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Mr. George: Indeed. Sir Ivan Lawrence could see what I was getting at, because he had defended and prosecuted many people with a wide, or, indeed, a narrow vocabulary, including the Kray twins--a case that I was delighted he lost miserably.
It is important that the legislation should do the trick, and in many ways it does. The fact that it exists is a step forward. It will establish greater accountability. At the moment, who has heard of the British Security Industry Association, unless they belong to it? Not many companies do, out of the totality. To whom does one complain if one's burglar alarm turns out to be duff? To whom does one complain if the private investigator whom one hires does not find the person he is looking for--and does not even try--but charges a vast amount for doing nothing?
The regulatory authority will represent consumers, trade unions and employers, large and small, and I hope that it has a chairman who is genuinely independent of the industry. The Bill will lead to greater efficiency, greater accountability and greater transparency, so I do not want my criticisms to be considered as outweighing the positive elements.
The Bill will deal more effectively with crooks. How much longer can the industry tolerate being considered to be the repository of crooked coppers who set up private security companies after being thrown out of the Met or West Midlands police? How long can it endure people's taunts? I recall watching Inspector Frost discuss with his sergeant the culprit for a series of rapes. Suspicion turned to two security guards in a nearby factory. The sergeant said to Frost, "Those guys over there--have they got form?" Frost replied, "Course they have. They're security guards, aren't they?"
Such perceptions are partly the fault of the private security industry, because it has taken that route and not got close to the Government. Nor has there been legal access to criminal records. I know of endless examples of crimes being committed, but the Bill has a wider aim. I would not want the Government to think that the Bill's main purpose is to deal with crime, and I am sure that they do not--it is more to do with efficiency, accountability and professionalism, which is singularly lacking in many sectors of the industry.
The hon. Member for Buckingham tried to get me to criticise the Government; well, I shall make some criticisms. The Bill's prime weakness is its lack of width--it is focused too closely on manned guarding. As I said early in my speech, a vast sector of the private security industry is, for the moment, outside the scope of regulation. If one enters a major City bank, however, one can consider the security industry's penetration of such a building. There is closed circuit television, access control, security shredding and security lighting. It will have been designed by an architect specialising in security, and computer security is also involved. Every aspect of private security is there, but the only people who will be regulated are the two guys on the door, and they will not be regulated if they are in-house employees. It would be better to call this the "part of the private security industry" Bill.
Ample scope has been built into the Bill to allow the Security Industry Authority and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to enlarge the focus. Although that is right, I do not like the way in which it has been done, as the regulatory authority could not cope with 350,000 people suddenly appearing before it to demand approval to operate. Perhaps it is right to deal with manned guarding and bouncers subcontracted to local authorities first, after which we can regulate the other sectors. I hope that my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Minister tell us how much of the security industry will be regulated, because it genuinely wants regulation.
My next major concern--the exclusion of in-house security operatives--is linked to the previous one. Initially, in-house operatives were in the consultative paper, then they were out. Who nobbled the Home Office? As the press say, step forward the better regulation taskforce and those members of the security industry who are recidivist opposers of reform. In my view, they clearly nobbled members of the better regulation taskforce, who then put the screws on whoever advised the Minister. Out went in-house security, because, somehow, regulation would impose too many burdens on it: cobblers--absolute cobblers. I am not certain whether that word is acceptable in this permissive age, but the first one that came to mind would have had to be withdrawn.
Mr. George: May I continue for just one sentence? I am sorry, but as I have waited for 25 years, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will continue to be indulgent. After all, I will not have a chance to speak in the Standing Committee if one is not established.
Let us consider the example of a factory whose security arrangements are a mixture of private and contract. Part of its security force is subject to regulation and standards, while the rest is not. Let us imagine a shopping mall in which some shops are guarded by in-house personnel, while others are guarded by contract personnel. The security staff will all wear the same sort of uniforms, and the register may state who is licensed and who is not; nevertheless, the system is nonsensical.
