Private Security Industry needs a single representative body for all sectors – Patrick Sommerville

Patrick J Somerville
Patrick J Somerville

“The leak in September 2010 of an imminent government announcement that the Security Industry Authority (SIA) would be axed in the current round of planned expenditure cuts caused the security industry manned guarding interests to reel in shock,” says Patrick J Somerville QPM Chairman – Joint Security Industry Council and Vice President of IPSA in a press release on behalf of the Joint Security Industry Council. 

“The demise of a number of quangoes and other non departmental public bodies was threatened and in many cases subsequently confirmed. Immediately, IPSA led the way with a determined lobbying of all MPs and selected members of the House of Lords urging that the SIA and its regulatory regime should not be disbanded.  Rather the industry having benefited from regulation should work with government to achieve some of its policy objectives, improve the regulatory regime and reduce the costs and administrative burden that regulation had imposed on the industry in difficult economic times.

“The collective industry response that followed was sufficiently robust and timely to modify the stance of the government on the issue of disbandment and move it towards a revision of the regulatory regime after due consultation with the industry.   The process of consultation led by the SIA has started.  It is expressly intended to take cognisance of the view of all parts of the licensable operations sectors as represented by stakeholders and industry bodies.  It is commendable that this enlightened inclusive approach has been taken, learning from the earlier experience of SIA led consultation where certain vested interests dominated the process leading to much criticism and dissatisfaction in several sectors. It remains to be seen if these expectations are realised.  

“A “Security Alliance” has emerged, apparently initiated prior to the leak of government intentions by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and a few other parties, with the object of representing the industry.   The SIA have welcomed that initiative and supports its activities but require it to be wholly representative of the licensable sectors without permitting over representation by a few leading players.   There remains some imbalance in the representation that should be addressed to avoid further criticism.   Additionally, another group of stakeholders has been called together for consultation by the SIA Chairman (Baronness Henig), which seems to undermine the intended and apparently endorsed role of the Alliance as the industry representative body in these matters.   

“The Security Alliance (TSA) is one of a series of efforts made by BSIA and others in recent years to create a single representative body for the security industry but always underlined by the BSIA exercising a significant controlling influence.   It is understood that TSA may formalise itself by adopting a constitution and laying down terms and conditions for membership etc.

“Other stakeholders have concerns about the emergence of the Security Alliance and where it goes from here.    Clearly the immediate focus of attention is changes to the regulatory and licensing regime and how the industry may become involved in delivering some of the services hitherto undertaken by the regulator.   This range of interests is limited to the manned guarding and facilities management sectors and does not embrace the wider requirements of both government and the industry to have a means of coordinated representation across all sectors that can deal effectively with central government. 

“Industry representatives, who served on the former Security Industry Lead Body(ILB) which with others was disbanded by government in the mid 1990s, at that time determined to continue the work of the ILB and went on to found the Joint Security Industry Council (JSIC) in 1995.

The original intention was that it would represent all sectors of the security industry and be the single independent consultation vehicle for contact with government and departments.  Sector representatives formed the central council and met the government’s desire to speak to one single representative body for the industry.  JSIC functioned successfully for several years, not least with the Way Forward Group and the considerable volume of recommendations made by it to the Home Office in connection with the implementation of the PSI Act 2001.   However, the BSIA, declined to participate and has held to that position ever since.   [A summary of the history of JSIC and other attempts to set up an alternative to JSIC is attached at Annex A to this paper.]

“It is the expressed view of the current  group of concerned stakeholders that the JSIC model remains  fit for purpose and should be the foundation of any independent all sector representative body for the industry.  It is in support of that view and to elicit further comment and support that this paper has been prepared.

“The Coalition Government has declared the need for increased consultation with the whole industry.  Baroness Neville-Jones, Minister of State for Security, in a keynote address on 22 July 2010 emphasised the need for the security industry not to be treated as an “afterthought of the defence industry”.  Calling for a major uplift in the performance of the private security industry, supported by government through UKTI and other agencies, she stated that the aim should be to ensure that UK expertise and innovative security solutions are marketed more effectively both at home and overseas.

“The Minister went on to emphasise the need for closer relationship between government and the industry.  Noting that the security industry, unlike the defence industry, is characterised by lack of company scale, that government aims to support Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs), she stated that ways needed to be found to integrate SMEs into larger consortia without losing their innovative capability which can result from over consolidation.  She concluded by saying that it was important to maintain an open, honest and effective dialogue between government and industry.   The British security industry has the capacity to be a world leader (a view with which we concur), and it should be our common endeavour to make that happen.

“Industry representatives now involved in determining the future of a regulated manned guarding sector and those with a broader understanding and commitment to develop the future capacity and  effectiveness of all sectors of the private security industry need look no further than the Memorandum and Articles of the incorporated Joint Security Industry Council (JSIC), it’s supporting by-laws and administrative provisions, for a solution.     JSIC is as originally intended a single representative body that can speak for the industry with government.   The Robbins Report 2006 confirmed the need and desire for such a body by the industry.   Yet it is at present dormant through lack of commitment to these objectives and the preference for some influential bodies such as BSIA to exclude themselves and those they purport to represent from its deliberations and recommendations.    

“It is surely time to wake up and change that position, adopt that model, adapt it if necessary, and work together constructively and effectively with each other and with government for the benefit of the industry.   It is both a challenge and an opportunity to enhance the industry’s capacity for growth and economic prosperity at both the national and global level if the required support and commitment is forthcoming.”