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Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, that makes my point. Within the shopping precinct they have to be licensed. But what happens if they go out into a public place and, as the White Paper envisages, are possibly given the powers of a police constable? The words used are that they will not "generally" require the powers of arrest. Surely, the checks that will have to be carried out on those personnel will be even greater. I have made my point.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, Lord Thomas. My noble friend Lord Astor suggested a way out of the difficulty in relation to correspondence. Perhaps the Minister could accept Amendment No. 9 when we come to it. That way we shall have incorporated it into the Bill. Should the Government then decide that Amendment No. 9 is not required, they can take it out in the Commons. It will come back here in due course and we can respond to the correspondence. If the Minister does not accept Amendment No. 9, then we shall not have that opportunity should the Commons fail to raise this matter. I wonder if that course appeals to the Minister.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, the noble Lord is suggesting standing down the troops. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Clause 7 [Licensing criteria]:

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 2:

    Page 6, line 39, after ("licensed;") insert--

("( ) may include criteria for securing that persons who engage in licensable conduct have appropriate training in racial awareness and disability equality;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 2 was suggested to me by the Royal National Institute for the Blind. It seeks to add to the criteria which ensure that persons applying for a licence have the training and skills necessary to engage in the conduct for which they are licensed by specifying that they should have appropriate training in racial awareness and disability equality. It is in the public interest that those who exercise functions under this Bill should be made aware of the problems of racism and of the specific requirements of people who are suffering from a disability before they are given the licence to carry out their tasks. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I shall be brief. We cannot support this amendment. Those who are covered by the licence are also covered by existing race relations and disability laws. The amendment would therefore seem to be unnecessary.

Perhaps I should also say to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that doormen are there, by and large, not to turn people away but more often to encourage them to enter in an orderly manner and help them to leave in an orderly manner. That is their job. They are unlikely to keep their job if they spend their time preventing people entering.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am not sure which side I take in that definition of the primary role of doormen. With regard to this section of the Bill we are probably looking at the possibilities of a more pejorative perspective of the role of doormen, hence the anxiety expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, which led him to table the amendment, as he indicated, being stimulated from an impeccable source elsewhere.

This is an important issue and I am entirely in sympathy with the principle behind the amendment. It would add a new criterion to the face of the Bill which the authority might use when judging an application for a licence to act as a security operative. The new criterion would allow the authority to include that applicants for licences should have "appropriate" training in race and disability issues.

The Government have said on several occasions that one of the reasons for regulating the private security industry is that its operatives are, in most circumstances, coming into contact with people who feel themselves to be in some way vulnerable or, at times, possibly subject to unfair discrimination and over whom the operatives have a certain degree of power and authority. It is therefore an entirely reasonable concern that they should be seen to have a sensitivity to and at the very least an awareness of the

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position of groups of people in our society who may not always have had a square deal and who are confronted by this element of authority.

Perhaps the noble Lord can anticipate my next remarks, particularly in the light of the contribution of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor; my comments are consistent with the line taken by my noble friend on earlier occasions when sympathy was expressed with the concerns raised. We do not believe we need to include such a permissive criterion on the face of the Bill. The noble Lord may argue that there is more likelihood of the authorities using such a criterion if it is explicitly available on the face of the Bill. Conversely, we would not see it as being any less likely to be used if it fell to be considered under the "other matters" provision of Clause 7(3)(c).

We are therefore willing to give an undertaking to ensure that the possibility of a criterion in relation to race and disability awareness is built into the planning processes leading up to the establishment of the authority. We recognise the motives behind the amendment and that there is a task to be fulfilled in those terms. But we do not consider it necessary for it to be on the face of the Bill. On that basis I hope I have persuaded the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I am grateful for that reply, and for the undertaking that matters of this nature will be built into the planning process and included under subsection (3)(c).

The training and skills necessary to engage in the conduct for which people are licensed have emerged in one or two cases in the criminal courts in which I have been involved. That sort of training tends to be the ability to hold people in a lock-hold or to eject them forcibly without damaging or bruising them. Matters of racial awareness and disability equality are far more important. I am grateful to the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 3:

    Page 7, line 30, at end insert (", including formats accessible to visually impaired people,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this matter was suggested to me by the Royal National Institute for the Blind. I appreciate that in a recent letter dated 13th March the Minister stated in paragraph 5 that the Government were not yet thinking in detailed terms about the prescriptions for the format of licences and that that would need to be put into regulation. I have tabled the amendment so that it will be foremost in the minds of those who are charged with the duty of prescribing that format. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, as with the previous amendment, we are sympathetic to the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford.

15 Mar 2001 : Column 1013

However, we believe that the Minister has got it right. We are grateful for the explanation that he gave in paragraph 5 of his letter, and are happy to accept that.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, moved the amendment. It is essential that licences which may have to be on public display are of print which is large enough for most people to be able to read. I include in that people with visual impairments. It is also essential that the licence is designed in such a way that the colour contrast between the paper and the print does not make it extremely difficult to read. This is a sensible amendment, which I support.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, noble Lords who have spoken indicated that there is a principle behind the amendment similar to that in a previous amendment with regard to issues of racial awareness. Once again I express my obvious sympathy with the implications behind the amendment. Therefore, the issue comes down to the narrow point of the effectiveness of the amendment being carried on the face of the Bill.

It is important that the physical licences which the authority will issue will be carried at relevant times and produced when necessary. The authority has the power to impose appropriate conditions in relation to those requirements, including taking account of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, that they are readily legible by those of us who may have difficulty with our eyesight, and certainly by people with significant visual impairment. It is similarly important that the details of the licence are accessible to those with a significant visual impairment. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, is well taken.

Under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act it is against the law to offer people with a disability a service which is not as good as the service being offered to other people, or to provide a service on terms which are different from the terms being given to other people. The provisions of the Act for a general right of access to goods and services are designed both to prevent discriminatory behaviour and to require reasonable adjustments to overcome physical and communication barriers to disabled people, such as the provision of literature in alternative formats for those with a visual impairment. Those rights apply to all services.

The security industry authority, in common with other public and private bodies, will be bound by the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and will therefore be required to take the reasonable steps that that Act requires. The authority will also take account of best practice in the area of licence format. It will discuss the issue with the appropriate bodies, adopt the best physical format available, and take into consideration other advice it may receive.

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On the basis of those assurances, I believe that our existing legislation with regard to disability covers the matters contained in the amendment. I hope, therefore, that I am able to persuade the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

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