Brian Sims and Bobby Logue canvass UK security industry leaders’ opinions on why swift primary legislation is going to be so important for the future roadmap of private sector regulation.
At the conclusion of the Public Bodies Review by the UK Government (which focused on creating greater transparency of all public bodies), the Government – in consultation with the security industry – agreed that the Security Industry Authority should be reformed.
In November 2012, the Home Office began consultation on the future of the regulated UK private security sector. Key to the changes suggested by the politicians was the formation of a new regulatory body which requires primary legislation to take effect.
Key changes include the licensing of security companies, the idea that the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) may become an industry-led Hallmark Scheme and that the security industry itself could be vested with direct responsibility for skills development.
Some of the proposed changes don’t in fact require primary legislation, but key areas of the proposed changes do.
Now, industry leaders have warned that, without primary legislation materialising before the next General Election, the private security industry faces the possibility of sliding off a legislative cliff.
A concerned James Kelly, chairman of the Security Regulation Alliance and the CEO of the British Security Industry Association, commented: “The BSIA recently collated responses from across its membership to the Home Office consultation on the proposed new regulatory regime. It was noted and accepted that the main substance of the consultation document reflected the key proposals submitted to the Home Office by the Regulator – to which the BSIA and its partners in the Security Regulation Alliance had contributed. There was, however, one notable concern: the current absence of any provision for the scheduling of primary legislation.”
Kelly continued: “The BSIA, along with its partners in the Security Regulation Alliance, believes that the efficacy of the proposed new system of regulation depends wholly on the requisite primary legislation. Without this, the proposals will be ineffectual, and it will represent a missed opportunity to build constructively on the industry-Regulator-Government consensus achieved to date.”
Elaborating on this point, Kelly went on to state: “Indeed, the credibility of the Home Office’s recent industry-wide consultation, which states that such legislation will be introduced – but there is silence on the timing of it – will be undermined in the absence of such primary legislation. Accordingly, it’s imperative that the relevant primary legislation, giving effect to the Security Industry Authority’s (SIA) successor body and conferring enforcement powers on that body to challenge businesses that fail to comply with the terms of their licence, is scheduled at the earliest possible date within this Parliament.”
Commenting on behalf of The Security Institute and its membership, chairman Mike Bluestone CSyP said: “It’s well over two years since the formation of the Security Regulation Alliance. That body was established in the autumn of 2010 as a combined security sector response to the Government’s announcement at the time that the SIA was to be abolished along with hundreds of other ‘Quangos’ [ie Non-Departmental Public Bodies or NDPBs].”
Bluestone explained: “The Security Institute was a founder member of the Security Regulation Alliance. I’m proud of the role that the organisation has played to date in contributing to the work of the Alliance, and in particular to the SIA’s Strategic Consultation Group (SCG). The SCG was, of course, the brainchild of Baroness Ruth Henig who, until earlier this month, was chairman of the SIA. To the surprise of many of us, and despite her outstanding leadership, Baroness Henig’s tenure as SIA chairman was not renewed. We do of course wish the new acting chairman, Bill Matthews, every success in this important role, and look forward to working with him.”
Bluestone also said: “There’s a sense of cautious optimism that the move towards a new regulatory regime centred on business licensing will be completed sooner rather than later. One reason for the ‘cautious’ element in this optimism is the ongoing delay in the passing of the necessary primary legislation. Primary legislation is essential in order to give the new regulatory regime the required mandate to operate fully, including new and essential enforcement powers which will be needed to oversee licensed businesses as opposed to individuals.”
Concluding his statement, Bluestone explained: “Let us hope that the assurances being given by the Government to pass that legislation materialise very soon. Those of us who have the responsibility of consulting with the SIAand the Home Office on a regular basis will certainly not rest until that legislation is passedand the new regulatory regime is in place. The UK simply cannot afford to let the future regulation of such a vital industry be allowed to hang in the balance for much longer.”
Also voicing his strong opinion on this vital matter is Mike White, chairman of the International Professional Security Association (IPSA).
“You could be forgiven for thinking that the recently ended Home Office consultation around the future regulation of the private security industry was, in real terms, Hobson’s Choice given that one option was to do nothing, a second was to remove all regulation completely and the third was the wonderfully drafted description of ‘a phased transition to a business regulation regime’. Having been part of the consultation on the future of regulation for some time now, IPSA supports the case for reform and, specifically, the need for business regulation. However, we do have concerns.”
White continued: “For any business regulatory regime to have meaningful credibility, there will need to be suitable and sufficient enforcement powers enshrined within the process. These will need to include proportionate measures that could range from cautions, improvement notices and fines up to the ultimate sanction of the revocation of a company’s licence to trade in the industry. It’s our understanding that, for these powers to be guaranteed, there’s a need for primary legislation to be passed by Parliament. However, Government business managers only point to a vague offer of an opportunity of some Parliamentary time sometime in the final session – most probably 2014 – just a year before the next General Election.”
White went on to state: “This is not good enough, and is arguably an insult to an industry that’s actively seeking to enhance its professionalism, drive out – and keep out – criminality and which has positively embraced the need for change. The Private Security Industry Act 2001 stumbled through Parliament at the end of a Parliamentary session only after concessions were sought and deals were made that watered down some of its measures. We mustn’t let that happen again.”
IPSA’s chairman explained: “We support our colleagues in the industry with similar misgivings, and join them in calling upon Lord Taylor and the Home Secretary to grasp this opportunity as proactively and positively as the security industry has and confirm a date when draft primary legislation will be put up for debate. This must be well in advance of 2014 when MPs will inevitably be starting their General Election campaigns and their thoughts will be elsewhere.”
In conclusion, White stressed: “This is an opportunity to shape our industry for the next 20-plus years, and it needs to be underpinned by well thought out, fit for purpose legislation that ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’.”