That company--unless it is a good company--will say, "We will not train those staff. We will not pay them more than the minimum wage. We will duck and dive to do the minimum that will ensure that our insurance company is prepared to accept what we are doing." Alternatively, it may find a crooked private security company which, by some legal dodge, can masquerade as in-house security. I think that providing for in-house personnel not to have to be licensed defeats the Bill's objectives.
Mr. Bercow: I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He has nothing for which to apologise: I am listening to his speech with rapt attention, and my appetite for it is insatiable. I hope, however, that he will tell us--on the strength of his experience and knowledge, which I respect--something about what happens in other European Union countries. I mentioned this in an earlier intervention on the Minister.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us something about the trends, in terms of the incidence of crime, in the private security industries of EU member states where there are statutory regulation systems, and also something about the costs of some of those systems?
Mr. George: The costs of a proper regulatory system are by no means excessive. Good companies such as Group 4, Securicor and Securitas, which is a Swedish firm now operating in the UK, work in regulated environments, and very profitably.
If I were asked, "Who is the biggest villain of the piece? Is it the Home Office, is it the private security industry, or is it someone else?", I would say, "If I must identify a single cause of the malaise in the industry, it is this: the public who hire want good security without being prepared to pay for it." In a properly regulated private security industry, men and women will not undergo the ridiculous two-day period of training with no examination and one day of on-the-job training that currently passes for proper training in this country.
Companies should pay people a decent wage. They should not necessarily recruit from the bottom of the employment pile, because they will generally get what they pay for. They should provide proper facilities, proper communications and decent uniforms. They should encourage the men and women whom they employ to feel a sense of pride in belonging to the security industry, rather than feeling embarrassed to admit that they are door supervisors, burglar alarm installers or security guards. It will cost--it will really cost--but we are demonstrating the price to be paid by those who do not pay a decent price. The price that we are paying is a low-status industry that has high personnel turnover and does not work with the police, which perhaps contributes to increased crime.
There is no federal responsibility for the issue in the United States, for example, but some states have very good regulatory systems. I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Member for Buckingham, but some of those states very definitely have a free-enterprise culture. Florida, which is not known for its great enthusiasm for central intervention, has one of the best regulatory systems that I have seen. It is an excellent system. I visited the regulatory authority in Orlando and its head office in Tallahassee and was enormously impressed. British Columbia, most of the other Canadian provinces and most of the Australian states also have excellent regulation.
I am delighted to say that, in the European Union, the French and the Germans are no better than we are on the issue. Undoubtedly the best regulatory systems in Europe are in Scandinavia, principally in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. Spain also has an excellent regulatory system although it is a little too detailed. I really do not think that the design of women's tights should necessarily be the responsibility of the Interior Ministry and the subject of statutory instruments. That is going too far. I could willingly send the Minister diagrams of those instruments of torture. Russia also has an excellent regulatory system.
Currently, we are with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and some countries in Africa and in Latin America in having no regulation whatsoever. I want us to create the type of system that I have seen in numerous other countries. When people see security guards in the United Kingdom, I want them to say, "They look almost as good as police. They are paid almost as well as police. They are alert, helpful and professional. Just look at how they are dressed--clean shoes and nice uniforms. They are proud of their job."
Conversely, in the 1970s, in Wolverhampton, a firm called Shield used to recruit by going round the Salvation Army on Fridays and Saturdays. It found the down-and-outs and offered them a weekend's kip in a private security guard's uniform. It would take them to a site at 8 pm on a Friday and pick them up again at 8 am on a Monday. Not many companies operate like that now, thank goodness, but too many still do.
I have described my vision, which may sound a bit apocalyptic, of how the industry should operate, and I can genuinely see the way forward. We now have a minimum wage and stipulations on how companies should operate, some of which are based on European initiatives. Technological growth will force many companies to choose between employing better technology or more people. As labour becomes ever more expensive, the greater the pressure will be on those companies to strike a balance in how they operate. I can certainly see the industry evolving into something that is very different from what it is today.
I should like other provisions to be included in legislation. Intruder alarm designers and installers, for example, should be covered by legislation. Some dreadful companies are operating in that sector. Although there is not the same incidence of crime among those who install intruder alarms, I believe that, for the sake of efficiency, the sector should be regulated.