I am very pleased that the SIA invited me to give the opening speech at their annual conference. As you will probably be aware I’m fairly new in post, although I have been interested in issues affecting the sector for some time, so I very much welcomed the chance to get to meet and talk to people who work in the private security industry, as well as take the opportunity to set out to you in a little more detail the Government’s direction of travel for the future regulation of the industry.
I am sorry that I shall have to leave at 11 o’clock, to be on the floor of the House of Lords for Baroness Henig’s motion on the future governance of policing, so will not be able to stay to hear other speakers today. However, I have asked my officials to arrange a meeting at which I can meet some representatives of the security industry so I look forward to meeting some of you again in the near future.
I will start with saying a little bit about my own role and background. I recently became the Home Office Lords Minister and Minister for Criminal Information, and one of my responsibilities is the private security industry. I took over this particular duty from my predecessor Lynne Featherstone who, I believe, many of you will have met at industry events. Previously, I was a Minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and before that a spokesman for the Cabinet Office. I have been a member of the House of Lords for the last 6 and a half years and some of you may know that my background is working in a family business supplying many of Britain’s garden centres with bulbs. So I come from the real world with a down to earth outlook.
Reforming how the private security industry is regulated is one of the important opportunities ahead of us. Indeed, yesterday I met [Baroness] Ruth Henig and Bill Butler to discuss how we can take reforms forward. As you may have heard from the press release that was recently issued, Ruth is to stand down from her post as Chair of the SIA on 14 January, at the end of her second term of appointment. I would like to thank Ruth for her enthusiasm and commitment to the SIA during the past six years. She has led the SIA through challenging times and has been inspirational in her support of her Chief Executive and employees of the SIA. I wish her all the best for the future. A new Chair will be appointed in due course.
Before I move onto the future regulation of the industry I wanted to say that since its creation in 2003 the SIA, along with many of you, has worked hard to raise standards across the private security industry. A great deal of progress has been made in achieving this, as well as to reduce criminality and tackle organised crime. Therefore, I wanted to thank everyone who has played a part in that and in particular our partners at the SIA. Raising standards, and combating criminality, especially organised crime, are essential to what the Government wants the SIA to continue to do in the future.
It is worth reflecting that over the last nine years or so since the SIA’s inception, the industry has developed significantly. It is exactly because of these improvements in how the industry operates, that the Government believes the time is right to give the industry a greater say in how it is regulated, as well as to give businesses more responsibility for the individuals they employ.
I raise these achievements because I think it is important that they are recognised as the basis which the Government builds on, to reform regulation of the industry in the future.
Some of you may want to know more of the detail of the Government’s proposed reforms. I am aware that there have been a lot of discussions and speeches about the future regulation of industry at events such as this over the past two years and you may even be a bit fed-up with hearing about changes which haven’t yet happened nor had an impact on your businesses. I hope I can help to address both of these issues, and it may be useful for me to set out clearly what the Government intends to achieve by reforming how the industry is regulated. So let me quickly set out those aims.
Firstly, the Government wants greater transparency and accountability for the industry in how it is regulated. This means that the industry will have greater responsibility for regulatory measures and be more able to hold the SIA to account.
Secondly, the Government wants to achieve deregulation, so that businesses, such as the businesses that many of you run or work for, aren’t over burdened by Government regulation and red-tape. This will give you more time and resources to focus on your business’ core needs and, hopefully, grow your business.
Both of these objectives help to achieve a third objective which is to lower the cost and burden of regulation on the industry and deliver better value for money. This will deliver significant benefits for you, your companies and the industry.
The final objective is something I have already outlined, which is that the SIA continues to raise standards, combat criminality – in particular organised criminality – within the industry and continues to work to keep the public safe.
So what about action? The Home Office is in the process of finalising a public consultation on the preferred approach for future regulation of the private security industry, which is currently at the final stage of internal Government approval and should be launched shortly. This consultation document has been developed in partnership with industry representatives via a strategic consultation group chaired by the SIA. Therefore, the regulatory model that it proposes has been designed by industry for industry.
The consultation is a very important step because it will be the first time the Government formally sets out the details of our proposal, and the first opportunity for many of you to provide your views. Your responses to the consultation will help to ensure effective measures are put in place. I therefore encourage everyone in this room to take part in it and encourage all your colleagues to do so as well.
So what are the Government’s proposed reforms? Our intention is to put in place a regulatory regime that is focused on businesses, rather than individuals.
Under a business regulation regime the SIA would be responsible for regulating businesses, with businesses needing to meet a minimum standard before being able to operate in the industry.
At the same time, a new process would be put in place for individuals to become licensed, which would rely primarily on normal recruitment processes, avoid any duplication of effort, and reduce the SIA’s role. The central element of this new process is that businesses will undertake some regulatory checks on the individuals they employ, or, if they prefer, ask a third party to do so. The only check on individuals that would continue to be carried out by the SIA would be in relation to criminality. This will enable us to reduce the costs of the current licensing process and give businesses greater responsibility for the individual licensing process. I note that Steve McCormick from the SIA us due to talk in more detail about this later this morning.
Taken together these reforms will achieve an overall reduction in the regulatory cost and burden on your industry.
Finally, I would like to talk about timing for introducing reforms. And I know this a crucial issue for you.
I am keen that reforms are now taken forward with some pace. Once your views, through the consultation, have been taken on board, the Home Office will need to design legislation to implement elements of the regime. I have asked for this legislation to be put in place by October next year. My officials are currently working with the SIA to discuss a sensible timescale for the SIA to start to receive and process your business licence applications once legislation is in place.
There are other reforms that the Government and the SIA would like to achieve, such as enhancing the enforcement powers of the regulator, but which require primary legislation. However, the Government has decided that rather than wait for primary legislation before undertaking any reform, it will put in place what can be achieved now, which is a business regulation regime.
This in effect means that there will be a phased transition for reform with business regulation and a new individual licensing system coming first and other Government ambitions for reform coming later. The consultation document sets out this phased approach in more detail and seeks views on whether you think the timings are right.
My key message, though, is that Home Office officials and the SIA are working closely together to deliver a business regulation regime by the end of next year in line with what the Government understands to be the industry’s aspirations.
Many thanks for your attention.