rose to move, that the draft order laid before the House on 16 November be approved. First Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, a draft of this order was laid before Parliament on 16 November. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 allows ex-offenders not to disclose certain old, spent convictions in an effort to improve their employment opportunities, with the effect of reducing re-offending. The Act also makes it unlawful for record-keeping bodies such as the Criminal Records Bureau to disclose details of such convictions.
The Act grants power to the Secretary of State to exclude application of these general rules in relation to questions by particular employers, bodies and proceedings. The rationale behind this is to ensure that employers and bodies offering positions, professions and licences of a more sensitive nature would be able to assess an applicant’s full criminal history before making a decision. This power was exercised in 1975, when the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order came into effect. The 1975 order has been amended periodically to ensure that the criminal disclosure regime keeps pace with changes in employment and public risk. The most recent amendment was made in July this year. The amendment before us will make minor changes relating to football.
Ministers made a commitment in September 2005 to exempt some in-house football stewards from the need to be licensed under the Private Security Industry Act 2001 by making regulations under Section 4 of that Act. Those regulations could be made only where suitable alternative arrangements were in place, which required CRB checks to be undertaken on behalf of the football authorities. Therefore, the 1975 order was amended in July to give the CRB the power to undertake checks on football security staff on behalf of the Football Association and the Football Association Premier League for the purposes of granting that exemption.
Ministers subsequently decided to exempt football security staff through primary legislation in response to an amendment to that effect to the Violent Crime Reduction Bill which was tabled by my noble friend Lord Pendry. Consequently, football security staff will be exempt from the licensing requirement under the 2001 Act due to the terms of Section 4 of that Act rather than to regulations made under that provision. This came into effect when the Violent Crime Reduction Act received Royal Assent in November.
The amendment to Section 4 of the 2001 Act does not impose a legal requirement on the football sector to have in place suitable alternative arrangements. The football sector has undertaken to work voluntarily to the same standards that would have applied under the exemption regulations and therefore to undertake CRB checks voluntarily. Since the wording of the July amendment to the 1975 order gave the CRB power to check the criminal records of football security staff only for the purpose of an exemption granted by regulations under Section 4 of the Act, an amendment must be made to enable such voluntary checks to take place.
The order, which was made in July, gave the CRB the power to undertake checks on behalf of the Football Association and the Football Association Premier League. Ministers have since agreed that the Football League should also be added to the order. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, to the Private Security Industry Act 2001 will also cover football. Ministers considered the responses to the consultation which mentioned football and, on reflection, decided that the same evidence as applies to other sports also covers football. The football authorities have undertaken voluntarily to work to these same standards under the amendment. This makes the system much more straightforward without losing any of the safeguards that would have been required under the exemption. I beg to move.
Moved, that the draft order laid before the House on 16 November be approved. First Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee.—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation of the order. It is important that the measures which govern the criminal disclosure regime are kept up to date. Unless we do so, we could place at risk members of the public, especially those who are young and vulnerable. This order takes the appropriate route of increasing the coverage of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 to reflect subsequent developments in the way in which Football League, Football Association and Football Association Premier League matches are stewarded. I know that the Minister is well versed in this subject, and he has given me help in the past.
We agree that, when the Football Association and the Football Association Premier League assess the suitability of somebody to act as a steward in those cases where a licence issued by the Security Industry Authority is not required, the CRB should have the legal right to carry out checks on those stewards at the request of the FA or the Premier League. We support the order.
My Lords, we are dealing with the order that was made in July, which gave the Criminal Records Bureau the power to undertake checks on behalf of the Football Association and the FA Premier League. There was an omission and the Government have now agreed that the Football League should be added to the order. We supported the amendment during the passage of the Violent Crime Reduction Bill, which is another reason why we support this consequential amendment.
My noble friend Lord Addington was right when, during debate on Amendment No. 55 to the Bill at Report, he said:
“We are talking here about correcting one of the cock-ups of history”.—[Official Report, 16/10/06; col. 636.]
How right he was. The initial Act was not supposed to get into this field at all. Having accepted the case made out by my noble friend and other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, I am glad that we are further rectifying the anomaly by ensuring that the Football League is added to the order. We certainly support it.
On Question, Motion agreed to.