Last night, Baroness Henig, the Chairman of the Security Industry Authority (SIA), spoke passionately about lack of research and consultation behind the Government decision to axe the SIA during the Second Reading of the Public Bodies Bill in the House of Lords, in which the motion was agreed and the Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House. Infologue.com believes the decision which has baffled all responsible stakeholders in the security industry appears to have been handled clumsily by the Government.
The Baroness asked of the Minister responsible for the proposed demise of the SIA what was the rationale behind this decision; “Why is the regulator for private security singled out for abolition, but not other regulators such as the Gangmasters Licensing Authority or the Gambling Commission? To me, they appear like a completely random collection, almost as if they had been drawn out by lottery balls on a Wednesday evening.”
Well respected by the security industry the Baroness went on to say;” The leak in the Daily Telegraph, while it completely demoralised staff working in all the listed organisations, did at least give the leading associations and individuals in the private security industry the opportunity to start organising and telling the Government what they thought. The British Security Industry Association, the International Professional Security Association, the Security Institute and the UK chapter of ASIS International, plus all the leading industry online sites and publications expressed their opposition to deregulation loudly and unequivocally. A new industry umbrella organisation, the Security Alliance, took shape and resolved that regulation should stay, for the protection of the public and to continue to drive up standards in the industry; that compliance and enforcement of licensing was very important, and could be undermined by what the Government were proposing to do; and that those working in the industry should be allowed to continue working with the regulator, as they had since the summer, to work out ways of moving to smarter, lighter-touch regulation.
“The irony of all this is that had the Cabinet Office done any research at all, it would have learned that the private security industry and its regulator had agreed on a blueprint for the next few years to move to greater industry involvement in the regulatory regime, particularly for companies achieving high standards in annual independent inspections, so that regulation could focus more strongly on the not so good, not so highly performing companies. The Home Office had already been approached to introduce business licensing alongside the licensing of individuals to make it easier to set minimum standards which could then be progressively raised, and to ensure compliance. Eventually, even Ministers in the Cabinet Office, I am happy to say, heard the message and heeded it. They agreed that, while the SIA should no longer be a non-departmental public body, there should be a phased transition to a new regulatory regime. This was endorsed last week in a letter to me from the Home Secretary, and I am happy to accede to her wish to ensure that, “any transition to a new regulatory regime is phased in smoothly and takes into account the needs of the industry as well as the priorities of the Government including the devolved Administrations”, and that there should be no, “significant changes prior to the Olympic Games”. However I am aware that none of that is in the Bill. Can the Minister explain to me, please, and to all those working in the industry, what statutory force the Home Secretary’s intentions will have?
“One or two issues still worry those working in the industry, and major buyers of private security, such as Tesco, the big City banks and companies with big sites to protect, do not want the transition period to be rushed. They want to ensure that any new regime, even if it includes self-regulation, builds firmly on the existing one, is not a poor substitute for it and, in particular, continues to have government-backed enforcement powers. The Scottish Government, who are already planning for the Commonwealth Games in 2014, will undoubtedly be in strong agreement with these concerns, as will Northern Ireland.
“So the regulator will try its best to set out a timetable and to construct a transition to a new regime which satisfies the Government on the one hand and the industry, buyers, Scotland and Northern Ireland on the other. It will not be easy, and our task has been made inordinately more difficult by the way the Cabinet Office has operated in the past few weeks, with a total lack of transparency, consistency, logic or evidence-based policy-making. We will go ahead and try to make the best of what is happening, and all our partners are very supportive, but it hardly inspires confidence in the Government’s avowed mission to eradicate waste and inefficiency or to apply with any consistency the objectives listed in Clause 8(1)” the Baroness concluded.