intention to license anyone carrying out security activities only incidental to their main employment. Accordingly, the Bill is drafted to allow for their exclusion. Paragraph 4(8) states that the provision does not apply to the activities of any person who carries out inquiries or investigations merely incidentally to the carrying out of activities that are not those of a security operative.

I understand the business of forensic accountants and the important investigative work carried out, but it would be our contention that they would simply stand to be exempted from the effects of the Bill. Chartered accountants would also fall into that category; so we do not think that the amendment is necessary. I have listened with interest to what the noble Lord has had to say about this, and of course I will go away and double-check the point because it is certainly not our intention to snare people inadvertently in the way he suggests. I am grateful to him for having raised the issue in the way he did.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am grateful to the noble Lord the Minister for saying that he will look at this matter. In doing so, I hope he will bear in mind the position not only of forensic accountants but of all investigating accountants. We should bear in mind that without a paragraph of this character, the Bill says that this licensing applies--looking at paragraph 4(1) of Schedule 2--to any inquiries or investigations for obtaining information about the circumstances in which or the means by which property has been lost or damaged.

We established earlier in the evening that property includes cash and other valuables, but apart from that, of course, the stock of a business is an essential part of its operations, into which accountants inquire in the ordinary course of their business. It is a perfectly ordinary large part of the activities of auditors to make investigations of the kind which seem to me to be covered by paragraph 4(1) and so in these circumstances, unless there is some sort of exclusion of

30 Jan 2001 : Column 679

the kind I am suggesting, we shall find ourselves having to get licences for ordinary practising accountants as well as for forensic accountants, which firmly seem to be covered. Whether or not that is the Government's intention I am not sure. In view of the fact that this will be looked at again, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page