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Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): I am most interested in the case that the right hon. Gentleman makes, with which I am broadly sympathetic. Will he comment on the interface between the police and the public? One of the problems with policing is that people see fewer and fewer policemen and do not have enough non-adversarial contact with them. The Bill will have a strong impact on the police time that is available to deal with the public directly and to develop that relationship in order to build the trust between the public and the police that we all want.
Mr. George: A report published some time ago by the Police Foundation and Policy Studies Institute made the radical suggestion that the police should give up their basic patrolling functions to the private sector. It argued that that would allow them to concentrate on the detection of murder, rape and so on. It would have been a mistake to implement such a proposal, however, as the strength of our police must lie in their umbilical link with the public.
Under the previous and current Governments, the private sector has been increasingly present in public places. In some cases, it is even patrolling them. My late father was a copper for 29 years. During the last 15 years of his tenure in the Glamorgan constabulary, he was paid by the National Coal Board. That is a 1960s practice that could almost be called the privatisation of policing. My father had patrol duties and eventually became head of security of the Coal Board in Wales. I might add that he would not have much to do in that job if he were alive today. His salary as a policeman was paid by the Coal Board to Glamorgan, which then paid it to him. It is wrong, therefore, to suggest that the public-private relationship has changed only recently, although far more such practices now exist.
The police must have more presence on the street, even though everyone says that that is a less efficient form of policing. Thanks to the Home Office under the current and previous Governments, there is now magnificent funding for closed circuit television. I hope that a couple more of the bids that have been made in my constituency will be successful. Monitoring is carried out through closed circuit television cameras that were produced by the private sector, but paid for by the Government. The cameras are providing eyes and ears for the private sector to enable it to work with the police.
Community wardens will soon be walking around instead of policemen. People will be happy to see a uniform, even though it might not be the one that they want to see. If community wardens can communicate swiftly with the police, they will be a sort of municipal security guard on the beat, even if they cannot be bobbies on the beat. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 ensures that local authorities have more policing and security functions, so it takes a change of mindset to realise that the days are gone in which the coppers in blue uniforms and funny hats were dominant, although that is not necessarily for the worse.
Many things are changing for the better. We now have a partnership that will have an enormous effect on crime prevention and detection. There is very little that the private sector cannot do. Most of the functions of which the police are capable of performing can and are being performed by the private sector. As public forensic laboratories are overstretched, much forensic work is being farmed out to private laboratories. More investigators are probably attached to central Government Departments and to the private sector than to the police force. Technology has monopolised the private sector's expansion. It does not want police powers, as it does not want to be seen to be seeking to usurp the police. However, intelligent members of the police force, such as John Stevens, the Commissioner, and officers in my area, recognise that a new relationship must be forged.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): I revert to the valid point that my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) made. If we allow our private security industry to play too great a role in policing domestic estates, is there not a danger of creating a two-tier justice system comprising those who can afford to employ such firms and those who cannot? Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on the differences between the powers of the police, who can arrest on suspicion, and those of private security firms, which can make only a citizen's arrest?
Mr. George: That will remain the case. I hope that Home Office funding will increase and that the accusation that only those who live in expensive areas can afford private security will thus disappear. In my constituency, the likelihood of imposing a levy on householders to pay for enhanced security is small. However, I recognise, as do the intelligent sectors of the private security industry, that community wardens do not want to be perceived as the protectors only of those who have the fattest wallets.
The private security industry has grown throughout the world for roughly the same reasons: increasing experience of crime and the fear of it. I visited Finland, which has a thriving security industry but hardly any crime. I asked where the perception of crime originated; it came not from Finland but from watching "Starsky and Hutch" and "The Bill". Such programmes give the private security industry a fillip. American and British television gave the Finns a greater fear of crime than reality dictated.
Let us consider good legislation. My former assistant and I have studied more than 100 measures from around the world. We devised a method of comparing different regulatory regimes, and we placed them in the following categories: non-interventionist, which pertains in this country; minimum narrow; minimum wide; comprehensive narrow and comprehensive wide. I shall not bore hon. Members with details, but I believe that the best category is broad. A broad regulatory system covers all the sectors of the private security industry.
I do not support a shallow system of regulation, which means only access to criminal records. I want the Bill to establish broad and deep regulation. I am in favour of heavier regulation; Conservative Members may not agree.
Mr. Bercow: I am listening to the right hon. Gentleman's speech with interest and respect, but given the length of time for which he has campaigned for a statutory regulation system, does he not agree that it should be visible, explicit and clear? Does that not lead him to be mildly suspicious of, if not unhappy about, the Bill's scope for secondary legislation? Would it not help if as much as possible were incorporated in the measure?
Mr. George: I shall deal with that point shortly. Before the hon. Gentleman gets too excited about my response, I emphasise that I would have loved to be subcontracted by the Minister to draft the Bill. I have drafted four measures, all of which--especially the first--were at least as good as the one that we are considering this evening. However, the four attempts that I made all met with miserable rejection by the hon. Gentleman's colleagues who were in government at the time.
I would like to have seen a more comprehensive Bill that filled in the gaps and met the criteria that I believe are critical. There is a problem with the Bill, as I have said clearly to the Minister, whom I deeply respect and admire. I am not saying that in an attempt to influence him--well, yes, I am. Forgive my earlier remark, Mr. Deputy Speaker; I apologise for lying to the House.
I am not quite certain what we are voting for. We shall be supporting a Bill that is quite exciting, because we do not know exactly what is in it. Even if the Bill is not as detailed as I would like, there is a great deal in it that offers the opportunity to deliver what I want to see. There is great flexibility in its provisions. However, that same Bill is capable of delivering a form of regulation that will be only marginally superior to what we have now. My dilemma is that, because we could be only weeks from a general election and days from the prorogation of Parliament, I, or anyone else with an interest in the subject, will hardly have ample time to table an enormous number of amendments or to consider them effectively.
I hope that the very thing that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) thinks is a weakness in the Bill might be to its advantage. The Minister can see the near unanimity not only in the House but in the security industry, which is delighted that the Bill is being introduced, but it does not go far enough. There have been
I recall that, when I gave evidence to the Select Committee on Home Affairs five years ago, the then Chairman, Sir Ivan Lawrence, said, "Aren't you, Mr. George, rather too heavy in your model of regulation? Don't you prefer the lighter touch, the model of regulation that is not heavy? What do you think about Oftel, Ofwat and Ofgas? Why not Of-sec-ind?" I said, "Mr. Chairman, my reply to you would certainly contain the word 'off'." I was not, therefore, at all enthusiastic about the light model of regulation.