MPs seek to regulate security industry

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The Independent Online
A FRESH attempt to regulate the private security industry, against Home Office opposition, is being made by a cross-party group of MPs.

Bruce George, Labour MP for Walsall South, yesterday published a Private Security (Registration) Bill backed, among others, by Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith, the vice-chairman of the Conservative 1922 Committee, Rupert Allason, the Conservative MP for Torbay and Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat front-bencher.

The Bill would provide for private licensing through a registration council of firms and employees offering security services.

Registration would rule out those with criminal records and would require proper training and the carrying of identification cards.

The burgeoning private industry was regarded by the police with a mixture of 'suspicion, contempt and amusement', Mr George said, when a properly reformed industry could play a constructive role in crime prevention. At the moment the industry was both 'divided and competitive' with competition so intense that the standards of responsible firms were being driven down by operators who paid little, exploited staff and provided a poor service.

Concern over standards in the private security industry has grown among MPs, not least since the Defence Select Committee received evidence after the Deal barracks bombing that some of the bigger firms would not bid for Ministry of Defence contracts because the ministry paid so little for the protection it sought.

Mr George said a leaked report had shown how concerned the Association of Chief Police Officers was at criminal penetration of private security services and virtually every other western European country had regulation.

The Home Office, he said, appeared ideologically opposed to the move, preferring self-regulation to creating a quango to enforce standards whose costs would be met not by the public purse, but by the firms needing licences.

'I suspect the Home Office will continue to resist this until we get a major robbery in which a security firm is clearly implicated,' he said.