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Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I am grateful for that reply and for the support for the amendment. In the light of the assurances given, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 [Revocation and modification of licences]:

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 4:



("(b) consider any complaints made to the Authority by members of the public against the licensee.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 4 was drafted before I received the letter of 13th March, to which I have referred. It was an attempt to continue my campaign to put on the face of the Bill the necessity for a complaints procedure in a slightly different way from that which had not previously been accepted in Committee and on Report. I move the amendment simply so that the Government may put on record the assurances contained in that letter. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, we, too, believe in the importance of a complaints procedure. I was similarly reassured by the letter to which the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, has referred.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords. The amendment is a variation on Amendment No. 18 moved on Report, and an earlier amendment moved in Committee. As has been noted, it is a matter on which we have had correspondence. We have also had private discussion.

I said on Report and in correspondence that I do not believe that there is much between the noble Lord and myself on this issue. The noble Lord has advanced--as ever, effectively--points at various stages of the Bill on which we have debated the issue. However, I have not heard an argument which persuades me that we need to put squarely on the face of the Bill a requirement for the authority to take account of complaints made against individual licence holders. I have indicated that the effective discharge of the authority's duties to licence only fit and proper persons will inevitably mean that it will need to establish an effective complaints procedure. I have also indicated to the noble Lord that in the extremely unlikely event that an appropriate mechanism was not set up, the Secretary of State could direct the authority under the provisions in Clause 2 to establish one. That would--reverting to a couple of our debates at earlier stages of the Bill about Secretary of State directions--be an open direction.

The current amendment relates to a complaints procedure to the modification or revocation of a licence. That assumes that a licence is already in force. The authority will need to be able to listen to and, if necessary, investigate complaints which are made

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against anyone seeking a licence in the first place or seeking to renew a licence. It follows that they must also have that facility when considering whether or not to modify or revoke a licence. Indeed, one prime source of the authority's launching such revocation or modification procedures is likely to be complaints made by members of the public.

As I said earlier, there is no point of principle between us here. However, for reasons I have previously expressed, I do not believe that we need the words of the amendment on the face of the Bill. Having heard that, and sought the reassurances offered that this is a matter of record, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 5:


    Page 8, line 40, at end insert--


("(4) The Authority may refuse to renew, revoke or suspend a license if it has reasonable grounds for being satisfied that the licensee--
(a) has supplied information in or in connection with the application for the license or its renewal that was knowingly false or misleading;
(b) has contravened any provision of this Act or regulations thereunder; or
(c) is no longer a fit and proper person to provide a security service.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it strikes me that in the Bill there is no way of disciplining those who supply information which is knowingly false or misleading in connection with an application for a licence or for its renewal. The applications are made under Clause 8(1),(2) or (3). Nor is there a specific provision to deal with a situation in which the authority discovers that a person who is the holder of a licence is no longer a fit and proper person to provide a security service as Clause 14(3) envisages. The amendment is, therefore, a suggestion to the Government to include a specific provision to deal with those points, and would give to the authority the power to take rather swifter action than might otherwise be the case. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I realise that lawyers like to have everything in writing, if possible. If an extra clause can be added it would be regarded as desirable on those grounds alone. For myself, I would have thought that the wording of Clause 10, as it stands, was adequate to cover the case suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am not going to get into a clash between the professions. Being neither a lawyer nor an accountant, I am able to take a detached Olympian view on this point. Of course I understand the nature of the amendment and the motive behind it. Certainly, the reasons as listed in the

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amendment are entirely valid ones for withdrawing or not renewing a licence. The first circumstance relates to the applicant having knowingly supplied false or misleading information. That is already an offence under the provisions of Clause 22 of the Bill.

The second relates to the applicant having contravened any provision of the Bill or any regulations made under it. The Bill creates a number of offences, and regulations will provide further detail governing many aspects of a licensed security operative's work. The third circumstance is that the applicant is no longer a fit and proper person to provide a security service. Clause 7 requires the published criteria for a licence application, to be successful, to include those which the authority considers show the applicants to be fit and proper persons.

I have no problems with the conditions which the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, seeks to place on the face of the Bill regarding the withdrawal or non-renewal of licences. But the Bill already requires the authority to have in mind the criteria that are applicable by virtue of Clause 7 when considering whether to modify, suspend or revoke a licence. I believe that this gives the equivalent effect to that sought by the noble Lord in his amendment.

Clause 7 requires applicants to be, in the authority's judgement, fit and proper persons. I cannot see the authority forming this judgement about an applicant whom it knows to have contravened his existing licensing conditions, to have falsified any part of his application papers, or otherwise to have misled or lied to the authority. The applicant would therefore have committed an offence under current legislation and that is pretty strong prima facie evidence that the applicant is indeed not a fit and proper person.

Therefore I do not believe that this amendment achieves any provisions that are not already available to the authority under the Bill as drafted. I recognise the virtues of clarity which the amendment brings to specific offences, but I would contend that the Bill clearly spells out the powers of the authority in respect of the judgement regarding the validity of any applicant for a licence. On the basis of what I have said, I hope the noble Lord may be persuaded to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, the creation of an offence punishable either on summary conviction or indictment is rather different from the revocation of a licence. Your Lordships will recall that at earlier stages I endeavoured to introduce on to the face of the Bill provisions for the reporting by the police and/or the magistrates' court and/or the Crown Court to the authority any convictions that may follow in relation to a licence holder, whether for a breach of this Bill or anything else. The proposals were not accepted. It was

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said that there would be arrangements in place, and so on. However, I have heard what the noble Lord said and of course I am not going to press the matter to a vote. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.15 p.m.

Clause 15 [Arrangements for the grant of approvals]:

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 6:


    Page 11, line 34, at end insert--


("( ) are providing security industry services in England and Wales and are deemed to be acting as a public authority under the Human Rights Act 1998;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this relates to the approved contractor scheme, which, your Lordships will recall, is voluntary. At an earlier stage--I think in Committee--I suggested that the approved contractor scheme should be made compulsory. The purpose of this amendment is to make it mandatory for those who are engaged in public duties as public authorities. The definition of a public authority under the Human Rights Act is in wide terms. It includes executive agencies of central government, local government and so on. However, in this particular area, most importantly, it covers prisons. Of course it is a matter of contract between the Home Office and a particular contractor who offers to supply services for prisons within the scope of this Bill, but I submit that anybody who is to undertake tasks of that kind and of a public nature should be, as a matter of principle, a member of the approved contractor scheme. I beg to move.


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